Over & over through out scripture, God teaches us, especially in times of troubles, to listen for His instruction & obey as an act of faith. This likely means we must first clear away distractions & let God write our to-do list. Jesus offered up a small amount of food & praised God for multiplying it to feed thousands (in Matthew, Mark, Luke & John). Lord, I lift up the food You graciously provide to me. I praise Your blessing of it satisfies all who are hungry, thank You our Great Giving Father!
How did the woman who had bled for twelve years, suffering under the care of many doctors (& spending all she had), how did she come to know: 'If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well." (Mark 5:28)? According to Jewish Law, anything or anyone she touched became unclean, but because Jesus came to fulfill the law, he cleansed her. Jesus gave her the instruction she needed to heal. He knew she would touch Him before it happened.
After Peter ASKED Him to, Jesus told Peter to "Come" walk on the stormy sea to Him (Matthew 14:25-33). Obviously, it was not that walking was difficult for Peter. The tricky part was believing he could walk on a non-solid substance in the midst of a storm! This story tells me that when the Lord says "Come" I might be called to do an something I already know how to do within a context that seems impossible. This type of act of faith, I have been practicing when my energy is extremely low or scattered or when a feeling of overwhelm tries to take over. Rather than elaborate plans, God knows these acts of faith often need to be very simple, such as raising my arms up & reciting a health confession: "This is my comfort in my affliction, that Thy word has revived me" (Psalm 119:50).
When Jesus healed people, He often gave them a simple instruction:
"Bring the boy here to me." (Matthew 17:17)
When praying for healing, I encourage myself & those I am praying for to listen for an instruction from the Lord. It may be a very simply action (yet still often requires great faith, like "walking on water"). The receiving of an instruction is not about testing the Lord or "testing out" His healing. By listening, we are practicing & honing our ability to hear God! & act-ivating our faith, healing & discipleship, amen!
This seven minute animation (Retelling the Good Story) is where I got the two art images above. This video is a beautiful artistic version of two Gospel stories told from a First Nations cultural perspective. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do :)
God loves everyone unconditionally, meaning no matter what we do, He loves us, wanting the best for us. He knows what the best for each of us is, since we are His creation & children. He is patient, wanting everyone to come to Him for repentance. More about Jesus’ forgiveness here: because-he-first-loved-us.html
Many times in the Bible, we are told "Do not fear" also 1 John 4:18 says "Perfect love casts out fear". Yet, it is also written: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom..." (Proverbs 9:10) which seems a contradiction but it's not. When we have rightful fear of the Lord, we need not live in fear of the evil in the world. The Lord goes about His way of inspiring each of us toward His forgiveness & will. Allowing the "heat" of this world to intensify our life experience until (ideally) we drop to our knees in surrendered reverence to Him. This type of genuflect happens often from fear (illness, pain, conviction of sin) & awe as God's love provides profound moments of relief. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; it's not our only/final destination!
It makes sense to fear the One who is "all love" & therefore, all powerful. He protects us from that which is "all evil". While evil is a much limited force compared to love, it's damaging. Whereas agape, like parental love, doesn't always feel good, but it is good for us: "I am the Lord, & there is no other .... Causing well-being & creating calamity..." (Isa. 45:5 & 7). Most everyone longs for love, yet we also fear it to some degree because it means obliteration of little 's' self (our version of death on the cross). There is no hiding anything from the crucible of God's love. His love reveals, in ways that lead us to repent, our self-defeating/inflating & vengeful behaviors as well as our prideful, selfish, jealous & otherwise sinful natures. It's not easy; it's the warriors' way of the cross, fitting through the narrow gate unto resurrection.
A YouTube short I made on this topic:
A clip from a Youtube video about masculinity & the Way of the Cross:
Thank You Father for giving us Your word. May everyone hear the word of the Lord & give ear to the instruction of our God (1:10). Guide each of us to cease evil, learn to do good & seek justice (1:16-17). Thank You for taking our sins as scarlet & making them as white as snow (1:18). Urge us Lord, our rulers & companions also, to be righteous in Your eyes (1:23 & 26). To all who forsake the Lord, I command their hearts & minds open to You, so that they shall not come to an end (1:28). Oh God, without You as our living water, even a strong man will become tinder, his work also a spark (1:31).
Thank You God for teaching us concerning Your ways so that we may walk in Your paths (2:3). Nation no longer lifts up sword against nation. Never again do we learn war! Praise God, we walk in the light of the Lord (2:4-5). Our pride & loftiness is humbled, You are exalted & idols completely vanish (2:17-18), praise the Lord!
In You, we do not oppress each other but we uplift & lovingly guide each other to You (3:5) through speech & actions that are for & not against You (3:8). Thank You dear God for providing shade from the heat & a refuge from storms (4:6).
