Category Archives: Bible teaching

Complete and constant peace IF . . .

Image result for Free Picture Of Doctor's OfficeIn the midst of daily life, Holy Spirit speaks. Bzmmmmm. The floor-to-ceiling glaring-white machine rotated itself, and me, 45 degrees so the technician could record a different view of the heart. I closed my eyes again and took a long, slow breath, careful to stay still.

“Ten more minutes or so strapped into this device,” I thought. “Harumph! Help me have a good attitude, Lord!”

“Thank You for training me to meditate on Your Word. It helps in every situation! So, let’s start at the beginning of my verses again, with Isaiah 26:3-4.

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because He commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord—commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of ages.” (AMPC).

Hmm . . .  “ the mind [both its inclination and its character]”. . .  I opened my eyes and managed not to jerk upright only with effort.

“Lord, what does character of mind mean? I have repeated this passage how many times and I only now see this? I believe that “inclination of the mind” means what your thoughts are focused upon and that was my subconscious thought while meditating on this verse these many months, but what does “character of mind” mean?

Clear guidance. I was reviewing the first of the verses and passages I had memorized on my way to victory over depression last year. For the last three days, after completing the blog post for the week, I had wondered which of the many topics floating in my mind to start on for next week. I was wondering, that is, in brief snatches of time during the work of daily life, which now included extra time invested in health and thus, less time to write, some of the “troubles, trials, distresses and frustration” which Jesus said His followers would experience. I was indeed frustrated!

Image result for free picture of notes handwrittenSo many things I wanted to write! I desperately wanted to finish the book about depression but other topics, including blog posts on each verse I had memorized, had fluttered overhead like birds zipping across the high ceiling of a big building. Some writers, like me, have difficulty picking and completing one topic. But I recognized when Holy Spirit was getting my attention, like now, in the middle of the stress test. He was saying write about Isaiah 26:3-4. Now.

Complete and constant peace is possible. So, dear friend and fellow pilgrim, here we are, you and me, exploring God’s truth in Isaiah 26:3-4, the first weapon in my “spiritual arsenal”, that list of verses that opened the dungeon doors of depression and fear for me.

It helps me think deeply about the Word to put new thoughts on a new line and sometimes to put each word on a new line.  Many months ago, as I pondered Isaiah 26:3-4, I wrote it in long-hand like this.

“You will guard him and keep him in

perfect and constant peace

whose mind [both its inclination and its character]

is stayed on You,

 because                                                                 

He commits himself to You,

leans on You,

and hopes confidently in You.

So trust in the Lord—

commit yourself to Him,

lean on Him,

hope confidently in Him—forever;

for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of ages.” (AMPC).

Let’s look at each phrase and see what God might be saying. Remember, this is the Amplified version of the Bible, which has phrases other translations do not include. These phrases give the fuller, or amplified, meaning of words that modern-day readers do not understand but which speakers of that time would have automatically known was what the words meant. I find it extremely helpful to study and meditate using the Amplified. For a more detailed explanation as to why, please see the blog post “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security”, October 1, 2020.

Isaiah 26:3-4. Two years ago, when I desperately needed peace, I studied verses about peace. I had not purposely memorized Bible verses for a long time and those hidden in my heart years earlier, including this one, had faded.  I liked the essence of this verse that remained in memory, the concept that God keeps us in peace if we fix our minds on Him. So, I began studying this verse in more detail, through meditating on the clarifying phrases in the Amplified.

Image result for free Picture of Guard In Bible TimesGuarding and keeping. “You will guard and keep. . . “ The first thing I noticed was that the verse said God would guard and keep our minds in peace, whereas the NIV, only said God would keep.  It was reassuring to ponder that God would not only keep us in peace if we kept our minds fixed on Him, but He would guard us as well. To guard something or someone, is to protect or shield them from harm by keeping potential danger away. So that must mean God will not allow anything to damage my peace when my mind is focused on Him.

“Complete and constant peace”. The next phrase shows two aspects of the peace God promises:  it will be complete, or perfect, and it will be constant. Complete peace would mean freedom from worry about any aspect of one’s life. One aspect of peace is freedom from struggle and fighting, and phrases similar to “He was given peace from his enemies round about” appear often in the Bible. So, if the nation of Israel was given peace on all sides, then maybe God is saying we will be free from attacks of worry, or fear or irritation any such thing, on all sides of our life, in each aspect of life, including health, family, friends, finances, our world, etc. That would be complete peace.

Image result for free picture of clockAnd, I reflected, constant means constant, sixty minutes each hour, twenty-four hours each day, seven days each week, and so forth until we see our loving Father face to face and, finally, no longer have to battle the world, the flesh, and the devil. That must mean there is a way to stay in peace all the time, so that means no dread at any time–no  dreading hard mornings or exercise or the job or house cleaning, or anything! And that verse “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30). Life, life from God, the good life He planned for human beings, is a peaceful life, with us enjoying every day and staying in God’s presence every day.

