Category Archives: Jesus

How to Meditate on God’s Word

Bible meditationMaking a regular practice of meditating on God’s Word was not always a part of my devotional life.  For many years, I consistently read the Bible, and I learned a great deal that way. Sometimes, when I was intrigued by a particular verse, I did a little study — looking it up in other translations, perhaps checking out the meanings of a few words in Strong’s Concordance, maybe seeing what commentaries had to say about it. But meditate on it? Not so much.

Why? Because I didn’t know how. It was one of those things nobody ever taught me. Then, a couple of books came my way, which helped me to see that I was missing a very important component of how God wants to interact with us through the Bible.

The Art of Praying the Scriptures, by John Paul Jackson
The Healing Journey
, by Thom Gardner

I like to make things as simple as possible, both for myself and others, so what I share today won’t be as detailed as their methods, but if you would like to go deeper, I highly recommend both books.

So, how do I personally meditate on God’s Word?

I ask God to give me a verse or passage. 

  • Once I’ve asked, I may hear from the Lord right away, or I might need to keep asking Him for a day or two.
  • He then brings a verse or phrase from Scripture to mind. If I don’t know where it is in the Bible, I locate it in a concordance or by searching for it in Google.
  • Or, in my regular course of reading, a verse just comes alive to me. Either way, I know that this is the verse or passage God wants me to meditate on.

My process:

  1. I write out the verse in a notebook I keep just for Bible meditation purposes.
  2. I read it aloud several times, and think about it.
  3. As I do that, a particular phrase from that verse may seem to be particularly meaningful, so I focus on that part.
  4. I ask God if He would like to bring a picture (which is a mini-vision) to mind which goes along with the verse or phrase, and then I wait for His response. If I receive a picture, I either try to draw it or describe it in my notebook.
  5. If God is not already flooding me with thoughts about the verse (usually He is), I ask God to speak to me about the verse. I write down whatever He says, or whatever insights He gives.
  6. At this point, I frequently start to remember other Bible verses which go along with my meditation verse. I write those down, too, and I explain in my notebook how they fit with the verse I started with.
  7. I ask God to show me how to apply the verse to my life, when applicable.
  8. I thank Him for what He is revealing to me.
  9. I may pray the verse back to Him, if that seems to fit.
  10. I try to remember the verse throughout the day. As I do that, God may give me additional insight. If He does, I return to my notebook and write it down.
  11. I go back to the verse the next day and think about it again, to see if the Lord has additional revelation for me in it.
  12. I sometimes repackage what I have learned by restating it in a FaceBook and/or Twitter post. That solidifies it for me, but it also inspires and blesses other people.

Twelve steps might seem like a lot, but they are only general guidelines. You don’t have to check them off point by point. I do this very informally, and all the  steps may not happen each time. The important thing is to commune with God over short pieces of Scripture so that you are thinking about Him more and growing in knowing Him better.

The amount of time I spend on a particular verse or passage varies. It may be one day, or a week. I sense in my spirit when the mission has been fully accomplished. Sometimes I come back to it again many months later.

I do not meditate on a single verse in place of reading the Bible in larger chunks. Consuming bigger portions of the Word daily is also important. I usually incorporate Scripture meditation into my morning prayer time, while reading at length in the evening works well for me. Everyone is different, so use whatever method is best for you.

Do you have additional suggestions you would like to share? Please comment!

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World, by Lee Ann Rubsam

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How’s Your Social Media Image?

While at a social media site a few days ago, I noticed a post by a well-known worship songwriter. In it, he used profanity. It disappointed me at the time. I marveled at the disconnect between writing songs which glorify the Lord and using language which was so far from how Jesus would speak.

This is not by any means the first time I have seen such language coming from people in ministry. It seems to go on quite a bit, in fact. Maybe in some circles it is considered “hip.” However, I doubt if it is hip in the Lord’s eyes.

I wonder how many of us realize that we are constantly exposing the true condition of our hearts via social media. The things we personally say, “like,” and repost there clearly reveal to everyone the depth of our intimacy with Jesus.