Give us strength & courage to stop with truth, those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood & sin as if with cart ropes (5:18). Thank You God for straightening out any confusion among us about what is evil & what is good (5:20). Keep us relying on You instead of being wise in our own eyes & clever in our own sight (5:21). Thank You for bringing us to work together to establish Your peace & light in the darkness & distress of this land (5:30).
Lord, we see You with our eyes, hear You with our ears, understand You with our hearts & return to You, the lost & sick & we are healed (6:10). In Your word, You tell us: "Take care, be calm, have no fear & do not be fainthearted ..."(7:4). Almighty Father, You gave us a sign! A virgin bore a son & she called His name Immanuel. Praise the Lord, He knows to refuse evil & choose good (7:14-15).
Dear God, Thank You for being with us (8:10). You tell us that we are not to fear what the world fears or be in dread of it (8:12). You shall be our fear then You shall become a sanctuary (8:13-14). Commit Your work of good & truth among all mediums & spiritists to consult You rather than the dead on behalf of the living (8:19).
Thank You Father for making all people who walk in darkness see a great light (9:2) & for breaking the yoke of their burden (9:4). I pray that the government rest's well on the shoulders of Your Son, our Lord Jesus, who was given to us. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, praise the Lord that there is no end to the increase of Your government or of peace (9:6-7).
In Jesus name, I cast away false teachings that try to lead us astray (9:16). Thank you for burning up & dissolving the wickedness within each of us. Consume with fire the briars & thorns that entangle, oppress & hurt us (9:18). Faithful Father, Your hand is still stretched out & we praise You (9:21)! Woe to those who deprive the needy of justice & rob the poor of their rights. Urge us to protect & care for the widows & orphans, Lord (10:2) like You do, as one gathers abandoned eggs, You gather all the earth, (10:14), glory be to God. Blessed is the day we all truly rely on the Lord (10:20) & delight in the fear of the Lord (11:3).
Praise You Father, deciding with fairness for the afflicted of the earth & with the breath of Your lips, slaying the wicked (11:4). We will not hurt or destroy in all Your holy mountain as the earth is filled up with the knowledge of the Lord (11:9). I give thanks to Thee, O Lord; Thine anger is turned away & Thou comforts me (12:1). You are my salvation; I trust & am not afraid. For the Lord God is my strength & song (12:2).
We learn from long ago, in the day of the Lord, when hands fell limp, hearts melted, pains & anguish took hold (13:6-8) & sinners were exterminated from the land (13:9). You punished the world for its evil, the wicked for their iniquity & put an end to the arrogance of the proud (13:11). Mortal man became scarcer than pure gold (13:12) in the day of Your burning anger (13:13).
Blessed is the day Lord, when You give us rest from pain, turmoil & harsh service (14:3). The whole earth is at rest & is quiet, breaking forth into shouts of joy (14:7)! Those who are most helpless, eat & the needy lie down in security (14:30). The afflicted of Your people, find refuge (14:32). Amen! Thank You God for establishing Your throne of loving-kindness (16:5).
I pray that all people have regard for You, their Maker (17:7). Because we know You are God of salvation & the rock of refuge (17:10), the harvest will not be a heap in a day of sickliness & incurable pain (17:11). Thanks be to God for sending a Savior & a Champion to deliver us (19:20). Striking Egypt but healing, they returned to You (19:22).
Your power within me overcomes pain that attempts to seize me. Once so bewildered, I could not hear, so terrified I could not see; mind reeling, horror overwhelming (21:3-4) --No more; it is finished! I've turned up the volume of Your Holy Spirit in me & turn down the volume of my flesh. Pain is gone now in the name of Jesus. Chronic pain & illness have no place in my life. Yes, I want to be well Lord & I'm ready; thank You for healing me, amen!
The earth, polluted by its inhabitants' transgressing laws, violating statutes & breaking everlasting covenants (24:5), has been washed in the curse-breaking blood of Jesus. He has redeemed us & now we work earnestly, cleaning up & stewarding God's creation righteously. Thank you God for swallowing up death for all time & wiping tears away from all faces (25:8). You are our God for whom we waited & now you've saved us. We rejoice & are glad in Your salvation (25:9)!
The steadfast of mind, Thou keeps in perfect peace because he trusts in Thee (26:3). I trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock (26:4). The way of the righteous is smooth (26:7). Indeed my spirit seeks Thee diligently (26:9).
