He has never been unkind, or vicious, or mean spirited.
He has never withheld his love.
He has never forgotten me.
He has loved me with an everlasting love.
His right hand has led me, even when I pulled away from him.
When I was faithless, He was faithful.
He was my shield and my guard, even when I didn’t see it.
He has answered countless prayers, in ways I didn’t see or understand, but also in miraculous ways that I did see.
He has taught me how good he is.
He has been my comforter.
He has been my friend.
He has been my teacher and counselor.
He has been my encouragement and my buffeter, my stronghold and safe place.
He has redeemed me from the pit of hell. He not only made me, gifted me with life, but then he bought me back when I was lost in sin. He gave his son, he died a painful disgusting, terrible death, so that his blood would pay for my rebellious and selfish and wicked ways.
And after he bought me back, He called me lovely beloved child of God, co-heirs with his perfect, beautiful son. He gave me an inheritance I didn’t deserve. He called me righteous and chosen.
He picked me up, turned me around, set my feet on a solid ground, Hallelujah!
He gave me hope and a future, his plans prospered me and gave me peace.
He set me in a family where I was taught of him and brought to him, and loved and accepted.
He brought me a husband who is faithful and wonderful and fun and forgiving. He gave me a beautiful home in a peaceful nation where I enjoy freedom and prosperity and the luxury of fellowship with other believers, and the chance to choose my days and my ways.
He gave me three beautiful and intelligent and compassionate children, and the fun of spending every day with them.
He gave me a thousand beautiful people to surround me, and fill my life with conversation and laughter and beauty and support and adventures in music and art and hiking and swimming and bonfires and food and warm affection.
He gave me every beautiful thing on this earth for my enjoyment- mountains and sunsets and rainbows and ballet and puppies and the Caribbean waters and the dark woods of Alaska and the happy tulips in spring. And then he gave me his word- to guide me to what is best, to warn me of what is wrong, to lead me in the way everlasting.
He gives me each new morning, like a little gift, unwrapped, a new chance to find more of Him, and how wonderful He is, and how wonderful it is to walk after him, to search for him and find him like a hidden treasure.
He gave me the heritage of thousand upon thousands of righteous ones, a bright cloud of witnesses, who have already gone before me and danced out lives of faith, full of pain and glory and joy and sorrow, and he gave me the blessing of their testimony- written and spoken and sung, all of us like the blind feeling the elephant, and describing to each other a bit of the Lord that we are experiencing, so that only together we can get a glimpse of the Great, Glorious, wonderful God that He is!
He gave me a future- an eternity of further up and further in, where each day is a new beginning of the bright, great joy it will be to know Him, really know Him, the way He knows us.
And he knows me, He really knows me. He sees to the depth of my heart, and He loves me. He sees where I stumble, where I fall, and he lifts me up, and tenderly nurses my wounds, and he makes all things work for my good, and he goes ahead of me and prepares my way, and he doesn’t scold me over my failures, but overwhelms me with his generous grace. He genuinely cares for me, and wants to see me succeed- to become just as his Son is- fully loved and fully loving. He is not slow to forgive, He is not lax in his provision for me. He is abundant, overflowing, He is good, always.
There is a lot more. But do you know what? He would do the same for you, if you want.
Today we’re reading in John, chapter 5, starting in verse 2.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.
This is the first instance of healing that we see in the gospel of John. Although earlier than this, the author refers to the “signs” that Jesus was performing, which probably includes healing, this is the first time it’s really spelled out for us.
Jesus is in the city of Jerusalem for a holiday, and there’s this pool. Can I tell you the history of this pool? Okay, so there was a legend in this place that this pool, in the city, was occasionally visited by an angel. No one saw the angel, but the angel would dip down, fly over the water, and the water would ripple. Now the legend also said that whoever was the first one in the water when it was rippling from the angel would be healed.
I don’t know about any of this. Modern, scientific people would say, this is hogwash. An old wives’ tale. Who knows. I do know enough to know that there are things on this earth that we can’t explain, and there are real angels, so who knows.
What we do know is that there was a large group of people who were invalids- or disabled, and because of a lack of medical knowledge and options, this was the most viable option they had. To sit by this pool of water and hope that it rippled, and hope they were the first one in it.
Let’s keep reading:
One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”
I wonder what this exchange looked like. Why did Jesus choose this one out of so many? Was he more deserving? Did he have greater faith? I don’t know. All we know is that Jesus noticed this one, and and asked him… “Do you want to be healed?”
What does Jesus see when he looks at you? Where are you camped out, trying to get your fix? Can I be really honest? I’d like to tell you about my own infirmity.
I’ve talked before in these posts about my struggle with my weight. But now I want to be really transparent.
For years, my weight has been my biggest failure. And by weight, what I really mean is that my weight is evidence of my biggest failure- in eating, in discipline, in healthy habits.
