Meditation

When you think of the word “meditation” what immediately comes to your mind?

I am sure we all have varying images in our minds when we think of meditation. These images can range from individuals meditating in a yoga class…or an individual sitting in a lotus pose with their legs crossed and palms facing upward on their knees…or a group of individuals kneeling in a prayer-like position meditating for religious purposes.

Whatever image comes to your mind…the meaning of meditation for each of these images can vary as well…from quieting your spirit to emptying your minds of any thoughts to praying to a god or God…to really a long list of many more meanings!

As Christians it is important that we too embrace this concept of meditation…meditation on God’s Word.

Meditating on God’s Word is one of the spiritual disciplines and God actually commands it! There are many scriptures that embody this concept of meditation.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8 NIV

But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. Psalm 1:2 NLT

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. Psalm 119:15 ESV

May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. Psalm 104:34 NIV

So what exactly does it mean to “meditate” on God’s word?

Interestingly…to “meditate” can be defined as “to study, contemplate, ponder, think, consider, reflect, or ruminate.”

Ruminate? This word is usually referenced to an animal…more specifically cows…and means to bring up and chew again what has already been chewed and swallowed. Yeah pretty gross…I know!

Cows have very interesting stomachs made up of 4 parts. When a cow takes a bite of grass…it chews it briefly…mixing it with large amounts of saliva. It then swallows this and it goes down to stomach number one. Here it starts to digest and break down into smaller parts.

After some time passes the cow will bring this food back up again and chew it some more. When he swallows it this time it is smaller and finer and goes down into stomach number two. Here the water is taken out and the food is made into pellets. A little later the cow lays down and brings back up the pellets into its mouth where it chews away for hours….commonly termed as a cow “chewing the cud.” The food then goes to the third and finally into the fourth stomachs.

Just like cows ruminate…we are to meditate (ruminate) on the Word of God. Just like cows eat grass…chew it…swallow it…regurgitate it…chew it again…and again and again…we are to do the same with the Word of God.

Through this process of rumination/meditation the cow will finally digest the grass…and we too will digest God’s Word….our spiritual food.

We can clearly see from this analogy that meditation requires action…it is not passive.

In order for God’s word to penetrate deeply into our minds and hearts, we need to do more than simply read God’s Word…we need to meditate on God’s Word…we need to intentionally engage our minds on God’s Word.

Why should we meditate on God’s Word? Besides the fact that God commands it.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8 NIV

The purpose of meditation is application. We meditate on God’s Word in order to actually do what it says. Not to mention the blessings we will receive too!

So how do we meditate on the Word of God?

PACE (your) STEPS

When we pace ourselves it means to slow down and to take things in steps. So instead of rushing into things…instead of rushing and reading God’s Word and checking it off our ‘To Do’ lists…

We need to “pace ourselves”…intentionally slow down… take things into consideration…and meditate.

The next time you read a Bible passage or scripture…ask yourself if there is a…

P…PROMISE TO (believe)?

A…ATTITUDE TO (change)?

C…COMMAND TO (obey)?

E…EXAMPLE TO (follow)?

(your)

S…SIN TO (confess)?

T…TRUTH TO (receive)?

E…ERROR TO (avoid)?

P…PRAYER TO (pray)?

S…SOMETHING TO (thank God for)?

This is a very practical way to meditate on God’s Word because PACE (your) STEPS is an acronym to help us think about what we are reading and how we can apply it to our lives.

Another way to meditate on God’s Word is to spend time reading in the morning and then remind ourselves sometime during the day what we read and then remember and ponder once more before we go to bed.

I know what some of you are probably thinking…I can’t do that…I don’t have time for that…I am too tired! Well…I love what Pastor Rick Warren says…

If you can worry, you can meditate! Rick Warren

And a final way to help you meditate on God’s Word is by writing scriptures on cards…taking them with you throughout your day…and reading through them during a break in your day. This is actually a Jewish practice in the Old Testament.

The Jews were told to tie little leather boxes called “tefillin” (often seen in English translations as “frontlets”) to their body which contained a small scroll of parchment with written scriptures. God wanted His people to remember and to meditate on scripture.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 ESV

Mediating on God’s Word is a very important spiritual discipline for us as Christians. When God’s Word penetrates our hearts and minds we will be careful to do everything written in it. And as a result we will be prosperous and successful! (Joshua 1:8)

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 NIV

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:1-2 NASB

Reflection Points:

  1. What does it mean to “meditate” on God’s word?
  2. What does it mean when cows ruminate?
  3. Why should we meditate on God’s Word?
  4. How do we meditate on God’s Word?

Action Points:

  1. Meditating on God’s Word means…not just reading God’s Word…but ruminating on His Word. It means to continually study…contemplate…ponder…think…consider…reflect on His Word.
  2. The word “ruminate” is often referred to animals such as cows and means “to bring up and chew again what has already been chewed and swallowed.” Just like cows ruminate…we are to meditate (ruminate) on the Word of God. Just like cows eat grass…chew it…swallow it…regurgitate it…chew it again…and again and again…we are to do the same with the Word of God.
  3. The purpose of meditation is application. We meditate on God’s Word in order to actually do what it says. We will receive many blessings as well when we meditate on God’s Word.(Joshua 1:8)
  4. Please refer to the 3 practical ways mentioned above to better understand how we can practically meditate on God’s Word.

When He is Silent

Who likes the silent treatment? I certainly don’t. Of course lately, as I have been spending these long summer days with my 2 active little boys…silence is actually quite nice! If I get a moment of silence…I will take it!

