Monday, March 31, 2014

Be Strong and Let Your Heart Take Courage

Yesterday it occurred to me that bravery and courage don’t feel very brave or courageous.  In fact, they feel exactly like fear.  And sometimes maybe even like schizophrenia… because on one side there is a compulsion to do something, and the other side of you responds with a resounding, “hell no that will kill me”.
Today in my Bible reading I was in Psalm 31.  It ends with:  Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!  Wait, what?  Take courage?  Like the courage I was thinking about yesterday?  I had to go back and read the whole Psalm again.  And break it down so I could understand how David could say with such confidence and power, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”?
Look at what David says about his own condition below, on the left side: 
enemies have hidden a net for me
my affliction
distress of my soul
my eye is wasted from grief, my soul and body also
my life is spent with sorrow
my years with sighing
my strength fails because of my iniquity
my bones waste away
I have become a reproach to my neighbors because of my adversaries
I am an object of dread to those who see me
I have been forgotten
I have become like a broken vessel
terror on every side
they scheme against me, plotting to take my life
I am in a besieged city
In You, O Lord, I take refuge
let me never be put to shame;
In Your righteousness deliver me!
Incline Your ear to me
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
Be a strong fortress to save me!
For You are my Rock and my Fortress;
for Your name’s sake You lead me and guide me;
You take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for You are my refuge.
into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me O Lord, faithful God.
I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love,
because You have seen my affliction;
You have known the distress of my soul,
and You have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
You have set my feet in a broad place.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
But I trust in You, O Lord,
I say, “You are my God”
My times are in Your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
Make Your face shine on Your servant
Save me in Your steadfast love.
O Lord, let me not be put to shame, for I call upon You,
Let the wicked be put to shame,
Let the lying lips be mute
O how abundant is Your Goodness
which You have stored up for those who fear You
and worked for those who take refuge in You
in the sight of the children of mankind!
In the cover of Your presence You hide them from the plots of men
You store them in Your shelter from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the Lord, for He has wondrously shown His steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city
You heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
when I cried to You for help.
Love the Lord all you His saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful.
Then look at what he says about God and to God, above on the right side.  I notice something huge and obvious here… namely, that David’s look at his own trouble is not nearly as long as his look at God. 

I notice some not so obvious details too.
It is God’s righteousness, not David’s, which delivers him.  v.1 in Your righteousness deliver me!
David asks God to be his Refuge, then recognizes that God already is.  v.2-5 Be a rock of refuge for me… for You are my rock… You have redeemed me.
It is for the sake of God’s own name that He leads and guides David, not David’s.  v.3 for Your name’s sake You lead me.
Affliction does not mean that God has left me or doesn’t love me anymore.  v. 7 You have seen my affliction; You have known the distress of my soul.
When David is most depressed and distressed and alone, and even as he recognizes his own sin, he cries out to God.  v. 9-14 … But I trust in You O God, my times are in Your hand.
God’s hand is stronger than my enemy’s hand.  v. 15 My times are in Your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies…
Even the bad times in my life are in God’s hand.  v. 15 My times are in Your hand;
God stores up abundant goodness, and me, in His shelter.  How cool is that!  v.19-20 … how abundant is your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You… In the cover of Your presence You hide them… You store them in Your shelter…
Through all this, God’s steadfast love is mentioned over and over.  STEADFAST LOVE.  It stands strong.  It doesn’t change or waver.  Even in the midst of bad things. 

Now, go back and read the whole Psalm 31 again, in the order that David wrote it.  Don’t just read it.  Pray it.  Pray it and take heart with David.  Afflicted Believer, take heart.  This was written for you.  Don’t let fear rule over you.

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!


©Rebecca A Givens, 03/31/14

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ephesians 1:1-10 thoughts

I've been memorizing Ephesians 1, and this morning as I reviewed I wrote down my random thoughts.  Perhaps later I will type up my study and teaching notes. 
Ephesians 1:1-10 - Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, just as Paul was an apostle by God’s will, so I am who and what I am by God’s will, to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus, this is written to people who are already Christians, and although they may be struggling, they are remaining faithful in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace comes first, then peace.  God’s grace brings peace with God, not peace with the world.  This is Paul’s prayer for them.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, how in the world can we bless God? I guess like this, in praise of who He is and what He’s done, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, He has blessed me with every spiritual blessing in heaven. Already, not just when I get to Heaven, but now, here on earth, I have every spiritual blessing.  This blows my mind, even as He chose us in Him before that foundation of the world, before He created anything, God had a plan that included choosing me and blessing me, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.  God’s plan included me being holy and blameless before Him. I am far from holy and blameless.  In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, He loves me, and He planned my adoption through Jesus from before time even existed, according to the purpose of His will, He chose me, predestined me, because He wanted to, not because He had to, and He did is for a purpose, to the praise of His glorious grace, yes, so that my life would praise Him, praise His glorious grace, so He could do a glorious work in me, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. And it’s through Christ that I am blessed.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, this all only works because Christ redeemed me on the cross, the forgiveness of our trespasses, God’s plan from the beginning included forgiving my every sin, He knew exactly what He was getting in choosing me, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us, how big is God’s grace?  Huge enough and rich enough to pour on me and my sin in abundance, lavishly even, making me holy and blameless before Him, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, God, in His infinite wisdom, planned and accomplished this, and He reveals it to us, according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, there is a purpose to it all, it’s not random, God is working out a plan that includes all of time, to unite all things in Him, things in Heaven and things on earth. He is uniting me, sinful fallen horrible me, to His Holy Perfect Wonderful Self. 

