Friday, May 22, 2020

Thus far the Lord has helped me

artwork by Krista Hamrick

Krista Hamrick’s beautiful artwork so inspired me that I felt led to do a word study of I Samuel 7:12

NIV: Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

AMP: Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and he named it Ebenezer (stone of help), saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

CEB: Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, “The Lord helped us to this very point.”

NOG: Then Samuel took a rock and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer [Rock of Help] and said, “Until now Yahweh has helped us.”

RSV: Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jesha′nah, and called its name Ebene′zer; for he said, “Hitherto the Lord has helped us.”

What does Ebenezer mean? “Stone of help” or “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (I Samuel 7:12) One of the most catastrophic military losses in Israel’s history occurs when the Philistines capture the ark of the covenant at Ebenezer (I Samuel 4:1-11). About twenty years later (and after retrieving the ark), the Israelites engage the Philistines in another significant battle, only this time it is they who prevail (I Samuel 7:7-11). Unlike the first battle, in which the nation acts without consulting God (I Samuel 4:3), they choose to rely on divine intervention (I Samuel 7:8) and are rewarded with an improbable if not miraculous victory (I Samuel 7:10-11). This is a significant triumph as it marks the first time in the nation’s history that they defeat the Philistines. Samuel, Israel’s last judge, first prophet and de facto leader, commemorates the occasion by erecting a monument which he names: “Ebenezer” (I Samuel 7:12). Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (I Samuel 7:12) Israel now has a new religious symbol, a boundary with both geographic and spiritual meaning. Samuel sought to keep the memory of God’s deliverance current in Israel’s mind. He wanted Israel to remember the past and be thankful for God’s help. Remembering God’s help in the past also encourages hope for the future, and hope sustains faith.

As a part of Beth Moore’s Believing God Bible Study, which I completed several years ago, we were asked to complete a timeline of our life in ten-year segments, asking God to reveal to us all the spiritual mile-markers in our lives: broken places, hurts, disappointments, accomplishments, and joyful times--to help us see that God had been there all along and that His grace is sufficient. God has used this timeline process to heal me in so many ways. I learned the Hebrew concept of time is like a person rowing a boat. We see where we have been, we back into the future. I can clearly see that God has been there with me all along. I am not stuck in the past, I am rowing into the future, moving forward, proactive, with my focus, my mindset, on God, who is sovereign. He sees the past, the present, and the future all-at-once.

In the Believing God Bible Study, Beth Moore writes: “Ebenezer means “stone of help.” As we walk out the remainder of our timeline of faith, let’s keep memorializing God’s obvious interventions and spiritual markers through stones of remembrance. In the meantime, by faith, let’s walk with a (figurative) stone in our hand as an “Ebenezer” until we see the next astonishing evidence or spiritual marker and lay it on our timeline. You see, the “Ebenezer” stone constantly reminds us, “Thus far the LORD helped us.” In other words, with God’s help we’re making it so far, and we’ll make it some more.” Christ has taught me to live one day at a time, depending on Him alone to “give me this day my daily bread.” I can remember in the early days of getting through the withdrawal of addictive sin that I’d seek Him in the morning, then live on His sufficiency until noon. Then until dinner. Then until bedtime. Then the worst time of all: the black of the long night. Sometimes I’d sleep with my Bible open on my chest. Other times I literally slept with it open on my forehead because I knew that my biggest problem was my broken mind. I begged God to help me make it without turning back. How I pray I will never again look at life from the bottom of a pit, but all I know for sure is this: “Thus far the LORD has helped me.” With the writer of the familiar hymn, I too can sing:
 Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither by Thy great help I’ve come; And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood; O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.
"I want you to picture picking up a stone from the ground presently beneath your feet, raising it high, and proclaiming, “Thus far the LORD has helped me.” And He’ll help you again tomorrow, the next day, and the next. If you tumble into unbelief, cry out to God, reach around you for another Ebenezer stone, stand back to your feet, and start walking again. Never forget that long-term victory happens one day at a time.”