But many times in life, silence can make us feel a bit awkward…and can make us feel quite impatient. Especially when we are waiting for a response.

This is very evident in our ever increasing world of modern technology…when we send a friend a text or email a coworker…and we wait and wait and wait for their response.

So what about when God is silent? What about when you have prayed and prayed to God…and nothing?

No answers…no direction…no guidance…no “yes’s”…no “no’s”….no nothing! Just silence! It certainly can be discouraging!

The dictionary defines the word silence as…“a situation or state in which someone does not talk about or answer questions about something; absence of any sound or noise; stillness; the state of being forgotten; oblivion.”

Wow…Did you catch the latter part of the definition? The state of being forgotten…

Isn’t that what we begin to think when the clock keeps ticking…hours turn into days…days turn into months…and even months turn into years…and we are still waiting for God to answer?

When God is silent…we may think that He has forgotten us.

When God is silent…we may want to give up.

When God is silent…we may stop praying.

There are times that I have certainly struggled with this because I just want an answer… don’t you? Because even if the answer is “no”…then I can process that answer and move forward.

So why does God remain silent?

Well…we can sit here and spit out endless reasons why God is silent like…

His timing is perfect…

His unlimited mind knows what our limited minds do not…

He knows what is on the other side of His answer…

He doesn’t think we are ready for His answer…again timing!

He wants to develop our patience…

He wants to build our faith…

And this is just to name a few as the list can go on!

I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s Decree. For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Isaiah 55:8-9 MSG

So what then should we do when God is silent? Keep praying.

I know…easier said than done! Not the answer you probably wanted to hear.

But this is God’s desire…His heart is that we come to Him and pray to Him often…and persistently.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1 NIV

Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 1Thessalonians 5:17 AMP

O LORD, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before You. Psalm 88:1 NASB

Why are we persistent in anything that we do in life? Because we have an expectancy…right? We are expecting an answer…a result…an outcome.

And so it should be with our prayers…Why should we pray with persistency? …because we have an expectancy. We expect a response from God…we expect an answer from God!

And one thing that I can tell you that we can certainly expect is that…He hears us…He hears every prayer…He hears every petition…He hears every cry…even when He is silent.

I love the Lord, because he has heard [and now hears] my voice and my supplications.” Psalm 116:1 AMP

How persistent are your prayers…especially when God is silent? How often do you pray?

The Bible is full of men and women who prayed persistently to God. And one such individual who should really capture our attention is James…Jesus’ half-brother.

James was a man of prayer and his letter…the Book of James…clearly emphasizes prayer.

Because James prayed so much…he was actually  nicknamed “Old Camel Knees”!

What does praying and camel’s knees have anything to do with each other?

Have you ever seen a camel’s knees up close?

camel knees camel kneeling

They have thick hard calluses. When camels lower themselves to allow a rider to climb aboard…their front knees hit the ground first… so over the course of a lifetime their knees get quite a workout.

Because James prayed so much…his knees were as hard as the calluses on a camel – camel knees. This demonstrates years and years of determined praying!

How determined are you? Are you ready to give up and stop praying when God is silent…or are you determined to keep praying…pray without ceasing…pray persistently?

Now we all don’t necessarily need to have calluses on our knees to prove our persistence…but when was the last time you walked into your room…shut the door…got down on your knees and prayed…like James?

I am not saying you can’t pray throughout your day…which I do and encourage you to if you don’t already (pray while you are driving…working…jogging etc.) But do you ever get down on your knees to pray to your Heavenly Father? (I do understand that some of you are physically unable to.)

This kneeling position is actually a demonstration of humble submission and reverence to God. It exemplifies honor and respect like kneeling before a king or ruler.

And interestingly…isn’t it just like the enemy to make you think that a person on their knees is in a position of one who has been struck down…downcast…and defeated…But, even though we may be down on our knees…we are looking up…to God.

We pray persistently because we expect an answer from God. But God desires us to pray often and persistently not just to answer us but to use our persistent prayers for His purposes.

1. God uses our persistent prayers to center our attention.

Persistence compels us to the true center of prayer…which is not about something but someone. It directs our attention and focus to God.

2. God uses our persistent prayers to deepen our relationship with Him.

Persistence compels our heart to examine what it really wants most. Do you want God’s will? Do you want God even more than you want what you are asking for?

3. God uses our persistent prayers to develop our patience.

Persistence demands patience…waiting. This is the ground for spiritual growth. Frustrations in prayer can purge and purify our desires. Perhaps God desires to give you exactly what you have asked for…but only in a time and way that the gift can truly benefit you instead of harming you.

4. God uses our persistent prayers to build our faith.

Persistence requires our faith to be stretched. When God is silent…we are pushed to keep praying…keep trusting…keep having faith in the God who holds the answers.

5. God uses our persistent prayers to mold…even transform…our desires to change how we pray and even what we are praying for so we gradually come to pray closer to the heart of God’s will.

A great example is when The Apostle Paul prayed three times for a “thorn in the flesh” to be removed. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10) He never tells us what it is…simply that it is painful…a source of torment…“a messenger of Satan.”

When God didn’t answer his prayer as asked…Paul changed how he prayed.  He prayed that God would help him to rely on God’s grace…God’s strength…and God’s power which was made perfect in Paul’s weakness.

When we have prayed and prayed and prayed…and God is silent…we need to shift our perspective…be determined to keep praying often and persistently like James…and as hard as it is…understand that God will answer in His time and His purposes go way beyond the answers we are waiting for!

