Head over Every Power and Authority – Preeminence

Today’s Reading: Colossians 1:18

The most sacred weeks of the Christian year began yesterday with Palm Sunday.  It is traditionally the beginning of the Passover and the being of the last days of Christ before the resurrection.  As we look at the scripture passage for today it rings so profound to the awesomeness of God.

Colossians 1:15-18

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

This is the entire Jesus story in a paragraph.  This is the reason that all of this happened, is happening, and will happen.  This is the Creation, the Fall, the Blood, and the Resurrection in one unified statement.  God in his infinite wisdom loved us and wanted to share Himself with us. We could not open the relationship and maintain it, so He came in the likeness and fullness of man to reconcile us to him.  He loved us more than we can or ever could understand.

During these very difficult times it is sometimes impossible to see the goodness of God, but he is continually here with us.  It is stated in the above passage

16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  This section gives me peace. I have cried and worried a little during this current crisis.  This is a wake up call for everyone in the world.  It is getting to a point that all creatures are being affected. But when you are able to have a true relationship with God, you may weep for a while before you are able to realize that He was in the midst of all things before they created. There is nothing that God has not seen or not known about, because he created it.

Heavenly Father,

As we prepare for this coming week, allow us not to dwell on the worries of the world.  Allow us to find your inner peace that you have given us and remember that you are in complete control of all things.  Thank you for loving us so much that you sacrificed yourself to reconcile us to you. Amen

God of all comfort

 

Todays Reading : 2 Corinthians 1:3

Life is hard.  There are many times throughout the week, I question how will this all turn out.  The highs and lows of life can be daunting and exasperating.  This is during a “normal” week.  Then you factor in new variables and this can become overwhelming.  The Holy Spirit then whispers “there is Comfort in the Chaos”.  One of the main misconceptions about being Christians is that life would be without hurt and suffering once you follow Christ.  But the truth is you are more aware of the suffering and the trials that you face, but being in a relationship with Christ the suffering allows the Holy Spirit to bring you comfort and peace that is not understandable by others.

2 Corinthians 1: 3- 7 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.[a] If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Despite all of the sufferings that we are go through, Paul informs us that we will be comforted and in this sorrow and suffering we will be given the knowledge and fortitude to help those who may suffer as we have.  Over the years, I have been blessed with several spiritual mentors and prayer warriors that give me encouragement and guidance through some of my most troubling times. One of these special people always have referenced the above mentioned verse.

During one of the most difficult times in my adult life, this scripture was recited to me and I was not ready to hear it.  I was just laid off from a position.  My children were in the midst of new health issues. My spirit was very low and my cup was completely empty.  I needed something uplifting and comforting.  Then my mentor states “  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”   This was not the response I was looking for.  I was not looking to comfort others in the future I needed comfort then.  But as I mediated and prayed this verse over and over, it became clear that God was in the midst of the storm and crisis.

God allowed my mentor to give me this piece of wisdom and knowledge.   That time of my life is pivotal in my relationship with God, my family, others and myself.  It was turning point that has continued to shape me who I am today.  This allowed me to step outside of myself and actually see God for all that He is and His place in my life.  Before these changes in my life I started to search for a strong bond with him and seek a more profound life for him.  He was able to gently shape me into the person that I am today through the suffering that experienced.  When we are intentional about the relationship that we want with God, He will open up His presence and comfort to be available to us.  Because of the trial and detours on my journey I have been given the opportunity to help others in their afflictions.

In our current crisis, a couple of lessons I learned about the comforter is:

Provision:

I can now fully understand the needs and desperation of others in the time of need. The ability to provide for yourself and family is a true sense of being.  God allowed me to see that He is the source of all of the things that I need and want.  When one faucet is turned off, He will allow another to open with more flow.  No matter the outlet, the source will not be hindered.