My daily prayer using the Believing God Bible Study Five Statement Pledge of Faith:
1.               God is who He says He is.
2.               God can do what He says He can do.
3.               I am who God says I am.
4.               I can do all things through Christ
5.               God's Word is alive and active in me.
I'm Believing God.

God is Who He says He is.
You are Jehovah Ra’ah, You are my Shepherd, I lack nothing. You make me lie down in green pastures, You lead me beside the still waters. You restore my soul. You lead me in the path of righteousness for Your name’s sake. Even when I walk THROUGH the valley of the SHADOW of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your Staff, your Holy Spirit and Your Word, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  

SEVEN NAMES OF GOD
PAIRED WITH PSALM 23:1-6
JEHOVAH-RA’AH
The Lord, my shepherd (Psalm 23:1)
The LORD is my shepherd;
 
JEHOVAH-JIREH
The Lord, my provider (Genesis 22:14)
I shall not want.
JEHOVAH-SHALOM
The Lord, our peace (Judges 6:24)
He makes me to lie down in green pastures:
he leads me beside the still waters.
JEHOVAH-RAPHA
The Lord, my healer (Exodus 15:26)
He restores my soul:
JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU
The Lord, our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6)
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
JEHOVAH-SHAMAH
The Lord, ever-present (Ezekiel 48:35)
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
JEHOVAH-NISSI
The Lord, our banner (Exodus 17:15)
Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
JEHOVAH-RAPHA
The Lord, my healer (Exodus 15:26)
Thou anoints my head with oil; my cup runs over.
JEHOVAH-JIREH
The Lord, my provider (Genesis 22:14)
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.


God can do what He says He can do. Nothing is impossible for You, Lord Jesus, Absolutely Nothing!  I am casting all my cares upon You because You care for me. Supply the needs I have today to know You and believe You, to glorify You, to find my satisfaction in You, to experience Your peace, and enjoy Your presence...

Five Key Benefits
God Intends for His Children
Obstacles which stand in the way of the
Five Key Benefits God Intends for His Children
To Know God and Believe Him
Unbelief—I pray to roll away the obstacle of unbelief which is revealed in my doubt, fear, worry, and discouragement.
To Glorify God
Pride—I pray to roll away the obstacle of pride which is self-absorption, whether I am absorbed with how wonderful I am or how miserable I am. Forgive my self-focus. Worship is focus, help me focus on Jesus Christ alone.
To Find Satisfaction in God
Idolatry—I pray to roll away the obstacle of idolatry which is putting anything ahead of or instead of Jesus Christ.
To Experience God’s Peace
Prayerlessness—I pray to roll away the obstacle of praylessness. Prayerless lives are powerless lives; prayerful lives are powerful lives. Peace is the fruit of authority—let the peace of Christ rule. Christ brings His peace where He is Prince—the Prince of Peace.
To Enjoy God’s Presence
Legalism—I pray to roll away the obstacle of legalism with a heart which desires an intimate, personal relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ, not rules, regulations, and religion.

I am who God says I am. In Christ, I am blessed with every spiritual blessing, accepted in the Beloved Son of God, adopted as a child of the King, chosen before the foundation of the world, redeemed by the blood of Christ, forgiven by His grace, loved with an everlasting love and underneath are the everlasting Arms, a love that will not let me go. 

I can do ALL things through Christ Who gives me strength. Lord Jesus, I cannot do this, but You can!  Won’t You give me Your smile?

God’s Word is alive and active in me...I’m Believing God.

During my study of scripture, I came to a place in my life where I wanted, more than anything else, to love God more. I began to pray, Lord, I want to delight in you! God is so inconceivably good. He’s not looking for perfection. He already saw it in Christ. He’s looking for affection. That’s why every lasting change will invariably be a change of heart. He’ll even supply the heart, if we’ll ask Him.

