Hello, September!

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Father God, thank You for this new month. Thank You for new opportunities. Lord God, may we not give into fear of calamity. May we trust in You and in Your plan. Thank You Lord that You hold it all, even when we do not understand.

Lord God, for those who are hurting, I pray that You will comfort them. Lord, for those who are rejoicing may they do so in a manner that pleases and glorifies You! Thank You Father for the gift of community. Thank You for the gift of friendship. Lord, may we be good stewards of ALL that You have entrusted to us. Lord, without You, we have nothing and are nothing. Thank You Father for Your grace and mercy. Teach us how to love, teach us to serve without asking anything in return.

Lord, I know many Bible Studies are resuming. May the content that is taught bring people closer to You. May they come to know and love You more! Thank You Father for knowing Your people collectively and individually! Teach us Lord, mold us Lord to be more like Yourself. Father, thank You for this reader! Grow their heart to love and live for You. Thank You Holy Trinity for ALL that You have done, are doing and will do for us. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

The Shortest Psalm

Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 117:1-2 ESV)

I love this Psalm! I love how this Psalm is a call for Jews and Gentiles to praise the Lord! I love how great in this verse is a Hebrew word which means more than large or superior. “In Hebrew the word has the sense of someone or something having prevailed over something else because of his or its superior qualities” (J. Boice, Psalms Volume 3, p. 952). Here the word great means prevailing.

For example in Genesis 17:11 As long as Moses’s hands were raised, the Israelites were winning (prevailing) over the Amalekites. Also Genesis 7:18 and Psalm 65:3 are examples of great meaning prevail. “The point is that when this word is used of the love of God for his people, it also has the thought of God’s love prevailing over any obstacles or enemies” (Boice, p. 953).

Another word in this Psalm that speaks to me is that faithfulness here means amen. This could be translated truth. Amen can mean firm and unshakable. Jesus is quoted using this same word with “Truly, truly.” God alone is truly unshakable! As Boice says, “Strictly speaking, in this verse it is the faithfulness of God that endures forever and the love of God that prevails” (p. 954). The Lord’s love prevails because He does not lie nor change His mind. He can be trusted. Amen!

“Can you say, “I have found that God’s love is indeed great and prevails and that his truth endures forever. Amen.”? If so, you will say as the psalm does, “Praise the Lord.”” (Boice, p. 954).

Father God, may we praise You together and individually. Lord, thank You that Your love and faithfulness prevail regardless of what we think, see or feel. Lord God, thank You that You are Just. Thank You that You are faithful and true! Lord, may we praise You even when it is hard and inconvenient. May we never forget that You are in control. May we never forget that who You are and what You stand for and require does not change, even when society does. Bless this reader with the peace of Your presence. May they call on You today, may they praise You today. Lord, may we never forget that our chief purpose in life is to glorify You! May we live out the mission of this Psalm for all nations and peoples to know and praise You! Thank You Holy Trinity for the gift of salvation. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Listening Heart

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Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? (1 Kings 3:9 ESV).

In Hebrew thought the heart and mind were NOT separate, they were one entity. For example: In the Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:4-5). Loving God with one’s mind was implied in the meaning and context of heart. By the time Jesus spoke the Great Commandment the Gnostics and Hellenistic culture separated the heart and mind. Hence why Jesus says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:29–30). This is not a contradiction, Jesus is not adding anything to the Shema. He is speaking to His audience in the language and thought of His audience’s day.

All this background is to say, I am in desperate need of a listening heart and an obedient heart as Solomon is requesting in 1 Kings 3:9. The NIV renders this discerning heart. In Hebrew this understanding literally means listen or obey. What is significant about Solomon’s usage of understanding is that it is a participle. Solomon is continuously asking God for a listening heart. This is NOT a one time request. This is a repeated request.

Why does Solomon ask for this? So that he can govern the people discerning between good and evil. Discern is a hiphil verb, which in Hebrew is a verb of causation. Solomon is asking God to cause him to discern between good and evil. True wisdom, understanding and discernment are only found in an ongoing, continuous relationship with the Lord. As House says, “Only knowledge of what God considers fair and unfair can guide the king to act justly with any consistency” (House, 1, 2 Kings, 1995, p. 111).

