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Tag Archives: God

I remember as a child, whenever we were sitting somewhere and waiting, I often didn’t have anything to do. Unlike my own kids who can play with a smart devise while we wait, or often will have entertainment provided in the form of a toy or gadget, I rarely had such a thing. I remember I would play with my parents’ hands, whoever it was that was near. My mom’s hands were always very soft and tender. Sometimes I would play with the ends of her fingernails or her thin fingers, but I can clearly remember how silky and soft they were. They were always very clean and pristine. My dad’s hands were quite the opposite. His hands were thick and calloused from the hard manual labor of construction. His nails were always trimmed very short, the skin thick and dry. His hands were strong. It’s not that they were dirty, but they felt rough and edgy. My mom and dad’s hands were reflected the work they did, but also of who they were. Mom was the nurturer and caregiver. Her hands were hard-working, but in the most tender ways possible. My dad was the main provider, his hands did the hard and difficult work. He was the disciplinary, but was always the first to be a rock of steadiness and encouragement as well.

Our hands reflect who we are and what we do. Perhaps one of my most favorite accounts about hands comes from the story of this famous art piece known as “The Praying Hands.”

Two Durer brothers, of eighteen children, shared the same dream to pursue their talent and love of art. Being from a poor and large family, neither of them could afford to pay for university. They decided to flip a coin, the winner would attend art school while the other worked in the mines to pay. When the winner had completed his schooling, then the other brother would support the latter to attend as well.

Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to attend school. Albert worked in the mines in hard manual labor to support his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht showed great talent in various art forms and was beginning to make great money for various commissioned works.

When Albrecht returned home as his schooling was complete, the family celebrated with a great feast. Towards the end of the great celebration, Albrecht raised a toast to his brother Albert, who worked so hard in the mines to make it possible for him to gain his success. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

All eyes turned to Albert who sat weeping and shaking his head as he quietly said, “no…no…no…No brother, I cannot go on to school. It’s too late for me. Look at my hands. Four years in the mines have destroyed them. Each of my fingers have been crushed, they are thick with calluses, I can’t even lift this glass in your toast because of arthritis. It’s to late for me to learn the fine motor skills that it takes to create fine details in art.”

Albrecht went on to create many great works of art during his lifetime. His most famous work is the one seen here, known as “The Praying Hands.” This sketch he created to honor the sacrifice that Albert gave to him. This drawing of rough strong hands show not only sacrifice, but love, honor, and faithfulness.

Strong hands are not always rough hands, and likewise, soft hands are not always a sign of weakness.

Today I was reading about David in 1 Samuel 23. Most people are familiar with David of the Bible. His most famous account, both in art and literary interpretation, is the story of when he defeated the giant, Goliath. He was a young, attractive and fearless fellow. He was anointed to become the next king of Israel. People quickly adored and followed him, even King Saul’s own children, Jonathan and Michal. It didn’t take long for Saul to become jealous of David and set his face towards killing him. Everywhere David went, people helped him. He narrowly escaped death by spear many times. He learned to run to save his life.

His favorite place to hide from Saul was in the barren desert region of Judea. This was home to David. He knew the best places to hide. No doubt, he knew this place so well from his time as a shepherd. This dry and arid place was merely a place to pass through. The wilderness attracted those on the fringes—outcasts, shepherds, fugitives, hermits, and even fearful rulers. These were the people who became David’s most trusted men. (1 Samuel 22:2)

The desert served as a refiner’s fire for David. Early on, when it would be easy for him to become arrogant and puffed up, David learned to depend instead, fully on the care of God. He was pressed on every side. The enemies that lived in the land threatened him, and his own people of Israel had turned their back to him in order to serve King Saul. David met great success all around him, and yet he no doubt felt the frailness of his own life as Saul continually pursued him.

The “dry and weary land” served as a backdrop for David’s own weariness. And the lack of water around him illustrated an even deeper thirst he felt: “My soul thirsts for You” (Psalm 63:1).

At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life.

He yearned for God. source

The biggest difference in David and Saul’s characters is seen at those most pressing moments. Saul easily gives in to the moment. He allows his desperation to control the outcome. David was driven by the understanding that God is greater and able to determine his reactions based on that. David defeats Goliath because God is greater and stronger. He doesn’t take Saul’s life because God is the giver of life. He bravely faces battle because he knows the battle belongs to the Lord.

But we all know there are times that the head and the heart don’t match up. The head knows the truth, but the heart believes the lie. The head knows God will provide, but the heart worries. The head knows God can heal, but the heart grows weak with illness. No matter the reality we know, the heart makes us weary in doubt and fear. The heart becomes dehydrated before our mind even thinks about thirst. From the inside out, we begin to die a little to our faith, especially the longer we endure in the unforgiving sun.