Lord Jesus, give me a heart which longs to be a planting of the Lord for the display of Your splendor. Give me a heart which yearns for Your Presence, a yearning for You that draws me over and over into Your Presence, a yearning that makes only a few days without time in prayer and Your Word seem like an eternity. Give me a heart which is motivated first and foremost by a desire for You, not for what You can do for me, but a yearning for Your Presence. Give me a heart that wants You more than anything else You could give, to love You and know You more than anything in life. Give me a heart that takes what You have made known to me and makes You re-known to everyone else, a heart that makes Your name and renown the desire of my heart. Give me a heart to feel Your Holy Spirit woo me once again to the place where I meet You. In the simplicity of my prayer time, give me a heart to be suddenly confronted by the majesty of my Redeemer—the One Who is responsible for any good in me. Lord, each morning, give me a heart that seeks Your forgiveness for past sins, and welcomes Your fresh mercies which fall like manna from Heaven, and once again move my heart. I surrender all. Morning after morning.

The verdict is final. The case is never going to be re-tried—irrevocable. On that we can rest—we are justified on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It is a blessing to know that I am, right now, under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ. Because I have placed my trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, I am redeemed by His precious blood. The threat of failure, judgment, and condemnation has been removed. Knowing that God’s love for me and approval of me will never be determined by my performance is the most encouraging promise to which I cling.

Lord Jesus, thank You for the free gift of salvation, that we are justified on the basis of Your finished work on the Cross. Thank You that, right now, we are under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ. Because we have placed our trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, we are redeemed by Your precious blood. The threat of failure, judgment, and condemnation has been removed. Knowing that God’s love for us and approval of us will never be determined by our performance is the most encouraging promise to which we cling. We love You, Lord. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

Look up – Meditate on I Samuel 7:12. Pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look in – Meditate on I Samuel 7:12. Pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: “Because God is ______________, I will ______________.”

Look out – Meditate on I Samuel 7:12. Pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.

* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ

Saturday, March 21, 2020

unprecedented peace in Christ alone

artwork by Krista Hamrick


Krista Hamrick’s beautiful artwork inspired me during this time in which we are living, which is being called “unprecedented” in our lifetimes. The eyes of the connected world have simultaneously widened on a common enemy called COVID-19. What do we do when we feel threatened? When our normalcy is upended? Krista’s artwork reminded me of an old hymn I sang as a child, based on Psalm 62, and helps us look to God’s Word to shed light in these uncertain times.

As a little girl growing up in church, I can vividly remember holding the church hymnal with my parents, and singing, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.” The lyrics which Krista illustrates so beautifully in her artwork, speak directly to our hearts in this unsettling time: “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' Name. When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. His oath, His covenant, His blood, support me in the whelming flood. When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay. When He shall come with trumpet sound, oh may I then in Him be found. Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.”

This led me to a word study of Psalm 62:6:

ESV: He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

AMP: He only is my rock and my salvation; My fortress and my defense, I will not be shaken or discouraged.

CEB: Only God is my rock and my salvation— my stronghold!—I will not be shaken.

KJV: He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved.

TPT: For he alone is my safe place. His wrap-around presence always protects me as my champion defender. There’s no risk of failure with God! So why would I let worry paralyze me, even when troubles multiply around me?

The Message:
God, the one and only—I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I hope for comes from him, so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, An impregnable castle: I’m set for life.


Pastor Steven J. Cole writes: "
The difficulty with applying Psalm 62 is that very few of us have ever been in the desperate straits that David was in and so we cannot truly relate to what he says here. Evil men were threatening David’s life and scheming how, not only to topple him as king, but also how to kill him. They were trying to murder David. They were saying, “He’s like a leaning wall or tottering fence. Just push and he’ll go down!” Under that real threat of death, David’s mind was wonderfully concentrated to write this psalm. The message is: 
In life’s most threatening times, you will be at peace if God alone is your salvation and refuge.

The main theme of the psalm is the right and wrong objects of faith. If we trust in God, we’re secure. If we trust in men or in things, we’re depending on that which is lighter than breath (62:9). Interestingly, even though David was in a life-threatening situation, the psalm contains no prayer.

Pastor H. C. Leupold writes, “There is scarcely another psalm that reveals such an absolute and undisturbed peace, in which confidence in God is so completely unshaken, and in which assurance is so strong that not even one single petition is voiced throughout the psalm.” Of course, David experienced this peace through prayer, and he exhorts God’s people to pour out their hearts before Him (62:8). All of us want to have this same peace that David had in this crisis. At the heart of his peace is his confident trust in God alone.