Inclination of mind. You will guard and keep in complete and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is fixed on You.”  As I pondered “inclination of mind”, I thought about focusing and I thought about the psalm when the psalm writer asks God to incline His to him. To incline your ear to someone, you focus all your hearing powers on that person’s voice. And I know the earth is inclined, or tilted toward or focused, at a precise angle toward the sun and that angle causes the seasons of the earth. To me, that means our thoughts, our mind, is focused or pointed toward God. And that means I am to be consciously thinking about God—His innumerable good qualities, His love and power and goodness and strength, His loving ways, His faithfulness, and the things He has done for mankind and for me in particular. That leads to light and life and all good things.

Image result for free picture of earth tilted toward sunAnd I think that principle operates in my life only in those minutes and hours when my mind is focused or inclined, toward God, thinking about Him as the earth is inclined, tilted toward, the sun. If I incline my mind away from God, then my thoughts will start darkening.

The character of the mind.  “Hmm. . . Lord, I know we develop character by repeating actions over and over and over, like that truism most people credit to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

So, just as our character, our “mental and moral qualities”, is shaped by what we repeatedly do and think, so is the quality or nature, the quality or character of our mind, shaped by what we repeatedly think and do?

Lord, I know that thinking on the Word all day long remakes our heart, but is the doing of that meditating, the habit of meditating, does that habit in itself also change the nature of the mind and how it works? Is that like if someone develops the habit of being patient by choosing, time after time, to wait quietly and calmly and then eventually they develop a patient character so that their  automatic  reaction to frustrating situations is to consciously stay calm?

I know that getting Your truths deep into my heart healed depression, but were You also changing how my mind actually works? Now, when problems arise Your Word immediately pops into consciousness. However,  before You trained me in the habit of constant meditation on Your word, my mind consistently thought negative thoughts and my heart constantly felt negative emotions, not only when problems came.

Image result for free picture of calendar That is such an encouraging thought, to know that You have already changed at the fundamental, most basic level, how I think and act, that You have already begun forming a stronger, more Christ-like character of mind. That is encouraging because I know it took months of persistence on my part, but the change did happen. So I know that, as I continue to persist, these occasional flare-ups will become less and less as You continue to give me a stronger character of mind, Lord! Thank You!

“Fixed on Him.” And “fixed on You” would mean to always have You on my mind, as that old song says, so that not only do I consciously, deliberately think about You but also in the moments when my mind is not occupied with some task or some other thinking, there You are! It’s like being in love or being a new parent or being preoccupied with an enjoyable project. So, it is a choice but it is also automatic because of deep, all-consuming love, attraction, and pleasure.

Image result for Free Picture Of Cause and Effect. . . because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in YouThank you, Lord, for showing me to ponder cause and effect links in Your Word, like here, and to study entire verses and passages.  I see that You keep us in peace when we keep our minds fixed on You because we commit to You, lean on You, and hope confidently in You. I had always quoted just the first part “You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You” (NIV) and forgotten the second part of the sentence. So I see that peace requires a trusting heart as well as a mind fixed on You. How had I overlooked that all those years?

So, trust in the Lord – commit yourself to Him, lean upon Him, and hope confidently in Him — forever.  That word “so” is another connecting word, meaning “therefore” or “for this reason”. That “So” after verse 3 means that “because of verse 3, do verse 4.” Clearly, You are saying that trust is essential in this process of having peace.

And, as I look at verses 3 and 4 together, I see another example of how Your Word defines itself. In verse 3, You say You will keep us in peace as we keep our minds on You and commit, lean, and hope confidently in You. Then verse 4 says “So trust. . .”  The Amplified version sets the next three phrases off by dashes, which signifies “additional phases of meaning included in the original word, phrase, or clause of the original language” (from the preface to The Amplified Bible, Zondervan, 1965.) So trust means to “commit ourselves to You, lean upon You, and hope confidently in You.” That shows me that the kind of trust You require is not some half-hearted thought or mindless repetition of a verse.

Rather, Your kind of trusting requires purposeful, focused thought and mental effort. You require trust like Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it (as a verb) meaning “to place confidence in; to rely on”.  The definitions of trust as a noun give even more clarity:  “confidence; reliance or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship or other sound principle of another person.” And perhaps Noah Webster also defined trust as “confident opinion of any event” and “credit given without examination” because he was mindful of how You meant it in Your Word. Your Word is used often in Mr. Webster’s 1828 dictionary!

Image result for free picture of picnicSo, trusting You means committing to You, leaning, and hoping confidently on You. If I really trust the weather report (and wouldn’t I be a rare bird!) I will schedule a family reunion at an outdoor park, with no alternate location identified. Furthermore, I will bake beans, make potato salad, and ice cupcakes with confidence. I would thus commit to, lean upon and hope confidently in the weather report. So, if I really trust You I will go about my life with confidence and NOT WORRY! Oh, help me, Lord!

And You say we are to trust You that way for ever.  Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “ever” as “at all times; always; continually; eternally.” That leaves no exceptions, does it Lord?