For twenty years.
In my whole life, whenever I go to the Lord with anything, I almost always come back to the same old questions and cries- what’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t this change? What’s the answer? How do I fix this? Lord, please, fix this..
And I’ve done so many different things to try to address it, as you can imagine. Diet books and apps, workout plans, gym memberships. I’ll admit I’m not as fanatically desperate as other people, and I’ve had little to no result in change in my body.
But I want to tell you about a recent experience I’ve had. It’s so new to me, but it’s my testimony, and I hope it maybe will give you hope. Just like this man at the pool, I feel that the Lord has touched me and I want to tell you my story.
A few years ago, maybe 4 years ago, I was crying out to the Lord, again, about this. I hate this part of myself- lack of control over my eating habits and the effects it has on my body. I was praying, and crying, and saying to him that out of everything in my life, it was the worst thing- It was like a sign to me that nothing in Christianity really had any effect, if it didn’t have an effect on this thing that was the biggest struggle in me. And as I prayed, I remember that I was thinking of the Leper who came to Jesus, and said, “If you’re willing, Lord, make me clean,” and Jesus said, “I am willing. Be clean.” I was reminding the Lord of that story and saying, Lord, I know if you’re willing, I can be healed. I can be changed. I can be free of my addiction to food an walk in newness and wholeness and not be an overeater all the time.
And at that time, I heard the voice of the Lord say, “What do you want?” And I said, “I want to be healed.” And he said, “You have it. You are healed.”
Look what happens in this story:
Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
And I stood up, that day, my heart light, and was so excited to think… Is it possible? I almost expected to look in the mirror and see a thin person! But I walked away thinking, “Whoa. Am I healed?”
Then for a few days I went around kind of tentatively waiting to see a change in myself. Would I eat differently? Hate fried foods? Would I forget to eat, or suddenly love running?
Days went by and honestly, though I thought I believed what the Lord said, I went right back into my habits. After a few months, I concluded that I heard the Lord wrong.
I went back to my normal routine of overeating punctuated by occasional dieting and crying.
A month ago, I was in church and the subject was “sin and confrontation.” The pastor was talking about sexual sins, and saying, “You are mistaken if you think that one hour of something that displeases the Lord will not affect the other twenty-three hours of your relationship with him.” I’m probably quoting him wrong.
But I looked out the window, and thought to myself, I wonder how much more wonderful my relationship will be once I’m over this habitual sin of overeating!
Instead of feeling condemned, I suddenly just felt excited, thinking about that future day.
The next thing in my head was a thought of a beautiful lady in the church that I know, and the idea that I should have her pray for me.
And then the next thought I had was that no, I wouldn’t. Because how many times have I been vulnerable and hopeful like that, and then been embarrassed in the future when it had done nothing? I immediately could picture a future day, a year or so away, where I was still the same weight and I would run into her and feel foolish for asking her to pray because obviously it had had no good effect.
Anyway, when the service was over, I was playing piano, and worshiping the Lord, and thought again of that day in the future, whether in heaven or on earth, when I would be free of this tangle.
I honestly kept thinking of this: I imagined being set free from heavy chains, them being cut. And I saw them as a pool around my feet. And I imagined my constant overeating as me trying to step out of the chains, and tripping on them and being dragged down by them. As though I wasn’t actually locked into them, but I just couldn’t untangle myself.
And suddenly I knew- that first inspiriation? To humble myself and confess and ask for prayer? That was from the Lord.
And that second thought- of hopelessness and a sad date in the future where nothing good had come- that was from the enemy.
And I got up from the piano and tracked her down.
Friends, I want to tell you. I spoke with her, told her what I was thinking, and asked her to pray. She immediately laid her hand on my shoulder and blessed me. And while she was praying, I heard the voice of the Lord say, “The struggle is over.” And I saw myself stepping out of those chains, FOR GOOD.
Now I want to tell you- I believe that when he told me I was healed, long ago, I was actually healed. He changed the part of my heart that was addicted to food. But I didn’t know how to walk into that, I didn’t know what it meant to walk by faith in his word, and I ended up being caught up again in sins that I was actually free from. The chains around my feet.
But this time, I know. When I stepped free- this is the difference. Before, I went out into my life and said to myself, “I wonder how I will do. I wonder if I am really healed.”
This time, I’m going out into my life with a completely different attitude. This time, I’m going out saying “I know I what I will do. I will live like I’m healed.”
This time, I look at my eating opportunities and go into them not as a passive observer, wondering what will happen- but with confidence, saying “I am going to be free. I’m going to eat healthily, because I have been healed and set free.”
My attitude has changed, and my experience, since then, has been evidence to me that I am changed.
I believe that if I had left that prayer with the attitude, “Well, we’ll see what happens,” I would have been caught right back into it. But faith means that I choose to believe. I choose to walk like I believe.
