Category Archives: Visual Illustrations for Bible Verses

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (7): “Fear Not”

Have you ever known a fisherman who told you about the time he caught too many fish? I haven’t. I don’t have very many fishing tales, although my two favorites involve fishing with my older brother Wolle. The biggest fish we ever caught was a three-foot sun shark that had gotten caught in a tide pool on Cape Cod; he afforded  us a bony but excellent diner! The most fish we ever caught were 43 flounder off the coast of Long Island. That day the fish were biting anything that was dangling off the side of the boat (even without bait!), and we were so busy pulling them in that we didn’t realize one was actually an electric eel until we’d hauled it aboard! Yikes! Have a fishing tale to share with us? Please do!!

. . . Now that I think of it, Alan and I caught too many smelt in April, 1973, when the slippery little fish were running thick and furious down Pendills Creek in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula one cold spring night. However, it’s only with 45 years of hindsight that I can say we caught “too many,” recollecting the endless hours of processing them, freezing them, frying them ad nauseam, and finally using them as fertilizer when we planted corn in our garden the next summer. Too many fish! But, on the night we caught them, we were ecstatic!  Such memories left me baffled for a long time as I reflected on the story from Luke 5 about the miraculous draught of fish and the seventh command of Christ: “Fear not!” We learn in Luke 5 that Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John had been fishing all night without catching a single fish. Jesus later told them to “let down your nets for a draught” (his sixth command), and Peter somewhat begrudgingly let down one net. The result was nearly a fiasco: A huge school of fish all decided they wanted to be first in their class to jump into Peter’s net! As the net was breaking, Simon Peter signaled for his partners to help him, but the fish flood overfilled both boats until they started to sink. I think this is possibly the only time in history that anybody clearly caught “too many fish.”

Fish tales and tall tales are synonymous; both share as fact stories that are fiction, and the way most people decide whether or not to believe an account is by hearing the story and judging whether or not the details sound believable. If this story of the miraculous draught of fish had ended with Peter and his buddies selling the fish for a huge profit and becoming legendary in their trade (with a 15-foot statue of them in the town square), it might be tempting to include Peter in the history books alongside Paul Bunyan and his mountain-sized blue ox.  However, Peter’s response–while the total opposite of what I would  have expected—makes the account seem frighteningly true. Why? Because suddenly Peter realized he was in the presence of someone who wasn’t just another itinerant religious guru, like Gautama Buddha. Peter was up for following a wise philosopher type, but he had no clue that this humble-looking carpenter had enough power to ruin Peter’s fishing industry by overloading him with exactly what Peter wanted but couldn’t get.

Peter suddenly realized he wasn’t looking at a man, he was looking at a deity. Peter was looking in amazement at the very face of God Almighty, who alone could do such a miracle. In fact, there had never been such a miracle in recorded history, nor has there been such a spectacularly devastating fishing success since.  The result? Three of the fishermen were dumbfounded, but Peter never seemed to be at a loss for words. He fell down at Jesus’ knees and said, “Lord! I believe! Now I understand that you are really God incarnate—Immanuel, God with us, as the angels told the shepherds when you were born, and I want to follow you forever.” Right? Well, no, actually he said just the opposite! He was afraid of Jesus and said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  Jesus didn’t say, “Okay, I’m outta here! You are sinful; I am perfect, and I’m not going to hang around with you.” He reassured Peter and reaffirmed his calling: “Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (Luke 5:10). All four men had been called; they had accepted the call; they had apparently gone back to business as usual (fishing all night), had questioned Jesus’ wisdom and totally failed to recognize his authority. They were not “good enough” for Him, and they knew it. But, Jesus reached out in love; he wanted them just the way they were!  Do you ever feel like you believe in Jesus and want to follow him but you just aren’t “good enough?” Are there things in your life that are keeping you from following him completely? Like Peter, Andrew, James, and John, do you admire Jesus without appreciating his miraculous wisdom and power? Jesus Christ is not just a wise man; He is Wisdom. He’s not just loving; He is love. He’s not just enlightening; He is light. He is everything any of us needs. And, best of all, he doesn’t expect us to become perfect in order to follow him! He reaches out to us and asks us to come just the way we are! Unsure, doubting, and sinful.

