Posted in My Journey

The God

There really is no other god than God. He is the I Am, the First and the Last, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David’s God. And he is my God. I love him. He rescues me from this world’s trials. He shows me the way through the darkness. He has given for me his most precious son Jesus as a sacrifice so that I may live. I cannot fathom a moment without having him in my life. He is my joy, my comfort and my every desire.

I try so hard to do his will, but so many times, I fall short. I read how the apostle Paul grappled with the very same thing (Romans 7:19). I do the things I do not want to do and the things I want to do I do not do. Oh, wretched man that I am. How is it that I have his spirit living in me and I hurt inside for seeing sin that lives in me? How can I live one life while I live another? Why do I have to have this warfare tearing me up inside?

Then I think how wonderful it is to have his spirit living in me, that I can see sin clearly living in me, to recognize it, and to hate it for what it is, instead of walking aimlessly in darkness to the beat of the world’s drum.

Oh, how beautiful it is to know I am no longer in bondage, no longer in fear, no longer with regrets, to know God intimately with absolute pleasure and being satisfied with him always.

He is God. There is no other god besides him. All other gods are dust. They cannot hear, see, talk, smell, or taste. They are rot. God is the awesome God. He hears my cries in the night when I need encouragement. He sees my hands extended to the sky for him when I worship him with all my might. He talks to me through the bible, showing me the way to go. He smells my sincere offerings and tastes my love for him through my deeds, which honor him.

My God, the God, is real. And I love him.

Posted in My Journey

His Word in Season

After a very long, hard winter, it is a blessing finally to see some sun this week. I think spring decided to nap through most of the season, allowing the snow, wind and rain to have full reign. I had driven home from Pittsburgh last week, where it was like summer down there. What a contrast it was from our dark, gray skies here in Canada.

Sometimes we Christians also need a change in seasons. I know in my case, due to winter’s extended stay, I focused much of my bible studies on suffering: Jesus’ suffering and Christian suffering. I enjoy knowing that when God allows suffering, he does not allow it without a purpose; and most of the time, we may not know what that purpose is. I use the example of my autistic son’s recent hospitalization quite a bit to illustrate that point. As a family, we have no idea what brought on his catatonia just before Christmas. We know it was anxiety-related, but the purpose as to why he went into a catatonic state is still a mystery to us. I am sure that whatever the reason is, I trust God will one day reveal it to us.

With spring now appearing at our doorstep, I am finding myself reading Psalms of gratitude and memorizing the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6 and 7). Of particular interest is the one verse that has caught my attention this week and is not letting go:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

I always wondered what that verse meant; but as I am noticing spring unfolding, with the birds chirping and the first blades of grass spouting, it is evident to me that those who are trying to become more like God, are the ones who can also see God in nature.

Again, I am gleaning these tidbits as I walk the pilgrim’s path; and I am sure I will gain another level of understanding as summer approaches, too.

For now, let us appreciate what God reveals to us through his word in season, and let us move toward sharing that understanding with other believers.

Posted in Bible Studies

Memorizing the Bible

Bible memorization has been on my bucket list for years. It was only after my son took ill in the winter that I had decided to do something about it. It was then that I had memorized Psalms 23 fully. Moving ahead to today, I am in the process of memorizing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, 6 and 7.

The importance of Bible memorization

I am sure someone will ask, why is Bible memorization so important? After all, anyone can quickly summon the Bible on a device with a few simply swipes. What would be the benefit to committing God’s Word to memory?

The discipline of memorizing scripture produces fruit that will remain with a person for the rest of his or her life. First, it will draw the reader closer to God by establishing his word in the heart of the reader. Second, the reader will gain wisdom with the slow and labored act of ingesting biblical truths on a daily basis, wisdom that can only come with the passage of time. Third, and most importantly, when the reader needs help with life’s trials, and the reader will need that help, God, through the Holy Spirit, will bring into remembrance the learned words as a means to carry the reader through those trials.

Why I began memorizing scripture

When my son was in the hospital for a month, I had a lot of time by his bedside to think about life. I also had a lot of time to read what God had to say about it all. His words, especially Psalms, were a comfort to me.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” (Psalms 23:4)

As each day dragged into the next, I knew God was there with me in spite of my not having an answer as to why he would allow tragedy to strike my family as it did. Those words eventually became part of me, where now I can not only repeat them aloud without much effort, but also recall experiences attached to those words; experiences I would not have had otherwise, had I not gone through everything I did with my family at the time.

How I commit the Bible to memory

The way I commit the words of the Bible to memory is the only way I have found that works for me:

  1. Choose a book or chapter that has affected you on a personal level
  2. Learn a verse a day
  3. Recall the previous day’s verse before adding a new verse
  4. Read the text carefully, looking at each word of the text until you can picture it in your mind
  5. Write everything down that you have learned so far
  6. Meditate on the words and make them a part of you

It involves a lot of hard work

I cannot stress how important it is to understand that moving forward with the discipline of scripture memorization is going to be a lot of hard work. Some days will be more rewarding than other days, but recognizing that fact in no way diminishes the overall goal of knowing God’s truths in such an intimate way.