Reflection Points:

1. Have you ever prayed and prayed for something…and God is silent?

2. Why does God remain silent?

3. What should we do when God is silent?

4. How often do you pray? How persistent are your prayers…especially when God is silent?

5. Why was James’ nickname “Old Camel Knees”?

6. What is God’s purposes in our persistent prayers?

Action Points:

1.It is God’s desire that we come to Him and pray often and persistently…especially when He is silent.

2.There are endless reasons why God may remain silent. Refer back to some of those reasons.

3.We should keep praying when God is silent. God hears every prayer…every petition…every request!

4. James was a man of prayer and great example to us. He was nicknamed “Old Camel Knees” because he had hard calluses on his knees from kneeling and praying so much!

5. God uses our persistent prayers for His purposes. Review the list above.

SORRY REPOST: You Anoint My Head With Oil…Even In The Small Things!

You anoint my head with oil… Psalm 23:5a NIV

Last weekend my mother-in-law came to visit to celebrate Father’s Day and her birthday. We had a great time…and at the end of our celebration I drove her back home with my 2 little boys.

Of course keeping the boys busy and entertained during this 45-minute car ride to the West side of town…as always…was a challenge…so they began to take turns reciting Psalm 23 to their Grandma! Fun! Right?

Totally blows my mind that my 4 and 6 year-olds can recite Psalm 23…word for word…in its entirety! Ok I know I am bragging a bit…but what proud mommy wouldn’t?!

As they went through the verses, I thought…

Wow…they have no idea what they are saying! They have absolutely no clue what words/phrases like… green pastures…restore my soul…paths of righteousness…anoint my head with oil…even mean!!!

Come to think of it…we too may not really know or understand the abundant promises of blessing this Psalm holds either!

Did you know there are 18 promises in Psalm 23? You may even think of more…

1) The Lord is my Shepherd = That’s Care!

2) I shall not want = That’s Provision!

3) He makes me lie down in green pastures = That’s Rest!

4) He leads me beside the still waters = That’s Peace!

5) He restores my soul = That’s Healing!

6) He leads me in the paths of righteousness = That’s Guidance!

7) For His name sake = That’s Purpose!

8) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death = That’s Presence!

9) I will fear no evil = That’s Comfort!

10) For You are with me = That’s Faithfulness!

11) Your rod and Your staff they comfort me = That’s Discipline and Guidance!

12) Your prepare a table before me = That’s Friendship

13) In the presence of mine enemies = That’s Protection!

14) You anoint my head with oil = That’s Consecration!

15) My cup runs over = That’s Abundance!

16) Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life = That’s Hope!

17) And I will dwell in the house of the Lord = That’s Security!

18) Forever = That’s Eternity!

So packed full of promises! Studying each promise in Psalm 23 in greater depth would be such an encouraging experience… wouldn’t you agree?!

But today I want to focus on one particular verse…Psalm 23:5…and dig deeper into the phrase…You anoint my head with oil.

So what exactly does it mean when David says…You anoint my head with oil?

The dictionary defines the word “anoint” as…“to apply oil to as a sacred rite especially for consecration; to dedicate to the service of God.”

The New Testament Greek words for “anoint” are chrio which means “to smear or rub with oil” and aleipho which means “to anoint.”

David…the author of Psalm 23…is speaking of the symbolic custom in the Bible in which kings were anointed to represent the chosen one from God.

This anointing was representative of the responsibilities that the King would assume over the people.

According to the biblical meaning of the word…anointing of a particular person was also carried out for the purposes of healing…both physical and spiritually.

As the definition above states… to anoint was a representation of setting someone or something aside for the service of God. (Consecration)

We as believers and followers of Christ must indeed be separated for the service of God…living in this world but not of this world.

In Psalm 23…we see in David’s words a humble image as he compares himself to a sheep in relationship to what God does on our behalf.

Did you know that sheep often face various enemies…many wild animals such as…lions, bears, and wolves?

Now David knew this first hand because as a young boy he worked as a shepherd…and so we can be sure he had opportunities and instances when he perhaps had to kill some of these wild animals to protect his flock.

But sheep face other enemies that we don’t necessarily think much about because these enemies are so small. These creatures can actually make a sheep’s life so miserable that they won’t even lie down to rest!

These small enemies include the warble flies…mosquitoes…gnats…and something called the Nasal Fly.

Sheep are specially troubled by this “Nasal Fly” or the “Nose Fly.” These little flies buzz around the sheep’s head attempting to lay their eggs on the damp mucous membrane of the sheep’s nose. So gross…I know!

If they are successful…the eggs will hatch in a few days and it forms a small, slender, worm-like larvae. They work their way up the sheep’s nasal passage and into the sheep’s head. It causes severe irritation to the sheep.

And for relief from the pain, the sheep will often beat their heads against a tree or rub their heads on a rock. This as you can imagine causes great pain to the animals and has been known to kill some sheep.

So where are we going with this?

When the shepherd begins to see signs of these tiny enemies…he will begin to smear and rub oil to the sheep’s head and nose.

Once the oil has been applied to the sheep’s head…there is an immediate change in the animal’s behavior. The aggravation is gone…the irritability is gone…and the animal can lie down and rest… just as David suggests in Psalm 23.

Now we may not be bothered by such nasal flies as the sheep are…but what thoughts…worries…challenges… frustrations… irritations…buzz around our head robbing us of our peace…our joy…our faith?

Do you find yourself struggling to gain control over your mind and thoughts not only in the bigger worries and challenges of life…but also the smaller daily frustrations and irritations?