“. . . because the Lord God is an everlasting Rock – the Rock of Ages.” And here is another connecting word. We are to trust You like that because You are our Rock. I had seen Scripture use rock as a metaphor for the Lord many times, which I knew from a footnote (I forget where) that says rock means a source of strength. And sure enough, that is how Webster’s 1828 defines rock: “defense; means of safety; protection; strength; asylum; and a firm or immovable foundation.”  In looking into this, I saw that the website for R. C. Sproul clarifies that the meaning for this metaphor is multifaceted and that it “. . . tells us of the Lord’s stable, unchanging nature (Deuteronomy 32:4)” as well as “His strength and ability to safeguard His people, much as stone fortifications provide an excellent refuge from the elements and other dangers.”  https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/rock-ages/.

And Father, six days after starting this piece of writing, I see another truth: we are to trust You like You said so because doing so strengthens us. Phew! I need strengthening today, Lord, especially so thank You for  fresh insight today. That is related to the thought that just as meditating continually on Your Word has made big changes in the character of my mind so will keeping my mind on You make me stronger. That is so encouraging, Lord.  You really do know just how to encourage us and You know when we need it most. You are such a loving and good Father, Lord. Thank You for loving us like You do, with such understanding and such tender mercies!”

So, dear friend, in conclusion, when considering the whole chain of thought in Isaiah 26:3-4, I see that because our God is our Defender and our impenetrable place of refuge, He will surely guard us and keep us in complete and constant peace IF we keep our minds fixed on Him AND trust in Him, in the full, original meaning of those words. That is a guarantee from God, who cannot lie (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29) and whose promises are always yes.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NIV).

Image result for Free Picture of Rock of Ages CleftOur Rock of Ages. Writing this has made me more aware of the fact that it is God who does the work here. Certainly, I have to “try” my best, but the bottom line, the reason we are to keep our minds fixed on Him and fully trust Him is because He will defend and protect us. That takes the emphasis off me and my fickle frailties as I visualize seeking refuge from a storm in the hollow of a huge mountain, as Augustus Toplady, writer of that great hymn “Rock of Ages” actually did.

The fiercest wind, snow or rain cannot penetrate into the cleft of a great mountain. That mountain, and that small, sheltered place within the side of the mountain, will be untouched by any storm. The mountain, and that small hollowed out place, stand firm. All I have to do is choose to walk into that place and stay there.

Rain through Bedroom WindowAs a native Floridian, I know the snug feeling of being safe inside while hurricane force wind howls and rain flings itself against buildings. In the storms of my life and each ordinary day of my life, I can let my mind be battered and pounded, or I can choose to step into peace, into the everlasting, almighty, merciful, and ever-loving arms of my Heavenly Father, as I fix my mind on Him and trust (lean, rely, and hope confidently in) Him. And in doing that, I can know He will give me strength for whatever I need. It will be His strength, not my own weak strength, and it will make His strength complete. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

And, I am thinking it must give God a special joy when we turn to Him with trusting hearts and let Him take care of us and bear our burdens, just like a loving parent is gratified when they can carry a tired child and snuggle them close in their loving arms.  Oh, my Father! Let it ever be so! Amen.

Father Carrying Children

“Troubles, trials, distress, and frustration.”

Just a regular frustrating day.  “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world, you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration. Be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I am overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] John 16:33, AMPC

Image result for Free Picture of OatmealThe “tribulations and trials and distress and frustrations” of being human had filled the first hours of this day. As I ate my oatmeal, I felt guilty for sleeping late although health issues required extra rest right now. Irritated that negative thoughts, which had led to depression in years past, now swirled in my mind, I asked myself “Are these health problems going to drag me back toward the pit? I am doing the best I can, Lord, but it is really hard.”

“Lord, surely in this world we do have troubles, trials, distress and frustration. Help me be of good cheer, like You said, and to remember that You have overcome the world for me.” I paused. “Even though it surely does not feel like it today!”

Next, after 45 minutes at the computer, I hit save, bagged up the garbage to toss in the dumpster and headed out the door for my daily short, and slow, walk.

“I’m frustrated about the writing, too, Lord. You always give so many thoughts and I want to include so much of the Bible, but I read that people do not want to read long blog posts. And there are so many projects I want to write but my back cannot take long hours at the computer like before.”

“Oh, Lord! Forgive me for complaining! It is such a gift and a privilege to serve You and live for You.  I know You will guide, Lord, and show just what to do each day. Help me focus on Your truths and not my fears and frustrations!”

God speaks through nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2, NIV)

Image result for Free Picture of Neighborhood StreetI started walking slowly down the short street bordering my building, striving to put my heel down first, as the physical therapist had coached me to do, noticing again how the trees along the sidewalk formed a straight line all the way to the first intersection, which abutted the neighborhood elementary school. When I walked earlier in the morning, several men in work clothes stood together, waiting for a ride to their work, but by late morning, like today, it was just me and the Lord and an occasional cat, napping under a broken toy wagon next to the sagging and soggy yellow couch and the splintered bookcase.

