Category Archives: Thoughts on God

Rise Up, My Love (302): God As Our Savior and Jesus as God’s Messiah

Song of Solomon 8:14 “My beloved…” Last week we began meditating on some of the many names of God listed in the Bible, and for this week and next week, I’d like to continue with this project. Here is another list of names from the Old and New Testaments that describe God as our Savior, and his Messiah, who was “Immanuel,” (God with us). These verses give a little insight into why Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament:

Isaiah 7:1 “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 43:11 “I, even I am the Lord; and beside me there is no Savior.”

Isaiah 43:12 “Therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.”

Isaiah 43:15 “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.”

Isaiah 45:22 “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”Isaiah 53:3 “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him.”

Isaiah 53:7 “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

Daniel 9:25 “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks.”

Luke 1:31-33 “thou shalt…call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest…and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Luke 1:35 “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”  John 1:14 “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

John 8:58 “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

Colossians 1:13-16 “…his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”

1 Timothy 6:15 “Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.”

Titus 2:13 “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Revelation 1:8 “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”

Rise Up, My Love (301): Some of the Many Names of God

Song of Solomon 8:14 “My beloved.” From Solomon’s song, we’ve seen many reasons why the king is our well beloved, and we’ve learned a few of his names. The bride calls him her “king…thou whom my soul loveth…my well beloved.” She likens him to a cluster of camphire and an apple tree, and she asks him to be “like a roe or a young hart.” But, throughout the Bible there are dozens of names given to our Lord, and each one expresses some aspect of his character that makes him beloved. Let’s consider a number of them.

Wow! So many thoughts flood my soul that it’s hard to organize them into transferable images. I can’t develop one before another comes bursting in like the grand finale of a fireworks display. Why is he our beloved? Below is just a sampling of the things that are said of this one whose name is “above all names.”  Jesus is like a huge diamond, and each of his names is like a brilliant flash of colored light reflecting one facet of his amazing personality. Please read the following list slowly, considering these questions: What does the name mean? How does that aspect of his being impact me? Have I learned to utilize this aspect of who he is? Do I love and appreciate him for being this in my life?  Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”  Deuteronomy 32:15 “Then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.” (May we never forsake God…may he be the Rock of our salvation always!)  Psalm 78:35 “And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.”  Psalm 118:22 “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.”  Isaiah 8:14 “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel.”  1 Corinthians 10:4 “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”  So, there are many verses about God being our Rock. He is also our Redeemer (our Lord and King, our God, our creator, the Holy One of Israel, our Savior, our Maker, our father, etc…all found in these verses):

Isaiah 44:6 “Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.”

Isaiah 44:24 “Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself.”

Isaiah 47:4 “As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.”  Isaiah 49:7 “Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and of the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.”

Isaiah 49:26 “…all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.”

Isaiah 54:5 “For thy Maker [is] thine husband; the LORD of hosts [is] his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.”

Isaiah 63:16 “Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.”  Well, that’s probably more than enough for one day’s meditation, so I’ll continue on next week! May we be amazed and blessed this week as we remember God, our Rock, our Redeemer, and so much more!

(Most of the photos are mine, but the photos of the  magnificent red rocks are from Arizona, compliments of Bob Hardee. Thank you, Bob!!)

 

Rise Up, My Love (300): Feasting on the Bread of Heaven

Song of Solomon 8:14 Well, last week’s meditation was quite an aside. I hope you didn’t mind. Let’s go back to our last verse and savor just two words: “My beloved.” First, Jesus is ours: He belongs to us. Second, Jesus is our beloved: He is the one with whom we are entwined forever in a love relationship. “My beloved.” He is mine. He is yours! He belongs to each of us uniquely and individually, and we all belong to him and to each other in the universe’s grandest and most glorious, mysterious corporation…a corporation which offers incredible benefits, perfect job security, dividends “above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), and a pension plan that will provide for us through all eternity. How do you like that for a package? “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation” (Psalm 68:19).