You know, later in this story of Jesus and the invalid, this happens:
Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”
I can’t stress enough that it was my own sin that got me overweight. Of course there’s all sorts of factors- genetics, environment, emotional habits you learn from your experiences, etc. But I have always been fully aware that it’s my own actions that result in my weight.
So when I read this verse, what Jesus says to the healed man, What I see here is Jesus saying in effect, don’t fall back into your old ways! You have the choice! You can live like you’re healed, and you can go on in wholeness, or you can jump right back into your old life. It’s up to you.
Jesus doesn’t want robots. He gives us a fresh start, he picks us up, sets us on our feet, and says, “Get up. You’re healed.”
But what we do with it is the key. We can take our miracle, and run back to our old ways, and end up worse than we were before. Or we can thank the Lord for our rescue, and then run after him.
It’s our choice.
Where are you at, today? What pool are you sitting beside? What do you want? Stop giving the Lord excuses for why you don’t have it. Instead, look up into the face of the Mercy man, who stops and notices you. What do you want? Ask him for it, and when you hear the voice of the Lord telling you that you have it, believe it. Stand up, walk in it. Praise the Lord for it. And then run from your old ways, so that you don’t get tangled up in your old sins.
If you like this post, you can follow the series! I’m going through the book of John. The lead page is here, or you can subscribe by email. This series is also available as a podcast, just visit briannasiegrist.podbean.com. Bye!
Reading from the Voice translation, I’m still working through this conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well. It’s so rich, there’s so many things that we can learn. Let’s read in John, chapter 4.
In a small Samaritan town known as Sychar, Jesus and His entourage stopped to rest at the historic well that Jacob gave his son Joseph. It was about noon when Jesus found a spot to sit close to the well while the disciples ventured off to find provisions. From His vantage, He watched as a Samaritan woman approached to draw some water. Unexpectedly He spoke to her.
Jesus: Would you draw water, and give Me a drink?
Woman: I cannot believe that You, a Jew, would associate with me, a Samaritan woman; much less ask me to give You a drink.
Jews, you see, have no dealings with Samaritans.
Jesus: You don’t know the gift of God or who is asking you for a drink of this water from Jacob’s well. Because if you did, you would have asked Him for something greater; and He would have given you the living water.
Woman: Sir, You sit by this deep well a thirsty man without a bucket in sight. Where does this living water come from? Are You claiming superiority to our father Jacob who labored long and hard to dig and maintain this well so that he could share clean water with his sons, grandchildren, and cattle?
Jesus: Drink this water, and your thirst is quenched only for a moment. You must return to this well again and again. I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again.
Never be thirsty again. What kind of thirst is He talking about? He’s not talking about a physical thirst, I assume. God doesn’t pretend that our physical needs will ever disappear this side of heaven.
So what kind of thirst?
That aching, longing, lonely feeling inside.
Woman:Please, Sir, give me some of this water, so I’ll never be thirsty and never again have to make the trip to this well.
Jesus: Then bring your husband to Me.
Woman: I do not have a husband.
Jesus: Technically you are telling the truth. But you have had five husbands and are currently living with a man you are not married to.
What was this woman’s thirst? To be loved, to be known. To be cared for and committed to. Do you know that in that day, women could not divorce men, but men could divorce women?
Jesus was not pointing out her sin, he was pointing out her pain.
Where is your pain?
My pain is in my failure. I look in the mirror and see it in my overweight body, I see it in my low bank balance, in my pile of unfolded laundry, in my children who are not olympians or spelling bee champs. I see it in my sluggish ways and in my selfish attitudes. I see so clearly what could be if only… if only I were something better than what I am.
Yet he says I will never thirst again.
“I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again.”
“Why are you thirsty again, Brianna?” I hear the gentle voice of my Lord. “Drink deep from the well.”
What is the truth? He doesn’t require perfection of me. He doesn’t even require success. He offers me water for my thirsty soul. He says, Sit at my feet, while I make your enemies your footstool.
Not enemies like people who are against me.
Real enemies- pain, suffering, failure, sin, death.
He says, My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
He says, Ask and I’ll give the nations to you.
He says, Let me see your deepest longing, let me meet it, and fill it, until it’s running over, spilling out, splashing hope and joy onto everyone you meet.
He says, There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
Woman: Sir, it is obvious to me that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped here on this mountain, but Your people say that Jerusalem is the only place for all to worship. Which is it?
Jesus: Woman, I tell you that neither is so. Believe this: a new day is coming—in fact, it’s already here—when the importance will not be placed on the time and place of worship but on the truthful hearts of worshipers. You worship what you don’t know while we worship what we do know, for God’s salvation is coming through the Jews. The Father is spirit, and He is seeking followers whose worship is sourced in truth and deeply spiritual as well. Regardless of whether you are in Jerusalem or on this mountain, if you do not seek the Father, then you do not worship.