Health:

God has the final say on the health of our loved ones and us.  No matter what we try to do to mitigate the possibilities of life, life will happen.  We can attempt to workout more or eat better, but the end result is the same.  But the consolidation is that even in the midst of the most strenuous of circumstances God will use the situation for his glory. There have been countless times that I question why the health of my children is not solid, but God reveals the warmth and compassion that the children can impart on other health care workers.  This is way that God can show through them.  I cannot hinder their blessings.

Uncertainty:

In the midst of life the only thing that is guaranteed is uncertainty.  With this uncertainty we are given the privilege to know God and have access to his unlimited comfort and love. Now when there is uncertainty I pray that God will reveal himself so that I may understand His will.

Heavenly Father,

As we navigate this journey that we are on, allow us to see you and experience your comfort in the midst of storms, conflicts, and crisis.  Allow us to hear you as a whisper in the storm.  Amen

Fortress

Fortress

Today’s Reading: Psalms 18:2, 91:2

Ps. 18: 2

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Ps. 91:2

            I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

During the last days of his life, David wrote the first Psalm in the reading.  The words of this psalm are also written in 2 Samuel Chapter 22.  This psalm or hymn is one of praise and adoration to God for the salvation and the preservation that he had given David over his entire life. The life of David was not a glamorous or splendid.  David lived a life full of joys and sorrows, victories and defeats,  life giving and life taking.

In the beginning of his life David had the most dangerous and detested job during his time, that of a shepherd.  He lived with the flock on a daily basis, away from the family in isolation in the wilderness.  In his later years, he was given another role, royal musician.   In this role King Saul subjected David to cruelty and abuse. Later in life he became the hero of Jerusalem and the king’s son-in-law.  He was then chased from the castle and pursued by the king with teams of armies. After the death of the king, David ascended the throne and had some peace until his own children banished him from Jerusalem.  After sometime had passed, David returns to Jerusalem and finishes his days as king of the land.  For over seventy years, David continued to see God as the rock and fortress of his life. It is only this belief and faith that allowed David to be in his rightful place in our history and journey.

In our lives we will face many obstacles and distractions.  This is programed in our nature as humans.  We will constantly look for the better deal or the better item. We naturally cannot find contentment in what we have.  David teaches us that when we have a solid foundation in God, He will be our fortress and shelter us through whatever we may encounter and this will give us peace that will lead to contentment.

When we look at the word fortress, we see protection, strength, and peace.

Protection:  A fortress provides a barrier for us from the outside forces.  These forces can be physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  The barrier is only as strong as we make it.  If we do not reinforce and maintain the walls, then the enemy will find ways to penetrate and invade our defensives.  We have to daily enforce our fortress in God by reflecting, worshiping, or communicating with Him.

Strength:  The fortress provides a strength and stability in the midst of a hard world.  One of the most fortified city’s that is mentioned in the bible is Jericho.  This city was situated in a particular area that allows it to maintain strength and stability from any adversary that came to its walls.  This was a major attribute for Jericho and should be one that we take example from. The wall was one that took the combined and intentional effort from the children of Israel to demolish.  This was a strong fortress that was not going down easily.  We have to emulate this strength in our faith and relationship with God.

Peace:  Shalom, is the completeness that God gives us, which translates to peace.  Any fortress has to be completely sound and intact to give stability.  If the fortress has any bricks or stones that are not in place or missing the complete stability of the entire structure is compromised.  Any additional structural defects will result in complete destruction.  In our lives there are many holes that have weakened our fortress: heartbreaks, divorce, deaths, setbacks, layoffs, betrayals, etc. These things that we hold on to will continue to weaken our spiritual infrastructure.  This will not allow our fortress to sustain the battles of life. But if we allow God to give us his peace, he will replace all of the stones that life have taken away.  This will give us strength to continue to endure and move toward his glory.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for being our refugee and fortress.  Thank you for the protection, strength, and peace that you give without limit.  Amen

Eternal Life

 

Today’s Reading: John 11:25; 17:3

One of the most complex ideas that we as humans think about is what will happen after we depart from the world of the living.  Life and death is the one thing that is guaranteed to everyone, but it is also one of the most mysterious.  These events happen daily to many people and each time there is a birth or a death, people’s lives are changed.