Just as these small enemies…like the nasal flies…rob sheep of their peace and rest…we too can easily allow the small enemies of our day…like frustrations and irritations…to steal our peace and joy and eventually our faith as well.

Remember that Satan is doing everything within his power to gain control over our minds.

He played with Eve’s mind (Genesis 3)…He played with David’s mind (1Chronicles 21)…and He even played with Jesus’ mind! (Matthew 4) So why wouldn’t he try to play with our minds as we are made in the image of Christ?!

Satan wants to rob us of our peace…our joy…and our faith. In the big things…and small things. Period.

But just like the oil that is applied to the sheep’s head causes an immediate change in the sheep’s behavior allowing him to have peace, comfort, and rest…We too must allow God to anoint our head with oil allowing us to keep our peace…our joy…our faith.

This oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit….which is available to you…to me…and to every child of God!

When we allow God to anoint our head with oil…we are actually anointed with His presence.

It is His presence in our lives that will protect our minds on a daily basis from being robbed of our peace…our joy…and our faith.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3 NLT

For the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10 NIV

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; And take the helmet of salvation… Romans 6:16,17a ESV

God is just as much in the big things we worry about as He is in the small things! He is actually the Master of what may seem small and insignificant!

We must be continually reminded that the anointing of the Holy Spirit and His presence in our life will protect…strengthen…refresh…and keep us consecrated in our walk with Jesus.

We can fight Satan and his attempts to steal our peace…our joy…and our faith by putting on the full Armor of God described in Ephesians 6:10-18. (For more on the Armor of God…Refer to previous blog posts titled… “Your Daily Armor”…“Draw Your Sword” … “Don’t Drop Your Shield!”)

We can also fight Satan from gaining control over our minds by talking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. (For more on controlling our minds…Refer to previous blog posts titled… “Peace of Mind” and “Loving God with All Your Mind”)

By fighting to gain control of our minds, we will experience greater peace…joy…and faith on a daily basis and resist banging our heads against a wall…like the sheep do in response to their frustrations and irritations.

Reflection Points:

  1. Do you know that there are abundant promises of blessing in Psalm 23?
  2. Do you know what David means when he says…You anoint my head with oil?
  3. How does this phrase relate to sheep?
  4. What does the oil symbolize?
  5. Who is this “oil” available to?
  6. Do you find yourself struggling to gain control over your mind and thoughts not only in the bigger worries and challenges of life…but also the smaller daily frustrations and irritations?
  7. Do these daily frustrations and irritations rob you of your peace…your joy…even your faith?

Action Points:

  1. There are at least 18 promises of blessing in Psalm 23! Read through them listed above.
  2. Once the shepherd applies oil to the sheep’s head…there is an immediate change in the animal’s behavior. The aggravation is gone…the irritability is gone…and the animal can lie down and rest… just as David suggests in Psalm 23.
  3. The “oil” symbolizes the Holy Spirit which is available to you and everyone who is a child of God.
  4. We must allow God to anoint our head with oil allowing us to keep our peace…our joy…our faith.
  5. For more on practically fighting Satan from controlling our minds…see the references to previous blog posts.

 

 

 

 

SORRY REPOST: You Anoint My Head With Oil…Even In The Small Things!

You anoint my head with oil… Psalm 23:5a NIV

Last weekend my mother-in-law came to visit to celebrate Father’s Day and her birthday. We had a great time…and at the end of our celebration I drove her back home with my 2 little boys.

Of course keeping the boys busy and entertained during this 45-minute car ride to the West side of town…as always…was a challenge…so they began to take turns reciting Psalm 23 to their Grandma! Fun! Right?

Totally blows my mind that my 4 and 6 year-olds can recite Psalm 23…word for word…in its entirety! Ok I know I am bragging a bit…but what proud mommy wouldn’t?!

As they went through the verses, I thought…

Wow…they have no idea what they are saying! They have absolutely no clue what words/phrases like… green pastures…restore my soul…paths of righteousness…anoint my head with oil…even mean!!!

Come to think of it…we too may not really know or understand the abundant promises of blessing this Psalm holds either!

Did you know there are 18 promises in Psalm 23? You may even think of more…

1) The Lord is my Shepherd = That’s Care!

2) I shall not want = That’s Provision!

3) He makes me lie down in green pastures = That’s Rest!

4) He leads me beside the still waters = That’s Peace!

5) He restores my soul = That’s Healing!

6) He leads me in the paths of righteousness = That’s Guidance!

7) For His name sake = That’s Purpose!

8) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death = That’s Presence!

9) I will fear no evil = That’s Comfort!

10) For You are with me = That’s Faithfulness!

11) Your rod and Your staff they comfort me = That’s Discipline and Guidance!

12) Your prepare a table before me = That’s Friendship

13) In the presence of mine enemies = That’s Protection!

14) You anoint my head with oil = That’s Consecration!

15) My cup runs over = That’s Abundance!

16) Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life = That’s Hope!

17) And I will dwell in the house of the Lord = That’s Security!

18) Forever = That’s Eternity!

So packed full of promises! Studying each promise in Psalm 23 in greater depth would be such an encouraging experience… wouldn’t you agree?!

But today I want to focus on one particular verse…Psalm 23:5…and dig deeper into the phrase…You anoint my head with oil.

So what exactly does it mean when David says…You anoint my head with oil?

The dictionary defines the word “anoint” as…“to apply oil to as a sacred rite especially for consecration; to dedicate to the service of God.”

The New Testament Greek words for “anoint” are chrio which means “to smear or rub with oil” and aleipho which means “to anoint.”

