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Archive for the ‘Personal thoughts and insights’ Category

Sometimes it’s necessary to take a break for awhile. Hearing that we shouldn’t quit, shouldn’t back down, should press on and move forward… those things reinforced my perfectionistic personal demands on myself, but they didn’t give a very realistic impression of God or life. The thing is, even God took a break after creation, and Jesus often left the crowds and pulled aside for awhile to rest and to pray.

The thing is, there are some times that we should press forward, and other times that we should just relax. But even “pressing forward” shouldn’t cause us undue stress. When it does, it’s time to reconsider what we are doing and relax.

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God loves us. He delights in us. It’s his pleasure to help us. It doesn’t seem I addressed this well in my last entry, so I’ll try again. Apparently others have tried to express the same thought but also fall short. I’ll take a minute and address a few, because they have good points:

http://devotionalchristian.com/god-delights-in-us/

Psalm 35:27  “God delights in the well-being of His servant.”

If you ever doubt that God cares about your well-being; simply read this verse. He does. He cares about the details of our lives and how we are doing.

I was thinking this morning about how I was struggling in a certain area of my life. How it was nearly bringing me to tears. Then, this was the verse I happened to flip to in my little notebook. What a timely reminder that God cared how I was feeling and what I was going through!

Not only did it remind me that God cared about my emotional and physical struggles but it showed me that what He does for me is never dutiful. It is a joy. A DELIGHT.

Yes, God delights in our well-being. But today too many people think our well-being must be the thing that brings us great immediate comfort. That, however, isn’t always so. He cares about everything that happens to us, but he doesn’t stop everything that happens that we might perceive as negative. Why? Because he DOES love us. All of us. He doesn’t stop all negative in a fallen world from affecting us, but uses even the negative for positive if we’ll allow him to. Besides, he sees the bigger picture. He knows the end from the beginning.

I seriously doubt I’m the only one who has trouble thinking that God might allow us to go through something bad-really, really bad-for our own good, much less someone else’s. But then I think of the cross. God went through something really, really bad for our good. What right do I have to expect him to then never allow anything bad in my life?

Recently, Leandra Livesay blogged:

Delight! Such a fun word, the sound of it is just happy and joyful!  The dictionary defines Delight as 1: a high degree of gratification : joy; also : extreme satisfaction. 2: something that gives great pleasure.
Some of the things I delight in are watching my children laughing and playing with each other, watching an incredible sunset on the beach, spending time with family I haven’t seen in along time, seeing teenagers give their hearts to The Lord and most anything chocolate!
What are some things you “delight” in? The things we delight in are often what we love more than anything else, people or things we want to spend our time on. Have you ever thought that YOU are a delight? And not to just anyone. You are a delight, bringing great joy and satisfaction to the God who created you! How incredible is that?
This verse from the prophet Zephaniah really spoke to me years ago and helped me to realize how much God loves me.  “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.”  Zephaniah 3:17.
God takes great delight in you, He loves you, He rejoices over you. You are special and bring great pleasure to Him. The incredible emotions of delight you feel over the things that bring you joy are not even close to the way He feels about YOU! He demonstrated this by not only creating you exactly as you are, but by then sending His son to die for and redeem you. What amazing love!
Another person wrote:
Zeph 3:17
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.”

Throughout the Bible, we are told to ‘take delight in God” (Psalm 37:4) and to ‘rejoice in God (I Chronicles 16:10).

However, here is a wonderful picture of reversal. God is said to take delight in us and rejoice over us – with singing!!

Picture God jumping over the smallest achievement in us as a parent takes great pride in his child’s slightest action. Then imagine god breaking out in songs of happiness because of us! That is the kind of heavenly Father we have.

However, this does not mean that God is an indulgent parent who just spoils us rotten. The text here refers to those ‘remnant’ – the people who are the ‘residual’ believers who stick up for God and worship God despite the nation’s rebellion. These people have taken God to be their delight and in doing so, God takes delight in them as well.

God loves all of us (even with our sins and all) but it is those who have chosen to follow Him that He takes great delight in and rejoices over.

“Such as are upright in their way are his delight” (Proverbs 11:20).
“The prayer of the upright is his delight” (15:8).
“My strong enemy [was]…too strong for me…but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:17-19)

These are closer to what I wanted to express. He loves us. He delights in us. It’s his pleasure to do good for us.
Can you imagine a child who’s father delights in him? Who has Daddy’s full attention when he gurgles or coos or tries to stand up? When that child locks eyes with his daddy, Daddy doesn’t see anything else in the room. Time stops while he enjoys that moment with his child. That’s how God feels about you and me, too. It’s hard to imagine we might have the full attention of the God of the universe. And of course, because God is God we can all have his full attention at the same time, which is a little different. But when we pray, when we worship, when we just think about God… have we stopped to consider we have the full attention of the One who made us and who not only loves us, but is love?