Do we ever stop to consider who might be scrutinizing our witness of Him? Are we perhaps causing other believers to stumble through what they see us promoting? Does it make someone think, “It must be OK, if he’s doing it”? (Or maybe they just struggle with judging us, based on what they see.) How about the nonbelievers’ reaction? Do they say to themselves, “I see that Christians are no different than the rest of us. Why should I even consider becoming one?” Who are we, in our thoughtlessness,  disappointing or grieving?

The apostle Paul spoke on these matters two thousand years ago. He said, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Ambassadors act and speak on behalf of the higher authority who sent them. When we don’t do well at accurately representing our Savior, we hurt His cause, even to the point of driving others away from Him.

The Bible gives us guidelines for how believers are to speak:

Do not let any corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth. Instead, speak what is good, for the purpose of building up, so that it may minister grace to those who hear it. — Ephesians 4:29

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. — Ephesians 5:4 (ESV)

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one who speaks the very words of God, … that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ …. — 1 Peter 4:11

My purpose is not to suggest that we all point the finger at those who use vulgar language or do anything else inconsistent with Christ. Rather, it is about each of us taking an honest look at our own heart. May we not fall into the trap of smugly accusing our brothers and sisters. Romans 14:4 warns against that: “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up, for God is able to make him stand.” With those we know well, perhaps the answer is to talk with them about how their speech affects us. For the rest, we can always pray for them when we see something amiss. Prayer changes people; judging them does not.

When I come before the Lord in the day described in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, I want to have as little wood, hay, and stubble showing up as possible. I have no desire to provide the materials for the mother of all bonfires! I want to have my actions, words, and thoughts increasingly line up with what Jesus would do, say, and think. The route to doing that is keeping close to Him through prayer and the Word, so that I become more and more like my best Friend.

We have been promised a future “inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, which will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Speaking of that day when Jesus appears for His own, 1 John 3:3 sums up how we should conduct ourselves in the meantime: “And every man who has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.”

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Lord Jesus, may we endeavor to be the best ambassadors for You that we can be. Help us to guard our words and actions carefully, so that we might elevate all those who observe us into a higher attraction toward You.

River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus

Going Low

One of my favorite quotes by famous people is from John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). I think on it often.

Our natural human tendency is to grab as much recognition for ourselves as possible. Those of us who have a business or ministry are constantly being told how important it is to “brand” ourselves, so that everyone knows who we are and desires our services or products. While some of that may be necessary in a practical, functional sense, the whole “Look at me! See how special I am!” egotism that often goes with it is something that we who are believers must continually resist. Our focus should always be to point people to Jesus, rather than ourselves. John the Baptist understood this, and I am so glad that his response to the temptation to strive for personal honor is recorded for us in the Bible.

There is a special place in our relationship with Jesus, where we develop such an adoration for Him that we actually desire to “go low” — where we want to empty ourselves of the desire for personal recognition, to become nothing, so that He might be everything. To make Jesus famous in all the earth becomes our passion, our obsession, where He alone matters.

Surely this must be what is going on in Revelation 4:10, 11, where the twenty-four elders “fall down before Him Who sat on the throne, and worship Him Who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for You have created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created.'” They are totally fixated on the Lord.

I began to think a lot about “going low” a few years ago, inspired by a dream which Julie Meyer shared of seeing God’s throne room. I hope you will listen to her description and that it will stir your heart, as it did mine:

While we are yet in our mortal existence, I am not sure if we can continually stay in that place of going low, of being emptied of self in adoration of the Lord. I would like to stay there, but at present, it seems as though I can only visit for a time. The fallen nature includes a tendency to drift back into pride and self-exaltation, and I find that I must personally battle against that frequently. The apostle Paul said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31), and we must learn to die daily to the old nature’s demands as well.

But my goal is to rest in that “going low” place increasingly, until it becomes more my dwelling place than a visiting place.

If you find yourself falling into the trap of looking for recognition, titles, and honor from people, how about meditating on what John the Baptist said? “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John found peace and rest there. I think we can, too.

Safe Passage — A Parable

girl-hiding-pixabayHave you struggled with feeling embattled, constantly harassed by the enemy of your soul? Perhaps you have even felt on the verge of losing your personal spiritual war. Many months ago, I had a dream and a vision, which I hope will encourage you.