My walk usually ended at the intersection but the wind blowing through the trees along the small, gravel track at the elementary school enticed me. I sidled through the open gate and walked to the green wrought iron bench. Still feeling tired and discouraged, I texted a friend whose husband was facing yet another surgery and another friend whose teenager was being, well, a real teenager.

As I looked, the wind kept moving the overgrown grass in rippling waves, fluttering the leaves of the trees, murmuring in my ears, bringing back the pure pleasures of childhood, like the feel of Florida’s sugary soft beach sand curling around bare toes,  the cool touch of the conch shell pressing  into my ear, and the sound of the ocean’s power echoing within its twisting chamber. Finally, I really looked. Finally, I started listening to God.

Who can know the path of the wind? Who can know the way of God? Part of Psalm 103 bubbled up from within: “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (NIV) 

“Lord, surely, I am indeed a blade of grass. Teach me, oh Lord, to “number my days aright” so I can live wisely. (Psalm 90:12) Help me remember that I am here on earth, and You are there in heaven, ruling and reigning over all things. Help me remember I cannot understand Your ways any more than I can tell which way the wind will blow next, like that verse in Ecclesiastes I memorized so long ago, that as I “do not know how the body is formed in the womb, so I cannot understand the way of God, the Maker of all things.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5). Help me stop trying to figure everything out, which I know makes me feel in control. Help me trust You when things seem to be going all wrong.”

Image result for Free Picture of Wind In WheatI looked intently at the grass. The green of the bottom two-thirds blended into yellow and pale brown, with dark brown spikes at the top of each stem, like mature heads of wheat, pulling the entire strand of grass over in the moments the wind was still. The up, then down, left, then right, then swirling patterns made the path of the wind visible.

“How many strands of grass?” I wondered, “cover this little track, the in-field, the surrounding areas up to the fence and then toward the playground. Thousands? Millions? Yet they all move as one when the wind touches them. Each blade is so fragile, but together they make a grand symphony of motion.”

The way of the word in the heart. “Oh, Father! Please help Your silly child. Help me get in the right rhythm with You again, to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galations 5:25). Help me return to depending on You and not my own strength to keep myself together. That is what I was doing the last few days, right?  Help me yield to Your ways and Your leading, just as these blades of grass yield to the wind and in so doing are beautiful. Help me yield, Lord! Help me trust! I trust You, Lord! Help me trust You more! “

“I know every single person also has loads of troubles, trials, distress and frustrations, just as I do. They are just different for each person. Help me honor You, Lord, in my individual life, this day, this hour. Help me be cheerful, and take courage and be confident, certain, and undaunted, as You told your disciples just before Your arrest and trial and crucifixion.  Help me remember that You have overcome the world and that it cannot harm me because You have deprived it of that power. Help me fix my mind on heavenly things and KEEP it set, because that is where my real life is, with You, not here on earth.”  (And set your minds and keep them set on what is above—the higher things—not on the things that are on the earth.” Colossians 3:2, AMPC)

When I got back home, I looked up the verse about the wind. “As You do now know the path of the wind or how the body is formed in the womb, so you cannot understand the way of God, the maker of all things. (NIV) Then I read verse 6.

Image result for Free Picture of Sowing SeedSow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”  

“Wow, Lord! Those two verses together mean to me that we are to work steadily each day, all day, because we do not know whether which one or all of our tasks will succeed any more than we can predict where the wind will blow next. Oh, help me, Lord, to do “whatever my hand finds to do” with all my heart, knowing I am working for You (Colossians 3:23 and Ecclesiastes 9:10).  Yes, Father, even if that is a morning of frustrating phone calls and an afternoon of doctor visits and errands. Let the deep meaning of Romans 8:28 resonate inside my heart. Assure me that You are a partner in my labor and that everything is fitting into a plan because I love You.”

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor], all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” (AMPC)

“Remind me that You are a partner in my work. Help me live each hour with that awareness.”

“Help me remember that “the Lord delights in the way of the man whose steps he has made firm” and that “though he stumble, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” (Psalms 37:23-24, NIV). And as the Amplified says You busy Yourself with his every step. That, truly, is remarkable!”

“Believe in the Lord your God and you will be able to stand firm. (2 Chronicles 20:20a) (NLT) As I tidied up before heading out the door, I saw my battered copy of the NLT open on the kitchen counter. From my daily Bible reading that morning, it was to open to the story of King Jehoshaphat’s victory over the combined armies of Moab, Ammon and Mount Seir.  Although Jehoshaphat was initially terrified to learn that the armies were surrounding him, he “begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting.” (2 Chronicles 20:3, NLT)  He stood before the people and prayed a powerful prayer in verses 6-12, praising God for His power, reminding Him of His promise to hear their cry, admitting their powerlessness and looking to Him for help.

Then “The spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there” and Jahaziel told the people not to be afraid or discouraged  because “the battle is not yours, but God’s” (v. 15) He said they only had to take their positions and stand still and “watch the Lord’s victory.”  Verse 18 and 19 records that King Jehoshaphat bowed low to the ground, as did all the people, and then they all worshipped God.

