Commemorating Yom Kippur

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you; and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the Lord. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 23:26–28)

*Note: This blog post has been adapted from two eNews articles by Koinonia House:

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, may be the most important holiday of the Jewish year.  It is observed on the 10th of Tishri, which this year starts at sunset tonight, Friday, September 29.  All day Saturday, Jews will forgo work, and fast for this holy and solemn day of repentance and reconciliation.

According to Leviticus 16, the high priest could not enter the “Holy of Holies” any time he chose.  When he did enter, precise, detailed instructions were followed for the sacrificial ceremony.  Along with the people of Israel, the high priest and his household also needed reconciliation with God.  A total of 16 separate sacrifices were offered (Leviticus 16:5–29; Numbers 29:7–11).

On this special Day of Atonement – the only day – that the high priest was allowed to enter the “Holy of Holies,” he did so only after elaborate ceremonial washings, offerings, and associated rituals.  After bathing, he put on linen clothes (rather than his sacred vestments), and then chose for himself and his household a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.  From the congregation he took two goats as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering.  He then had the two goats placed at the entrance of the tent of meeting where he cast a lot, assigning one goat for Yahweh and “one for Azazel.”

The goat assigned by lot to Yahweh was sacrificed as a sin offering, but the other goat was placed before the Lord alive in order to reconcile.  An indispensable detail of this ceremony was the placing of the live goat before the altar of burnt offering.  Leaning with his two hands on the head of the animal, the high priest confessed all the sins of the Israelites, symbolically placing them on the head of the goat.  This goat was dedicated as a scapegoat (Leviticus 16:20–22) bearing the guilt of Israel’s sins.  Then an appointed person took the animal into the wilderness outside the camp of Israel, where he set the goat free.

Many aspects of the Old Testament feasts were prophetic (e.g., the scapegoat pointing to the Messiah).  Since the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D. by the Romans, the God–centered observances of the Torah have tragically been replaced with a man–centered, good works system of appeasement through prayer, charity, and penitence.

Yom Kippur traditionally ends with one long note of the Shofar, a musical instrument usually made from a ram’s horn.  The significance of the ram’s horn is traditionally rooted in Genesis 22.  Here God commands Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”  God calls Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as a test of his faith.  After God halts the sacrifice at the last minute, Abraham notices a ram trapped by his horns in a nearby thicket, and offers the animal instead as a sacrifice.

It’s interesting to note that this is the first occurrence of the word “love” in Scripture.  This strange event foreshadows Christ’s death on the cross as a substitutionary offering for our sins.  It may have even taken place at the very same spot where the “only begotten Son” of God was later crucified.

Those of us who follow Jesus, placing our trust in Him for our salvation, are now able to enter behind the veil of separation and stand in the presence of God in the “Holy of Holies.”  We have forgiveness of sins because of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  He is our scapegoat!  His blood was spilled for our atonement!  Because of Him we are cleansed and made holy before God.

Violence and anger persist in our sin–stained world, but God provides a sanctuary of protection for us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.  During Yom Kippur, Jews may mourn and repent of their sins, but the sacrifice has already been offered to pay for their sins.  Jerusalem may be a “cup of trembling for all nations,” but it will one day hold the throne of the Messiah, Jesus Christ!

*Click on Fall Feasts: Yom Kippur and Yom Kippur to download these informative and detailed articles.

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

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Adding more Participles to our Life of Faith

If you ask a random “man on the street” to describe Christianity, most likely he or she will refer to the Ten Commandments or the “Golden Rule.”  The conversation might even turn towards some sort of earnings–based approach to gaining favor.  Ask the same question of a professing Christian and they’re likely to describe a grace–based approach to gaining access to their Creator.