In the dream, a very powerful bad man was trying to get me, to enslave me. His many loyal henchmen were constantly after me, and I could never outsmart them. I ran from one house or building to the next to hide. Whenever I tried to escape out in the open, sometimes in one direction, sometimes in another, my pursuers spotted me. They always seemed to know where I was and what my next move would be, so I couldn’t get away, and I always had to hide again.

The dream ended with me entering still another house to hide, and the people who lived there were willing to help me. They planned on disguising me, so that the bad guys would not recognize me. But by this time, I was pretty skeptical that even disguising myself would be successful, as nothing had worked thus far.

That’s where it ended — not a happy conclusion. What was also disturbing was that I had experienced similar dreams in the past. So, I prayed that God would reveal to me what was going on, hoping that I could then apply His truth and avoid having such a dream again.

Instead of the Lord explaining the issue to me, I entered into a vision, which was a continuation of the story. Jesus, Who bore the title, The Ultimate King, showed up at the front door of a house where I was hiding. He took me out by the front door, right into the street, in broad daylight. He wrapped the full-length cloak He was wearing around my shoulders and held me close by His side, so that we were both covered by His cloak.

All the bad guys who wanted to capture me were standing around in the street, staring at us, but they did not dare touch me, because I was with Jesus. They had to let Jesus pass right through the midst of them and down the street, because they knew He was The Ultimate King, Whom no one dared to touch.

Together, Jesus and I walked slowly and steadily through the enemy’s streets. I was safe, a “hidden one” (hidden in His cloak). I was not invisible, but I was hidden, in the sense of the bad guys not being able to harm me. Jesus and I had safe passage together. I knew that He was unafraid, and I didn’t have to be afraid either. They could not touch me, because they dared not touch The Ultimate King. They knew Jesus held the position of supreme authority through His victory on the cross, His subsequent resurrection, and because He had taken back the keys by which the devil once imprisoned mankind.

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This dream addressed a particular issue I have often struggled with — shame over past events where I had not acted with the maturity I have since grown into. I tend to be quite the perfectionist when it comes to the standards I hold for myself. Sometimes the enemy reminds me of long ago failures, and if I’m not immediately vigilant to reject those thoughts, I end up kicking myself all over again, instead of remembering that Jesus bore all my shame and imperfections on the cross, and that they are mine no more.

I think that is why, in the vision, Jesus came to the front door. My inclination would have been to slink out a back door, but He boldly took me through the front door, into the sunshine, and down the street in full view, acknowledging me as His own.

Perhaps you also struggle with shame — or perhaps your issue is something quite different. Whatever it is, God wants you to know that you are not at the mercy of the enemy. It’s time for the endless game of staying one step ahead of spiritual defeat to stop. Jesus wants not only to help you escape, but to take you out unashamed, safe and secure under His protection, in full view of the enemy. He wants you to know that He is committed to you, and that you are valuable to Him. He wants to walk you through enemy lines fearless and unscathed.

The Word says, “He Who is begotten of God keeps him, and that wicked one cannot touch him” (1 John 5:18). It also says that Jesus “is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).

So, stop hiding in the shadows. Let Jesus cover you with His own cloak. And let Him walk you through the enemy lines unharmed, because you are hidden in Him (Colossians 3:3). He is your safe passage.

Entering the Rest of God

We live in a Psalm 46:6 age: “The heathen raged; the kingdoms were moved.” Besides the turmoil and uncertainty we see nationally and internationally, many of us deal with personal difficulties in our health, finances, and relationships. Let’s face it: serenity is hard to come by in the 21st century! These extreme pressures are nothing new. The apostle Paul experienced stress too. He expressed it, “Our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side: outwardly there were fightings, inwardly there were fears” (2 Corinthians 7:5).

Yet, in the midst of difficult times, the Lord has promised rest of soul to His people. Hebrews 4:9 tells us, “There remains, therefore, a rest to the people of God.” So, how do we obtain it and then hang onto it?