The word “only,” which translates a little Hebrew particle, is also a recurring theme in this psalm. It occurs six times, four in reference to God. Each time it begins the sentence for emphasis. The word itself conveys emphasis and may be translated in different ways, depending on the context. Sometimes it is translated “but, it sometimes means “surely” or “certainly.” The most authoritative Hebrew lexicon and most modern translations translate it in Psalm 62 as “only” or “alone.” By repetition, David hammers home the concept that we will enjoy God’s peace in the midst of life’s most threatening moments when God only—God alone—is our salvation and refuge. Since we all struggle to get to that place—and as we’ll see in the psalm, David himself struggled to remain there—let’s focus on how to come to that place of complete trust in God.

While David begins with his calm waiting on God (62:1-2), it’s helpful to work our way back by looking first at the fierce enemies that were threatening him: Some think that David wrote this psalm in the context of Absalom’s rebellion, but we can’t know for sure. The attacks seem to have been prolonged, as seen by David’s cry, “How long?” The New King James Version translates verse 3b, “You shall be slain, all of you, like a leaning wall and a tottering fence,” making it David’s words against his enemies. But the ancient versions and most modern versions take it as David’s enemies’ words against him. They were counseling together how to thrust him down from his role as king by assassinating him. They were spreading falsehoods and using flattery, telling him that he was a great king, while inwardly cursing him. The Bible never promises exemption from such attacks. Rather, it shows us what to do when you’re under attack. David begins (61:1a), “My soul waits in silence for God only.” Commentaries helpfully explain what David means by “silence.” “The silence intended is, in short, that composed submission of the believer, in the exercise of which he acquiesces in the promises of God, gives place to his word, bows to his sovereignty, and suppresses every inward murmur of dissatisfaction.”

The key word there is “submission.” When difficult things happen to us, we can either angrily complain to God, “I don’t deserve such treatment!” Or, we can submit to Him, agreeing with His promises, giving supremacy to His Word, bowing before His sovereignty, and suppressing our tendency to grumble. There is no more remarkable demonstration of this than that of Job. When God inexplicably took his possessions, his ten children, and his health, Job humbly proclaimed (Job 1:21b), “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” While the rest of the book of Job shows how he wrestled through his pain and his complaints against God, by the end of the book we find Job again in a posture of worship, bowing before God’s sovereign hand (Job 40:4-5; 42:1-6). So, humbling yourself “under the mighty hand of God” (1 Pet. 5:6) is a key element in experiencing God’s peace when you’re under attack.

David adds (62:1b-2), “from Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.” In this context, salvation refers to God’s deliverance from David’s enemies. And yet we’re not amiss if, with Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon, we apply this to God being the only source of our salvation from sin and judgment. He preached two sermons on this psalm. In one (“God Alone the Salvation of His People,” Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit he writes, “If anyone should ask us what we would choose for our motto, as preachers of the gospel, we think we should reply, ‘God only is our salvation.’” Then he adds, “I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. . .Tell me anything that departs from this and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rocky truth, “God is my rock and my salvation.”

If God alone is your salvation from eternal death, if He raised you from death to life and gave you the faith to believe in Jesus Christ, then you also can take refuge in Him from less threatening trials. As Paul puts it in Romans 8:31-32, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” So if you know God as your only source of salvation from sin, then when problems hit, submit yourself to His sovereign hand and trust God alone as your salvation and refuge from the problems.

In verses 5-7, David repeats what he already said in verses 1-2, with a few variations. Why does he do this? In verses 3 & 4, he has been thinking about his enemies and the extreme threat that they represented. So, he may have been a little bit shaken (not, greatly shaken, v. 2). “Here it is to be remembered, that our minds can never be expected to reach such perfect composure as shall preclude every inward feeling of disquietude, but are, at the best, as the sea before a light breeze, fluctuating sensibly, though not swollen into billows.” In other words, we never reach a place of perfect composure, where severe trials don’t affect us. And so we have to fight to regain our peace in God. But how?