After seeing Jesus’ power to provide for them and experiencing his reassuring love for them, all four disciples brought their ships back to land, forsook everything, and followed him (Luke 5:11). What are we afraid of? Let’s “Fear not!” and allow Jesus to make us into exactly whatever He wants us to be!

Just As I Am
(—Charlotte Elliot, 1835, Public Domain)

Just as I am – without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee—
O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot—
O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – though toss’d about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without—
O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find—
O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe—
O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone—
O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above—
O Lamb of God, I come!

Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him (Luke 5:6-11).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (6): Launch Out Into the Deep . . . For What??

Have you ever felt like God was asking you to climb out onto a limb . . . but you’re not sure if it’s really God or just your imagination? The quandary is: If it’s really God, then you’re willing to do something that seems futile by human wisdom, but if it’s just your imagination, then you know you’ll end up getting hurt one way or the other and probably feeling very humiliated and stupid. Yes? You know that feeling? I certainly have at various junctures in my life.

In Luke 5:4, where Jesus asked Peter to “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught,” I wonder if Peter had the same thought. Peter (aka/Simon) and his brother Andrew had been fishing all night without catching anything. I’m sure they were very tired and ready to go home to sleep. On top of that, Peter had already extended himself by letting Jesus use his boat as a pulpit from which to address the crowds who had gathered to hear his wisdom. Wise teacher? Yes! Knowledgeable about fishing? I suspect Peter had  his doubts.

Nevertheless, Peter and Andrew had already committed to following Jesus, and following requires obedience, so Peter reluctantly obeyed (at least partially; notice Jesus’ “nets” versus Peter’s “net,”—a small alteration that ultimately made a big difference, as we’ll see next Sunday): “And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5).  Do you admire Peter’s willingness to obey? I do, even though it wasn’t complete. He was learning to trust, and I often identify with his doubts and fears. Peter stated his objections but proceeded to do as told . . . sort of. The essence of being a good follower is to state your opinion but obey your leader, whether it’s following Jesus, your husband (gasp!), or your boss. Furthermore, Jesus asked him to go deep! Are we willing to go deep with Jesus . . . out where— not only could we fall out of a tree— we could totally drown?!

In studying a passage for meditation, I like to consider many translations, and almost universally, the texts record Jesus telling Simon Peter to “Launch out into the deep.” However, in most of the modern versions, Jesus’ command ends something like this: “and let down your nets for a catch.” The most presumptuous is probably The Living Bible, which states it this way: “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Now go out where it is deeper and let down your nets and you will catch a lot of fish!'”

This turns the command into a promise that is not in the King James Version (KJV), and although the vocabulary of the KJV  is sometimes archaic, I tend to trust its scholarship. In the KJV, Jesus tells Simon to “let down your nets for a draught.” Draught is an ancient word related to “drag” or “draw” and is usually used in terms of dragging or pulling liquid, as water through a net in fishing. (Or, in recent times, the idea of drawing out a “draught” or “draft” of beer into a cup.)

Although the difference may seem slight, I don’t believe Jesus is giving a promise of success to Peter, and I think the same is true for us today. When God tells us to launch out into the deep with him and put down our nets for a draught, He is asking us to obey him without promising any particular reward. Our nets may come up empty, or they may come up full, but the important thing is: Are we going to follow Christ and do what he asks or not? Period. Are we going to be okay if we fail by human standards and feel humiliated? Jesus didn’t promise us worldly fame or fortune, nor did he say that we’d be able to look with pride at what we’ve accomplished by following him. In fact, he predicts persecution, and if his life is our “perfect” example, then it looks like humiliation is in the mix too.

However, Jesus did promise us a life of spiritual abundance and fruitfulness if we follow him, and that’s worth more than any material gain. Are you willing? I am. Are we “able”? Well . . . that’s a harder question to answer!

‘”Are Ye Able,’ Said the Master”
(—Earl Marlatt, 1926)

“Are ye able,” said the Master,
“To be crucified with me?”
“Yea,” the sturdy dreamers answered,
“To the death we follow Thee.”

Refrain:
Lord, we are able. Our spirits are Thine.
Remold them, make us, like Thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
a beacon to God, to love, and loyalty.