I love to read these stories of David. they are full of excitement and encouragement. Normally, when I have read over 1 Samuel in the past, I quickly read through 1 Samuel 23 trying to get to the part where David chooses to not kill Saul. The anticipation of David hiding in the very cave that Saul is in. I giggle a little to myself picturing Saul towards the mouth of the cave. The Bible gives the detail that he was “relieving himself,” which we will just leave at that. Little known to him, he has David trapped in this cave. He’s so preoccupied with reading the Readers Digest I guess, that he doesn’t even feel David sneak up and cut a part of his cloak off. Here is David’s chance to kill Saul, but instead he protects him from his own men.

David didn’t always know what to do. He wasn’t always the mighty warrior that he is most often memorialized as. He was indeed human. Like us all, in a dry land, he needed to be filled with living water.

Jonathan was one of Saul’s sons. He was in line to be the next king, however because Saul did not obey God (see 1 Samuel 15), he was rejected as king and God choose David to be the next king. Jonathan was not like his father, however. He trusted God to mightily fight for him in battle. Jonathan and David become extremely close. Jonathan is drawn to David’s faith in God, his courage in battle, and they form a unique friendship. Jonathan is not intimated by David’s greatness. They even promise to each other that they will protect and serve each other. Jonathan personally saves David many times, and  his own father even tries to kill him because of his friendship to David. Jonathan knew that David would be the next king, and he didn’t allow his pride to destroy their friendship.

It’s during this time in the desert, as David is fleeing from Saul, that Jonathan, for one final time, will risk going to David. Jonathan plays in important role in the character of David, a self-love of a true friend. Although David is the star in the story that is unfolding, in the background we catch a glimpse of Jonathan’s friendship to David.

One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 1 Samuel 23:15-16

Saul was in hot pursuit of David. He had nearly caught him just prior to this, change David up a mountain. David escaped only because Saul was called out to protect his own country from the Philistines. Jonathan, perhaps stirred by the Spirit, feels to urgency to go to David to encourage him in his faith. The imagery in verse 16 is just simply awesome. (sorry I don’t have a better adjective for that.) “Encourage him to stay strong in his faith” is literally “strengthened his hand in God.” Before, when I had read this passage, I would have skimmed over that and thought nothing more, but this time it was as if Jonathan was speaking that encouragement to me. It was almost as if the Spirit took me by my hands, holding them out and said, “strengthen your hands.”

About a year ago, we were studying the book of Hebrews in a ladies Bible study. Hebrews is a book full of super encouraging verses, that I affectionately call “Life Verses”. Words to live by; words to encourage one’s faith. We were sharing favorite verses as a group, and my friend that leads the study pointed out this verse:

Hebrews 1212

 

This was a verse that never jumped out at me, but I immediately tucked it away in my heart to meditate and remember.

Some time had passed, I had been studying the book of Judges to teach the kids at church. I was reading about Gideon. He was an unlikely hero. Those are always my favorites. He was a man, who in his time, was part of a people who were forced to live in a harsh environment. He was preparing food, hiding in a wine-press, when he receives the call of God. He was addressed as “Mighty Warrior.” Someone who has to hide from fear is not usually looked upon as mighty. Gideon prepares an army for battle and is told he has too many men. After some narrowing down, he then is about to lead his tiny army of 300 men against thousands. The sun sets as his men make final preparations, and Gideon is told to sneak down into the enemy’s camp. If he is afraid or discouraged to go down to hear what the enemy is saying and so that “your hands will be strengthened.

There is was a again. There is no doubt that this is a call to arms. It’s a call to prepare the battle line with a strong-arm, but I think for Christians it’s more than just to feel “mighty”. For Jonathan he came to David to encourage him to believe in God. He wasn’t saying, “you are strong and mighty and are able to kill my dad.” It was a message to trust in God’s protection.

Earlier this year I was reading through the book of Isaiah, and once again I came across this theme of weak hands. In Isaiah 35, their hands were weak. They had been in that desert time.  A time when the people have been drained of life and hope. There hearts were a wasteland with no strength. In that moment of weakness, like a fresh rain, joy and life returns. Isaiah tells them to BE STRONG. FEAR NOT. God is coming to save them. Isaiah 35

Isaiah 35

Jonathan speaks truth to David. He has come for the purpose of encouraging David. It’s easy to think that people in great positions don’t need encouragement. We see them out there in the spotlight. They seem to have success in all they do, and it’s easy to think they are doing great. But that’s not the case. We need encouragement from others to press on. We need to know that what we are doing is important. We need to hear that even though life is extremely hard, God is there helping us. Working on us. We aren’t dying of thirst in the desert, but instead we are being refined. I’ve learned in my own refining moments this truth. Either the moment will refine me, or I will be refined in the moment. Whatever I am struggling with, I am not left alone to fight my way through. I can be strong; I can have strong hands, not because I am strong, but I serve a God who is stronger and HE is able to do it through me. and despite me.