‘Give thanks to the LORD; his faithful love endures forever.’ (Psalm 136:1, NLT) Early that morning, before troubles, trials, distress and frustration invaded my mind, I had drawn a box around verse 20, where Jehoshaphat had encouraged his people saying:.

“Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem. Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets, and you will succeed.” (NLT)

After that, Jehoshaphat had placed “. . . singers ahead of the army, singing to the LORD and praising Him for His holy splendor. This is what they sang: ‘Give thanks to the LORD; his faithful love endures forever.’ (Psalm 136:1)

IImage result for free picture of jehoshaphat stood at my clean kitchen counter and continued re-reading the story. At the very moment they began to sing and give praise (emphasis added), the LORD caused the armies of Amon, Moab and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. (v. 22)” The story continued, telling that when the “army of Judah arrived at the looking point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.” (v 24).  

“Yes, I see that, Lord, and thank You! At the very moment they started to sing, You fought for them.”

I smiled, copied verse 20b on a folded piece of printer paper—”Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets, and you will succeed. I could memorize that much while I waited at the doctor’s office. I walked out the door, saying, from the heart.

“Oh, Lord! How I do thank You! Your faithful love surely endures forever. What wonderful things You do for Your children!  Thank You for Your Word, that gives such clear guidance and encouragement. Thank You for being with us each moment of every day, thank You, Lord, thank You, for . . . ”

Image result for free picture of father holding childs hand

God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security

Image result for free picture of swords, guns and shieldsOverview:

  • God’s weapons for spiritual warfare.
  • Why these particular verses?
  • Why in this particular order?
  • How to use the key word sentences.
  • Why meditate?
  • Why memorize?
  • Why the AMPC?
  • God’s Word has power to change your heart and your life.
  • How does God’s Word change your heart?
  • As God’s truth increases in your heart, lies and darkness decrease.
  • A word of encouragement about meditating and memorizing.
  • God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security – List of Verses

God’s weapons for spiritual warfare. The power of God’s Word– the power of Truth–restored my mind after a long season of severe depression. According to Webster’s online dictionary, https://webster-dictionary.org/definition/arsenal, an arsenal is a “military structure where arms and ammunition and other military equipment are stored and training is given in the use of arms.”

God’s Word contains every truth a child of God needs for victory in this world, and His Word trains us how to use those truths. His Word is a weapon, and it is also a place of training. His Word is an arsenal.

Diligently studying His Word equips you to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11, NIV) The Word teaches you how to put on and use the pieces of spiritual armor God has prepared for us that include truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and “the sword the Spirit wields, which is the Word God.” (Ephesians 6:17, AMPC)

Image result for free picture of peaceWhy these particular verses? The verses given here are a fundamental part of the arsenal of God’s Word because they will help you fight for peace and for confidence that God loves you and will always take care of you. We all need peace, every day, and we all need confidence that God is with us and will take care of us.  These verses will help build that peace and that confidence. I discovered these verses as I searched the Word for healing from depression and for courage to face my everyday life.

Why in this particular order? When I began studying the Word for myself in my areas of personal need, I started studying verses about fear. However, I soon discovered that studying about peace helped more. While I studied, I selected the verse that seemed most comforting and meditated on that verse, phrase by phrase, all day long, until I nearly memorized it, which often took days. When I realized I was memorizing almost by accident as I meditated, I decided to try a bit harder and intentionally memorize the verses.

So, while memorizing the current verse, I kept studying, searching for Scriptures in my areas of need. Once I had a verse memorized, I went on to the next Scripture I had found during study time. Soon, I had a long chain of Scriptures I could play in my mind when negative thoughts and feelings threatened to steal my peace. But I forgot them when I did not have my list with me or when I could not take time to read it, for example, when driving.  What to do?

Image result for free picture of person holding listHow to use the key word sentences.  As I kept trying to remember the list of verses, I saw that the key word or thought in each verse formed a sentence.  Look at the sample below. The left column gives the Scripture reference, and the right column gives the key word or thought of that Scripture. If you read straight down the right column, you will see that the key words form sentences, which are themselves comforting truths. For example, “Peace never fails to return to the secret place.” That thought reassures us that we can always find peace when we stay in the secret place.

Sample of How to Use Key Word Sentences

Scripture Key Word Sentences
Isaiah 26:3 Peace
Hebrews 13:5 never fails
Isaiah 30:15 to return
Psalm 91 to the secret place.

By the way, I did not deliberately put these verses in this order. Holy Spirit did that, by “accident” as I searched the Word! He is our perfect Teacher.