David…the author of Psalm 23…is speaking of the symbolic custom in the Bible in which kings were anointed to represent the chosen one from God.

This anointing was representative of the responsibilities that the King would assume over the people.

According to the biblical meaning of the word…anointing of a particular person was also carried out for the purposes of healing…both physical and spiritually.

As the definition above states… to anoint was a representation of setting someone or something aside for the service of God. (Consecration)

We as believers and followers of Christ must indeed be separated for the service of God…living in this world but not of this world.

In Psalm 23…we see in David’s words a humble image as he compares himself to a sheep in relationship to what God does on our behalf.

Did you know that sheep often face various enemies…many wild animals such as…lions, bears, and wolves?

Now David knew this first hand because as a young boy he worked as a shepherd…and so we can be sure he had opportunities and instances when he perhaps had to kill some of these wild animals to protect his flock.

But sheep face other enemies that we don’t necessarily think much about because these enemies are so small. These creatures can actually make a sheep’s life so miserable that they won’t even lie down to rest!

These small enemies include the warble flies…mosquitoes…gnats…and something called the Nasal Fly.

Sheep are specially troubled by this “Nasal Fly” or the “Nose Fly.” These little flies buzz around the sheep’s head attempting to lay their eggs on the damp mucous membrane of the sheep’s nose. So gross…I know!

If they are successful…the eggs will hatch in a few days and it forms a small, slender, worm-like larvae. They work their way up the sheep’s nasal passage and into the sheep’s head. It causes severe irritation to the sheep.

And for relief from the pain, the sheep will often beat their heads against a tree or rub their heads on a rock. This as you can imagine causes great pain to the animals and has been known to kill some sheep.

So where are we going with this?

When the shepherd begins to see signs of these tiny enemies…he will begin to smear and rub oil to the sheep’s head and nose.

Once the oil has been applied to the sheep’s head…there is an immediate change in the animal’s behavior. The aggravation is gone…the irritability is gone…and the animal can lie down and rest… just as David suggests in Psalm 23.

Now we may not be bothered by such nasal flies as the sheep are…but what thoughts…worries…challenges… frustrations… irritations…buzz around our head robbing us of our peace…our joy…our faith?

Do you find yourself struggling to gain control over your mind and thoughts not only in the bigger worries and challenges of life…but also the smaller daily frustrations and irritations?

Just as these small enemies…like the nasal flies…rob sheep of their peace and rest…we too can easily allow the small enemies of our day…like frustrations and irritations…to steal our peace and joy and eventually our faith as well.

Remember that Satan is doing everything within his power to gain control over our minds.

He played with Eve’s mind (Genesis 3)…He played with David’s mind (1Chronicles 21)…and He even played with Jesus’ mind! (Matthew 4) So why wouldn’t he try to play with our minds as we are made in the image of Christ?!

Satan wants to rob us of our peace…our joy…and our faith. In the big things…and small things. Period.

But just like the oil that is applied to the sheep’s head causes an immediate change in the sheep’s behavior allowing him to have peace, comfort, and rest…We too must allow God to anoint our head with oil allowing us to keep our peace…our joy…our faith.

This oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit….which is available to you…to me…and to every child of God!

When we allow God to anoint our head with oil…we are actually anointed with His presence.

It is His presence in our lives that will protect our minds on a daily basis from being robbed of our peace…our joy…and our faith.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3 NLT

For the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10 NIV

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; And take the helmet of salvation… Romans 6:16,17a ESV

God is just as much in the big things we worry about as He is in the small things! He is actually the Master of what may seem small and insignificant!

We must be continually reminded that the anointing of the Holy Spirit and His presence in our life will protect…strengthen…refresh…and keep us consecrated in our walk with Jesus.

We can fight Satan and his attempts to steal our peace…our joy…and our faith by putting on the full Armor of God described in Ephesians 6:10-18. (For more on the Armor of God…Refer to previous blog posts titled… “Your Daily Armor”…“Draw Your Sword” … “Don’t Drop Your Shield!”)

We can also fight Satan from gaining control over our minds by talking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. (For more on controlling our minds…Refer to previous blog posts titled… “Peace of Mind” and “Loving God with All Your Mind”)

By fighting to gain control of our minds, we will experience greater peace…joy…and faith on a daily basis and resist banging our heads against a wall…like the sheep do in response to their frustrations and irritations.

Reflection Points:

  1. Do you know that there are abundant promises of blessing in Psalm 23?
  2. Do you know what David means when he says…You anoint my head with oil?
  3. How does this phrase relate to sheep?
  4. What does the oil symbolize?
  5. Who is this “oil” available to?
  6. Do you find yourself struggling to gain control over your mind and thoughts not only in the bigger worries and challenges of life…but also the smaller daily frustrations and irritations?
  7. Do these daily frustrations and irritations rob you of your peace…your joy…even your faith?

Action Points:

  1. There are at least 18 promises of blessing in Psalm 23! Read through them listed above.
  2. Once the shepherd applies oil to the sheep’s head…there is an immediate change in the animal’s behavior. The aggravation is gone…the irritability is gone…and the animal can lie down and rest… just as David suggests in Psalm 23.
  3. The “oil” symbolizes the Holy Spirit which is available to you and everyone who is a child of God.
  4. We must allow God to anoint our head with oil allowing us to keep our peace…our joy…our faith.
  5. For more on practically fighting Satan from controlling our minds…see the references to previous blog posts.