First, David talks to himself (“My soul”). They say that talking to yourself is a sign of senility, but the Bible often tells us to do this very thing. In Psalms 42 & 43, the psalmist repeats (42:5, 11; 43:5) the refrain (43:5), “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” The opening chapter of Pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ wonderful book, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, is on Psalm 42. He asks, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” He goes on to explain that rather than just going along with the thoughts that come to you in the morning, which bring back all of the problems of yesterday, you’ve got to take yourself in hand, preach to yourself, and question yourself. You ask yourself, “Why are you cast down?” Then you exhort yourself to hope in God. Lloyd-Jones continues, “You must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.”

That’s exactly what David does in Psalm 62. He piles up description after description of who God is. After telling himself to wait in silence for God only (62:5), he adds (62:5b-6), “for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be moved.” This time he does not say, “I shall not be greatly shaken” (62:2), but he advances to, “I shall not be moved” at all! Then he goes over it again (62:7), “On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.”

Don’t miss the pronoun, “my” (9 times in vv. 5-7). Also, God is either directly named or referred to with the pronouns Him or He five times in these verses. David knew God personally as his hope, his rock, his salvation, his stronghold, his strength, and his refuge. If we want His peace in severe trials, we must know God personally and experientially as our God and remind ourselves of who He is. David is fighting here, while under these life-threatening attacks, to put these comforting truths front and center in his mind. We say we’re trusting in God alone, but then we quickly scheme how to deliver ourselves, rather than waiting on Him! It’s not that it’s wrong to think about how to get out of a difficult trial, or to use methods to do so. In fact, more often than not we should use plans and methods in dependence on Him. But it’s wrong to give God a token nod of trust and then set Him aside while really, we trust in our schemes and methods. Rather, with David we must fight to make God our only source of deliverance: “He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold.” Then, “I shall not be shaken” (62:6). If we trust in plans and methods we’ll fail. But if God only is our rock, we will stand firm.

David can’t contain the joy of knowing God as his salvation, so he writes (62:8), “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” What a wonderful verse! David isn’t giving out pat, useless advice! He’s telling us how he endured this terrible attack on his life by these fierce, cunning enemies. He trusted in God; he poured out his heart to God; he took refuge in God. He’s telling us to do the same. What God was to David in his extreme trial, He can be to you in your crisis.

How does pouring out your heart to God (62:8) fit with waiting silently for Him (62:1, 5)? Obviously, they’re not contradictory. Waiting silently for God only, as we’ve seen, is to put our hearts in submission to His sovereign love in the face of trials that seem to contradict either His sovereignty or His love. It’s an attitude of trustful submission. Pouring out our hearts is to unburden ourselves in prayer, where we empty all of our anxieties and confusion and pain onto the Lord, while still remaining in submission to His sovereign love. As 1 Peter 5:7 puts it, “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

How prone we all are to keep our troubles pent up in our hearts until we’re driven to despair. We show much anxiety and ingenuity in seeking to escape our troubles without God. But in so doing, he says, we only get ourselves into “a labyrinth of difficulties.” The answer is to pour out our hearts before Him, taking refuge in Him, because He cares for us. David has shown us that we can be composed or at peace if God alone is our salvation and refuge. He has reaffirmed it, showing that it is usually a battle to get to this place and remain there in the face of difficult trials. He concludes with a contrast, showing us what not to trust and repeating again who to trust."
The main reason that we should “fight” for God’s peace in threatening times is not so that we will be at peace, but so that God will be glorified and others will be drawn to Him through us. God’s peace comes to us in life’s threatening times when He alone is our salvation and refuge.