I have been fortunate to be present at all of my children’s births.  This is one of the most profound and life changing events of my life. During the actual birth of the children, it seems that time stands still.  The process can take several minutes or longer, but when you are in the midst of the birth its seems as if time stands still and each minute last for several minutes.  The excitement and anticipation is so present, you are hanging on each second of the miracle.

Conversely, I have been in the room when patients have expired.  In these situations, the time seems to stand still.  When someone breathes their final breath, the room is silent and the seconds turn into eons.   In both of these situations time seems to obey different rules.  It is a time when the spirit comes or goes and our minds and bodies cannot comprehend what is happening.

In the book of John, we are given the principle verse: John 11:25

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[a] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

John 17: 3

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Jesus is telling us that eternal life is simple: know God and know Jesus.  By knowing Jesus we will know God and not die but live forever.  How can we know him: Know his example, know his words, now his promise.    The bible gives us a map of how to get to eternal life.

Know his example.

The life of Christ is one that points us into the direction of eternal life.  The life that we know currently consists of permanence and object significance.  We know where we were born, where we were raised, where our parents are from, where we live, where we will be buried at the end of the journey.  But the life Christ led was not completely associated with the permanent places, but the eternal destination.  He was born in a manager in Bethlehem (temporary placement), he was raised in Nazareth, during his ministry he had no home to dwell, his final days in the body were in a borrowed tomb.  He knew that his life on earth was a temporary assignment.  He knows that the holding on to the things here would not have a true significance compared to the place he was destined. This showed that the life we are living and the things that we are coveting would not be the final portion of living.  He knew that the life that we are living is a practice for what’s to come.

Know His words.

In the book of John, there are 18 different references to the eternal life that is given by Christ. In the readings for today, these particular passages are during the most grievous and agonizing times of Jesus life. In Chapter 11, Jesus has been informed that his best friend, Lazarus has died and been buried for days.  This section reveals that Martha knew the promise of resurrection and the life after, but not through Christ.  Christ used this opportunity to show that he was the resurrection and had authority over death.  He also shows his humanity and sorrow for a friend.   This same sympathy and compassion that Jesus showed to Lazarus by weeping, is also showed to us in our time of need and despair.

In Chapter 17, Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane in his final hours before the passion and crucifixion. In this High Priestly Prayer, Jesus is presenting us to God.  He is revealing the completion of his earthy duties and preparing himself to enter into the eternal life. A life that he is preparing for us.  In this prayer, Jesus is showing us that the only way to eternal life is through him and the sacrifice that he is making.

Know His Promise.

John 14: 1- 7

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”[c] Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.[d] From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

This is his ultimate promise to us, that if he goes to prepare a place, he will come again to accept us into his kingdom. This kingdom will not have an end, eternal life.

Christ came out of eternity to reconcile us to God and open the way for the Holy Spirit to manifest in humans.  Christ stepped out of eternity into time, reunited us with God, and then stepped back into eternity.  From his example, his words, and promise we can have a taste of what is to come.  At the beginning of this blog, I have seen and witnessed the mystery of time with the beginning and ending of life.  I still have so much more wonder of the coming life in eternity with Christ.  Be Blessed.

Heavenly Father,

Allow us to understand and accept your will for us as we strive for the eternal life.  Amen.

Wonderful Counselor

Today’s Reading: Isaiah 9: 6

Whenever I hear or read Wonderful Counselor, I instinctively hear Handel’s Messiah,

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[e]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

– Isaiah 9:6

For several years, Jillian and I were in a professional choir and every year we would perform this portion of Handel’s Messiah, during the Christmas program.  Each time that we would sing “For Unto Us a Child Is Born”, I would be overjoyed and excited for the robust and glorious sound that the choir would make.  It is a proclamation that the turmoil and strife that the earth and we are experiencing would soon be delivered into something amazing and awesome. This CHILD that would be born to “us” would be something that would erase the darkness and usher in new life, light and hope.