 

 

 

 

I AM

When Billy and I were choosing names for our boys…we had a baby book that listed all the baby names and their meanings. Even though I was a bit more serious and Billy was way more playful… throwing out ridiculous and absurd names by the way…we certainly had a lot of fun and shared some good laughs trying to choose names for our children.

We decided to name our first born Connor. I was leaning toward the name Connor more than Billy until I shared its meaning with him. Connor means “wise” and “hound-lover.” “Wise” is always good but I knew that Billy would consider it more once he heard it meant “hound lover” because he loves dogs so much! And so…Connor it was.

We named our second son Bryce. Bryce really stood out to us and barely had any competition. The name Bryce means “ambitious”…which is certainly a great character trait to have. And so… Bryce it was!

We have found it so fascinating that our kids have personalities that actually exemplify these meanings. Connor is a very cautious and wise boy (not sure about the “hound-lover”…maybe more like a “hound-liker”) and Bryce is…no doubt…an ambitious little boy!

Now many times when we as parents name a child…we don’t have the power or the authority to make the child fit the name. We can certainly give names in the hope and prayer that our children will become what their names imply…which surprisingly did happen with our boys…at least for now! …As they are only 6 and 4 years old!

So why are we talking about names?

Because names are very significant in the Bible. A person’s name signifies his character… ability…or mission…especially when the name is given by God.

How many of you know there is a big difference when we name someone…and when God names someone?! Check this out…

God changed Abram’s name to Abraham (Genesis 17:5).

God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah (Genesis 17:15).

God changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 32:28).

And when the Son of God came into the world, His name was not left to chance…

“You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

God is very intentional when He names people.

Because…unlike us…God has the right and the power to cause anyone He names to become what the name implies. The names He gives are sure indicators of the destiny of those He names.

And there is great significance when God names…not just others…but also Himself.

When God names himself…we can be sure the name is packed with who He is and what He intends to do. God does not choose names for Himself at random…say for the way it sounds or for an ancestor or to avoid embarrassing nicknames.

He chooses names for the sake of revealing things about Himself that will deepen our love for Him…enlarge our admiration…and strengthen our faith.

Knowing the names of God helps us trust him more in our lives.

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10 NIV

The following passage in Exodus 3:13-15 is the only place in the Old Testament where God explains His name…

But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” God replied to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations. Exodus 3:13-15 NLT

This phrase “I Am” may seem a bit confusing…but there is great importance in God’s names!

What does it exactly mean when God says “I Am”?

The name “I Am” in Hebrew is Yahweh. We may also know it as Jehovah.

This is the most sacred and precious name of God. It is used in the Old Testament among His people often associated with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is usually signified in the Old Testament with the word LORD written in capital letters.

It means that God is self-existent…He was not created. It signifies that God had no beginning and will never have an end. He has all power and has no limitations.

And Jesus often affirmed His equality with God, the Father…especially to the unbelieving Jewish leaders. This signifies that Jesus too can refer to himself as “I Am.”

“I and the Father are one.” John 10:30 NIV

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” John 8:58 NASB

Ok…so how does knowing what “I Am” means help us trust Jesus more?

Jesus made seven “I Am” statements in the book of John to support his deity and explain His purpose for coming to earth.

I Am…the Bread of Life.

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. John 6:35 NASB

Jesus is saying…I will meet your needs. I will sustain you. I am sufficient.

I Am…the Light of the World.

“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12 NASB

Jesus says…I will guide you so you’ll never need to stumble in darkness. I will light the path ahead of you so you can see how to live. I will let my light shine through you.

I Am…the Door.

“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9 NASB

Jesus is saying…I am the door…step through the door and you will have eternal life. I will give you access to safety and security if you enter through the Me.

I Am…the Good Shepherd.

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. John 10:14-15 NASB

Jesus is saying…I will take care of you. I will provide for you. I will protect you.

I Am…the Resurrection and the Life

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies…” John 11:25 NASB

Jesus is saying… I will give you spiritual life over death if you believe in Me…because I have the power over life and death.

I Am…the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6 NASB

Jesus is saying…I am the only living way to the Father.

As the way, I am the path to the Father. As the truth, I am the reality of all God’s promises. As the life, I join my divine life to yours both now and eternally.

I Am…the Vine.

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 NASB

Jesus says…I will provide you nourishment and life if you stay close to me…like a branch attached to the vine.

Important Note: Jesus says “I Am”! He doesn’t say…“I Was”…or “I Will Be”.

“I Am” is in the present tense.

He is all of this… the bread of life…the light of the world…the door…the good shepherd…the resurrection and the life…the way, the truth and the life…the vine…and so much more…for us in the present…this very instant! RIGHT NOW!

We cannot improve upon this name. We can’t add to it or change it to make it any better!

He is I Am…He wasn’t created. He had no beginning and has no end…He has all power and no limitations.

Whatever your need is today…God is the great “I Am”! Let’s trust Him more today in our lives!

Reflection Points:

1.Why is studying God’s names important?

2. What does it exactly mean when God says “I Am”?

3. What are the seven “I Am” statements made by Jesus in the Book of John and what do they mean for us today?

Action Points:

1. Studying and understanding God’s names will help us trust him more in our lives. God’s names reveal things about Himself that will deepen our love for Him…enlarge our admiration…and strengthen our faith.

2. “I AM” means that God is self-existent…He was not created. It signifies that God had no beginning and will never have an end. He has all power and has no limitations.