Are ye able? Still the Master
Whispers down eternity,
And heroic spirits answer,
Now as then in Galilee. [Refrain]

And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:1-5).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (3): Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand

It’s popular in America to relegate all the stern commands and “Thou shalt nots” of Mosaic Law into a box labeled “Obsolete Old Testament Teachings” and stuff them under our brain beds, preferring to focus on the person of Christ, who epitomizes love, mercy, and forgiveness. However, Jesus’s first public statement—at the very beginning of his teaching ministry—was: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).

After identifying with mankind at his baptism, then enduring a long season of deprivation in the wilderness and overcoming Satan’s temptations, Jesus was prepared for ministry, but he didn’t need to do any research or run surveys to figure out what the people in Israel 2018 years ago (or the people living around the world in 2018) need to hear. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega . . .the One who had been with God the Father from eternity past and who was there when he heard the Father say, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). Jesus is the one by whom all things were created, and through whom they continue to exist (Colossians 1:16-17). Furthermore, not only is he our creator and caregiver, he loves us more than we even love ourselves or will ever be able to comprehend (John 15:13). What did the One who created us, sustains us, and loves us know we need more than anything? To repent! Why? Because the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!

In case you—like I—have never stopped to ponder this deeply, let’s think it through together. The word “repent” is easy to understand, but repenting is extremely difficult to do! I love all three of Merriam-Webster’s options for the definition of repent: “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life;” “to feel regret or contrition;” “to change one’s mind.” Jesus commands each of us to “repent,” and for me personally, that command has never ceased to be appropriate. Although I truly did repent the first time I ever heard the gospel, I have never completely overcome the propensity for sinning.

The words “sin” and “repent” are almost anathema today. People get angry at the very mention of the possibility that they might be sinning and respond with things like, “Are you trying to lay a guilt trip on me?” Most people deny their own sinfulness; many deny that “sin” is even possible, since if there’s no God, there’s no basis for right and wrong . . . just “poor choices.” I hear of people at the other extreme who do not believe they are capable of sin after they become Christians. What?! I continue to struggle and often fail . . . and anticipate that I will always be “under construction” (as Ruth Graham used to say) until the day I die.

How about you? Have you become perfect yet? If not, then Jesus’s first command should continue ringing in our ears! “Repent!” Let’s be cognizant of our sins each time we fail. Let’s open our eyes, reject our pride, and change our minds about what we’ve done wrong. “I’m doing my best” is a good start, but God calls us to perfection, hard as that is to hear! Let’s not give up hope; let’s keep fighting the good fight!

Why? Because that’s what God commands. But, why is He so demanding? Because He loves us! If we could only keep that in mind, it would make facing our sins and seeking change easier. Also, Jesus gave us another wonderful reason for dedicating ourselves to the amendment of our lives: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What does that mean, and why should that motivate us?

“The Kingdom of heaven” is used 32 times in the Bible, and all of them in Matthew. “The Kingdom of God” is mentioned 76 times throughout the New Testament, but after studying them intensely, I believe they both refer to the same thing. The Kingdom of heaven is a spiritual kingdom which we enter at the time of our  spiritual rebirth (John 3:3), and without spiritual rebirth, we are totally dead and blind to this incredibly wonderful dimension of human experience.

Entering into the Kingdom of heaven makes us children of God, joint heirs with Jesus, and part of the family of God. It gives us access to the wisdom of God via prayer, the grace of God through faith, and the fruit of the Spirit, which develops within us love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility, self control (Galatians 5:22-23), righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:9). And, beyond all these treasures, we are gifted with eternal life, which anchors  our soul during the most miserable trials and fills us with the quiet assurance that despite whatever storms overtake us in this life, the end of our story here on earth is glorious! After we have shuffled off our mortal coil in death (as Shakespeare’s Hamlet would say), we will find ourselves alive with Christ in the unending joys of heaven.

Have you ever reckoned with your need to repent? Repented? Entered the Kingdom of heaven? If so, Praise God! You’re his child and my spiritual sibling! If not, please click on the “Coming to Christ” tab at the top of this page, and/or come back next Sunday to learn more about the commands of Christ and the good news He proclaimed to the world!

Bible Passage Where This Command is Found: Matthew 4:13-17

For any of you who aren’t very familiar with the Bible, here’s a relevant passage that explains what Christ has done (and can do) for us:

Colossians 1:9-23 “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of 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 Chim: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven.”

How to Get Selected to Open Disneyland

How would you like to be able to open Disneyland Park? On the day we went to Disneyland, we got selected to open the park! Would you like to know how?