Isaiah is presenting to Israel newness and transformational strength.  Several types of leaders had ruled Israel: prophets (Moses), soldiers and warriors (Joshua), judges (Othniel, {Ehud and Shamgar}, {Debora and Barak}, {Gideon, Tola, and Jair}, {Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon}, and Samson), and kings (Saul, David, and Solomon). Isaiah is announcing to the people that the new child would not only be the conquering warrior for Israel, but the complete and final leader that they would need.

The people of Israel over the span of hundreds of years since entering the promise land fell into a vicious cycle of: knowing God, forgetting God, repenting and remembering God, then forgetting God.  This theme seems somewhat familiar.  There have been times that I remember where I fall madly in love with God and search his word daily.  Then there are times I on occasion would remember to look at my daily devotional. Then there are times that the busyness of life overwhelms me and I do not get into the word for days to weeks. Then I am reminded of the goodness of God and then I start to revisit the scriptures.  This pattern is not by accident, but it is purposeful distractions that are presented to us from the adversary.  Unlike the people of Israel whom Isaiah is writing, we have a Wonderful counselor that will redirect our thoughts to reconnect and refocus our passion.

An interesting part of the scripture is where Wonderful Counselor is placed.  It is the first name that is given in this context of the new child. Over the last several posts, I have seen that the particular placement of words and phrases has a profound effect and impact of the word of God. In the last post, the phrase that I had was the last words that were utter by Christ in the bible Revelation 22:16

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

The phrase that we are presented with today is Isaiah 9:6 that is mentioned at the beginning of this post , it is the first name that Christ is given in Isaiah.  There is power in the placement of words.

Wonderful Counselor is a title that shows God has heard the cries of the children of Israel and will send a judge that would not have any of the flaws of the previous judges, but higher power and authority and will deliver the people forever. Jesus has the final say for the pain, hurt, despairs, and anguish that we all suffer.   This Wonderful Counselor creates and maintains wholeness for all that are in need of peace.  We have to know how to recognize and accept his peace.

 

Be Blessed.

 

The Bright Morning Star

Todays reading: Revelation 22:16

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

These are the final words that are spoken by Jesus in the bible.  This completely wraps up the entirety of the biblical story.  He is the beginning of the story and the final chapter in the eternal saga that has been written and conveyed throughout centuries and millennia in the Jewish and Christian journey.   He makes a strong case of the completion of the Messiah chronicles.  In the Jewish faith, Jesus shows that he is before the formation of the promise with Abraham – David’s root.  He is also showing that he is the fulfillment of the promise from David – that his throne will be eternal.  But with for everyone he points us to something further – the beginning of journey into the light – The Bright Morning Star.

The Bright Morning Star has a lot of deep significance and power that is sometimes hard to fathom or imagine.  In our current society when we think of The Bright Morning Star we can think of a faint light on the horizon.  But in the time of Christ, there were not any of the luxuries that we have been granted. In the time of Christ, the lack of everyday amenities was an understatement.  People didn’t have food daily.  People were not able to have adequate drinking water at their disposal.  Life was a gift that was relevant and cherished daily. Sickness and death were constants. They didn’t have oil for light in the day or evening.   When it is dark it is dark, completely void of light.  When you see the Morning Star, you know that dawn is close at hand.

When we look at the Morning Star in Christ time, it is something that would be easily seen with the eye, absent all of the ambient light from other city and towns.  It would be the first light of the day, before the dawn.  The actual Morning Star that is on the horizon is the planet Venus.  It rises on the horizon several minutes before the sun breaks the dawn.  It is one that if you are not expecting it or know where to look you would not be able to observe the beauty of the star. It breaks the dark in such a way that all of the other heavenly bodies are noticed. But it is before the radiance and heat of the sun are felt.   So Christ, himself describes himself in this manner, not by coincidence, but by great intention.  He sums up how he has, will, and continues to present himself to us: He will be gentle; We have to take notice; and Know which light to focus on.