Rest starts in the spirit and emanates outward to the soul. As we learn to connect with the Holy Spirit, we do experience more rest of soul, but on the other hand, we must also discipline the soul to be quiet and then to stay quiet, so that our spirit-man can connect with the Lord.

It takes deliberate determination to set aside the urgent things clamoring for our attention and to focus on Jesus. We all know this, for we are well acquainted with the story of Martha and Mary, in Luke 10:38-42. Martha was burdened down and troubled about many things. Her soul had no rest. But Mary, who didn’t allow immediate urgencies to keep her from sitting with Jesus, did have inner rest. Ah, this can be such hard work, though! Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest ….”

Our soul, which involves all our natural abilities, thoughts, emotions, and instincts, tends to be in conflict with our spirit, which desires to come into God’s rest. The soul insists on fretting and trying to fix problems on its own. Therefore, our spirit must fight to gain the ascendancy, to subdue the natural tendencies of the soul.

We must force ourselves to step away from the issues of the day, small or great, to enter the pavilion of the Lord’s Presence. Worship can be a point of entrance into that place. So can meditating on a comforting Bible passage. These avenues quiet our soul so that our spirit can commune with the Holy Spirit.

Many ardent Christians are fretting at the soul level about the increasing wickedness about us, wondering how to fix it. However, as we sit in God’s Presence, inquiring of Him, He takes charge of our circumstances and begins to work change in them. He gives us insights on how to pray into problems to achieve the right solutions. Even when those solutions don’t come quickly, He gives us an abiding confidence in Him while we wait. Hebrews 4:10 tells us, “For he who has entered into His rest has also ceased from his own works, as God did from His.”

Here are a few Bible passages which will help you begin to enter the rest of God. Read and ponder them, and use them as springboards to prayer:

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the heathen; I will be exalted in the earth.

“Father, help me to be still before You, to see and know Who You really are. Whenever I become fearful about the crazy things going on in the world, help me to remember that You are still in charge and that You have promised to be exalted in the earth.”

Isaiah 30:15, 16, 18For the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, says, “In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and you would not.”

But you said, “No! for we will flee upon horses” (therefore you shall flee) and, “We will ride upon the swift” (therefore shall they that pursue you be swift).

Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you. For the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all those who wait for Him.

“Father, please forgive me for being so insistent on solving my problems on my own, instead of looking to You. Help me to rest in quiet confidence in You. I ask You to be my strength and my problem-solver from now on. Thank You for waiting patiently and graciously for me to yield my circumstances to You. I put these things in Your hands and receive the blessing You have promised to those who wait for You.”

Matthew 11:28-30Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily weighed down, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls: for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

“Lord Jesus, I am coming to You now, just as You have invited me to. I receive Your promise of rest. Please take all my burdens and strivings. I want to sit with You and learn of You. Teach me to move and work with You, so that I can carry life easily and without anxiety.”

As you diligently seek to come into God’s place of rest, may He bless you with an abiding peace in your heart which is unshakable.

Friendship with God

abrahamI have been praying a lot lately about being the friend of God. I long for the day of Jesus’ return. I want to see Him “receive the reward of His suffering,” as the Moravians put it — multitudes of believers being caught up to Him, and then the day when He rules with complete honor upon the earth as the Supreme King of Kings. But in the meantime, I hunger to know Him, as much as I can, as close as I can, for Who He is.

The Bible says that Abraham was “the Friend of God” (James 2:23). I prayed, “Lord, I want to be Your friend, like Abraham was.” But then I backpedaled. Who was I, to ask to be like the great patriarch Abraham, the special friend of the Most High? So, I said, “God, I know I can’t be as close to You as Abraham. I’m not that special, but I still want to be one of Your lesser friends.”

He stopped me there, and showed me how wrong that thinking was. You see, we humans are limited in our love, our time, and our preferences for people. We feel a greater affinity for some than we do for others, and those are the ones we give our time and deepest affection to. However, God is unlimited in His love, time, and preferences for His children.

It is true that Abraham played an extremely pivotal part in history. Most of us would probably feel insignificant by comparison. But God does not base His friendships on people’s accomplishments. He does not invite those who bear seemingly more important roles to have a closer place in His heart. He does not parcel out His affections in pieces or percentages. Each of us can be His dear friend — and there are no lesser levels in His eyes. All it takes is desiring Him, pursuing Him, loving Him with all our heart.