Well, let me tell you. I’ve been to Disneyland four times in the past 60 years:  1.) 60 years ago, in 1958, when I was only 8 (like my grandson Reid),
and the park was only 3 years old.  2.) 30 years ago, in 1988, when our oldest son, Aaron was 13
and I was 38 (like my daughter-in-law, Carleen is now).   3.) 25 years ago, in 1993, when our youngest son was a toddler.   4.) Last week, when our oldest son’s oldest son (Reuben, on left) was almost 13.

In addition, Alan and I have been to Disney World 50+ times in the past 45 years. So, we are definitely Disney fans (or at least, Alan is!).                                Talk about fun through the generations!  However, it wasn’t our devotion to Disney that got us selected, and it wasn’t through some application process. Also, it wasn’t because we were first in line (although I gather people do attempt to be first in line for that reason).  Actually, Alan and Aaron had dropped us off at the gate and gone back to our apartment to park (and then walk back) while Carleen and I were waiting in line with our four kiddos.  We were singing a song together about the states and capitals, when a man walked up and invited us to open the park. We were totally surprised. In all my years of going to Disney, I’d never tried to figure out how to get to open the park or even thought about wanting to open the park. BUT, presented with the opportunity, the answer was YES!  So, our patron led us through the crowds to the front gate, took us in, and let us be the ones to lead the count down and yell, “Let the magic begin!”Now, I know this might seem disappointing to you, because as humans we’d think it might be more “fair” if we could somehow be selected based on merit or hard work . . . because we were such devoted fans or got up the earliest and were the very first people in line, or because we had submitted an application explaining why we were the most deserving of candidates. But human wisdom is not God’s wisdom, and for whatever reason, He allowed us to be randomly selected for the privilege of opening Disneyland last week!    Thank you, Father, for that totally undeserved and surprising opportunity! I wonder, are there any of you reading this who believe in God but feel like you’re just waiting in line, hoping to get into heaven someday? You may be real “fans” of religious things . . . go to church faithfully and try to live right. You may even believe the “fair” way to get into heaven is by being good . . . by working very hard, disciplining yourself to be an exemplary student, employee, or parent, or by loving others enough to deserve getting into heaven. Maybe . . .Hopefully . . . ?Disney may be “the happiest place on earth,” but heaven is incomparably better than Disney, and God actually wants all of us to be shouting together, “Let the joys begin!” However, God knows that no matter how hard we try, we’re not going to be “good enough” on our own even to pay our way into the park (so to speak), so He sent Jesus to make it possible!  We don’t have to be in the right place at the right time, and we don’t have to attempt to earn our way into heaven. All we have to do is say “YES!” to Jesus, who like our kindly guide, has the power to get us through the gates: Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you . . .I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture . . .10I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (excerpts from John 10:7-11).  Are you ready to begin your best and greatest adventure yet . . . something infinitely more exciting than getting to open Disneyland?Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).  

Meditation on the Commands of Christ (2): Get Thee Behind Me, Satan

                                    Matthew 4:1-22; Luke 4: 1-15In the accounts of Jesus, immediately after his baptism, he was led “up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:1). How perfectly appropriate that Jesus first would teach us to “suffer it to be so now” (Matthew 3:15), and then immediately endure suffering (forty days of fasting in the wilderness) and temptation (which is what happens to all of us when we’re deprived of what we need). What were the temptations? How did Jesus respond? What can we learn for ourselves when we face temptation?In a nutshell, Satan’s temptations were all designed to see if he could get Jesus to act on his own behalf instead of in obedience to God the Father. The temptations were simple and universal: 1. Use personal power to provide for personal needs (rather than relying on God’s direction and timing)  2. Demand God’s protection (rather than waiting for God’s plan)  3. Worship Satan (who is behind anything that distracts us from worshiping God) in order to obtain wealth and power. After each temptation, Jesus responded with Scripture that explained why the suggestion was wrong, and then he concluded by saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:8). I pondered whether or not we could claim such a command for ourselves, since we read in Jude 1:9, “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” If God’s mighty archangel didn’t dare to rebuke Satan, should we? We are definitely counseled to “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you“(James 4:7) and to “take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). I understand that it’s possible to resist and withstand, but can we command?