In this psalm David pours out his heart to God, describing his difficulties, the enemies that are trying to kill him, and the lies and curses others have spoken against him. But on the battlefield of life, in the midst of every trouble, David has a Godward focus. He is honest about his complaints and problems, but he has purposed to direct his gaze to the God of all faithfulness, putting his trust in the One who alone is his rock, salvation, fortress, and refuge. He then can wait quietly before God because he has put his hope, and his very life, in the Lord’s hands. He doesn’t trust in human nature because it is no more secure than a breath. He doesn’t put his hope in riches because he knows that wealth will not save him. His hope, confidence, and trust are in the Lord Almighty. If, like David, we are waiting for God to act when we are in the midst of trouble, we can wait frantically or impatiently. But to wait quietly in hope takes a deep confidence in knowing the One we are waiting for. He will never disappoint us. This psalm is an open invitation to be honest and deeply real with the Lord. It calls us to take our masks off and pour out our true thoughts and feelings to God, to be there before Him telling it like it is, not how we think things should be. How freeing it is to realize that we can be totally honest with God and express our sadness or joy, our fears, our faults and weaknesses, our pain, desires and dreams, and to know that the contents of our hearts are really safe with God, our refuge. This psalm also reminds us that although the specific patterns or formats for prayer are excellent principles for individual or corporate prayer times, we don’t have to follow them in order for God to hear us, nor do we have to hide our negative emotions and attitudes just so we’ll look good. God already knows all that we are feeling and struggling with, so we can come to him just as we are and pour out our hearts “at all times.” He invites us in the midst of conflicts, stresses, responsibilities, and frustration to seek him as our closest confidante, our intimate friend.


Heavenly Father, I lift my eyes up to you, my rock, my salvation, my fortress, and my refuge. Quiet my heart to wait on you, for my hope is in You. Help me to wait for You in this unprecedented time, in the storms, in the light, and in the darkness. Let my confidence not be shaken by what my heart may feel, circumstances may say, or my mind may think. I thank you that my confidence rests on the One who is my rock and that you will never be shaken. How thankful I am for the confidence and security that You long to hear from me and to comfort me. You know and understand all the thoughts of my heart better than I do myself, and you invite me to pour out my heart to you even now in this unprecedented time. I trust You with my eternity—I will trust You today with my next breath, my next heartbeat. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.


Look Up—meditate on Psalm 62:6 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on Psalm 62:6 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Psalm 62:6 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.

* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

the display of His Splendor

artwork by Krista Hamrick

As I pondered this beautiful artwork by Krista Hamrick I felt led to do a word study based on Isaiah 61:3:

NIV: They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.

ESV: that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

The Message: Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness” planted by God to display His glory.

NET: They will be called oaks of righteousness, trees planted by the Lord to reveal His splendor.

NLV: Then they will be called oaks that are right with God, planted by the Lord, that He may be honored.

Oaks of righteousness: The Hebrew word for “righteousness” is “tsedhāqāh” reflecting “honesty, integrity, liberation. It is righteous conduct that issues from a new heart.”

Righteousness tsedhāqāh conveys the idea of that which is straight and so one who is upright or righteous is one who walks a straight path. The root thought is that which conforms to an ethical or moral standard. The first use of tsedhāqāh in Genesis 15:6 is informative as it describes the righteousness that God decreed of Abram when he believed in the Lord and His promises. So the righteousness described here in Isaiah 61:3 is supernaturally (Spirit) enabled righteous thoughts, words, and deeds before God and before men. Tsedhāqāh can be used of all God's works in human history, all his victories on behalf of his people. Salvation is often paralleled with God's righteousness.

David calls upon God to deliver him in his righteousness. It was this kind of use of righteousness that captured Martin Luther's attention and led to his great breakthrough realization of the doctrine of salvation by grace. In his human thinking, Luther could not connect God's righteous expectations, over which he felt condemnation, with God's salvation. Living up to God's standard is not possible in ourselves. Finally, the truth came alive in Luther that God's righteousness not only means judgment on sin, but his gracious gift of the solution to the sin problem to all who repent of their sin and receive the gospel by faith. What human ability cannot do, God provides to those who turn to Him and acknowledge their need—both right standing and enablement to live in it. Isaiah pictured righteousness as God adorning us with a rich robe in his love for us (Isa. 61:10). The most familiar verse concerning righteousness, and the one quoted by Paul in Galatians 3:6, is Genesis 15:6, "[Abram] believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him as righteousness." By faith, Abraham had a right relationship with God; he fulfilled the Lord's expectations of his life. Christ came to set the captives free so “they may be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Celebrate the fruit of righteousness that reaps honesty, integrity, and liberation in us. No matter what our strongholds have been, God can plant us deeply in His love, grow us by the water of His Word, and call us “oaks of righteousness.” We can be called persons of honesty, integrity, and liberation. From the definition, these results come only to those who have allowed God to create in each of them a new and clean heart. Strongholds can include self-righteousness, arrogance, and a judgmental spirit.