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Reading the verse last night in the Bible in Basic English, in which Jesus says several times, “It’s my pleasure…” (to heal a person who asked), I began thinking about God’s love.

I had labeled Bible studies on God’s love as too often “squishy” or “fluff”. Part of that is my background. A large part may be because of a misunderstanding that if God loves us, bad things won’t happen. But more than that, it’s hard to imagine unconditional love when I don’t love unconditionally. Too often my “I love you’s” have been stated because they were expected, not because they were heartfelt. And way too many times I have heard or said “I love you” but actions didn’t back the words.

It’s a good thing God is bigger than that. God is love. He doesn’t just have love. He is love. The heavens are his throne and the earth is his footstool and as big as that must make Him, he is 100% pure love. God doesn’t just love us enough to die for us, though that is huge if we can ever start to consider it. He loves us daily, just as we are. He loves us, truly loves us. Unconditionally. As in takes pleasure in being with us. As in delights in us.  Not just when we do amazing things, but just because we are. Especially when we delight in him, when he catches our attention.

Ever seen a dad with a baby? One of those parents who just goes goofy over his kid? Not the kind that goes goofy for a camera when his kid’s in the room, but one who doesn’t even notice the camera because he’s so busy with the baby, so intent on getting her to laugh, him to smile? I saw a picture the other day that was like that. I can’t find it now or I’d post it. It was part of a youtube video someone had shared, and the still was of this guy who’s total focus was on his baby girl, who was according to the caption was chattering away. And then I read that verse yesterday, “It’s my pleasure…” Not just ‘his will’, but his pleasure. The people in those verses must have felt somewhat as I did. “Lord, if you want to, you can make me well.” Jesus responded “Of course I want to!” or “It’s my pleasure!”

And then something else happened. There are days and times when I feel closer to God than others. And as I prayed the other night, I told God how much I yearned to have that closer relationship with him all the time. And immediately realized he does too, and has ever since he made us. Even before he made us, maybe. And he’s done everything he can to bring us back into that relationship with him.

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Tonight I came across one of those verses that just left me awestruck.

And he put his hand on him, saying, It is my pleasure; be clean. And straight away he was made clean. (BBE, Mt 8:3)

“My pleasure?” The Bible in Basic English is the only version that translates it that way, but to me it adds a depth to the verse that I hadn’t seen before. Other versions use “will”. “I am willing…” or “I will…” That translation is fine, but to me “willing” just means “I can”, “ok, since you asked,” or even “If I have to.” But pleasure? That means “I want to,” “nothing would make me happier!”, or “It’s my delight.” It’s my pleasure is said with joy and a smile. Of course I want to! the Jerusalem Bible and the New Testament in Modern English say in both Mt 8:3 and Mark 1:41.

God’s will and willingness have always seemed elusive to me. How would I know what God wants? But pleasure… that opens amazing possibilities.

Lk 12:32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (32“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.-NLT)

Not something elusive. Not something that we have to hunt out or that he requires us to accomplish great fetes to obtain. Something he’s pleased-happy, even excited or thrilled-to give us. He enjoys giving us good things.

Have you ever gotten someone THE perfect gift? A gift you couldn’t hardly keep a secret? Maybe a Christmas present that was so good you couldn’t focus on opening any of yours until you saw the look on the face of the one you’d gotten that special gift for? That’s what that verse means to me in that translation. God is waiting with baited breath, just waiting for us to receive what he’s freely given. It’s his pleasure.

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We were taught that if there was any sin in our lives when we died, we’d go to hell. It kept us in a constant state of worry and fear.

I can’t imagine God requiring anyone to stay saved who wants to reject him. However, I think that rejection would have to be a very conscious and ongoing effort, not based on our perfect adherence to a set of rules but of something deeper. And I do believe that there are some who believe they are saved who won’t be and maybe even some who don’t think they can be who will be (based on Mt 25:31-46).

Unconditional love is being loved for who we are, not for what we do or don’t do. God’s love is unconditional. I’ve spent some time with “eternal security” people. They have some very good points. This one surprised me:

John 10:27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than alld; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”

I thought that was talking about the 11 apostles. It isn’t. It’s talking about believers.

It’s not about our righteousness, but Jesus’. Herschel Hobbs wrote in the “Baptist Faith and Message” (emphasis mine):

Sin separated man from God. The fellowship depicted in Eden was broken. But God proposed to restore it. At Sinai he gave his law to Israel…In a sense God called from the heights of his holiness for man to come up to him… Jesus himself told the rich young ruler that to inherit eternal life he must keep the commandments. But they must be kept perfectly. Failure in one law made one as guilty as though he had failed in all. No man does as good as he knows. So no man keeps God’s law perfectly… Someone may object that God is unjust in making such a demand. The perfect life of Jesus speaks to the contrary. He proved God “just” in his demand for perfect righteousness. Having done so, God in Christ became the “justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom 3:26). This he did by paying the price for each person’s sin in his atoning death, that through faith in him we might receive the righteousness of God which is in his Son. 