The last page of this article contains the list of verses that I call “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security.” It fits on one page, which will be helpful. A printable version of this page is on the “Books and More” tab of this website. You will see four sets of verses. Please do not be intimidated!  Take it one verse at a time, at your own pace. Although I suggest you for sure do the first two sets, you do not have to do them all. You might find Holy Spirit leading you to a different chain of Scriptures or adding to these. Let Him lead you. He knows exactly what you need. (Psalm 139)

Why meditate? We know we are to think about and meditate on God’s Word all day, every day. God tells us to meditate, in Deuteronomy 11:18-21, Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1, Proverbs 4:20-23, and Philippians 4:8. Meditation is good for us  and can be health to our bodies if we are diligent with it. (Proverbs 4:23). Thinking about God’s Word throughout the day helps keep us far from sin and close to Him in our thoughts and actions. Hearing, and believing, God’s Word will change the way we think, feel, and live.

Image result for free picture of flaming arrowsWhy memorize? As described earlier, as you meditate on a verse or passage, you are more than halfway to memorizing it anyway. Having what God’s Word says about life’s situations available in your memory is powerful. I compare God’s Word in your mind to having a huge body guard with you 24/7. If you have planted the Word in your mind, then Holy Spirit, like the perfect Guardian and Protector He is, will bring the Scripture you need to your conscious mind in each situation you face. The Word keeps the enemy out of your mind. He may shoot flaming arrows of thoughts, but even the worst of his “lie arrows” bounce off the shield of Truth and do you no harm.

As I described above, if you take one verse a day phrase by phrase, going over each phrase many times during that day, you will nearly have it memorized. If it is not fixed in memory during that day, focus on that verse another day. Memorizing God’s Word weaves it into the fabric of our very being so that it guides our actions. A child who has been told often enough to “Say thank you” finally starts doing so automatically. Hiding God’s Word in our heart works the same way. It helps keep us acting as God wants. Hiding His Word in our heart keeps us from sin (Psalm 119:11).

Why the Amplified translation of the Bible? Here is the description of the Amplified translation from www.lockman.org, the publisher.

“The Amplified Bible is a Literal Equivalent translation that, by using synonyms and definitions, both explains and expands the meaning of words in the text by placing amplification in parentheses, brackets, and after key words. This unique system of translation allows the reader to more completely and clearly grasp the meaning as it was understood in the original languages. Additionally, amplifications may provide further theological, historical, and other details for a better understanding of the text.”

Image result for free picture of dog with a boneTo meditate means to ponder, consider, to roll something over and over in your mind, and to work at it like a dog works at a bone or a cow chews her cud.  Compare the translations of Isaiah 26:3-4 below.

  • NIV – “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast in You because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”
  • NKJ – “You will keep in perfect peace Whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever. For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”
  • NLT – “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, whose thoughts are fixed on You. Trust in the Lord always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal rock.”
  • AMPC – “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord – commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of Ages.”

Picture of All Punctuation MarksYou will see that the Amplified has more words than most other translations.  These “extra” words—those set off in dashes, braces, brackets and parentheses –are shades of meaning that the original readers of the Bible would have automatically understood when they heard that word or phrase. Slowly, carefully reading these phrases in the Amplified is one way to meditate. It slows the mind down and guides the thought process. If I meditate on Isaiah 26:3 in the NIV or the NKJ, for example, I will come up with my own ideas about what “perfect peace” and a “steadfast mind” and “trust” mean, but the “extra” words in the Amplified are, I believe, the first thoughts we should  dwell on as we meditate on a verse or passage because they are, I believe, levels of meaning that God intended when He inspired the writers of Scripture.

So, using the Amplified has two clear benefits for meditation. First, it will force you to slow down and spend more time as you meditate. Second, it will help your meditation uncover more completely, in my opinion, what God is saying in His Word.

One clear example is the word trust in Isaiah 26:3-4. Isaiah 26:3 tells us to trust in the Lord and verse 4 defines trust in the clarifying words of the Amplified, the words between dashes. Verse 4 says “So trust in the Lord—commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever. . .”  That means to me that when I see God use the word trust, He means “to commit myself to Him, to lean on Him, and to hope confidently in Him.”  Using my own thoughts, I did not think of those three layers of meaning.

I suggest you try using the Amplified translation to memorize. If, after a sincere effort, you are not blessed then use a translation such as the New King James or New International. I also recommend using the Amplified Classic edition. Later editions leave out some of the amplifying phrases.

God’s Word has power to change your heart and your life. The power of God’s Word will “fix” your heart no matter if your problem is addiction, anger, self-control, loneliness, depression, or fear. Then, as your heart changes, your life will change.

Image result for free picture of a judgeHebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word is alive and full of power, and that it “judges the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (NIV) One thing that phrase means to me is that God’s Word in my mind enables me to discern, or to judge, whether thoughts and feelings in my heart are good or bad, true or false, beneficial or detrimental, holy or corrupted, whether they are from God or from the devil, and whether they lead toward life or lead toward death.

When I was deeply depressed and cowered down by fear, most of my thoughts were negative. The enemy and my own downtrodden heart generated thoughts and feelings of hopelessness and discouragement, day after day. Only when I began studying the Word for myself in my areas of need and then consciously kept those verses in my mind minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, did the healing begin.