This desert experience has part of the refining and preparations that David needed to become the greatest King of Israel. It was a time that taught him the importance to thirst. Not for things that only leave us lacking, but to thirst for that which really satisfies- the Living Water.

Psalm 63

A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
9 But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin.
They will go down into the depths of the earth.
10 They will die by the sword
and become the food of jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God.
All who swear to tell the truth will praise him,
while liars will be silenced.

click here for other verses about strengthening hands

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The other night, as the girls were playing on the computer and listening to music, I heard a song. It wasn’t just any song. It was one that had been instrumental (no pun intended) in my life. It was a sort of soundtrack to a hard place in my life that had become part of a turning point in my faith. I have many of those. It got me mind thinking of this journey through life, how we all have soundtracks. Songs that bring joy; others that remind us of loss. So the following is just a sample of songs that have helped me through those hard spots in life. It’s not really exhaustive, but these are the ones that stick out to me. Of course songs are no replacement to the Word. Promises, words of hope and truth are key, but these songs are a reflection to the truth found in the word. When I hear them I am reminded of the goodness of God, even when life is hard.

Ginny Owens: If You Want Me to:

Chris Tomlin: I Lift My Hands:

Crowder: Come as You are:

Jeremy Camp: I Still Believe:

Mercy Me: The Hurt and the Healer:

Nichole Nordeman: Every Season:

MercyMe: Here with Me:

Shane & Shane: Though You Slay Me:

MercyMe: Keep Singing:

 

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Last night, as I was finishing up our nightly Bible reading, Sweet T. asked me {for probably the hundredth time} when she could become a Christian. For about a year now I have been avoiding this question. Not because I don’t want her to become a Christian, or because I am not comfortable with leading her. Neither of those two scenarios are the case. This is my prayer, for all my kids, that they would receive salvation through Jesus and love Him with all their heart. Also, on a weekly basis, I share with kids at our church about what becoming a Christian means.

I take my philosophy about child evangelism {i.e. leading a child to pray to God asking for salvation from their sin} from a statement that Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew:

Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Matthew 19:14

During Jesus’ life and ministry, people wanted to see and touch him. They would come from far places. Some came to be healed; while others simply wanted to see them for himself. On this occasion, small kids were being brought to him so that he could place his hands on them and pray for them. His disciples and closest friends must have become annoyed at this. Jesus was a great person, he probably had little time, especially for kids to be blessed over. And so we find this rebuke to the disciples.

Let the little children come to me

Jesus made it very clear that he loved all people. Young and old. Sick and well. Dead, alive, rich, poor, religious, demon-possessed, ugly, attractive, women, men, Jewish, pagan, Gentile, popular, alone, afraid, brave, the wise and the foolish. He loved his enemies and even the ones that planned his death and hated who he was.

His love was the kind that broke all social barriers of his time. His love was more than just as acceptance of all people from all walks of life. It was a love that pierced through the barriers that separated people from the larger social world. When Jesus gave the command for his disciples to let the children come, it was to say “they are important”. This was during a time when a male wasn’t respected as an adult until the age of 30. Children mattered to Jesus.

I like to focus on the word “let” specifically when discussing child evangelism. Jesus makes it clear, we are not to hinder children from wanting this intimate relationship. Discouraging children from becoming a Christian is wrong. It is very clear that we are to allow for them to ask questions and learn what it is to develop faith in their own lives.

However, on the flip side of that, children should not be forced to believe. I think equally important is the word “come”.  We are never to push a child to become a Christian. This is a careful thing to balance. Kids want what they see other kids do or have. If one child is baptized in their church, other children will often want to do it too without understanding what it means. Salvation is so much more than this.

“Let” encourages us to provide opportunities to discuss what it means to be a Christian. Provide opportunities to talk about the need and what sin is. Explain how Jesus provided salvation, by dying on the cross and rising again. Also share what salvation does not mean.

“Come” reminds us to not push children when they aren’t ready. I, personally, do not think a call to commitment is appropriate to children services. Help your child develop their own spiritual understandings. This can only occur when you make an effort to talk to them about your own faith. Don’t shy away from questions that you don’t know the answer to. Children are far more understanding than we give them credit. Being honest that you don’t have an answer to their question is perfectly acceptable. Showing your child how you seek out answers is a natural part of their own spiritual development and discipline.