But when you ask the Christian what happens next, more often than not, their answer stays stuck in grace, failing to realize and acknowledge that now a life of progressive transformation into Christ–like character has only just begun.  Dallas Willard, who now basks in God’s eternally gracious Presence, wrote extensively about grace …

  • “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.  Earning is an attitude.  Effort is an action.  Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.” (The Great Omission)

But what’s the nature of this “effort”?  There are 1,050 commands in the New Testament for Christians to obey, covering every phase of a person’s life in relationship to God and to others.  This is where many followers of Jesus get stuck again … we get hung up on what I’ll call the “imperative lifestyle” … attempting to “check the boxes” on a long To-Do list.  We tend to treat these commands like one–time events, religiously working our way down a new list every day.

What would happen if we added more participles to our everyday life of faith?  How different would our lives look?  Who might be drawn to the Good News about Jesus by observing our “participial living”?

Participles are words formed from a verb, but used as an adjective … acting as modifiers, applying continuous, ongoing action to whatever word they modify.  The common Greek language, used in the original writing of the New Testament, has been called a “participle loving language.”  In fact, the present active participle occurs 2,549 times in the New Testament … more than twice as many times as commands.  One of my favorites is found in 3 John 1:4 … applied to the Greek word [περιπατέω] and translated “walking” to indicate the apostle John’s joy upon learning that his “spiritual children” were conducting the affairs of their lives according to God’s truth …

  • “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”

During my senior year of college, I was introduced to the power of participles in Scripture in the classic Greek grammar text by Dana & Mantey …

  • “There are few languages which have equaled the Greek in the abundance and variety of its use of the participle, and certainly none has surpassed it … This wealth of significance which belonged to the Greek participle at the zenith of its development lies undiminished before the student of the New Testament, and becomes a valuable asset in interpretation when adequately comprehended.” (p. 220, H. E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament)

If you’re prone to scholarly reading, a classmate of mine at then-named Biola College has since written a sequel that dives deeper into the significance of participles … Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics.

I’m simply proposing that we add more “–ing” words and behaviors to our daily lives of following the footsteps of Jesus.  To the observant reader of this blog, you will notice that out of the 41 posts I’ve written here since December 30 of last year, 32 of the titles have begun with a participle.  This has been intentional. Which is what we need to be as we flesh–out our lives of faith … “fixing our eyes on Jesus” … in continuous, ongoing action.

When I sign an email or letter or card to our children and grandchildren, I frequently write “Loving You”! … my way of saying that my love for them is continuous, ongoing and active.  Let’s all apply that same attitude and effort in our daily lives of faith, following the footsteps of Jesus.

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Passing the baton to men who will follow Jesus

Wouldn’t it be great to leave a legacy of future generations following the footsteps of Jesus?  What’s the best way to begin?  How about using a Wallet Card? (click to download)

Before I explain how this works, let’s look at Scripture for some clues.  In his final written correspondence before execution at Nero’s hands, the apostle Paul charged his young protégé Timothy to pass along the baton of disciple–building.

  • “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1–2)

This was not a new concept for Timothy, since Paul had already reminded him in a previous letter how he had benefited from next–generation disciple–building.

  • “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” (2 Timothy 1:5)

In Paul’s charge to Timothy, he uses six words or phrases that reveal the mechanics of spiritual “baton–passing”

1. “be strong” [ἐνδυναμόω] … This term means “to increase in strength.”  Because Paul wrote this as a present, passive, imperative (tense, voice & mood), it literally meant “commanded to continuously being strengthened.”  It’s a command to be transformed by someone else, namely the Holy Spirit.  In other words, God commands, then equips, and causes the action to happen continuously.

2. “grace” … God’s unmerited favor secures our salvation for eternity, but it also fuels our everyday living as we follow Jesus.  Dallas Willard wrote about this in The Great Omission …

  • “The true saint burns grace like a 747 jet burns fuel on takeoff.  Become the kind of person who routinely does what Jesus did and said.  You will consume much more grace by leading a holy life than you will by sinning, because every holy act you do will have to be upheld by the grace of God.” (p. 62)

While writing about Jesus’ resurrection, Paul adds his view on grace …

  • “But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

3. “heard in the presence of many witnesses” … Paul met Timothy near the beginning of his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1), so Timothy received ample opportunities to hear Paul’s message of God’s grace.  These were not secret truths shared in a vacuum, but public testimonies delivered repeatedly in major cities throughout the Roman Empire.  Timothy was probably also present in Rome during the two years that Paul was there under house arrest.  What he witnessed is what I call “whole–Bible disciple–building.”