God was obviously pleased that Solomon asked for a listening heart; otherwise, He would not have said, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you” (1 Kings 3:11-12). Discerning here is also a participle. It is in God’s nature and character to continuously give wisdom and discernment to those who are in relationship with Him and asking Him in faith.

The Lord is pleased when we ask for a listening heart and understanding mind . My prayer request whenever anyone asks is always for “wisdom and discernment.” We are encouraged by Solomon and admonished by James (esp chapters 1 and 3) to seek wisdom. May we have obedient, listening, understanding hearts so that we can live in a way that pleases and glorifies God in this ever darkening and evil world.

Father God, I ask that You will continuously give us a desire to seek wisdom. Cause us to understand Your will and way. May we have obedient, listening hearts that are set to do good, administer justice and love others in a way that pleases, honors and glorifies You. Lord God, now more than ever we are seeing how Your wisdom is foolish to those who do not know You. Lord, cause those who  are Yours to continuously seek Your mind, to seek Your heart, will and way. Lord God, thank You that You are Wisdom in nature and essence. Praise You for who You are even when we do not understand. Lord God, fill this reader with wisdom. Fill this reader with a desire to obey You and do Your will more than temporarily satisfying their earthly desires. Lord God, wise people seek out wise people, may that be said of us! Lord, may we rather be filled and motivated with a heart bent toward You, even if it makes us standout and foolish, than crave and partake in what this world has to offer. Lord, I ask for wisdom for all people in leadership. Lord God, give us a desire for wisdom, holiness, righteousness and justice by the power of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’s Name to the glory of God the Father, Amen.

 

 

 

August, already?!

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Father God, thank You Lord for this new month. Lord, thank You and praise You for new beginnings. Lord God, for those who had a difficult July with loss, heartache and pain, renew and comfort them in August. Lord, as hard as it may be, help us to spread the love and joy of Jesus by the smiles on our faces and the light in our eyes. Lord God, regardless of what climate this precious reader resides, may they delight in Your Word.

Father, life requires patience, may we rise to the challenge. Lord God, I am one of the most impatient people on this Earth; please have mercy on me, a sinner! Lord God, lead this reader by the hand, may they come to know You more and more this next month.

Lord God, prepare us for a new school season. Prepare students, teachers, drivers of every kind to be alert and focused! Lord God, thank You that Your Word does NOT return void! Lord, for those who are lost, give us an increased desire to pray for them. For those who are flailing, may we have grace to hear their hearts. Lord God, use this reader right where they are. Remind this reader that no matter where they go, they cannot escape Your presence, Your care, Your love, Your touch. Thank You Lord that we cannot out run You. Thank You for pursuing us, for choosing us. May we bask in that knowledge.

Lord God, thank You that August is the one year anniversary of this blog. Lord, I have grown and been stretched so much in this past year. Thank You for this reader, thank You for their grace, mercy, support, encouragement and love. Lord, bless this reader for blessing me. In Jesus’s Mighty and Holy Name I pray, Amen.

Words

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I am doing something I have never done before; I am stopping my God Time to share this. I am not on Twitter or Facebook; however, if I was, I would tweet out this quote. I just read Psalm 12. In James Boice’s Psalms, Vol 1: (Psalms 1-41): An Expositional Commentary he says, “Words are both our glory and our shame” (p 98).

Father God, far too often our words bring shame, hurt and pain. Lord, may our words honor and praise You while bolstering and encouraging others. Lord, too often I forget how powerful words are. I forget how tone drives how the words are perceived. Lord, I have brought shame on You, myself and others by speaking out of negative emotion, out of a heart void of You. Help me, help us to have words that reflect Your heart and character. This world craves words that align with their worldview and agenda. May we speak the Truth in love fearing You rather than man. May we not succumb to speaking false praise or flattery to promote ourselves for any kind of personal gain. Lord, may we exalt You and not ourselves. Lord, Your Word and words are true,  may the same be said of our words. This world lies and each day the lies are more arrogant, more boastful and more an affront to You. Father, may we take the time to read and heed Your Word. May we take the time to meditate (mutter/murmur) Your Word rather than on the words of this world. Good theology moves from head to heart to hand. May we hear Your Word, internalize Your Word so that we will speak and do Your Word. Lord, may it not be said of us that “the godly one is gone” (Ps 12:1 ESV) in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Personal Reflections on Moving