This is hard for me to grasp. We’ve been told repeatedly in the Church, sometimes overtly and sometimes in subtle ways, that God has “haves” and “have-nots” in His family. But that is naturalistic thinking, a holdover from how our fallen world operates. The truth is, if we have not, it is because we ask not (James 4:2). The Lord longs to give every one of us so much more of Himself than we could possibly imagine. We can each be “the Friend of God,” on just as deep a level as Abraham enjoyed.

What does that look like? I suppose it is unique for each one. It definitely involves obedience. Abraham was obedient, in that he did not even withhold his only son from the Lord (Genesis 22:1-18). Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). Friends don’t do things which they know are hurtful or hateful to the one they love. Friendship also involves intimate time with Him, where He has our full attention. It means we trust Him, thinking the very best of Him — believing Him to be and do what He says of Himself.

I am so thankful that the Lord is giving me greater revelation of what it means to be His friend. I hope sharing these thoughts will inspire you to pursue friendship with Him, too.

We Will See What the King Will Do

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“My Wonderful Tiara Again!” by Taku, via Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Many years ago, while in the midst of praying into a serious situation, a distinct snapshot picture came to my mind. It was a vision, but I didn’t know it then, not yet having been taught how seeing in the Spirit works.

In the picture, a king was seated on his throne. Next to him sat a beautiful, black-haired young woman, with a simple tiara circling her head. Her hand rested on the king’s arm, and her gaze was fastened on his face. It was a picture of quiet trust and confidence in him.

And I heard the words, “We will see what the King will do.”

The vision, of course, was a picture of King Jesus and His bride. It was also a picture of my relationship with Him. It was a great comfort to me, and it helped me to put the problem I was praying into in a better perspective. Through the days and weeks after that, I repeatedly thought, “I will see what the King will do about this.” Eventually the trial was over. Everybody came out of it OK. Jesus made a way where there was none.

Through the years since then, this vision has continued to live and breathe its truth deep in my spirit. Many times, as I have prayed with others about their desperate situations, I have told them the vision and have encouraged them, “Let’s see what the King will do.” Many of them have also come through their fiery test. The King has acted on their behalf, too.

We live in difficult times, and many in the Body of Christ are experiencing very distressing circumstances. I am praying with several loved ones right now who need the Lord’s miraculous intervention. There is no way out for them, other than His supernatural provision and direction. The ability to fix things through human logic and practical maneuvers has come to an end for them. And after praying with them, I have once again said, “Now we will see what the King will do in this.”

The messes we need help with are not always our own fault. Other people’s actions can create a lot of trouble for us. But even when we have no one to blame but ourselves, the King is still eager to fix our problems for us. He is in the salvage and restoration business.

Some of us have damaged our relationships, our churches, and our personal destinies because we have tried too hard to fix impossible circumstances ourselves, rather than bringing them to the King, Who can fix all things. We’ve been unwilling to wait for Him to work, and have made foolish mistakes from a position of panic, when rest in Him was what He was really after.

The Lord often deliberately takes us to the end of our abilities so that we will lean on Him, much as the young woman leaned on her king’s arm in my vision. He lets us wear ourselves out and do all the screaming, kicking, and crying that we tend to do in our flesh. Then, when there is no more fight left in us, He leads us to the place where we give it all to Him, broken and beat up though it may be.

Isaiah 30 talks about the place God wants to get us to: “Their strength is to sit still” (v. 7), and, “In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (v. 15).

If you’re fighting one of those no-way-out, beating-my-head-against-a-wall types of battles, the King wants you to come to Him. Sit down next to Him as His Beloved. Put your hand confidingly on His arm, and fasten your gaze on Him. Remind yourself, “I will see what the King will do for me in this impossible situation.” He will refresh you and give you new expectation for better things to come. He may open your eyes to a solution you had not thought of before, or He may put things in motion to clear up the problem without you having to do a thing. However He chooses to do it, He will certainly act on your behalf, for nothing is too hard for the King.