Matthew 11: 28-30  28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The Morning Star is one that comes in gently with a refreshing newness.  Each daily it comes before the dawn.  It is gentle and allows you to prepare for the brightness and harsh light from the sun. Jesus is gentle to us as He deals with us daily.   If we allow, he will be able to give us a gentle transition into daily life.  He will allow us to be eased into the peace of him in the midst of pain, hurt, destruction and malice.

We to take notice of Him.  He is gentle, but he will not force himself on to us.  It is us who will have to notice him.  He is not hiding.  He is in the same place everyday, without fail.  There is not a time that the Morning Star, has not proceeded to the sun, since the creation of the Solar System.  The same is for Christ; he is in the same place all the time. We have to take notice or show others how to take notice.

A couple of days ago, I had a a conversation with a friend about books that have changed my life.  The friend that I was speaking with shared some very insightful thoughts. He informed me that in his previous life, many situations caused him to reevaluate his life and purpose.  He said “ When I was in that life, I was not aware of the things I was doing.  But then I woke up and saw the things that I needed to do to change.  I did not know I was not awake to life, and now, I’m awake.” It takes the experienced believer to show the novice how to see and look for the Morning Star.

As mentioned earlier, the celestial sky has hundreds and thousands of lights that can distract us from focusing on the Morning Star.  The key is to know how where to look, know what to look for, and have someone show you how for the Morning Star.  The best thing for us is Jesus has already provided all of the needs to access Him. We have a direct connection and communication with him.  He is always accessible. We have to take that leap and know that he is waiting with open arms.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the Morning Star. Amen

The Builder and Architect

 

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 11:10 

 

A couple days ago, while running errands with my children, I received a phone call that was answered into the car speakers. On the other line there was a gentleman who was trying to solicit something from me and my son asks “ Dad was that Martin Luther King you were talking to?”  This made me laugh but it also prompted him to ask about the different speeches that Dr. King delivered while he was still alive. We Googled a particular speech which is titled “What’s Your Life’ s Blueprint?” This speech outlined some amazing and very important parts in the lives of middle school and high school students.  Highlights from Dr. King’s speech: 1.) Everyone has to a have a deep belief in their own dignity, worth, and “somebodiness” 2.) You must have a determination to achieve excellence 3.) Commitment to the eternal principle of beauty, love, and justice.     And as we listen to the speech I was inspired and had it for a renewing of what is the blueprint of my life.

In Hebrews 11: 10 (MSG) we see that God is the builder and the architect of our life.

8-10 By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.

But what does having God as your builder and architect really mean? To understand it fully we have to look at three different distinct Phases of a builder and an architect.  1.) The blueprint, 2.) The supplies  3.) The finished product: the building.

As God as our architect and builder, he has a blueprint for each of our lives. Jeremiah 29: 11 (ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[b] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 

Before the foundation of the earth and before the foundation of our body God has already designed us to for fill a certain purpose in his grand design.

Psalms 139: 1-6, 13-14

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Daily we reminisce in the past, worry about the present and question the future.  In doing so, we are trying to figure out how to better meet others needs but not inquiring what God has already determined in his plan. Sometimes our brief view cannot incorporate all of what God has in store for us because his view is so vast. The blueprints he has designed are not for our complete benefit, but to bring him glory.

The next item is Supplies. In the construction of the temple of God, David is prepared everything for God’s house.  David had the designs, the supplies, the people, the ornaments.   Because of some of the choices that David committed, he was not able to complete the temple.  Solomon, David’s son, was granted the chance to build the temple.  The father provided in advance the necessary supplies for the son.

I Kings 5: 3-6

“You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune. And so I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to David my father, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.’ Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. And my servants will join your servants, and I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set, for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.”

Sometimes the supplies that God uses are not the ones that we can see physically. Sometimes the ones that have gone before us prepare the supplies for us. This could be from our parents, grandparents, pastors, friends, or neighbors. The supplies that He is using to build us are specific to each person. The supplies can be tangible, but a lot of the supplies are spiritual and we have to be mature enough to be able to understand how to use these at how God is using the supplies in our life.