Display of His splendor:  The Hebrew word is the same for both the words “display” and “splendor,” it is “pa’ar,” which means “to embellish, beautify, adorn; to glorify; be glorified; to bring honor, give honor; to boast.” To display God’s splendor is to radiate His beauty. We are called to be the radiance of God’s beauty on this earth. To be a display of God’s splendor is to be someone God can boast about! The more we gaze on the beauty of the Lord as we seek Him in His temple, the more our lives absorb and radiate His splendor. A living and visible portrait of the beauty of God.

We fulfill the high calling to display His splendor when we reach up and fully receive the benefits He bowed low to give us. 

The first benefit of our covenant relationship with God is to know God and Believe Him (Isaiah 43:9). If you bask in knowing God and dare to believe Him, someone close by has seen truth through your witness whether or not you are aware of the effectiveness of your testimony. Without a doubt, the more you know God, the more you want to know God. The more time you spend with Him, the more you will yearn for Him. No one has to force a person who is intimately acquainted with God to be a living witness. Pray for a yearning for God that draws you over and over into His presence. A yearning that makes only a few days without time in prayer and His Word seem like an eternity. Pray for a heart that wants Him more than anything else He could give. Ask God to give you a heart to love Him and know Him more than anything in life. More than anything on earth, pray to know Him. It is not enough for you to know Him and believe Him, you will want everyone else to know Him, too! What He has made known to you, you will want to make re-known to everyone else. Pray for a heart that makes His Name and renown the desire of your heart! Pray to roll away the obstacle of unbelief which is revealed in our doubt, fear, worry, and discouragement.

The second benefit of our covenant relationship with God is to Glorify God (Isaiah 43:7) God’s glory is the way He makes Himself known or shows Himself mighty. When God seeks to glorify Himself through an individual, He proves who He is by causing the believer to be what is otherwise impossible and to do what is otherwise impossible. Pray each morning to have the Holy Spirit woo you once again to the place where you meet with God. The God of grace bows low and meets with us. In the simplicity of our prayer time, we can pray to be suddenly confronted by the majesty of our Redeemer, The One who is responsible for any good in us. Our past sins are forgiven and fresh mercies fall like manna from heaven. Once again, our heart is moved and we surrender all. Pray to roll away the obstacle of pride which is self-absorption, whether we are absorbed with how wonderful we are or how miserable we are, revealed in our self-focus, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency.

The third benefit of our covenant relationship with God is to find satisfaction in God (Isaiah 55:2) The satisfied soul is never a more beautiful display of God’s splendor than when willing to empty self for the lives of others. Pray to roll away the obstacle of idolatry which is putting any affection for anything else ahead of or instead of Jesus Christ. Pray Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” Pastor John Piper has said, “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.”

The fourth benefit of our covenant relationship with God is to experience God’s peace (Isaiah 48:18 ) Peace is an eye-catching display of God’s splendor. The key to peace in each of our lives is to be submitted to God’s authority through obedience, a “long obedience in the same direction.” Joy will ultimately flow from obedience, and few things display God’s splendor any more appealingly than joy. Peace is the fruit of righteousness which, in essence, is obedience to God’s commands—the product of abiding in the vine. Joy will eventually flow from the fruit of peace produced by righteousness. Pray to roll away the obstacle of praylessness. Prayerless lives are powerless lives; prayerful lives are powerful lives. Peace is the fruit of authority—let the peace of Christ rule. Christ brings His peace where He is Prince—the Prince of Peace.

