John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. [NLT]
It’s almost a month since my husband was killed. I have been so blessed and comforted by my family. They have buffered the reality of my loss with their presence. They’ve flown in from around the country to help me navigate the unthinkable reality of death with the basics of life; food, activity and the practical and legal details that are now a part of my life. What was previously “normal” activity has now become a reminder of being alone but they have been the hands-on proof of God’s assurance that is not the case. One by one they’ve returned to their own homes and this week I finally have to face learning to live alone in mine.
It’s scary because I’ve realized I have never actually lived “alone” before. I moved from my parents home to my marital home nearly 63 years ago. I chose this book of John to read and ponder in these next weeks because it was important to my husband and the book of John is where my life of faith began long ago. I wasn’t physically alone then, but it was the place I first read the words that revealed Jesus gives life that spans all time, circumstances and relationships. What was true then is still truth now. “The Word already existed…with God… The Word gave life to everything…and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
John 18 NIV
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.
This is the story of a power struggle between legalism and truth. The thing that shocked me most in this passage was the phrase “to avoid ceremonial uncleanness.” The goal of the Jewish leaders was the execution of Jesus through manipulating the power systems in place, not justice or truth. The grim reality of their legalism is their shockingly clear response to Pilate’s question – “What charges are you bringing against this man?” – “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.” The proof of their legalism was Pilate could achieve their goal to get rid of Jesus so they could avoid ceremonial uncleanness. It was their choice to justify hearts that had found a way to work around God’s truth; “Thou shall not kill.”
I admit it, I have rules! The whole purpose of rules is to regulate behavior and exert influence. Neither of those is necessarily bad…until…they replace the truth that life with Jesus is how we are justified, not rules. Have you even thought about “ceremonial uncleanness” in terms of your own behavior? I certainly hadn’t, but I know I’m guilty of having used rules to justify my motivations and behaviors. Legalism is believing rules or personal motivations can help you avoid ceremonial uncleanness. The truth of the Grace of God in Jesus is that the “the life I now lived in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”a
a Part of Galatians 2:20
Psalm 119 Taw
169 May my cry come before you, Lord; give me understanding according to your word.
170 May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise.
171 May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.
172 May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.
173 May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation,Lord, and your law gives me delight.
175 Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.
176 I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.
These twenty two sections of Psalm 119 and their relationship to the Hebrew letter the Psalmist chose to “mark” each of them have challenged my thinking from mid November through Advent, Christmas and into this new year, 2021. Transposing sentences has been a way to pay homage to the Hebrew method of reading Right to Left. These last eight “right to left” verses were organized with that in mind but with a twist; writing all the right phrases, one after another, and then stringing all the left phrases together after them. My intent is for them to be read as a whole that gives these important old words a new expression and then consider why the Psalmist marked them with last letter of the Hebrew Aleph-bet, “Taw.”
The image of the ancient letter, Taw, was used like a signature mark to verify the truth of what was said. Taw is pictured by two sticks crossed but I don’t see two sticks. I see a cross! It’s amazing to consider the Psalmist purposefully chose a mark all those centuries ago to verify the truth of his words and become a recognizable sign of the cross, chosen by God, to verify our future. Read on please…
– Psalm 119:169-176 All Right then All Left –
Give me understanding according to your word. Deliver me according to your promise, for you teach me your decrees. All your commands are righteous for I have chosen your precepts. Your law gives me delight and may your laws sustain me. Seek your servant for I have not forgotten your commands. May my cry come before you, Lord; may my supplication come before you. May my lips overflow with praise; may my tongue sing of your word. May your hand be ready to help me. I long for your salvation, Lord. Let me live that I may praise you. I have strayed like a lost sheep.
–––∞ My Thoughts ∞–––
Jesus IS the Word! That’s the understanding of God we need. God’s promise to us lives in Jesus Christ; the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s precepts, laws and commands and He will remove the condemnation of those same laws from those who place their life in Him. Jesus has completed everything God required to sustain us. He is our reminder that the truth we now have can hold us firmly while our lips learn to overflow with praise and our tongues find words to sing the song of salvation for lost sheep; being crucified with Christ. I long for your salvation, Lord. Let me live that I may praise You, glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
65 Do good to your servant according to your word, Lord.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.
68 You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
There is a “before and after” story here in Teth that relates to affliction; where it comes from and how does it relate to a serpent/snake? Teth is a not-so-subtle reminder of an old “before” story; there really was a serpent hiding in the garden whose purpose was to call into question the absolute truth God had spoken. Affliction might be the mask of temptation that serpent wears today as he repeats his original question asked long before the Psalmist wrote: “did God really say…?”
The Psalmist’s words are obviously written to let God know he’s aware there has been a “before and after” in his life. “Before” I was afflicted I went astray…The “after” is “It was good for me to be afflicted…so that I might learn your decrees…but now I obey your word.” The Psalmist has shown us the imagery of an “after” we can recognize. God has built a house [us] and filled it with light [the Word], protected by a strong door [Jesus]and a hedge [the Holy Spirit] around it. A place where affliction and even the possibility of a serpent hiding in the garden no longer has the power to silence the absolute truth of what God really did say.