When earth experiences Thy judgements, inhabitants of the world learn righteousness, especially the wicked & everyone perceives the majesty of the Lord (26:9-10). When Your chastising is upon us & we seek Thee in distress, only whispering a prayer (26:16), please have mercy Lord, in just the right amount. For You know each of our hearts better than we know ourselves. Hear the word of the Lord, O scoffers (28:14). The multitude of the ruthless ones are like the chaff which blows away (29:5).
Thank You God for laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed (28:16). Bless You for instructing & teaching us properly (28:26). Your counsel is wonderful & Your wisdom is great (28:29).
Help us not get ourselves into trouble with You Lord pouring over us a spirit of deep sleep, shutting prophets eyes & covering the heads of seers (29:10). Walking in obedience of Your way, with Your healing power, the deaf hear words in a book & out of their darkness, the eyes of the blind, see (29:18). Praise the Lord! Today is the day that the afflicted increase their gladness in the Lord & the needy rejoice in the Holy One of Israel (29:19). All who are intent on doing evil are cut off (29:20), those who err in mind now know the truth & those who criticize, accept instruction (29:24). Woe to those who execute plans that are not Yours & make alliance not of Your Spirit, adding sin to sin (30:1).
Bless God that it is so, in repentance & rest we are saved; in quietness & trust is Your strength (30:15). You long to be gracious to us. You wait on high to have compassion on us. For You are a God of justice. How blessed are all those who long for You (30:18). Although Lord, You gave us bread of privation & water of oppression, You, our Teacher no longer hide Yourself. Our eyes behold You, our Teacher & our ears hear a word behind us "This is the way, walk in it" whenever we turn to the right or to the left (30:20-21). We say to graven images "Be gone!" (30:22). Thank you God for binding up the fracture of Your people & healing the bruise You inflicted (30:26). You Lord cause the voice of Your authority to be heard, amen (30:30)!
Your Spirit is poured out upon us from on high (32:15). The work of righteousness is peace & the service of righteousness, quietness & confidence forever (32:17). Blessed are we who sow beside all waters (32:20). God, You are the stability of our times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom & knowledge. The fear of the Lord is our treasure (33:6). Sinners are terrified, Lord. Trembling has seized the godless. "Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?" (33:14). Let us take Your strength, courage & words leading them to Your salvation.
Glory to God that all who walk righteously, speak with sincerity & reject unjust gain (33:15), dwell on the heights. Our refuge is the impregnable rock. Our bread is given & our water is sure (33:16). Lord, You are our judge, our lawgiver, our King & You save us (33:22)! No resident says "I am sick." The people who dwell here are forgiven their iniquity (33:24). We encourage the exhausted & strengthen the feeble (35:3). We say to those with anxious heart: "Take courage, fear not. Behold, God comes with vengeance & saves you." (35:4). The eyes of the blind are opened. The ears of the deaf are unstopped (35:5). The lame leap like a dear. The tongues of those who can not speak, shout for joy (35:6). Thirsty ground springs of water (35:7). This Highway of Holiness is for all who walk this way (35:8). The redeemed walk here (35:9). Gladness & joy are found & sorrow & sighing flee away (35:10).
Thou art God of all kingdoms on earth. Thou has made heaven & earth (37:16). In Your name, we deliver ourselves & others from evil & all kingdoms of earth know that Thou alone, Lord, art God (37:20). You know our sitting down, our going out & our coming in (37:28). Because of our arrogance, You put Your hook in our noses & Your bridle in our lips (37:29).
As Hezekiah prayed, I pray also: "Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee. I have walked before Thee in truth, with a whole heart & have done what is good in Thy sight." (38:3). You heard his prayer, saw his tears & behold, You added fifteen years to his life (38:5). Likewise, You heal my body of physical disease making me the long-living, healthy new creation You created me to be! When any of us moan like doves & feel oppressed, be our security (38:14). Restore us to health & let us live (38:16)! Thank You for keeping my soul from the pit of nothingness & casting all my sins behind Thy back (38:17). Thank You Father for these days of peace & truth (39:8). Amen!
Other translations of Ecclesiastes 1:2
*Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher. Vanity of vanities; all is vanity. (KJV & ASV)
*"Everything is meaningless," says the Teacher, "completely meaningless!" (NLT)
*Hevel, havalim, saith Kohelet, hevel havalim; all is hevel. (OJB)
*"It is of no use," says the Preacher. "It is of no use! All is for nothing." (NLV)
*"Futility of futilities," says the Preacher, futility of futilities! All is futility (NASB)
*"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher. "Vanity of vanities! All (that is done without God's guidance) is vanity (futile, meaningless--a wisp of smoke, a vapor that vanishes, merely chasing the wind)." (AMP)
Similar to being mesmerized by a campfire, I love watching steam rise & swirl from a hot beverage. The random fluidity of vapor can be simultaneously mysterious, calmly frantic & delicately serene. A beautiful dance of nature--unrepeating, fleeting & wonderfully artistic. When I read the different translations of Ecclesiastes 1:2, I think of these enjoyable encounters I've had with "hevel" (steam). In saying "All is vanity" the Teacher/Preacher, at least in part, is describing the not so uncommon feeling of being 'stuck in a hamster wheel' ... but there is a bit more to it than that.