Ultimately, the reward will be God’s word living inside our minds and in our hearts, leading us in our daily walk with Jesus.

Posted in My Journey

God Restores My Soul

My prayer life has changed over the years. Some seasons have brought untold anguish where I needed to drop to my knees with eager fervor wanting to know God’s will in my life. And some seasons have given me nothing but pleasure where I raise my arms to the heavens in joyous praise for what God has done. Zealously do I thank him for his marvelous work. He really is the only and amazing God.

Psalms 23 has been my unshakable stronghold in prayer. No more notable passage of scripture comes to mind when I pray to God than the words King David penned thousands of years ago. Those words have somehow become so personal to me that sharing them would seem as if I were giving you a good portion of my heart. I suppose it is because when I pray, I say them so that they personally apply to me. I do that a lot with other bible verses, but not as much as I do with Psalms 23.

This is how I pray Psalms 23:

Oh, God, you are my shepherd; I do not desire anything else.
You make me lie down in green pastures.
You love me so much that you lead me beside still waters.
You restore my soul; I shall dwell in your house forever.

The words change from time to time, but the meaning is always the same. God quiets my spirit, blesses me with hope and shares his dwelling place with me. He is my love, my strength and my passion. I have joy in him. No one else compares to him.

If you find it difficult to pray, try opening the bible and apply the words personally to your life. Intimacy with God starts somewhere, and when we allow God’s words to cover us, his presence will not be far off.

Oh, God, you truly restore my soul.

Posted in My Journey

The Beatitudes

I have the bible resting on my nightstand and before going to bed, I read it simply for the pleasure of reading it. It is my anchor, my fortress and my highest joy. If I ever end up on a desert island with nothing else, I would hope my bible was with me. I can never get enough of it.

Below is one of my favorite passages. I am presenting it here without comment or exposition. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12 ESV

Posted in Bible Studies

What Did Jesus Drink While Dying on the Cross?

I always found it a mystery to read in the bible how Jesus refused to drink wine before the Romans nailed him to the cross. Even more of a mystery to me was to understand Jesus’ intentions when he asked for something to quench his thirst, and he drank sour wine while suffering the torture of the crucifixion.

So why would Jesus refuse one drink and not the other?

Jesus refuses to drink.

The gospel of Mark describes what Jesus had to endure, “And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take” (Mark 15:22-24 ESV throughout).

According to ancient Hebrew custom based on Proverbs 31:6-7, honorable women of Jerusalem would attend executions to provide support to the condemned. The women would administer them wine mixed with myrrh, or wine mixed with gall (Matthew 27:33-35) as a way to deaden or numb the senses from the pain of the cross. The mixture was also a natural sedative, putting those who took it to sleep.

Jesus refused to take it, “And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it” (Mark 15:23). Jesus refused because he wanted to experience every single moment appointed to him by the Father (Matthew 26:39) in order to remain the perfect sacrifice for sin (Ephesians 5:2).

What an incredible, selfless act Jesus performed. He took it upon himself to ensure nothing would interfere in his ability to fulfill the scriptures, as written in the Old Testament (Psalms 69:21), and that included enduring the pain of his suffering.

Jesus drinks.

Once he was hanging on the cross, Jesus did drink, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:28-30).

Jesus did drink, but what many people believe to be vinegar was nothing of the sort. The Romans did not give him vinegar. They gave him sour wine. Sour wine was there to quench the thirst of the soldiers. The cheap beverage was refreshing and contained nothing that would impede Jesus’ capacity to accomplish God’s purpose. In other words, he took the sour wine to remain completely aware of what he was going through and not that he had succumbed to the weaknesses of the flesh.

The ultimate victory belongs to Jesus.

What an awesome testament Jesus left us. He willingly sacrificed himself (1 Corinthians 5:7) as the Lamb of God (John 1:35-36), and with a clear mind, bore the torture for our sins (1 Peter 2:24). He rose three days later (Matthew 28:5-6) and now sits at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34), waiting for that day when he will return with all power and all glory to conquer all nations (Revelation 15:3-4).

Posted in My Journey

Oh, Love!

Some of the most beautiful verses in the bible come from 1 Corinthians 13. Many Christians may know this passage simply as the love chapter. For me it defines the very essence of Christ’s nature when he gave up his life on the cross for us.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)

Oh, what a world it would be if everyone were patient and kind toward one another when waiting in line for anything. With envy and boasting out of the way, there would be no need for inflation because people would not be comparing themselves with others and desiring what others have. Eliminating arrogance and rudeness from society would do away with people’s sense of entitlement for special treatment. Selfishness would no longer rule. The world would have those who wore tolerance on their sleeves instead of irritability and resentfulness on their shoes. There would be rejoicing in justice and in truth.

We would bear with one another and bear with the burdens given to us. We would give others the benefit of the doubt and believe them first. We would hope always and never surrender in the face of our trials.

Oh, what a world it would be if everyone loved as Jesus loved when he died for our sins!