I believe the answer is yes, but only in imitation of Jesus, who is our perfect example. Notice that Jesus was “full of the Holy Ghost” (Luke 4:1), was “led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:1), and after the temptation was over, “returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee” (Luke 4:14). God wants us to live our lives walking in the Spirit, doing what God asks, and then we will be able to discern right from wrong, resist temptation, and tell Satan to get out of our way!

But, what if we are not children of God by faith or have wandered away from God and are in a mess? Can we still command Satan to “get thee hence” (Matthew 4:10) as Jesus did? Based on Luke 11:14-26, I believe we’d be setting ourselves up for failure, because the power of evil is greater than our personal power. However, the good news is that God’s power is greater than evil. He is also merciful and invites us to “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:6-9). If we acknowledge our sins and cry out in faith to Jesus for help, He (and He alone) has the power to save us and make us capable—through his Spirit— of overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

One last thought, and perhaps my favorite. When we are facing temptation, depression, anxiety, or despair . . . when we feel the spirit of evil and darkness obscuring our way, let’s turn to the comforting words of Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light, and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; ow whom shall I be afraid?” The whole psalm is wonderful, but notice verse eight especially, “When thou saidst, Seek my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” In these situations, I believe we can say with confidence, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” and turn our faces to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, our LORD and master, who loves us and will rescue us.

Bible Passages Where This Command is Found:
Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-14

Psalm 27

1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

 

Meditating on The Commands of Christ (1): The Mystery of Suffering

Do you know what Jesus’ first commandment was, as recorded in the New Testament? Want to take a guess? I didn’t have a clue until last summer when I started studying for this series, so I was surprised to discover that Jesus’ very first commandment was given to John at the time of Jesus’ baptism: “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). In a world of suffering, the first thing Jesus tells anyone to do is “suffer!” Why?

The baptism of Jesus Christ is so important that it is included in all for gospel accounts, and for  years I’ve puzzled over the meaning of the second half of this verse: “for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” John was baptizing people as a sign of their “repentance for the remission of their sins” (Mark 1:4). Jesus, as sinless, did not need to be baptized, and so it was confusing to John (and to me) that Jesus would come to be baptized. John tried to stop him, saying that Jesus should baptize John rather than asking John to baptize Jesus! This is the point at which Jesus responded to him with, “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Somehow, in the wisdom of God, it was necessary for Jesus to identify with all humans, even to the point of being baptized. (What an example for us to follow!) And, in order for both of them (“us”) “to fulfill all righteousness,” John needed to obey Jesus.

Like a three-year-old, I was stumbling over the “why” and failing to surrender to the “what.” God wants us to “suffer,” to bear up. Allow. Endure. Submit. For all of us, even when we are trying our hardest to do what is right and good (as John the Baptist was doing), we may find that we do not always understand “why” things happen. However, in the midst of our confusion, Jesus wants us to “suffer” it all…to allow what He ordains, bearing up under the mysterious pains of life and responding with faith, trust, and obedience.

Bible Passages Where This Command is Found:
Matthew 3:1-17;  Mark 1: 1-11,  Luke 3:1-22,  John 1:15-24

P.S.—As a prophecy about the Messiah, I read this morning from Jeremiah 23:5-6: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.” Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for us (which included his baptism), and we can claim this righteousness through faith in him!

 

 

Rise Up, My Love (307): How to Access the Song of Solomon Study Sequentially

Studying the Song of Solomon has been one of the highlights of my life, but it’s finally come to an end (at least for now). This post will serve as the final “bookend” on my blog, but it will be the first post that comes up for anyone who scrolls down the right-hand side of Summer Setting’s home page and clicks on the “Rise Up, My Love” tab. Therefore, for anyone who would like to read the posts beginning at the beginning rather starting at the end, I wanted to let you know that you can access the entries sequentially on my home page by typing into the window box that has the word “Search” next to it in the upper right-hand area of the page. For example, if you type in: Rise Up, My Love (1) and then hit “Search,” it will bring up the first post, which was written exactly six years years ago, on October 7, 2012. Here’s the link:

https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/rise-up-my-love-meditations-on-the-song-of-solomon-1/

If you have any thoughts or questions to share, I’d love to have you post them in the comment box below. May God bless you in your journey toward finding, knowing, loving, and surrendering to the God of the Universe, who loves you, and me, and all of us, more than we will ever comprehend!

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).