Why is he beloved? To begin with, “We love him because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). He’s beloved because he loves us. Also, we love him because we know that his love will last forever. Nothing ever “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39). Other loves of this world come and go. Some passions seem intense but fade to nothing, and even the greatest loves of earth are at times fickle and frail. Not so the love of God! “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).  We love him because the expression of his love through his mercies is fresh and new each morning. Look at Exodus 6:7, “In the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord.” Do you know what the children of Israel saw? They saw manna…the perfect bread sent down fresh from God’s kitchen. Did you know that “manna” means “What is it?” In John 6:51 Jesus explained what it is, and what he is: ”I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” Jesus is our manna…our living Bread and our living Word (Matthew 4:4).  He is our Morning Glory…the one who satisfies us early. (As a flower lover, the idea of him being my Morning Glory is my own “pet” name with a double meaning, but isn’t it a sweet thought?) Are you feasting on the warm, fresh, inviting, living Word and being filled afresh with his glory morning by morning? The children of Israel got to the point where they complained bitterly about having to eat manna in the wilderness. “Our soul loatheth this light bread” (Numbers 21:5). They grew tired of perfection. Have you?

I’ve had children who struggled with continuing the practice of a daily morning devotional time because it became “routine and boring.” I beg you, never quit!! Forty years ago my Sunday school teacher used to encourage me as a high schooler with her own view on the Scripture. “Feeding on the Bible is like taking medicine when you’re you’re young. It’s like eating shredded wheat when you’re mature. But, it’s like savoring peaches and cream when you get old.” I think I’ve gotten old…how about you? May he ever be our Morning Glory, and may our waking thoughts each day be to praise him for the glorious beauty of his love and holiness!

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
(—William Williams, 1745)

Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
[or Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer…]
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield;
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.

Lord, I trust Thy mighty power,
Wondrous are Thy works of old;
Thou deliver’st Thine from thralldom,
Who for naught themselves had sold:
Thou didst conquer, Thou didst conquer,
Sin, and Satan and the grave,
Sin, and Satan and the grave.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee;
I will ever give to Thee.

Musing on my habitation,
Musing on my heav’nly home,
Fills my soul with holy longings:
Come, my Jesus, quickly come;
Vanity is all I see;
Lord, I long to be with Thee!
Lord, I long to be with Thee!

P.S.—Although this is an ancient song, I noticed that it was sung in Eng­lish at the fun­er­al of Di­a­na, Prin­cess of Wales, in West­min­ster Ab­bey, Lon­don, Sep­tem­ber 6, 1997. So, both the song, and the Bread of Heaven about whom the song was written, continue to feed our souls. Truly, feeding on the Word of God provides eternal nourishment, because Jesus is the Bread of Life sent down from heaven (John 6:48), and in him is life eternal (John 17:2-3)!

Rise Up, My Love (299): The Secret That Is No Secret

Song of Solomon 8:14 “Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart…” We are almost to the end of our meditation on The Song of Solomon, and I find myself hanging on every word, almost as if I can’t bear to finish such a delightful study! It’s like having to say goodbye after a perfectly wonderful evening that you don’t want it ever to end. Do you remember one or two such heavenly occasions?  My husband and I tend to relish the last hours of every Sunday night, often going to sleep a little later than is probably ideal simply because we’ve taken such joy in being together all weekend, and we know that when we wake up he’ll be off to work and I’ll be home to work…wonderful occupations, but apart.

Won’t it be grand when there are no more partings? When we are all forever “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh” in some mysterious but perfect union with God? So, I linger over the last words in the Song of Solomon, clinging to each thought, anxious lest I lose the precious closeness that I’ve felt to the Lord while meditating so deeply on his Word for these past ten years. I think I’ve learned the secret of how to have a happy life, though. It’s the secret of loving the Lord with all my being…heart, soul, mind, and strength…and then experiencing love for others constrained by our love for him.  Sound familiar? It’s the secret that is no secret! How do we develop such passion for the Lord? By spending time with him through meditating on his Word. This does not mean simply reading it (which does have its own benefits…but more in gaining head knowledge than heart transformation). Meditation requires cogitation, like a cow chewing on her cud, where we dig into the meaning of each word and phrase, asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and apply the truths to our lives in a life-changing way.  How true the promise of Joshua 1:8 is! “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” When you’ve finished this study, if you aren’t already engaged in your own “green pasture” of meditation, won’t you consider asking the Lord to lead you to a study of your own on some portion of Scripture?  When I began studying The Song of Solomon, it didn’t occur to me that I might want to continue such extensive meditation somewhere else in the Scripture, but having experienced its sweet fruit, now I know that I can’t live without it! How true is the invitation: “O, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Psalm 34:8). By God’s grace, I trust that the Lord will let me lie down in some other green pasture, at least for a little while each morning.