  • “When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.” (Acts 28:23)

4. “entrust” [παρατίθημι] is the pivotal word in Paul’s charge to Timothy.  It literally meant “to set before,” as in setting food on a table before a guest.  Within certain contexts it came to mean “to deposit,” as would be done in a trust for protection.  In other contexts it was translated “to commit to one’s charge.”

The term is used twice in Mark 6:38 & 41, to describe the feeding of 5000 men, plus women and children.  Mark then repeats the term in 8:6 while describing a second miraculous feeding where it is translated “to serve to them.”

Jesus speaks this term from the Cross … “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” (Luke 23:46).  These cross–references provide wonderful clues about what Paul expected Timothy to do with the message of God’s grace that he had heard.

5. “faithful” [πιστός] is the adjective Paul uses to describe the type of people that Timothy should seek.  It means “trusty, believing, reliable.”

6. “able to teach others” [ἱκανός] is another qualifying characteristic of those to whom Timothy would pass the baton of disciple–building.  It meant “sufficient in ability” or “fit for a task at hand.”  The root word meant “to have come” or “to have arrived,” and it suggests “seeking intimacy with another.”  It can be translated “to become a fit follower.”

Now notice the results of this deliberate, intentional approach … Four–generation disciple–building! … Paul to Timothy to faithful men to others.

Against this spiritual backdrop, here’s how a Wallet Card works …

  • Click the link to download the handout, then print and cut into six cards.
  • Carry one in your wallet, another in your vehicle, another in your gym bag.
  • Tape one to your bathroom mirror, maybe another atop your computer at work.
  • Then pray that the Holy Spirit will impress on your mind the names of “men who will follow Jesus.”
  • As names come to mind, write them on the card.  Some may already be following Jesus.  Others may still be in search–mode.  Still others may have no clue of their need for a Savior.
  • One of the names may be a family member (son, brother, etc.).  Another name may be a neighbor or co–worker.  You may not have yet met still other names that will be added.
  • As you add names to your list, continue to pray … that the Holy Spirit would strengthen you, plus open a door of opportunity to naturally share your faith–story with these men.

If you’re tech–savvy, use Evernote (or similar app) to create a digital “Wallet Card.”  If you do, let me know so I can share how you did that in a future blog post!

Add the “Wallet Card” to your disciple–building tool–kit, and pray for effective results similar to what Paul wrote about at the end of his life on earth.

  • “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:11–14)

As the Holy Spirit continuously strengthens and equips you for this strategic task, please leave a comment here on the blog, describing encounters or conversations with “men who will follow Jesus”!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Navigating Twitter by “Looking Unto Jesus”

Twitter and the blogosphere linked to it seem to erupt afresh every week with some new controversy.  Last week, it was so–called “evangelicals” who blew up the digital landscape over what the esteemed Eugene Peterson said, or didn’t say, in an interview originally scheduled for different purposes.  I texted a friend last Thursday that “there’s way too many knee–jerk reactions on Twitter, and not enough grace”!  The next day I posted the image above on Instagram, along with these words … “Best way to navigate social media storms.”

England’s “Prince of Preachers” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892), wrote daily devotionals for both morning and evening.  His morning selection for June 28th is based on this passage, Hebrews 12:2 … and offers sound counsel for our current day as well.

  • It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.
  • Satan insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”  All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.
  • But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”  Remember, therefore …
  • It is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee – it is Christ.
  • It is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee – it is Christ.
  • It is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument – it is Christ’s blood and merits.
  • Therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ.
  • Look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope.
  • Look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.
  • We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.”
  • Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind.
  • When thou wakest in the morning look to Him.
  • When thou liest down at night look to Him.
  • Oh! Let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

 

Here’s a link to Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening devotions.  It’s also located on the right–side navigational bar under the heading “Worth Visiting.”