Do not hinder them

I have already discussed this briefly above. Children want to know about God. They believe in Jesus and what God can do far more easily than we can. I find myself often correcting our youngest daughter. To her, if something is not working all you need to do is pray. God will fix it. On the one hand- yes I agree, I don’t think God helps me open a jar of jelly or other daily tasks. I have to be careful, though, because I also know that God does work intimately in our lives even today. Provide opportunities for teachable moments. Encourage the faith of your child. Prepare their hearts to accept the seed of faith. Pray over them. Read the Bible with them. Teach them about love and taking care of those around you.  Practice your own faith, show them what it means to be a Christian in how you do life everyday. Even practice admitting when you mess up (GULP!) It is hard to admit, but it shows your children the need for a Savior.

At our church this weekend, we had our Family Dedication, often known as Baby dedication. Part of what we gave the parents was the picture below with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 written. It is a command to impress the Word of God into the lives of your children in everything you do. Developing the opportunity for your children to believe and follow God comes from what they see at home. Talk about what you have read in your quiet time. Display the word of God in your home. I love how Proverbs 6:20-23 echoes Deuteronomy.

20 My son, keep your father’s command
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them always on your heart;
fasten them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
23 For this command is a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction
are the way to life,

For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these

Jesus would often teach about the kingdom of heaven. (32 times in the book of Matthew, this phrase is mentioned) Usually he would use a simple, daily picture to compare what heaven was like. Here, Jesus tell us why children are so important. They are an example. Could Jesus be referring to their simple faith? Or maybe their innocence? Perhaps it’s a childlike meekness and frailty that he is referring, or even a combination of all the above.

As I mentioned above, Sweet T had been asking Alan and I for about a year, “when can I become a Christian?” Each time she asked, I didn’t just avoid the question. We would talk about what it means. Sometimes I would ask why she wanted to. Other times I would explain what it didn’t mean. And, if I was being honest, a few times I changed the subject. I figured if I could distract her, then she wasn’t serious about it.

So what was my hesitancy? Why am I so careful when it comes to child evangelism?

I think it stems back to the fact that kids believe easily. Almost every child that I have encountered wants to be a Christian. They want to go to heaven. They believe Jesus died on the cross. They know he came back to life again. They repeat prayers. They get baptized. We have all the right words, but I strongly believe that none if this is important until a person, no matter the age, understand what SIN is. We can teach our kids what sin is, how it separates us from God, but without understanding SIN, children (or adults) can never be saved from it. This can only be done by the work of the Holy Spirit.

And this is what I pray for my kids. That the Holy Spirit will move in their hearts. This is what I saw in Sweet T. last night. A true brokeness over her SIN. She came to the end of herself and found she needed more- a Savior.
It’s not the prayer in words that we say, or the time we go to church that saves us. No matter how we are baptized, what church we go to, or the kind of music in church we listen to. The Bible translation we read, or the type of Lord’s Supper we take doesn’t save us. Our salvation begins at brokeness over sin. Not just knowing in your head that you break God’s law, but understanding in your heart and wanting to fill that need with the saving power of faith in Jesus.

IMG_3994 IMG_3998

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Bookmark I spent this weekend with some of the fabulous ladies in our church at a Ladies retreat. We studied 1 Timothy 6: 11-21, then the next day broke out into smaller groups to look more in-depth at each section of verses.  When I was given this passage (1 Timothy 6:15-16) to share as a breakout session, my first reaction was, “oh, okay. I can simply read the passage, we’ll all agree in an “Amen,” and that will be that.” (ha ha)

Then after reading it more, I was filled with more of a “how in the world am I going to explain this” overwhelmed feeling.

It was a roller coaster.

I was thrilled, enthralled, nervous, inadequate, excited, and overcome all at the same time. The deep meanings and vastness of this description of God had me at a loss for what I would do or say to try to teach others about what this means. We call on the names of God all the time, but why these. I recently had written a blog post about the unapproachable light. Maybe I could do this. However, I knew I would have only 10 minutes, and I could quite easily spend 10 minutes just talking about that.

again I was overwhelmed.

A good place to begin when you are studying scriptures is to break it down into smaller pieces. This passage was assigned to me as “description of God as Ruler,” so that seemed like a logical place to begin.

Ruler.

I pulled out my handy Greek resources, my husband (who happens to teach Greek in the college he is employed with.) He looked it up and said, the word is “dunastes” (transliterated)  and it is actually only used three times in the New Testament. (Luke 1:52 alluding to 1 Samuel 2:8, Acts 8:27 speaking of the court official, and here in Timothy.) Upon further digging we found that the word is not really used anywhere in the Bible to describe God. With almost every single reference it was used to talk about a leader, usually not the king, but as part of the ruling court. (Genesis 49:24, 50:4, Judges 5:9, 1 Samuel 2:8, Daniel 2:10, Isaiah 5:22, Habakkuk 3:14 to name a few) Occasionally it was even used in a negative way, like in Psalm 71:12 the word is used for the oppressor. So, nothing magical about the use of the word “dunastes”. It was a bit of a let down.