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I am absolutely NO different than the Israelites. In fact, I am probably worse! I can honestly say that I would totally grumble and complain every time the cloud lifted over a place, knowing I would have to pack up my stuff and leave. I know this because for the last year, I have not enjoyed having to shove my stuff in drawers at a moment’s notice when a prospective buyer requests a house showing. I can honestly say that I will not be partaking in any form of Sukkot (Feast of Booths/Feast of Tabernacles) to commemorate my time in the wilderness (I assure you if we were still commanded to celebrate this Feast, it would be my absolute least favorite! I do not like camping in any form. I most certainly will not sleep in a tent on the hard ground!). I understand that Christ is our center and everything else is periphery; however, I do need some sense of structure!

There is not one part of this moving process that I have enjoyed. Since I have gotten to Florida I have continued my grumbling and complaining. I had no idea how strong the Florida sun can be. I have been complaining that I miss my old life and my friends. I can say that I have an even greater appreciation for Sarah’s faith who up and left with Abraham when he received God’s call (Gen 12). I cannot help but wonder, if she ever asked herself, “why am I here?” or worse yet, “why did I get married?!” especially in light of Gen 12:10-20; 20:1-18. (Thankfully, this has not happened to me; however, bad idea to ask your spouse “why did I get married?!” It will not go over well! Nathan, I love you, lesson learned!). I have a greater appreciation for Jacob and his hesitation on going down to Egypt in his older age (Gen 46:1-7) and for Ruth leaving Moab to be with Naomi.

I have seen God’s Hand in this moving process; yet, I choose to grumble and complain, rather than sing songs of praise and thanksgiving. Warren Wiersbe says time and time again, “outlook determines outcome.” I do not want my outcome to be where people avoid me like the plague because I have a negative and critical spirit. Nor do I want to be a fraud and present myself online as a person who is void of struggles (that would negate the whole purpose of this blog!). To again quote Wiersbe, I want my past to be a “rudder not an anchor.” Either I can trust God will help me in this moving transition as He has done for His people since the dawn of time; or, I can rebel and suffer some hard lessons.

Father God, help us to have outlooks that are rooted and centered in You. Lord, thank You for this reader. Lord, Thank You for Your grace and mercy, as well as the courage to be vulnerable. Lord, help this reader to reflect on where they may be resisting making a move for You. Lord, I know first hand that You cannot use people who are unwilling to move. Whether it is a literal or figurative move, may the past be a rudder spurring us forward rather than an anchor holding us back. May we walk by faith and not by sight or feeling. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

“Are You Religious?!”

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Yesterday, the woman helping me at the Bank asked, “what do you do?” I responded, “I am a student.” She asked, “Of what?” I said, “Honestly, in the Fall I will begin my pursuit of a PhD in Biblical Studies.” Without missing a beat she asked me, “Are you religious?!”
I confess, I did not answer straight away. I waited a moment praying she would give me some context. By her body language I stated, “I am devout.” Immediately she responded saying, “That is how I am!” After hearing her story, I learned that she comes from a very legalistic background. God was to be feared not out of awe and reverence, but for His judgement. She also shared a personal story of how one of her family members will not associate with anyone or anything outside of their church.
Right or wrong I said, “That is a tough one. We are called to go out into the world; but, to not look like the world. We are not called to live in a bubble.” We each discussed our church experiences and she ended our time saying, “thank you for the conversation!”
I have been repeating this question in my mind over and over again. “Are you religious?!” and each time I think of how I could have answered differently. Then, this morning, in my TWiG (Time With God) I felt like the Lord asked me, “how would you respond if she asked you, “are you spiritual?!””
Ultimately, I am spiritual in my devotion to Christ. I am religious but not a legalist. I am devout, deeply devoted and committed to our Triune God. I am thankful the Holy Spirit helps us to speak when we do not know what to say! Peter tells us to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15 ESV). May we be prepared to speak anytime, anywhere, any place with any person!

Father God, thank You for this reader! Thank You for opportunities to grow and stretch our faith. Thank You for all the different ways You make Yourself known to us. Lord, grow us in our awe, reverence and devotion to You. May we always be prepared to share our faith, answering the questions that others have with gentleness, sincerity and authenticity. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and comments on how you would respond! Thank you in advance! Blessings, Mandy