I’m praying for a safer and saner Twitter landscape this next week!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Appraising this year’s goals at the “Midsummer Classic” break

This past Sunday afternoon, AP published an article from Los Angeles that started with these two paragraphs …

“Clayton Kershaw tossed a six–hitter to become the majors’ first 14–game winner, Justin Turner homered twice, and the NL West–leading Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Kansas City Royals 5–2 to complete their major league–best 10th sweep and sixth straight victory.  The streaking Dodgers head into the All–Star break owning baseball’s best record of 61–29.  They’ve won 18 of their last 19 at home, where they lead the majors with a 39–11 mark.

“Kershaw (14–2) allowed two runs and six hits on 99 pitches, struck out 13, and walked none to set the Dodgers’ record for most wins at the break.  The old mark of 13 was held by Orel Hershiser, who had 13 in 1988, the last time the franchise won the World Series.”

To the casual reader, all this talk of “numbers” may be numbing … but to the avid fan of baseball (especially the Dodgers), these two paragraphs speak volumes.  This is especially true this time of year when the “Midsummer Classic” is scheduled … tonight’s MLB All–Star Game … showcasing the best of the “boys of summer.”

On the opposite coast, New York Yankees’ phenom, Aaron Judge, leads professional baseball’s Major Leagues with 30 home runs.  He has already broken the Yankees’ single–season record for rookies … a record that stood since 1936 and held by the Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.  In the middle of the country, Chicago Cubs’ fans are scratching their heads wondering what’s happened to their defending World Series champs!  The “Cubbies” are struggling to hold onto second–place in a weak division, chasing a dozen Major League teams with better win–loss records than theirs.

The “Midsummer Classic” is traditionally scheduled slightly past the midpoint of the season.  This annual All–Star exhibition game has been played since 1933, with the National League holding a slight edge in victories at 43–42, although the American League has won the last four consecutive games.  There have also been two ties … what?! … why?!

By now, you’re probably asking, “What’s all this baseball talk got to do with ‘equipping & mobilizing men to follow Jesus’” … which is what StrongStakes is all about.  The answer is found in the timing.  The “Midsummer Classic” is a bench–mark that teams and individuals use to evaluate their progress so far, and then appraise what needs to change in order to reach goals set months ago before the season began.

The apostle Paul actually wrote about this in one of his N.T. letters …

  • “Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way to win the prize.”  (1 Corinthians 9:24)

If you’re new to this blog, then you may not have read the first article posted last December 30th … Goodbye 2016 … Hello 2017!  The primary point of the article was to approach the new year with intentionality, by reviewing the previous year, then setting realistic goals for the year ahead.  In that post I included links to two down–loadable handouts:

Some of the topics covered included …

  • Healthy character traits
  • Spiritual Disciplines
  • What will we read this year?
  • What damaged or damaging relationships might need to be addressed.
  • Who is it that we might encourage this year?

What better time than right now … a little more than halfway through 2017 … to evaluate our progress so far, and then appraise what needs to change in order to reach goals set before this new year began?

Invest some time reflecting on your progress toward your spiritual goals, using the handouts as prompts or guides.  Maybe even mute the sound on your TV or tablet during the commercial breaks in tonight’s game?  If you’re watching the game with a friend or family member(s), ask them to help you evaluate, too.  The stakes are higher for us in terms of our “spiritual success” than for tonight’s All–Star players.  The apostle Paul continued in his letter with this profound comparison …

  • “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self–control in everything.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)

Enjoy the game!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Converting Cars to “Cocoons of Solitude”

This very brief post invites you to join in a week–long challenge. Convert your auto’s interior to a “Chapel on Wheels” … a space for listening to God.

For the next seven days (after you start), whenever you are driving alone in your car, truck, van or motorcycle, simply turn off the radio, CD, iPod, or phone. Instead, carry on conversations with your Heavenly Father.