I moved on to look through my cross-reference.

It led me to find that Paul (the author of Timothy), had used a similar chain of descriptions of God earlier in the book of Timothy.

Now to the King eternal,

immortal,

invisible,

the only God,

be honor and glory for ever and ever.

Amen.

1 Timothy 1:17

I quickly went back to the Hubby and asked if this “King Eternal” was the same as “Ruler” found later.

No. It wasn’t. Of course not.

It still interested me that Paul did this twice in the same letter. In chapter one, Paul was describing the grace that he had received in Christ. He described himself as the chief of sinners. I share more about this here. As he was writing, it’s like he gets overwhelmed and built up with excitement. Lost in thoughts of the greatness of his salvation and he bursts out  in a crescendo of praise listing God’s identity. Only God could save his soul.

Now, let’s go back to chapter 6. The end of the chapter Paul is giving Timothy some closing charges. These last instructions are more or less to encourage him to press on. In verse 13, Paul charges Timothy to live a clean life until the return of Christ. (The early church thought that it was near- but the point is that we are to keep on in our faith for the rest of our lives.) As he is giving him this charge, until the return of Christ, Paul breaks out again in a crescendo of praise.

Here is the significance; keep in mind that Paul is asking Timothy {and all of us, really} to keep pressing on, waiting for the return of Christ. Oh and by the way, this is God, not people. You are waiting on His time. In case you forget he is:

the blessed and only Ruler

King of kings

Lord of lords

who is alone immortal

lives in unapproachable light

whom no one has seen or ever will

In other words, he is the ultimate supreme power and we can not fully conceive the greatness of His existence. You are to press on and wait in a manner that shows you are waiting because he is coming back. He is the boss, applesauce. (I say this to my kids all the time. Well, that I’m the boss.) 

This is a hard concept for westerners because we (meaning me) like to be the boss. Oh sure, we have a President and Senators, but if we don’t like how they “rule” you better believe they are out of there. At the same time, God is not like any Ruler that has ever existed. He is not corrupt, makes no errors, is the same, true, etc. But maybe we can get an understanding about God as Ruler- at least just a glimpse.

I grew up 20 miles outside of Washington DC. As a teen, my friends and I would often go downtown on the Metro and see all the sights. There are so many museums and things to see. As a teen, if you wanted to go up the Washington Monument you had to wait in this huge line that wrapped around the base of it three or four times. They changed the format to tickets, which was ingenious. Now (well, not right now, because it’s closed for repairs) you go to a website, find a day and time that still has tickets (you don’t have to pay) and there is no line.

The White House was the same way. As a teen I had never been to the White House because all my friends said that it was a waste of time to wait in that huge line. All you got to see were rooms they used for entertaining but not the interesting parts of the White House. As an adult, my parents had met someone who worked in the White House and was willing to give us a private tour. These tours are only by those who work there, we had to have a background check, and we could only go if the President was not in the West Wing. It was neat to see the Oval office, even if from the door. To see the room where he would meet with the Cabinet; to learn that he doesn’t sit at the head of the table but in the middle. So much fascinating information.

As we were touring around, our Guide would tell us all kinds of details about the White House. At one time in history you could drive right up to the house. It was the people’s house. Now, of course, security is very tight. He shared about some of the secure passage ways and how heavy the security was. “Have you ever heard someone tell you that the moment you have your hands on the fencing that surrounds the White House that there is a sniper with a gun on you,” Our guide asked. Yes. We had all heard that. “Well, it’s true.”

So although we don’t fully understand the concept of a Ruler and King, we can maybe grasp at the idea of someone who is completely separate and in charge. The 1st century mind, that this letter was written for had a completely different understanding. They were under Imperial rule. The man in charge, Caesar had always been and would always be calling the shots of the kingdom. If they had a great ruler, everything was smooth. If the ruler was a opressor, like in the Psalm passage, they just had to deal with his harsh ruling. The word is about someone in authority.

blessed and only Ruler: This doesn’t have the sense of blessing that we normally think of. The intent is to describe, showing that He is different, sacred, endowed with favor.  Ruler, as we already mentioned, is not a title or name of God here as much as it is to point to his authority. In waiting for the return of Christ, we are waiting on God to do it in His time. We are put under His authority to wait, to serve Him, and to obey. Each description builds on this truth. It makes me think back to the reference that Jesus made. You are either under the authority of God or Satan.

King and Lord: King of kings and Lord of lords is one of those very familiar titles. I always think of Handel’s Messiah. Surprisingly, the title King of kings is used very few times in the Bible. It is used here, in Timothy, to describe God and then twice in Revelation to describe Jesus. (Revelation 17:14, 19:16) Lord of lords is used to describe God only 5 times. (Deuteronomy 10:17, Psalm 136:3, Timothy and the two Revelation references) Even more interesting is that when they are used together, they only are referring to Jesus. Here is a great post with more interesting study on King of kings.