However, it’s not about what the Lord does for “John”…what will he do with “Peter”? Won’t you ask him to lead you into his Word for an in-depth study of your own? All it takes is a Bible. Or, if you have the resources, it helps to have a pen and paper, or a journal or computer, and a commentary or two borrowed from your church or local library…or even requested as a Christmas present. My commentaries came from many sources: my pastor, an eighty-year-old saint from my church family, finds from local bookstores and libraries, and even one as a gift from a very dear but troubled young Christian sister who knew about my study. The Lord provides. But, truly all we need is a portion of Scripture and a ready spirit to listen to our guide and teacher, the Holy Spirit.

Rise Up, My Love (298): Deep Calling to Deep

Song of Solomon 8:14 “Make haste, my beloved…” A few weeks ago in Alaska my husband and I watched the pulsing flow of two great V’s of snow geese and heard their urgent cries calling their fellows on as the rose above the clouds and disappeared into heaven. In fall the whole world seems to become restless…waiting, watching…preparing to fly away…where? Can’t you feel the pull in your own heart? “Deep calleth unto deep.” I think it’s the deep, inarticulate longing within the heart of man to escape this sin-cursed earth and fly up into the bliss and rest of heaven.“Just a few more weary days and then, I’ll fly away;
To a land where joys shall never end, I’ll fly away!
I’ll fly away, O glory, I’ll fly away” (Albert E. Brumley).

And, for those of us who love God passionately, it is the longing to be
“Face to face with Christ, my Savior, face to face—what shall it be?
When with rapture I behold Him, Jesus Christ who died for me”
(Carrie E. Breck).

“Make haste, my beloved!” When will our Lord return? Do you wonder? I know that “of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). But, whenever God the Father gives Jesus leave, our heavenly bridegroom will indeed “make haste!” The swift appearance of our “Bright and Morning Star” (Revelation 2:16) will turn night to day in an instant, surely in a blaze of glory more stunning than the sunrise I enjoyed this morning!   “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:28). “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him” (Revelation 1:7). Christ will come “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:27).  Beloved, our Bright and Morning Star is coming back, and it is my fervent prayer that he comes soon, not only because I want to be with him forever, but also because nothing else can end the pain and suffering all around us! My husband and I recently saw an IMAX film at the science center in Vancouver, B.C. called Forces of Nature dealing with the tremendous activity of natural disasters, including volcanoes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. This magnificent film from the field of science made no mention of the Bible, but I couldn’t help but remember the verse: “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows” (Mark 13:8).

I was filled with awe as the documentary discussed the fault line in the Middle East that is producing a series of earthquakes at an ever-accelerating rate. Could this fault line be related to the splitting of the Mount of Olives that will occur when our Lord returns? “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, with is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:4).

Dear Father, we cannot know the day or hour, but we know that Jesus, your son, is coming, and our hearts long for him to “make haste!” “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22) waiting for Christ’s return to set all things right. Help us to “be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7) and to “take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is” (Mark 13:33), so that when Jesus returns we may share the Apostle Paul’s testimony: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

 