You may choose to ask Him for or about things (petition) … or you may pray for other people (intercession) … or you may choose to sing “outbursts of praise & worship” to Him. Better still … simply be quiet and listen to Him.

For the benefit of the rest of us, leave a comment (or two) on this blog regarding what He said to you.

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

P.S. The image at the top of this post was my view in high school while driving my first car … a 1962 VW bug! … a classic!

Declaring Our “in – Dependence” on God

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This second sentence of the Declaration of Independence (click for full text) is easily the most recognizable and oft–quoted.

Today we celebrate this Declaration made 241 years ago by 13 English colonies, signed by 56 representatives. This Declaration announced to the world that these colonies regarded themselves as newly independent sovereign states, no longer under British rule, but instead formed as a new nation – the United States of America.

The final sentence of the Declaration is not as well known, yet it set the tone and the standard for how independence would be achieved and preserved:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Amazing! … the “Founding Fathers” literally pledged their lives, their sizeable family fortunes, and their honor to grow and defend a new nation whose future was uncertain.

We celebrate the freedoms that the Declaration of Independence has yielded over the past two centuries plus … but these freedoms are finite and limited by time and geography. The Kingdom established by God offers infinite freedoms lasting for eternity. The Bible declares a hard truth that relatively few people have embraced since God revealed His Kingdom purposes for humankind. God declares that true freedom is found in total dependence on Him.

The Kingdom of God is an “upside–down” Kingdom. Whereas the United States began with a declaration of independence, we enter into God’s Kingdom by declaring our dependence on Him. The following representative Scripture samples from the Law, books of History, Psalms & Proverbs, O.T. Prophetic writings, plus the very words of Jesus, Paul and others reveal the blessings of living in total dependence on God.

Mull over these passages. Study the larger context of each passage. Cross–reference to related passages. Begin drafting your own personal Declaration of “in – Dependence” on God based on His revelation of truth.

  • Exodus 14:13–14 … “But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear!  Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.’”

 

  • Deuteronomy 31:6 … “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.”

 

  • 1 Chronicles 29:12–14 … “Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name. But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.”

 

  • 2 Chronicles 14:11–12 … “Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.’ So the Lord routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.”

 

  • 2 Chronicles 20:12, 17, 20 … “O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You … You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you … Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the Lord your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.”

 

  • Psalm 16:8–9 … “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely.”

 

  • Psalm 18:1–3, 6 … “I love You, O Lord, my strength. 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. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.”

 

  • Psalm 23:1–3 … “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

 

  • Psalm 40:1–4 … “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord. How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.”

 

  • Psalm 46:1 … “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

 

  • Psalm 62:5–8 … “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”  Selah.

 

  • Psalm 94:17–19 … “If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, ‘My foot has slipped,’ Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.”

 

  • Psalm 118:4–9 … Oh let those who fear the Lord say, ‘His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ From my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a large place. The Lord is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me; therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”

 

  • Psalm 121:1–3 … “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.”

 

  • Proverbs 3:5–6 … “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

 

  • Isaiah 40:28–31 … “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

 

  • Zechariah 4:6 … “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

 

  • Matthew 6:25–33 … “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

 

  • John 6:66–69 … “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’”

 

  • John 15:5 … “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

 

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 … And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

  • Hebrews 4:16 … “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Over the nearly two and a half centuries since signing the Declaration of Independence, the United States of America has grown in many ways, especially when holding fast to the tenets of this historic document. This is worth celebrating every “Fourth of July”!

As professing followers of Jesus, we also will grow, especially when we hold fast to the simple, clear teachings in God’s Word. This reminds me of a scene in C.S. Lewis’ book, Prince Caspian. One of the main characters, Lucy, encounters Aslan after not seeing him for a long time. Aslan is the Christ–figure of the Chronicles of Narnia stories. Their dialogue proceeds:

“Aslan, you’re bigger,” she says.

“That is because you’re older, little one,” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

Every year we grow in dependence on Jesus, by internalizing the truths about God in His Word, the bigger He will be in our lives.

Peace & Joy!

~ tr