3. Study and review the seven “I AM’ statements made by Jesus to encourage you to trust Him more in your life today.   

Sifted

I used to love baking with my mother as a little girl! I remember getting excited when a recipe called for sifted flour because my mother entrusted me to use our metal flour sifter. I always thought it was fun to turn the crank on the sifter which caused the flour to fall through the tiny holes. Once I sifted the flour, my mother and I used it in whatever we were baking!

Back in the day…even before I was a little girl…sifting flour served several purposes. When flour was milled using stone wheels, sifting removed bits of millstone and other impurities that might be found in the flour.

Today, the need to sift to remove impurities is greatly reduced with modern milling equipment… tighter food regulations…and higher quality control.

So why then did we still sift the flour before baking?

These recipes called for sifted flour because sifting broke up clumps and added air to the flour which made measurements more uniform and produced lighter cakes and pastries.

This memory of sifting flour came to me recently when I read the Bible passage in Luke 22:31-32 where Satan asks to sift Simon Peter as…not flour…but wheat. Jesus said…

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you turn back, strengthen your brother.” Luke 22:31-32 NIV

Before we dive deeper…an understanding of this process of sifting wheat is important.

There are a number of verses in the Bible that reflect this process of sifting wheat…which was actually a two-step process.

The first step involved tossing the wheat in the air to allow the chaff to blow away in the wind. Chaff is the outer shell (or husk) that must be removed to get to the valuable kernels or grain inside. Chaff was very light and carried away by even the slightest wind…while the good grain fell back to the earth.

The second step involved a sieve that would be used to separate what was valuable and useful from what was not.

In this way…the farmer cleaned the wheat and prepared it for the market. He was preparing it for a purpose.

And therefore, just like sifted flour has value and purpose in the baking process…so does sifted wheat.

When Jesus said to Simon Peter that Satan has asked to “sift you as wheat” …He was using a metaphor of faith.

Now there are some very interesting points to note from these verses. Check this out!

1.Jesus used Satan to do the sifting.

This is so significant! Satan asked Jesus to sift Peter…and Jesus agreed! Wow!

So by Satan having to ask Jesus….Jesus’s authority and power over all of heaven and earth…and Satan…are displayed. And the real kicker…

Jesus allowed Satan to sift Peter…Jesus gave Satan permission to sift Peter…even though He loved Peter!

And this is so with us as well! Jesus loves us very much but He will use Satan to sift us…He will give Satan permission to put us through trials just as He did with Peter.

But don’t lose hope! Because even though Satan’s goal is to use trials to destroy our faith…Jesus’ goal is to use the same trial to build our faith!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 NIV 

2.Jesus prayed for Peter’s faith to increase…not for the sifting to stop.

Jesus encouraged Peter by telling him… “I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail.” Why? Because Jesus believed that Peter would grow stronger having gone through this sifting…this trial.

How many times have you prayed for your trials to end…for your challenges to cease…for the sifting to stop? We all have! Right?

Jesus wants our faith to increase…our faith to stretch…our faith to grow! When we demonstrate our faith in the midst of our trials, our faith and trust will grow stronger.

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? James 2:14-17 MSG

3. Jesus saw what Peter could become.

Jesus said… “And when you turn back.” Notice it said “when” not “if” Peter turns back. Jesus saw what Peter could become…not just what Peter was.

Jesus sees what we can become also. He sees what is valuable after all the chaff is destroyed.

Jesus knows our past…our present…and our future. He knows who we are right now and who we could become.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 NASB 

4. Jesus knew this sifting would equip Peter.

Jesus said that when Peter turns back to “strengthen [his] brother.”

This sifting would equip Peter to strengthen others. God allows us to face trials not only to grow our faith but to encourage others as well! There is always a purpose and it is good!

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT

What better way to strengthen and encourage another Christian through a trial, than a fellow Christian who has experienced the very same trial?

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing….And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14 NIV

How about you? Are you being sifted today? Are you facing some trials and can’t understand why?     

God allows us to go through the sifting process just like Peter.

He allows people…circumstances…and events in our lives to take place in order to sift us.

Why? For what reason was flour and/or wheat sifted?

Because once the impurities have been removed…once the chaff is blown away…there is value…there is purpose. And it can be used!

The sifting process allows God to use us. He knows the value and purpose we each have…even though we may not see it. He knows exactly what we are now…and what we will become!

 Reflection Points:

  1. What did Jesus mean by the metaphor “sifted you as wheat”?
  2. What is the process of sifting wheat?
  3. Are you being sifted today? Are you facing some trials and can’t understand why?
  4. Why are we sifted?

Action Points:

Review the 4 points that were discussed from Luke 22:31-32.

I’m Not Perfect

Reflecting back on my childhood, I can vividly remember being a perfectionist. As a young girl…everything needed to be neat and in its place….everything needed to be just right…everything had to be “perfect”!

The hangers in my closet hung exactly the same distance apart (I know…so Type A personality!)…I always stayed within the lines when coloring pictures (God forbid there be a stray mark outside the lines!)…my handwriting had to be perfect and neat when I turned in book reports for school (I could have endorsed White Out!)

As I grew up…I came to see this perfectionism progress into my adult life…as a wife…as a mother…and as a Christian.

Are you a perfectionist?

Are you always trying to be the perfect wife…the perfect mother…the perfect employee…the perfect friend…the perfect neighbor…the perfect student…the perfect family…or even the perfect Christian?

Ok so maybe you aren’t a perfectionist at all…but don’t check out on me just yet…as I believe you will gain some greater insight if you keep sticking with me here!

If you asked me why I was such a perfectionist throughout my life…I would answer… “I really don’t know why.”