The fifth benefit of our covenant relationship with God is to enjoy God’s presence (Isaiah 43:2-3) What does scripture mean by the phrase “hope in the Lord’? The Hebrew word for “hope” (KJV, “wait upon”) is “qawah,” meaning “to bind together (by twisting)…to be gathered together, be joined, to meet; to be in wait for someone, to expect…to be confident, to be enduring.” If we want to keep a renewed strength to face our daily challenges or regain a strength that has faded, God’s Word tells us to draw so close to the presence of God we’re practically twisted to Him—to wrap ourselves so tightly around God that we end up automatically going where He’s going. Pray to roll away the obstacle of legalism with a heart which desires an intimate, personal relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ, not rules, regulations, and religion.

I discovered a wonderful acrostic memory tool for the word, “praise,
” which I have applied as a prayer format during my quiet time each morning and as I prayer-walk:
Praise
Repentance
Acknowledgement
Intercession
Supplication
Equipping

PRAISE: I begin my prayer time with praise. I repeat to God a few of the attributes the Scripture records for him. I sometimes repeat to Him the words to a hymn or worship chorus.  Philippians 4:6 says, “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I incorporate thanksgiving into every aspect of my prayer time. As I praise Him, I thank Him for choosing to reveal Himself to me.

REPENTANCE: After I have spent several minutes in praise and worship, I enter a time of confession and repentance. I confess sins of the thought life such as wrong motives, negativism, a critical spirit, or even right words with a wrong heart. As I repent, I thank Him for His faithfulness to forgive my sins.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: Having praised Him and been purified by Him, I am ready to submit to God’s authority. I acknowledge His right to rule and reign in my life every day. Then willingly and deliberately I submit myself to His Lordship—one day at a time. I deliberately surrender to His Lordship with my heart.  I acknowledge Him as Lord and thank Him for being so trustworthy with His authority.

INTERCESSION: I ask God to burden my heart with specific people He wants me to intercede for each day. As I intercede for others, I thank Him for being my Great High Priest and adding power to my petitions.

SUPPLICATION: I enter into a time of prayer for myself. God has called each of us to love Him, serve Him, and live holy lives. I can only know Him intimately when I bring Him my innermost thoughts, fears, hurts, gains, losses, and desires. I ask Him to give me a heart to love Him more and to fill any empty places in my heart with the safety of His love. In supplication for myself, I thank Him for knowing me intimately and desiring that I know Him.

EQUIPPING: I conclude my prayer time by asking Him to equip me in every way for a victorious day. I ask Him to give me eyes that “see” Him and ears sensitized to “hear” Him. I ask Him to give me a heart to respond when He opens a door of opportunity, and to empower me to witness as He leads. As I ask for equipping, I thank Him for never calling on me to do anything He will not readily equip me to accomplish.

During my study of scripture, I came to a place in my life where I wanted, more than anything else, to love God more. I began to pray, Lord, I want to delight in you! God is so inconceivably good. He’s not looking for perfection. He already saw it in Christ. He’s looking for affection. That’s why every lasting change will invariably be a change of heart. He’ll even supply the heart, if we’ll ask Him.

Lord Jesus, give me a heart which longs to be a planting of the Lord for the display of Your splendor. Give me a heart which yearns for Your Presence, a yearning for You that draws me over and over into Your Presence, a yearning that makes only a few days without time in prayer and Your Word seem like an eternity. Give me a heart which is motivated first and foremost by a desire for You, not for what You can do for me, but a yearning for Your Presence. Give me a heart that wants You more than anything else You could give, to love You and know You more than anything in life. Give me a heart that takes what You have made known to me and makes You re-known to everyone else, a heart that makes Your name and renown the desire of my heart. Give me a heart to feel Your Holy Spirit woo me once again to the place where I meet You. In the simplicity of my prayer time, give me a heart to be suddenly confronted by the majesty of my Redeemer—the One Who is responsible for any good in me. Lord, each morning, give me a heart that seeks Your forgiveness for past sins, and welcomes Your fresh mercies which fall like manna from Heaven, and once again move my heart. I surrender all. Morning after morning. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on Isaiah 61:3 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on Isaiah 61:3 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Isaiah 61:3  …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.

* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ


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