I got excited about Ephesians 1:3-4 this morning: “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.”*
Wow! I am “united with Christ” and “in Christ,” so these verses apply to me. I wrote: “I praise You, God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! I praise and thank and love You, our Father in heaven, because you see me (and all Christ-followers) as holy and without fault, and you have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm, and You loved and chose us before You made the world. And You are the One who placed us in Christ and united us with Him (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)! May Your name be ever praised!”
I heard a radio preacher say that God has “in-Christ-ed” us. He encouraged everyone to look in Scripture for the results of being in Christ. Besides Ephesians 1:3-4, one of my favorites is Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”*
*New Living Translation
Verses from Psalm 86: 1-5, 8, 12-13, New International Version, with my thoughts:
1. Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Am I poor and needy? Maybe not financially since any American is rich compared to most people in other parts of the world. But I am spiritually poor when my faith is small and I get discouraged. I’m needy because I am a broken person living in a broken world and both body and soul can be wounded and/or knocked off balance.
2. Guard my life, for I am faithful to You; save Your servant who trusts in You. You are my God. The key to receiving God’s help is for me to faithfully seek Him instead of other answers and to trust His power and care. I will have no other gods besides the living God, Almighty Maker of heaven and earth. I will be faithful to You, Lord.
3. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to You all day long. I will be persistent and patient in prayer.
4. Bring joy to Your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in You. I will trust in You, Lord, with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). (In Your presence is fullness of joy—from Psalm 16:11.)
5. You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to You. Thank You, Lord, that You abound in love to me as I call on You.
8. Among the gods, there is none like You, Lord; no deeds can compare with Yours. For example, what other god could cause a dead stick to bud, blossom, and bear almonds as You did with Aaron’s staff?
12-13. I will praise You, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever. 13 For great is Your love toward me. You have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead. Yes, I will glorify Your name forever and praise You with all my heart, Lord, for great is Your love for me!
(Image from Pinterest)
An article in my daily devotional booklet made me think about the purposes God has for my life. I used to spend most of my time (even as a Christ-follower) trying to run from difficulties, get people-approval, and make life comfortable and happy for me. But now I recognize that as the world’s way of life, not God’s way. His way is to love Him with all I am, keep His kingdom first, and love others—especially those who belong to His family. I think about the following verses (quoted from the New Living Translation):
Galatians 2:20: “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
From 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “…You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price….”
Since God bought me with such a high price, and now I belong to Him, I need to spend the remaining moments (or if God permits, years) of my life loving and serving God and bringing glory to Him.
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1)
Lord, You make the wind blow and cause grass to grow.
You give the birds their wings and a song to sing.
You awaken green in spring
From brown of earth’s sleeping.
You paint sunrise at each morning’s light
And sunset near the edge of night.
You give light and breath to all, great and small.
Awesome, almighty–no measure of Your worth,
Maker of heaven and earth.
To those who seek You, You offer more and better life.
Yes, You bestow unbreakable, eternal life.
All thanks and honor to You, O God Most High.
You give rich, abundant love and grace.
O Worthy Lord, please accept our praise.
“[Ask] the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. … that the hand of the LORD has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12:7, 9-10)
(Scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible.)
Advertisers love to proclaim Christmas in July so we’ll buy more stuff. Now how about Thanksgiving in August? The official Thanksgiving holiday is over 3 months away, but I’ve decided to celebrate God’s goodness a few months early. After all, giving thanks to the Lord is always in season.
Let me share one of the things God has used to help me escape and stay out of the pit of a negative outlook on life. About a year and a half ago, our pastor challenged us to write down at least one thing we were thankful for each day from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I accepted the challenge, and wrote a few items down daily for which I was thankful. I decided not to stop at Christmas and have been keeping up my “thanksgiving journal” ever since. I’ve experienced much more of the Lord’s joy since starting this practice.
I hope you have never fallen into ugly habits like whining, complaining and self-pit-y, but they have been too much a part of my personal past. I do praise and thank God and also thank my pastor for helping me start this one simple thing that has made such a difference in my life.
“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15, New Living Translation)
The melody of beginning light and mingled blues and pinks in the skies of sunrise.
The blend of golds and oranges and reds of the waning light of sunset.
A chorus of singing birds and wind in the trees, chattering squirrels and flowers in the breeze at noonday.
Clouds may roll in and shroud the skies in darkness with lightning and thunder and power of strong winds,
Varied voices of God’s people singing praise to Jesus, King of Kings and creator of all things.
Moon and stars and galaxies far, and birds at rest within their nests sound notes of night time.
Near and far, day and night, it’s only right that all things and all people everywhere would lift songs of praise to the God of all.
These thoughts brought to mind the hymn “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” by Isaac Watts.
The lyrics include such lines as: “I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,” “I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day,” “Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,” “…All that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care,” with “And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.” An excellent acapella version of this hymn can be found at I Sing the Mighty Power of God.
Psalm 8:1 “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens!”
Isaiah 6:3 “And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’”
Jeremiah 10:12-13 says, “He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His discretion. 13 When He utters His voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens: And He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries.”
(All Scripture quotes are New King James Version.)
Psalms 36:5, 7-8 “Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds…. 7 How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. 8 You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights” (New Living Translation)
Thank You, Lord, for letting us drink from Your river of delights (or as the New King James puts it, the river of Your pleasures). Thank You for Your written Word, O Lord and for the hymns I grew up with. They seem to me to be gifts of love from Your river of delights. You are so good to us, Lord!
“From our mother’s arms [You have] blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love” (from “Now Thank We All Our God”). Countless gifts of love—like the hymns, the Scriptures, my learning to sing harmony, the help to believe Your love for me as an individual, a song on the radio that calmed one of my fears at just the right time, a letter that calmed me in panic, an ability to read music, the hymn books I have, and on and on. Also Lord, Your nearness, compassion, and tender mercies are gifts of Your love.
Part of the first verse of the hymn “I Am Thine, O Lord,” says, “I have heard Thy voice, and it told Thy love to me.” Yes, every time You speak and help me to hear is a gift that tells Your love to me.
The first 2 verses of “This Is My Father’s World” remind me that You speak to me through nature and that You speak to me everywhere. Thank You!
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy [or “faithful love”] endures forever.” (Psalms 136:1 New King James Version)
Every good and perfect (appropriate, timely) gift is from You. As Ps. 36:7 says, “How precious is Your unfailing love (lovingkindness), O God!”