My parents…family…friends…teachers…never put the expectation or the pressure on me to be perfect. There was just something in me that drove me toward perfectionism. I put that expectation on myself!

Maybe there was a deep rooted insecurity or inner fear of rejection…not measuring up…failure…even some sort of punishment…for not being perfect.

Maybe it was my need to be in control…my pursuit to gain acceptance from others…or my concern with what others thought of me.

I strove to be “perfect” in the very way we would all probably define the word “perfect.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines “perfect” as …having no mistakes or flaws; completely correct or accurate; satisfying all requirements; having all the qualities you want in that kind of person, situation, etc.

Sounds about right…I means sounds perfect! Right?

Even beginning a relationship with Jesus didn’t take away or remove this perfectionism…as I then quickly found myself striving to be the “perfect” Christian.

After all why would I change my perfectionistic mentality when now even the Bible…Jesus specifically…says I must be perfect!

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48 ESV

As I began to grow in my relationship with Jesus…I began to grow in grace…not just grace for others…but grace for myself.

And as I continued to study God’s Word… I gained a better Biblical perspective and understanding of what Jesus meant when He used this word “perfect.”

The word “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 comes from the Greek word “telios” which means whole… complete…mature…finished…having reached its end. It implies being fully grown or mature.

Wow! That says nothing about not making mistakes…not having flaws…or not coloring outside the lines! Certainly takes some pressure off…doesn’t it?!

This concept to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect… means we are to be “whole…complete…mature” just as Jesus is “perfect.”

Jesus was actually made “perfect” through suffering.

For in bringing many sons to glory, it was entirely appropriate that God–all things exist for Him and through Him–should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. Hebrews 2:10 HCSB

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation… Hebrews 5:8-9 NASB

Jesus completed or fulfilled God’s plan for Him as our Savior by suffering for us.

Jesus is teaching us wholeness…completeness…maturity.

So how can we be this “perfect” Christian? How can we be “whole…complete…mature” as Jesus was made “perfect”?

In Character

Character is a description of a person’s attributes…traits…or abilities; moral or ethical strength; reputation; integrity. Some would say…“Character is who you are when no one is looking.”

In this life…we cannot achieve Christ-like character in one instance or at one moment in our relationship with Jesus. We need to keep growing toward maturity in our character and aspire to be as much like Christ as possible.   

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect [complete] it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NASB

We are all in process… and building character is a life-long process! 

In Holiness

Holiness is the state of being consecrated or set apart for sacred use; living a life dedicated and devoted to the service of God.

But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 1Peter 1:15-16 NASB

We need to separate ourselves from the world’s sinful values. We should to be devoted to God’s desires rather than our own…and carry His love and mercy into the world.

Our tendency to sin should not deter us from striving to be more like Christ.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Ephesians 5:1 NLT

In Love

Love is a purposeful commitment to sacrificial action for another.

When Jesus said…You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect…He was saying…”Let your love be complete as God’s love.”

God acts with concern and love for all people. If we must be perfect, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect…we will act with positive good will toward both good…and evil people. If we only love those who love us…but do not love our enemies…we are really no better than evil people…for even evil people are capable of loving those who love them!

If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. Matthew 5:46 NLT

God loves all people…even people who are evil. We can be as “perfect” as our God when we love this way.

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45a NLT             

Our love for people needs to grow and mature…which includes loving our enemies. If we do not love our enemies…we are not acting as true children of our Father in heaven.

Today…I am not the perfect wife…I am not the perfect mother…I am not the perfect Christian…And that’s ok!

Neither should you be! In whatever or  wherever you strive to be perfect!

Strive for progress…not perfection.

In the Biblical sense…we should be progressing toward wholeness…completeness…maturity.

We should be aspiring to be more like Christ…

Progressing to maturity in character…holiness…and love…

Striving for excellence…not the expectation of “perfection” that we place upon ourselves.

Strive for excellence, not perfection, because we don’t live in a perfect world. Joyce Meyer

Be encouraged today that we don’t need to place the expectation of perfection upon ourselves…that we will make mistakes…we will fail…we will color outside the lines…because only Jesus was perfect…and is perfect.

He was the “perfect” sacrifice!

And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation… Hebrews 5:9 NASB

Reflection Points: 

  1. Are you a perfectionist? Are you always trying to be the perfect wife…the perfect mother…the perfect employee…the perfect friend…the perfect neighbor…the perfect student…the perfect family?
  2. What drives you to perfection?
  3. Do you strive to be a “perfect” Christian?
  4. What does the Jesus say about being “perfect”?
  5. What is the biblical meaning of the word “perfect” and even more specifically in Matthew 5:48?
  6. Are you striving to be “perfect” in Christ-like character…holiness…and love? If so, how?

Action Points: 

  1. If you are a perfectionist…pray and ask the Lord why you are driven to be perfect. There could be an underlying fear or insecurity that drives you to be perfect. Pray and ask Him to help you overcome this underlying reason…to increase your faith…and to strengthen you. (2Timothy 1:7)
  2. God does not call us to perfection…as our general understanding of this word. He expects us to make mistakes…and to fail. (Romans 3:23) He calls us to be “perfect” biblically. He calls us to wholeness…completeness…and maturity…which is a life long process!
  3. We can be perfect, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect…by aspiring to be more like Christ and progressing toward maturity in character…holiness…and love.
  4. You can’t become more like Christ if you don’t get to know Him! We can get to know Him better by spending time in prayer and studying His Word. It’s also important to evaluate the people we surround ourselves with. Are they drawing you closer to God…or pulling you away?