Finally, the end product is the Building. Many times the builder and architect can see the finished product. But most the time the finished product for that builder is another project and once completed they go to the next project. Many times the builder does not revisit the building. But with God the end product which is us, we cannot see the full effects of the finished product. This past week, I had many dear friends and love ones started their eternal journey.  The buildings I’ve witnessed by their lives are beautiful cathedrals of faith, love, and hope.  These buildings of beauty are so evident by the legacy of that person is reflected in the loved ones.

Heavenly Father,

Allow us to be patient with you as you are building us for your Glory.  Allow us to understand that the finished product is where we are with you. Amen

Encouragement

As we contemplate the coming week and New Year, my mind has a recurring theme that I would like to share: encouragement.  Over this past year many of my friends and family have stated, “2019 has been one of the worst years that I have had”.  In retrospect, 2019 has been a year of growth in overcoming some hard obstacles and allowing God to work in us.  I have personally experienced sickness of children, death of close friends and family (expected and unexpected), challenges in relationships, and sickness and trials of loved ones.  The main methods that I have coped have been through the encouragement from loved ones, songs & hymns, and scripture.

 

Vocabulary.com defines encouragement in parts.  Within the word encouragement we see the word “courage,” which means the ability to face danger and deal with it. To encourage, then, is to help develop that ability in someone, while the “ment” at the end makes that development into a noun, the act of giving courage or support to another. www.vocalbulary.com

 

The root word of encourage is courage. Lexico defines courage as the ability to do something that frightens one or the strength in the face of grief and pain. Lexico also has the origin of the word courage: Middle English (denoting the heart, as the seat of feelings): from Old French corage, from Latin cor ‘heart’.

 

So encouragement is using your internal feelings that are: fear, grief, and pain and transforming the inconceivable into something that is extraordinary.  This transformation is not something that is innate, but something that has to be cultivated and practiced.  You must find individuals that will be encouraging and allow the Spirit of God to encourage your heart and spirit.

 

One individual that embodies encouragement is David.  In the books of I & II Samuel, you are given a brief glimpse into the life of David from youth through death.  In these scriptures, it is evident that David shows courage and encourages the Israelites to stand up to the Philistines and he use his final words to encourage the people of Israel to continue to trust in God.

 

I Samuel 17:32-37

And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

 

II Samuel 23: 2-4

“The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;
his word is on my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken;
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain[b] that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

 

These two passages from Samuel show that the nature of David was encouragement.  In the face of unspeakable and unimaginable danger, his spirit was aligned with the Spirit of God.   When you read the full story of David and understand the highs and lows of his life. He was not a perfect man, but he was a man that understood that even when his steps where not completely in step with God’s plan and purpose, he would recognize the misstep and correct the actions.  The story of David is a true story of encouragement that despite all of the afflictions and turmoil and strife that we are witness to God’s divine and awesome plan for our lives and us. Let us greet this New Year and remember the past year with a spirit of encouragement.

Joy verses Despair

 

Todays Verse : James 1:2-3

Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

The other day, a friend and I had a conversation about the Advent season and the coming of Christmas and we asked one another “ Have you been able to find Christ in the season?” This was an interesting question and it led me to reflect on the theme of this week of Advent:  JOY.

As I begin to reflect on the anticipation of the coming Christ and the joy that he brings, I am in awe. There are thousands of songs and hymn that celebrate the joy of Christmas and of Christ. From a quick Google search there are about 110,000,000 results (0.68 seconds) references to Joy and Christmas. Joy is a major result of Christ coming into the world.  To fully comprehend the impact of Christ in the world let us look on the world before he became flesh.

Before Christ entered the world as flesh, the world was in Despair, the opposite of Joy.  There was not a true feeling of comfort and peace for anyone.  Before Christ came into the world, the Spirit of God was not available to all.  The Spirit of God was only for the few and chosen that God had appointed such as the prophets.  This was a time when TRUE Desperation and Despair were common daily aspects of life. There was constant despair from hunger, sickness, pain, and suffering.  There were glimmers of hope and peace and joy, but it was not a constant that people were aware or had access.  There was so much hurt and sadness that God gave his remedy to alleviate the despair: Christ.