We can never be good enough. Our righteousness is “as filthy rags” (Is 64:6). But when we are in Christ, we no longer rely on our own righteousness, but on His. He died for all our sins, past, present and future. He became sin… and overcame sin. No, we don’t continue in sin because we experience grace. But neither do we follow a rule book of dos and don’ts. We follow Jesus. We follow Love. All we have to do is trust him.

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The title caught my eye a couple days ago in the library and have stuck with me. “The Positive Bible.” Now here was a Bible I could handle studying. One that took out the most difficult passages and left just the good parts. If I could read through the good parts, then the rest would come in time.

I pulled it off the shelf. It was pretty thick, about the same size as a regular Bible. Not the size of a church Bible, but one with study helps and such. I was hopeful. I opened it, expecting passages. At least most of the Psalms and Proverbs. A good part of the gospels. What I saw surprised me, and probably made me remember the book even more: one page held a few very well spaced verses, another a short passage and another verse. I flipped a few pages,  thinking other books might get better treatment, then flipped further, still finding just a few verses on each page. Most of the Bible had been taken out!

That’s bugged me for a couple days now, how few verses were on each page. I suppose it would be simple enough in one way to say that the Bible really isn’t that positive, but at this point I can’t believe that.

This afternoon I’ve thought about it more than a little. If every verse were taken out that might offend anyone, if every passage were taken out that someone might misunderstand, would there be more or less left than was in “The Positive Bible”? I suppose we all come to places where we have to decide whether that’s the case and what to do about it. We can either take it all and believe that there are positives to learn from all of it, or we can throw out most or all of it.

I didn’t look, but I wonder what “The Positive Bible” thought of the Ten Commandments? The Sermon on the Mount? The Lord’s Prayer? I guess I should look, but I think it would probably make me pretty mad if I did.

Which leaves me with some questions. If the whole Bible isn’t positive in some sense, then who decides what parts to keep? But if the whole Bible is good in some way, and nothing should be taken out of it, what is positive about the parts I haven’t thought were? And am I curious enough to try to find out?

One reviewer says it well: “This book definitely lives up to its title. On every page is Scripture that is positive and uplifting. But something is missing…the rest of the story. I would argue that we cannot fully appreciate or even understand the positive if we do not understand the negative. God never overlooked the negative and never made things prettier than they were… In fact, God has often used them for His greater purpose and glory.”

Hmmm…

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I just had an interesting thought. In my first Pentecostal chuch, there was a whole lot of singing about sacrifice.

I will Give You All
“God spoke to Abraham and said, give your only son, to offer as a sacrifice to the one you love. Lord if you ask of me to give, the very thing that I love the best, give me the courage and the strength to be willing to say yes”

I want to Live the Way You Want Me to Live
“I want to live, the way, you want me to live. I want to give, until there’s just no more to give. I want to love, love til there’s just no more love. I could never, ever outlove the Lord”

Songs like that. And in most churches I was familiar with there was a lot of talk about “sacrificial offerings”, “sacrificial giving”, “giving everything to Jesus”, “giving Jesus your very best”, “dying daily”, “crucifying the flesh”, “putting the flesh under subjection”, and so forth. They asked often enough in my former church if we were willing to die for Jesus that I even had a nightmare that incorporated that question.

There was a lot of talk about sacrifice, giving, and such, but little talk of love and Jesus’ sacrifice for us (unless it was to say we needed to do the same for Him). Can you imagine thinking of your spouse only in terms of what you should give, how obligated you are to him/her, how much you will have to give up for him/her, and how bad it will be for you if you don’t?!?! That’s not love at all. Dedication, maybe. Obligation, absolutely. Fear, probably. But it isn’t love.

I got ahold of a CD about a year and a half or so before I left. There was a song on it that said
“Just to draw close to thee, that’s where I long to be, let me hide myself in your heart to find my destiny. Every step I take, is one less step I need, to be in your presence, and close to thee.”
Another said
“There is none like You. No one else can touch my heart like you do. I can search through all eternity, Lord, and find there is none like you.
Your mercies flow like a river wide, and healing comes from your hand. Suffering children are safe in your arms. There is none like you…”

When things got bad at church, I’d close my eyes and start singing one of those to myself. I’d sing my own song to God and remember that what I was seeing and hearing didn’t reflect Who the Bible said God was.

Those are still some of my favorite songs today. God gave me strength and peace through them when I needed it most.

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