It begins and ends with God. There is no authority that is greater than His, no power that is stronger or greater. When it comes to the plans of God, nothing can stop them. He is the one calling the shots. He is ultimately sovereign. The Ancient of Days seated on the throne unshaken by any who oppose Him. {see Daniel 7} God doesn’t worry, fretting in heaven. He holds it all in his rule. Our rebellious hearts don’t like this. Going all the way back to the garden; you have Adam and Eve wanting to be equal with God. God is good all the time- even when life is terrible. He is still enthroned, reigning. I don’t think it is possible to completely grasp this idea, because we are so limited in our mind to time and space. It doesn’t change the truth. God is the King, the Lord, the Boss, the Big Man. Right now there are other powers and rulers, mere men. We live and serve the King, and we are to be living in a way that shows it.

And along those lines, I would also like to point out that his rule is unlike any on earth. God is not an aging King whose kingdom is being threatened by the rising power of Satan. Again, it is unlike any kingdom that we have known. Our minds think of powers that rise and fall, replaced by someone stronger. God the Father is the King of kings. His kingdom is eternal. Nothing will cast it away.

Who alone is immortal: As Timothy and Paul, and even us today, wait for the return of Christ, we will most likely meet death first. Jesus was the only one who looked face to face with death and came out the victor. God is immortal. He isn’t an old father who is slowly dying in heaven waiting for Jesus to take his place on the throne of heaven. (sounds kind of like the movie Thor) God is immortal. He is nothing like us.

Being mortals we follow the scientific laws, but He is the author of those laws. He is not bound to time, space, and biology. Think of all the miracles he performed. When Jesus fed the 5,000 he created more food out of what he had. When the man born blind was healed, Jesus created new eyes for him to see like he did in the beginning creations. When Jesus walked on water, he defied the very laws of nature that he created. He calls things that are not as though they were. You can’t do it, but He can. You are limited, but he is limitless. You are mortal, but he is immortal.

unapproachable light: Going back to my earlier account of the White House, we the people cannot approach our chosen leader. If we were to try, without given the clearance more than likely, we would be eating dirt with many service men on top if not shot. But the Ruler is not unapproachable in this way. This is going to sound weak, but for lack of a better way to say it, He is too great. In the book of Revelation it says that there will be no sun because Jesus will be the source of light. Paul met the light on the Damascus road and was not only blinded (with scaly scabs) but he WHOLE life was changed. God is unapproachable but not for his protection. He is unapproachable because we are limited. He is so separate and holy from what we can ever know. That is what makes Him unapproachable.

who no one has seen or ever will see: Are you getting it? You don’t know how great God really is! I don’t know either. The little bit I do know is overwhelming. It’s vast, amazing, deep, mind-boggling, life changing.

Jesus is coming back, according to God’s time. Be busy, being steadfast to the Ruler. It might seem in this life that he isn’t in charge. Life is hard! It feels as if the world has overcome and won over. That’s not the case. God is the mighty ruler, unchanging, and He is yours.

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cancer.

death.

sickness.

loss.

This last week has been one of those weeks. My husband’s co-worker found out that his wife’s illness is terminal. My friend’s father passed away. There was a sudden death in our community that shook almost every person who even only “knew” the young man who died.

And that was only this past week.

It is no doubt that we are in desperate need of comfort and assurance that things will. be. okay…

I ran to the one thing that has been a rock, a firm foundation in my own life.

COMFORT, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to {them}.” Isaiah 40:1-2

This passage is one of those very familiar to most people. Well, the end of the passage, anyway. That’s kind of ironic, I think, that we always want to rush to the end where comfort is “found”, but I believe it’s the journey to the end that comfort is realized and lived.

As I was praying over the loved ones mentioned above, struggling with my own need to be comforted, I fell upon a realization in comfort that I had never seen before. One of my favorite tools in my Bible are not the study notes, or word studies, but the “center column references”. This tool points to different passages that use the same word in a particular verse. As I was looking up other references to the verse about and it’s use of “comfort” I came across this…

Isaiah 12:1

In that day you will say:

“I will praise you, Lord.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.

Isaiah 49:13

Shout for joy, you heavens;
rejoice, you earth;
burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Isaiah 51:3,12
The Lord will surely comfort Zion
and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

12 “I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mere mortals,
human beings who are but grass,

Isaiah 52:9,

Burst into songs of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.

 Isaiah 57:18

I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;
I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,

Isaiah 61:2

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

Isaiah 66:13

As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Jeremiah 31:13

Then young women will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

Did you see it? At first I didn’t either. I had never connected  comfort to a burdened, broken heart and the need of compassion. So what is compassion, then?