The verses in “Your Basic Arsenal” are listed in the order in which I studied and then memorized them during that season. What I needed most when I first began was peace, so I kept repeating God’s promise to keep me in peace if I kept my mind fixed on Him (Isaiah 26:3).  The truth of that Word made the lies in my heart flee, little by little. The light of truth chases the darkness of lies away, just as dawn chases the darkness of night away (Proverbs 4:18).

How does God’s Word change your heart? Here is one example of how the Word changes hearts. Whispering SilhouetteIsaiah 26:3 is true. It is a fact that God will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts are fixed on Him. (NLT) But the enemy tries to make us believe things that are not true. He tries to make us believe his lies, just as he did with Adam and Eve. I became and stayed depressed because, although I knew a lot of the Word, the enemy shot lying thought arrows into my heart, thoughts like “I will always feel bad and stay depressed. God cannot heal me. I am too messed up. I have wasted too much time. I have disappointed God, and He is mad at me.” If you hear something often enough, you can start to believe it, even if it is not true.

But because God’s Word is “alive and full of power,” it is active, it operates in our hearts, it energizes our hearts, and it is effective in our hearts. (Hebrews 4:12, AMPC). As soon as I heard even one short statement of truth (for example, God will never fail me in any way), the light that comes from that truth drove away some of the darkness–immediately. As I kept repeating that truth and thinking about it, pondering what exactly it meant, more light came into my mind and then my feelings.

As I searched the Bible for verses about peace, God led me first to Isaiah 26:3 and Hebrews 13:5. I started trying to keep the truths in those verses in my mind, by reading them repeatedly, then by repeating them over and over all day long, day after day, and thinking about them phrase by phrase, thinking about what each phrase meant, what each word in the phrases meant.

Image result for free picture of dawnAs God’s truth increases in your heart, lies and darkness decrease. When we meditate on God’s truth, truth and light start to take up more space in our thoughts than lies, so that truth becomes dominant, or foremost.  That is like changing undrinkable salt water by adding more fresh water until it becomes drinkable. Really, it is more like a desalinization plant because the salt, or lie, is actually removed, not just diluted!

I believe that is one reason God tells us, many times, to think about His Word all day long. As we keep His Word in our mind, hour by hour, day by day, we begin to think about life and situations like God thinks about them because we have more of the truth about life and those situations in our hearts. We start to walk in truth, to live in truth, to think like God and to act in a godly way.

As we keep diligently studying the Word, building up our library of knowledge about life as it really is, as God explains it in His Word, we grow up spiritually and grow stronger, and we fall for Satan’s lies far less often.

A word of encouragement about meditating and memorizing. You do not have to actually memorize the verses, although it will benefit you more to do so. You will find that if you ponder, think about, and puzzle over what each phrase means, you will nearly have it memorized without even trying. If you have an especially  hard time memorizing I urge you to give it your best effort, with prayer, for at least a week, with just one verse. If you really feel you cannot memorize, then do work faithfully to at least develop the habit of meditating on a specific verse or two each day, hour by hour intentionally rolling it over in your mind.

Image result for free picture of workbootsI heard a story about a man who worked as a laborer, with no way to pause and read the Word of God during the long hours he labored with his hands and back. But that man deeply loved God and the Word, so he memorized what he could of one verse each morning and meditated on that all day. The pastor who told the story said that man had a deeper understanding of God’s Word than many of the formally educated pastors and theologians he knew. The point, to me, is:  try the best you can, with all your heart, to study the Word and God will make your efforts succeed. Study Psalm 1 and selah – pause to think about what it says!

Remember the table below “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security” is available as a printable Word document on the Books and More tab at www.wordsofhopeandhealing.com.

“Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1:3, NIV)

Gods Arsenal for Peace and Security

Scripture Reference Key Thought – Memory Cue
Section One  
Isaiah 26:3 1. Peace
Hebrews 13:5 2. never fails
Isaiah 30:15 3. to return
Psalm 91 4. to the secret place.
Section Two
Lamentations 3:25-26 5.  God is good,
Genesis 28:15 6. He is near, so
Psalm 27:14 7. I can wait,
Isaiah 41:10 8. and not fear,
Psalm 94:12-15 9. And keep myself calm!
Section Three
John 16:33 10. I can be of good cheer!
Psalm 18:30-36 11. (because) God is perfect.
Psalm 1 12. I can think about Him all day.
Psalm 107 13. And I can thank Him.
Section Four
II Chronicles 15:2 14.  I will find Him
Philippians 4 15. as I rejoice, and
Psalm 103 16. and praise Him.
2  Chronicles 16:9 17. He longs to strengthen me.
See the “Books and More” page at www.wordsofhopeandhealing.com for a printable Word document of this table.

 

 

 

God Promises His Presence IF. . . – Part One

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Crepe Myrtle Pink BlossomsAwakened by His presence. In the dim light of early morning, before the sun had risen above my line of sight with the buildings east of the window, I sat at my computer, tracing out green and brown intricacies of tree branches. Holy Spirit had woken me up early this morning. Half awake, at 6:30, I was simply aware of His presence, aware of being loved and aware I felt at peace. This early morning gift of a special awareness of His presence has happened several times since last year when depression and fear motivated me to desperately pursue God’s presence. It has happened at other times, too, most often when writing. However, this time, for many days I had been unable to feel His presence at all, much less that blessed intense awareness of His love for me.