Rise Up, My Love (288): Abiding in The Vine

Song of Solomon 8:11 “Solomon had a vineyard.” God had a vineyard. What happened then? Did God give up husbandry when his crops failed? God is amazingly long suffering. Hundreds of years after God predicted giving up on Israel, He was still patiently working with them. When Jesus came, He preached to the nation: “Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country” (Matthew 21:33).   Jesus was reminding them again of the passage from Isaiah, and He went on to tell the Jewish leaders that as a nation they had refused to listen to God’s prophets for centuries. (This is also discussed in Jeremiah 12:10, where the Lord laments, “Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard.”) So, what did God do? “Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him”…but “they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?” (Luke 20: 13,15). “They say unto him, he will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons” (Matt. 21:41).   Let’s review our verse again: “Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver.” Just as any good king would expect and deserve loyalty and fair business exchange, so God expected loyalty from his subjects. However, instead of “a thousand pieces of silver,” God received treachery and rebellion, even to the point of crucifying his Son. But, glory of glory, God had a plan all the time! This same Jesus, who was cast out of the vineyard of wild grapes and killed, was resurrected. Like “a root out of a dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2), Jesus himself became the one true and living vine that produced fruits full of the sweetness of God.   Jesus declared in the beautiful passage in John 15:   “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine,ye are the branches….If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”   In this wonderful passage, Jesus invites all men to come to him and by faith be grafted into himself as the true Vine. Through abiding in him, and allowing his Word and his Holy Spirit to abide in us in truth (in other words, by continuing in obedience to true truth and grace rather than in rebellion), we will produce abundant fruit full of the sweetness and fullness of God’s love and joy, and bring great joy and glory to God! This is God’s amazing plan of grace for the world, so that anyone who will can become part of God’s vineyard.   Are you part of his vineyard? Are you abiding in him, allowing his Spirit and his Word to flow into and through you, washing away the impurities and bringing sweet nourishment to your soul so that your life is producing an abundance of the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control? Lord, may we be faithful and loyal subjects who bring you “a thousand pieces of silver” for the wonderful fruits of the Spirit we enjoy by abiding in your vine and being keepers in your vineyard. Lord, may we surrender all we are and have to you, once forever, and again and again moment by moment until we are forever changed by your eternal presence. (All photos taken near Veneto, Italy, during a trip to visit our kids who live there, except for this last one, which is from Tasmania.)

 

Are You a Follower or a Leader?

Are you a leader or follower by nature? Do you think one is better than the other? American culture puts a high premium on being a leader, but this isn’t what Jesus taught, as Joe Stowell reminds us in his book, Following Christ. God calls us first and foremost to be Christ-followers, not leaders! In truth, I don’t think any of us make good leaders until we’ve learned to become good followers.

Joe is the president of Cornerstone University, where six of our seven kids began their college training, and I think this book is spot on! Ever hear of “Wrong Way Reigels”? He was the University of California center who became infamous for scoring a touchdown. . .at the wrong end of the football field during the 1929 Rose Bowl! His team lost to Georgia Tech by one point, and Joe points out that Reigels’s problem was living by “instinct without direction,” which is an issue for each of us.

Perhaps the most crucial of all life’s questions is: Do we want to be the master of our own fate and the captain of our own soul, as the poet William Ernest Henley wrote, or would we rather follow the guidance of a higher being (God!) who is infinite in his knowledge and wisdom, capable of accomplishing his will, loves us more than we love ourselves, and has our good (and that of all people) and his glory as his game plan?

The only hitch is, we have to surrender to Christ, and most of us are either afraid to trust him because we’re not sure he’s really God, or we don’t believe He truly loves us and has our best interests at heart, or we don’t want to share our “glory” with God! By nature, most of us find it hard to believe that God really loves us more than we love ourselves. We are also proud and resent the idea of giving God the glory. We’d rather seize control of our own destiny and bring glory to ourselves, so at strategic crossroads, even Christ-followers often fail to obey, even though we know good and well what we ought to do. If we want to be true Christ-followers, then we need to commit to obeying Christ even when it seems impossibly hard (and probably is, apart from God’s grace and strength).   We’ve each been given one life to live. . .one challenging but glorious adventure. For those who do not believe in God, or have chosen to take a position of being agnostic, they must default either to being their own leader or following some earthly leader, but I would rather be a follower of Christ. Because, as Joe Stowell points out, having “the real, risen, transcendent, ever-present resident Christ to relate to me in the very depths of my being apart from the inherent trappings of visibility is an advantage with which no earthly relationship can compare.”

Amen! There is no Best Friend Forever who was with us at the day of our birth, can abide with us forever, and loves us with an everlasting love. God alone, in the person of Christ’s Holy Spirit, offers to indwell us and provide guidance, purpose, abundance of joy, and life eternal. Besides all this, there’s another wonderful promise attached to being a true Christ-follower: “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make  you free” (John 8:31-32). Being a Christ follower offers us true freedom and can lead us out of the prisons we’ve made for ourselves.

One of my favorite books as a child was Follow My Leader, a story about a teenage boy who is accidentally blinded by a friend’s carelessness and has to find a way out of the hatred that poisons his soul as a result. If you find yourself feeling imprisoned by hatred or embroiled in sin, My Leader (Jesus) can help you find your way out! Don’t believe me? Well, it’s not about me, it’s about God, and He’s the one who made these promises: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3). Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Will you join me and the multitude of pilgrims who’ve become Christ-followers?