Compassion is being moved, motivated by love, to action. Compassion has many faces. It can be stepping up in place for those that are weaker. It bears the face of a hero, who risks life to save another. Compassion never sits back and watches others suffer. When something terrible or tragic happens, you are moved in your gut to action- that is compassion. It has gentle hands. Eyes full of tears. Compassion is sensitive. It doesn’t have to have answers, and it isn’t nosey. Perhaps compassion doesn’t have a “goal” except to do something… anything to help. Really help.

In these verses, Israel had been punished, exiled for their idolatry. I think it is imperative to note that not all suffering and loss is a result of sin. If someone is ill, dies, looses a job, gets hurt, it does not mean that person deserved punishment for a lifestyle choice. The fact of life is that we all suffer. We ALL need comfort. We all need compassion.

The night I heard of the young man, I opened my Bible and it fell open to this next passage below. I don’t recommend this as a normal way to hear from God, but it happened this way none the less. This was also one of the passages that I found referenced in the margin. Although it doesn’t mention comfort directly, it explains how we can be comforted. It doesn’t come by chance or knowing the right things.

Zephaniah 3:14-17

14 Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
Daughter Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
16 On that day
they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
17 The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

We are comforted by compassion. Compassion found in others around us, but also in the love of God. When that comfort comes, it leads to healing. Look over the passages above again. In almost every one of them you have comfort with compassion, comfort and healing, or comfort and rejoicing. {or a combination of all three}

There was one last passage that was referenced. When I read it, I just knew….I knew this was what was being spoken to my heart.

Comfort that is followed with compassion leads to healing.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfortHe comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

As I first mentioned Isaiah 40 is well-known for the way it ends. Everyone wants to soar like the eagles. We need to run and not grow weary. We want strength to be renewed. We need all of those things, especially when we are weak and weary. Those things are promised for those who hope in the Lord. I know from my own experience that hope begins in comfort.

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This is a love story, and although it involves me (and the love of my life) it is really a love story about a young rebellious boy and his Maker.

Today Alan and I mark the celebration of 17 years of marriage, but we have known each other for nearly 5 more that we dated before we sealed our love with matrimony.  The reason I say that this is a love story between a boy and his Maker is that we would not be where we are in our marriage if he was not passionately in love with his Creator.

so let’s begin. . .

When Alan and I met, I think in many ways, we were quite opposite. He was a rebel without a cause and I was rebellious looking, but did not share the same anarchy lifestyle that he had.  He tells people that he was attracted to my lime green and purple lipstick that I wore. (Our children think we dressed really weird, and not just because we grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s).

He was just coming out of the skinhead scene, growing out his hair, when we met. (Not the racist, KKK skins). I think what I first loved about him was that he was very funny. He loved pop culture, was into a lot of eclectic things, and seemed to just really enjoy life and all aspects of it. While we were dating he was into many styles of music and culture, but in a fringe kind of way.

We started dating when I was 15. Oh so young. and naive.

One time someone asked me how we made it through all the things that we had been though, and my answer was simply I was young and naive. . .  and very forgiving.

He was definitely not the kind of person that easily wins the heart of a father, but needless to say, he had to meet my dad in order for us to date. Although he didn’t receive the overwhelming father-approval, we were allowed to date under a very careful eye.  My dad invested a lot of time in Alan. He never judged him or spoke down to him. He accepted who he was, and even in the early years, became a father to him. I remember one day I had been out with a girlfriend, and when I called to check in my dad said that Alan had come over to see me and stayed all day visiting with him. My dad even made him and egg sandwich that Alan loved. He didn’t consider that 1. teenage boys will eat everything and 2. Alan had the munchies.

Alan was expelled from the high school that we both attended (for a dumb reason, but he was on probation for another occasion of bringing a knife to school, that he forgot was in his jacket), so he started attending church with me and my family that my father pastored. It was a very small country church, but we had more time together.

A couple years after dating and becoming part of our family, he and I had gotten into serious trouble. My parents had found out that we were acting in mature romantic ways that were not appropriate for young unmarried kids.  I remember the few days before they confronted me, I heard them talking late into the night when they should have been asleep. They couldn’t because of their deep concern and love. They talked with me to let me know the game was over, and that my dad wanted to also meet with Alan personally.

I think Alan described that encounter as scary.

Ironic, isn’t it, that a rebellious young man could be so scared when faced with authority and consequences.

God had already began to work in getting his attention. When he wrapped his mom’s car around a tree and was responsible for nearly taking the life of his best friend, he said he realized, for the first time in his life, that he was responsible for consequences he brought on.