So, God has a plan and a purpose.  And this hard, painful, even sometimes terrible path I am on in this world, was planned by God from before time began.  Christ’s death on the cross was part of a plan.  He knew what my sin would be, and forgiving me through Jesus Christ, making me stand holy and blameless before Him, was part of His plan.  Blessing me with every spiritual blessing was part of His plan.  All for the praise of His glorious grace.  Wow.  I feel like singing the doxology.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Yet Not Consumed

This morning I was reading in Tabletalk magazine about the Scottish Reformation.  This caught my eye:

“The official symbol of the Church of Scotland is the burning bush inscribed with the words Yet it was not consumed.  The story of the Scottish Reformation… is one of suffering, persecution, and even martyrdom.  But it is also the story of the triumph of the gospel.”

Then there was the story of Jenny Geddes, who flung a stool at the minister in the middle of a church service, because he was reading from the new Scottish prayer book, which turned out to be anti-reformation in nature.  I like Jenny Geddes. 

Lastly I read about George Gillespie, who was asked to pray in the midst of a disagreement/ stalled discussion in the Westminster Assembly of how to answer the question, “What is God.”  This is how his prayer began, “O God, Thou who art a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in Thy being, wisdom, power, holiness, and truth…” and his prayer became the answer to the question.
The Scots are known for being direct and honest and practical.  It doesn’t get much more direct than taking the stool you are sitting on and throwing it at the minister.  It doesn’t get much more practical than addressing God as who He is.  And the burning bush that is not consumed… what an honest appraisal of the pain the Church of Scotland experienced during the Reformation.  Yes they suffered tremendous persecution.  Blood was spilt and many died.  Though the church was put through the fire of persecution, it was not consumed.  God preserved it and it grew.

I was reminded of II Corinthians 4:7-12
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you.

My Scottish roots run deep.  I have always felt a draw to that side of my family.  Reading these stories and thinking through that passage of scripture, it all describes me.  No, I haven’t been persecuted for being a Christian.  But I have suffered in this life.  I have been harassed spiritually.  I have struggled with my own sin nature.  I know that I am broken and powerless, that the only power for good in me must come from God Himself.  And so by His power I am not crushed or despairing or forsaken or destroyed.  Like the Church of Scotland, like the burning bush, I am not consumed by the fires of this world, whatever form they may take.  My story may be one of suffering, but that is not all it is.  It is the story of the triumph of the gospel.

I pray yours may be as well.


©Rebecca A Givens, 03/12/14

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sun Rise

The sun rose behind the trees this morning, as it does every day.  But today it appeared in the middle of the trees – not peeking out between them, but shining so brightly it was blinding.  As I sat reading my Bible it suddenly shown directly in my face through the window.  I felt like a huge spotlight was turned on in my eyes, and I was the only person in the world seeing that sun.  If I had been an inch to either side it would have been obscured by trees, but in that precise spot it was brilliant.

That is the way of life some days.  You are in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, doing the right thing, and a blinding revelation hits you in the face.  A moment that takes your breath away.

I was reminded of the blazing brilliance of the holiness of God, so beautiful you can’t look at it.  I was reminded that His compassion is new every morning.  I was reminded that just as the sun shines all the time, whether I see it or not, God loves me all the time whether I see it or not.  I was reminded of the hope of a new day, the hope of God, the hope of Heaven, the hope that arises out of a sovereign, holy God who loves me, who chose me and saved me and will never leave me.  Whether I see Him or not, He is always there.

And then I read this:
“For in His anger is (but) a moment,
in His favor a life,
in the evening, weeping may come in to pass the night;
but with the morning (there is) a shout of joy.”
Psalm 30, Perowne Commentary on Psalms

And I realized that’s what I saw.  That surprising sunrise so brilliant I couldn’t look at it was God shouting for joy over His creation, over a new day, even over me.

Good Morning!

©Rebecca A Givens, 03/11/14

Monday, March 3, 2014


Mark 8:31-33 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.  And he said this plainly.  And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me Satan!  For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

 Jesus to be taken and killed and rise again.


It’s interesting that what Jesus rebuked Peter for was “not setting his mind on the things of God”.


Peter’s mind was set on fear –

                                Fear of losing Jesus

Not realizing that this “losing” would lead to finding beyond imagination.

                                finding, indwelling, filling.


His fear was pushing away God’s will


                standing before God as son

                peace with God

                eternal life in heaven



His fear made him set his own desires above God’s desires.

His fear was also pride.


Peter knew better than Jesus.  Peter set himself higher than Jesus.


Peter was afraid of God’s plan.  He didn’t like God’s plan.

It was going to hurt; it was going to hurt Peter and hurt Jesus.


Peter loved Jesus.

But Peter acted like Satan.


Jesus loved Peter.  Jesus called Peter.

Jesus rebuked Peter

                for getting in the way

                for trying to lead

                for having Satan’s attitude

                for pride

                for fear

                for setting his mind on the things of men.


But Peter was a man, where else could his mind be?


Peter was a man, but he was called by God, and he was called to set his mind on the things of God.

Not on his own fears

Not on his own ideas

Not even on his own ideas of loving Jesus and serving Him.

But on God’s ideas of how Peter was to love and serve Him.


And maybe, on the rest of the story.  Not the suffering and rejecting and killing,

but on the rising again.


Maybe that would have changed the fear and the pride

                                                into a right love

                                                and a right serve

                                                and a right setting of the mind for Peter.


What am I afraid of?

What do I stand to lose?

What do I protect and hold on to that should be held loosely and left to God?

What is the cost of setting my mind on those things and forgetting the things of God?

Will I hold on to my plan and lose sight of God?

When the suffering captures my mind and my heart, will I forget the rising? 

Will I forget the hope which comes after?



©Rebecca A Givens, 03/03/14