Still enveloped in that peace that had covered me like a soft blanket while I was lying in bed,  I watched clusters of fuschia blossoms and seed pods at the ends of slender branches, swaying in the gentle morning wind.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “Only the branches on the edges of the trees catch the breeze, only those that reach out, like an unfurled sail.”

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of SailboatJust beyond the grasp of memory, I saw a motivational poster, an aerial shot of a solitary sailboat, sail hoisted, on a large lake, with something inspiring in large letters across the bottom, something like “If you don’t hoist your sail, you’ll stay stuck” only it was worded positively.

As I rocked in my desk chair, sipping iced coffee, I pondered how that paralleled reaching out to God. Although I am not a sailor, I know that even with the wind blowing hard, until a sail is hoisted, a boat will only drift with the tide and current. I pondered. . . God is always, always with us but until we reach out, we sometimes do not feel His presence.  Was that right?

How this little book grew. This book began a month ago as a short blog post that grew like Boston ivy! When I began writing, I felt close to God most of every day. But through the month, trials added up, and awareness of His presence wobbled. The times when I felt separated came more often until finally, I felt panicky and discouraged three days in a row, unable to feel God’s presence. That entire month I was working on this little book, studying and learning about His presence and His peace.

One blessing from that trial was discovering a spiritual emergency kit for finding the peace of God’s presence. As I reflected, I realized three simple things never fail to restore me to the secret place of the Most High:

  • Thanksgiving and praise,
  • Just talking with God throughout the day, and
  • Meditation on the blessed Word of God.

Details about the emergency kit are in a blog post entitled “My Spiritual Emergency Kit.” The goal of this little book about God’s presence is to bring deeper understanding of God’s presence and how to find and stay in “the shelter of the Most High.” (Psalm 91)

An overview. Listed below are the main points of this discussion. These are only a starting point for your own Bible study on this essential topic.

      1. What do we mean by God’s presence and His face?
      2. God tells us to seek His face.
      3. Basic truths about God’s presence.
      4. God promises His presence if we love and obey Him.
      5. How do we love and obey God?
      6. Why we sometime do not sense His presence.
      7. Hindrances to awareness of God’s presence.
      8. Lies from the enemy about God’s presence
      9. If you do not feel His presence.
      10. Do not give up no matter what or how long!
      11. Take courage!
      12. Wait with confident expectancy!
      13. “My deliverer is coming!’
      1. WHAT DO WE MEAN BY GOD’S PRESENCE AND HIS FACE?

Seeking the face of God means to seek His presence. A common Hebrew translation of “face” is “presence”. ( www.gotquestions.org) In this writing, when I talk about seeking God’s face or His presence, I mean seeking the conscious awareness of His presence. He is always with us, but the topic of this writing is being consciously aware of His presence.   Pastor and teacher John Piper says we do not seek God because he is lost. Rather

“. . . there is always something through which or around which we must go to meet him consciously.” (“What Does it Mean to Seek the LORD?” at www.desiringgod.org)

2. GOD TELLS US TO SEEK HIS FACE.

  • Seeking His face is a vital need.
  • He will help us.
  • Seek Him like David did.

The Bible tells us over and over to seek God’s face.  Psalm 105:4 says “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” (NIV)

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Seeking God“You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as Your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face {Your presence}, Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]. (Psalm 27:8, AMPC.) 

Seeking His face is a vital need. Notice that God says to seek His face, to ask for and insist upon His presence as our vital need, or something without which we cannot survive. Because this is clearly God’s desire, we can ask for help and be confident He will give it. I John 5:14-15 assures us about “the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”  (NIV) The wording of verse 15 in the Amplified Classic is even more reassuring.

And if (since) we [positively] know that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge]  that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him.”

He will help us. If God tells us to doImage result for royalty free clipart of i can do all things something, we can do it because His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), so we can confidently say with Paul “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13, NIV) That “everything” includes being aware of God’s presence. We may “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) We can call upon God for help because Jesus is our great High Priest who has “been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin.” (v. 15).

Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. He understands our difficulties, and that includes the difficulty we have sometimes in doing what God says.

Seek Him like David. Read all 14 verses of Psalm 27 and see how David felt about the presence of God. In the first stanza (v. 1-3), David praises God and expresses gratitude to Him for taking such good care of him. In the second stanza (4-6), he expresses confidence that if he seeks God’s presence, God will keep him safe; and in the third stanza (7-12), David voices deep yearning for God’s presence. Finally, in the fourth stanza (13-14), David says He is confident He will see God’s goodness while he lives on earth, and he encourages himself and the listener to “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” God is everything to David. No wonder David longs to be in the presence of God!

Image result for royalty free picture of david sheperd boyo