Each of the twenty-two sections of Psalm 119 follows the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. What’s unique is each verse in each section begins with the same Hebrew letter. It wasn’t until I decided to verify that for myself and found this image that I realized Hebrew is read from right to left. I wondered if the verses from the ESV version might be read as normal and then read again from right to left [sort of] as a way to ponder the fullness of truth works both ways. You decide.
1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!
OR 1 The Lord is the law of the walk of those whose way is blameless and are blessed
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
OR 2 Whole hearts who keep his testimonies and seek him are blessed
3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
OR 3 who walk in his ways and also do no wrong
4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
OR 4 Diligently keeping your precepts is your command
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
OR 5 Keeping your statutes keeps my ways steadfast
6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
OR 6 You fix my eyes on your commandments so I shall not be shamed
7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules
OR 7 Your righteous rules are how I learn to praise you with an upright heart
8 I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!
OR 8 Do not utterly forsake me, I WILL keep your or statutes.
2 Corinthians 3:Are we beginning to praise ourselves again? Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not! 2 The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our[your] hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. 3 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. NLT
Stone is so enduringly permanent it’s surprising the truth of those letters carved on tablets of stone is lost. But is it?
The recent pandemic has tragically highlighted just how vulnerable life can be. That makes it equally surprising that God has now chosen to write the permanence of His truth in human hearts. The letters of eternity and permanence no longer lie in impenetrable stone. God has rewritten His own truth in our/your heart. That truth rewrites the story of a stubborn, stony hearta being replaced with a tender, responsive one able to feel, think, grow and replicate God’s own heart one to another. “Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.”
aAnd I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. [Ezekiel 36:26]
2 Peter 1:12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. NIV
Reminders are familiar to us. Now they often come to us as notifications with banners and alert tones on computer, smart phone or tablet screens. God can use something as simple as a Verse of the Day banner on a screen to remind us of His truth and how much it still matters to Him.
God knows we need those reminders! We need His truth to matter as much to us as it does to Him! The many versions of the Word that populate our digital library remind us we have opportunity at our fingertips to read and understand God’s truth more clearly than ever before. These are God’s reminders to you of what matters to Him in June of 2020 through Peter’s Word.
Support: I will
Purpose: remind you of these things.
Faith: You know them and are firmly established in the
truth you now have.
Commitment: I think it is right to refresh your memory
Durability: after my departure.
Encouragement: You will always be able to remember these things:
Add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection,
It’s resurrection day! I’m remembering this very special week in Jesus’s life thru the filter of coronavirus today. Holy Week this year began very differently than most of us would have expected. Coronavirus moved us from participation to isolation and gave us a conscious awareness of the reality of our need to be safe.
Our senses have been bombarded all week with grim truths that describe the endless march of a viral enemy beyond our control. But there is another truth that has become the glimmer of “good” hope during this week. It’s hope that reaches beyond the stress of physical distancing, fears for our safety, illness, ventilators, and death…into the future.
The hope of the future of humanity has been revealed through the conscious, sacrificial and persistent service of ordinary people despite personal risk to themselves. That hope is a reality because of this truth; God has intentionally intervened in the hearts of those ordinary people to equip them to surpass even the best of human motives.
people have shown us a Holy
love that saves, in real time,
to make God’s divine
to all of
In the year of our Lord 2020
Jesus Christ lives to be a part of our future and our hope.
“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”
[Matthew 28:6 NIV]
John 15:26 “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. ESV
The titles the Bible uses for the Holy Spirit range from Advocate to Intercessor and Companion to Friend. All titles have the same implied message; Jesus has provided 24/7 personal support for those who abide with Him. Your commitment is involved and your mind is involved but the bedrock of your personal faith is formed by what the Holy Spirit reveals to God about you, and to you about God.
The Advocate recognizes, and targets, our needs through the transformative stories we read and hear as part of our personal devotion. Those stories become the seeds of His purpose – to direct our personal growth. The Advocate is the Intercessor between all involved parties – God, Himself, Jesus and you. He is the one Companion you have that can speak absolute truth to God on your behalf, fully aware of your needs. Only a Friend with the absolute knowledge of God’s truth is able to testify this encouragement back to you: “Christ’s anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught.”a
The bedrock of personal faith, devotion and growth is the testimony of the Holy Spirit that teaches you to “live deeply” in what you are still being taught.
a I John 2:27 [MSG]
NIV Hebrews 9: 1 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary…23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.
Truth: God is Sovereign and human’s are willful. I don’t know where I found this quotation but it’s inserted itself into my thinking about Hebrews 9. “Circumstances are where God begins.” Those three sentences led me back to the very beginning. I’m going to assume the fall of Adam and Eve was not a surprise to God. Right from the beginning He desired to be present in their lives. I think it’s possible those first two people were created to be God’s dwelling place but instead temptation and circumstances resulted in the first broken relationships. Those circumstances were where God set into motion the plan He’d always had to save His relationship with the people he loved. Jesus was NOT plan B.
Right from the beginning God desired to be present with us because of love. Right from the beginning when our circumstances might have denied that truth, God began to work within us. The same lives that could be broken by temptation and circumstance could now become His earthly sanctuary and a dwelling place for His own Spirit through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.”