My dad, being a man of God, had taken much time to pray about how to handle this situation. He told Alan that he wanted to make us stop seeing each other (they were talking in his office, where my dad kept his shotguns stored on a rack above his head). Although he felt strongly, as any father would, he also sensed the Lord speaking to him. God had a bigger plan for his life. Little did any of us realize the depth that this meant.

To try and get on my dad’s good side, several weeks later, Alan went down to the front of the church to “rededicate” his life to God. My dad, being wise and again godly, didn’t let him off so easily. He met him after church with a discipleship book. Reluctantly, Alan agreed on a time that they could meet together each week.

After several weeks of meeting, God continued to work on Alan’s heart.  Finally one night, he realized his need for something bigger than himself that could save his poor pitiful soul. Now at the time, I thought that I was already a Christian (which is a whole other story) so I was excited for him. Little did I know that I was equally part of this marvelous love story that God was writing on Alan’s heart.

In the coming months, after much prayers and investments of others into Alan’s life, he began to make huge changes to his lifestyle. Chain after chain began to fall. drugs, alcohol, smoking, cussing, and even sex. I remember one day when I was with a group of friends, they couldn’t believe that we had both agreed to stop having sex until we were married. That was just unheard of.

Alan not only had freedom from those chains, but God worked in many other ways. His relationship with his mom went from always fighting to him submitting to her. His grades at school went from D’s to B’s and C’s. Maybe even one A.

But all this was just the beginning. He loved reading the Word of God (the Bible) and God continued to move in his heart that there was a bigger calling on his life. The last night he drank was the night he felt a calling into ministry. So at 19 he gave it all over.

A year later he left to start college at a Bible college. I was only 18, so I stayed behind. The whole year we stayed in touch. God continued to mold and teach him. After one year, despite that I felt we were too young, I agreed to marry him.

17 years ago today I said not only “I do” but will keep doing.

God wasn’t done. Their love story continued, even to this day. His passion for the word burns on. You would think after 20+ years one wouldn’t find new revelations in a book you’ve read 1,000 times that was written thousands of years ago, but not so. As he falls more in love with the one that rescued his soul, I swoon at the knees for him.

And so, we celebrate today a beautiful marriage between a rebel and a naive girl, and the Savior that makes them whole.

Happy Anniversary, Alan. I love you now and always.

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I’m going to try to spare you (whoever you may be) from really “slight” things that I am thankful for. (One Thanksgiving, when I was a teen, we were sharing things we were thankful for. I played the “silly” card by naming things like deodorant, jelly beans, and my cat.)  However, they won’t be as heavy as today’s.  This is not something that I am proud of, but the end shows how gratitude changes a person’s heart.

Today I am thankful for The Baby.
I’ve shared many times that we are a family of 6. Long before Alan and I started to have children, we knew that we always wanted 4 of them. I have 6 siblings, and he had only two, who were both older than he was. I have so many great memories with my siblings, even if I wasn’t directly part of them. We wanted the same for our children. We wanted them to have each other in a somewhat large count.
I never thought that I wanted 4 in the timing that it happened. Shortly after Sweet T. had turned 1, we discovered that we were pregnant with #4. (She and the Baby are 20 months apart.)
Although having a family of 6 comes with its normal financial woes and troubles, having a family of 6, with 4 kids under the age of 7, with one working parent, and that working parents happens to be in school full-time bumps the financial pressure up even more. To add to this trying time, I felt alone. Not because I had no one, but I was a preacher’s wife. If there was ever anyone that should always trust God to provide it was me. I put myself in this unrealistic bubble, and unknowing bound myself to unnecessary chains.
But I couldn’t. I couldn’t trust God.
I slowly began to envelope myself in a disgusting downward spiral of pity, selfishness, and anger. How could a God who provides for our family allow this to happen to us. We were already drowning in a sea of debt. This time led me down a dark path. I was so angry at the God who saved my darkest soul. I hated the child that was growing in my stomach, and every day I would pray that some how it would go away. [I wanted her to die.] I hate even to share this, because it is a very ugly side that no person wants to admit.
I am a murderer. Not in a literal sense, but in my heart at that time I wanted nothing more.
Needless to say, she continued to grow inside. I remember at one time being so angry at God, but I refused to walk away from Him. In the end, my faith in the Savior of my soul: my black, disgusting, hateful, selfish, murdering soul was the thing that brought me out. Little by little I began to move towards the Word. Every day it began to heal me on the inside.
By the time late May had rolled around, my mind and heart had completely changed. Those feelings I shared above were cleansed away. Although I often remind myself that I am capable of murder, it is also a reminder of how deep God’s grace and forgiveness flow. Every time I hold the Baby, she is a reminder of the goodness of God. When I look at her I see more than a daughter that Alan and I share in love as every parent loves their child. She represents grace.
I am thankful for the Baby.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.
Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent (woman),
I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
The faith of the Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 1:12-13

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