Luke 2: 10-14

10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

 

Christ came into the world and brought JOY.  His coming came to alleviate the hurt and pain that the people had suffered.  He opened up new ways of peace and healing.  Christ (God the Son) allowed us to become reunited with the Father (God the Father) through the presence of the Holy Spirit (God the Spirit). The coming of Christ did not erase the Despair of the world, but he came to give us a different perspective of despair. He allowed us to be comforted by the Spirit in the times of despair.  He gave us a new connection with God and others.  In the times of despair in hunger, the Spirit will intercede on your behalf and communicate with others to help you in your need.  In times of pain and suffering, the Spirit will give you ease and healing.  In times of sickness, the Spirit will give you hope that this will be for benefit of God’s kingdom and glory.

As we get closer to the celebration of Christmas, we may be faced with many insurmountable obstacles that challenge our family, friends, jobs, and faith but we must remember that we do not have to allow despair to control us.  Christ has already given us the JOY that is the remedy of the despair.   We must chose daily to find Christ in everyday and allow his JOY to supersede any despair that we encounter.

Have a very Merry and Blessed Advent and Christmas.

 

Priscilla and Aquila

Wonder and the Extra-Ordinary

Today’s Reading: Acts 18

December 1, marks the beginning of the Season of Advent, the anticipation of the coming of Christ.  This has been a very cherished and waited season for my children and my wife and I.  It is a season of wonder and excitement and dreams.

This past week, I have been reading several devotions and bible studies that highlight the notion of wonder and expectations.  Sun Stand Still, gives several amazing and powerful devotions in where situations that seems ordinary, actually are a setup for God to do something extra-ordinary.   This season brings to thought of how the ordinary items and people can change the mindset and hearts of many: cattle trough, stable, baby, swaddling(burying) cloths, a birth scene, and shepherds.  God also uses our situations and circumstances to perform miracles in the midst of dire situations.  In the reading, we can see how unexpected and unprepared situations can be used to grow some of the most profound founders of the early church .

In Acts Chapter 18, Paul is on his missionary journey and has traveled from Athens to Corinth.  In Corinth, he meets an exiled couple from Rome, Priscilla and Aquila.  The three of them found a common trade, tent-making and go into business together. While in Corinth, Paul forms a church for both Jews and Gentiles.

 Acts 18: 1-4

After this Paul[a] left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them,and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

After eighteen months, Paul and the couple sailed to Syria and then to Ephesus.   In Ephesus, the couple helped to establish the church and minister to the people.

Acts 18 :18-19

 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers[c]and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.

Acts 18:24-26

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit,[d] he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 

This trio of saints is an exhibit of how God can utilize and assist us in seeing the wonder and extra-ordinary gifts and scenarios for those who are about his will.  God has taken an ordinary introduction and trade, tent-making, into a profound group of church builders.  The ordinary has become extra-ordinary, the situation of the two set of people, both being exiled because of their belief in God.  Both are looking for sanctuary and find a common belief and friendship and relationship in each other.  This friendship doesn’t stop when the climate dictates that they must flee again, this friendship persist until they are called to a greater cause: Paul to Greece and Macedonia and Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus to minister and mentor Apollos.

 

As we continue in this season of Wonder and Extra-ordinary can we allow ourselves to:

  • Open our minds and spirits to the possibility of God doing extra-ordinary things in our ordinary day?
  • Is there a potential relationship that you have not created yet that will produce greater results to show God’s love and awesomeness in wonder?
  • Are we willing to accept the unknown that God has presented us with and allow him to lead us in ways and place that we have not imagined?
  • Where has God welcomed us to be bold and courageous in his Word?

 

Father,

Thank you for the Wonder and performing miracles in the ordinary situations.  Allow us to be aware and open to the way you speak to us.  Allow us to expect the unexpected and listen for the extra in the ordinary. Amen