The Amplified Bible translation (AMP), with its explanation in brackets, makes sense of this verse in light of the whole twelve chapters of Ecclesiastes. The Preacher says "And all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor ... and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun." (2:10-11) It makes sense to listen to this wisdom learned because even after literally having everything one's heart could possibly desire and more, the Preacher proclaims the pointlessness of all of it "under the sun" but what about "in the Son" (as in, in God's way): "For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?" (2:25)
A common question, is the Preacher depressed or just pessimistic? He shares that even wisdom is futile, "...in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain." (1:18) It is God's help through grief & pain that brings the Preacher the Truth of God. Although this does not relieve his own suffering, the Truth continues to come through, from him, to help others, as God allows. Seeing 'the glass as half empty OR half full' is not nearly as important as honoring the One who provides the glass & drinking the living water within it that eternally quenches our thirst.
So first and foremost, meaning & enjoyment (yes, it's fun!) come through a Godly life: "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgement, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil." (12:13-14)
"A generation goes and a generation comes ..." (1:4); the fleeting nature of life, like steam, reminds us to put our faith not in people or things but in the Lord, for "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" (KJV) & "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing" (NIV). We are to want, not what we want, but what God wants. When we take this Godly perspective, we live in appreciation of all the beautiful things God provides, such as enjoying the breeze (rather than chasing the wind, lol) & we ask Lord, "Please remove or fulfill my unmet needs & desires in ways that are glorifying to You, amen!" This is not repression, rather it frees & makes us lighter.
I pray God that we do not get caught up in self importance & the pursuit of happiness. I pray for all who are ensnared in the traps of this world; the never ending striving for success on our own terms. Help us put You first & not just give you the time we have leftover after everything else gets done or to turn to You only when we're in dire straits. The Preacher cautions us to: "Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed;" (12:6) Just as a ship needs an anchor onboard before leaving the dock, we are to know & honor "God, the Eternal" before befalling into the pit of despair and before crawling desperately dehydrated upon a well to find only a shattered pitcher there. For a moment of separation from God is (like) an eternity in hell that only ONE lived through & triumphs over. Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God Almighty, In Jesus name, amen!
These are King David's last words of delight & warning before building an altar to the Lord, charging his son Solomon 'to walk in His ways...' & dying after 40 years of rule over Israel.
David transformed from a boy shepherd into a great warrior leader by following & fearing God. A healthy sense of fear towards The Almighty & Incomprehensible is only natural. With his elaborate songs of praise, David shows that fear of the Lord culminates into awe & reverence when the personally loving force of God is wholeheartedly pursued.
Not without sin, David confesses his wrongs & accepts God's correction. All his protection, successes & gifts ('first light' & 'fresh rain' etc.), David repeatedly publicly expresses thanksgiving to God with beautiful poetry. How cool would it be if today's leaders did this? David's 'entire salvation' is his every desire & promise fulfilled by God. Amen!
"For Thou art my lamp, O Lord; And the Lord illumines my darkness....The word of the Lord is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him."
(2 Samuel 22:29 & 31).
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong & courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9) ~ When I am resting still and silently, I do a meditation in which I imagine/remember and feel myself within the infinity of God. Like a organelle within a cell of the 'body' of God/Christ. Its a pretty cool way to connect with the creator of this universe especially when I'm not feeling well. Just as organelles follow the commands of their environment, all brought into being and orchestrated by the natural order of God, I'm like that also, following God's instructions being strong and courageous through difficulties. P.S. This is a photo I took today :) Amen!
Balaam shows us that with his mind, he can not see the angel of the Lord but his donkey (which represents his body) not only sees the angel but becomes the voice of the Lord's message. People often stay overly focused on worldly pursuits and ultimately discontented because “The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). So why not read The Word as if you believe and see what happens?
As I consistently commit to God in tangible ways, my connection with His will strengthens. Fairly often this seems slow and invisible, like growing roots of a tree, nevertheless, I feel it. But do my actions & in-actions further God's Kingdom -- whether I'm supporting a loved one, making art or I'm held up by debilitating symptoms, or repenting my sins? Starting each day with prayer "Lord please fill & fuel me with your divine purpose" makes it all for something, sharing God's forgiveness, holiness and eternal life.
"... this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3) Amen.