Woman: These mysteries will be made clear by He who is promised, the Anointed One.
Jesus: The Anointed is speaking to you. I am the One you have been looking for.
Jesus. He’s the One I’ve been looking for.
This woman is me- hurting, skeptical, going about her day with deep historical theological wrestlings- and Jesus meets her and says, “I’m the One you’ve been looking for.”
Drink deep from the well.
This is my drink: To remember the truth. To remember the voice of the Lord in the dry and thirsty places of my life. To let the wellspring of life bubble up out of me until I’m full up and saturated and overflowing. To hear the voice of truth and believe it, when the world around me looks dark and depressing and discouraging. This is why I need never be thirsty: The well is in me. The Wellspring of life, the fountain, is in me, is churning and splashing with hope and joy, how can I be thirsty?
Drink deep, O My soul, bless the Lord, my Savior and My God. He is the One I’ve been looking for.
This post is part of an ongoing series going through the book of John in order to find Jesus. Want to come along? Start at the lead page or subscribe by email above!
We are going on in the third chapter of John. If you’re just getting started, you can back up and start at the beginning by clicking here. Or you can jump into the story right here. A man, Nicodemus, has come to Jesus at night to question him.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Here we are still in the middle of the conversation with Nicodemus. We’re talking about being born again. What a strange phrase, but then, it’s become so common it has lost it’s strange-ness in our ears.
Nicodemus wants to know what God is doing, and what Jesus has to do with God, and Jesus answers by saying, “You won’t understand unless you’re born again.”
Then he gives an analogy. We can feel the wind going by, but we can’t understand it. That’s how it is with the Spirit’s ways… Unless.
Unless what? Unless you are born of the Spirit.
Unless you are born of God, you don’t understand God. Unless you’re born of the Spirit, you don’t understand the Spirit. Jesus can’t explain anything of God to someone who isn’t born of God.
Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak of what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.”
Here he’s gently reprimanding Nicodemus, and saying, How can I talk to you of God? This is harsh. Remember, Nicodemus is one of the religious leaders and teachers. He should know of God more than anyone, right?
And then Jesus goes on to refer to Himself in third Person. “We.”
It’s just like God spoke in Genesis. “Let us create man…”
It’s because He’s about to say something about Who He is.
Nicodemus says, “We know you have come from God.”
Jesus is about to say He IS God.
“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe,” He goes on, “How will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”
So he’s saying, no one has ever come from God, except the One who IS God. The Son of Man is a title that Jesus refers to- it’s essentially saying, “God who was born as a man.” And He’s saying it about himself.
What do you think Nicodemus thinks of this? He came and said, “Okay, we know you came from God…” And Jesus answers him by saying, “If you want to understand what I’m about to say, you have to be of the Spirit. And by the way, I’m not from God. I am God.”
But that’s not all, he says even more. He tells Nicodemus the answer to what he came to ask- Why are you here? What’s your purpose?
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
It’s only this beginning of the book of John, but he’s already telling what the ending will be. He’s saying, “I’m God’s Son, and I’m here to rescue all of you through my death.”
This is what it means to be born again: To believe. To come to Jesus, listen to him, and look at him, and recognize that this is the Son of God, who has come to die and take away our sins.
If you do that, you’re born again- and then you can understand more and more of the kingdom of heaven. You can go to Jesus with your questions, and he can answer them.
Do you have to go back inside your mother’s womb? No.
You have to lay down at the feet of Jesus, and say, “I believe you have come from God, because you are God, and you have come to rescue me from my sins.”
And he washes you, not with water, but with blood. And you stand up, free from sin, your old self dead, and your new self born through Him into a new life.
You are born again.
This post is part of an ongoing series moving through the book of John. You can subscribe by email at the link on the side, or you can head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here.
John, Chapter Three. Let’s read out of the New King James Version this time.
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Okay. Hold up. He starts in by saying, listen. You’re from God.
And right away, before he says anything else, Jesus interrupts.
“Unless you’re born again, you can’t see the kingdom of God.”
Did he ask about the kingdom of heaven? Is that what he was asking?
I guess I have to assume that’s what Nicodemus’ deep question was, because that’s what Jesus answered. He just cut right to the point.
Jesus does that with me a lot, too. I guess that’s what I want him to do. When I go to a bible study or prayer meeting or church service, I want to hear truth that meets the questions in my heart- the questions and hurts that I’m actually battling. Far too often I go and hear good advice, or doctrine, or pleasant words or sometimes correcting rebuke- but it is so rarely meeting me at the point I’m actually at.
But Jesus isn’t like that. Jesus looks at us and knows, right away, what our questions and struggles are.
You know, for most of my life I’ve been reading the bible, and reading Christian books, and listening to Christian radio, and most every time I’m listening, I’ve usually got some question or burden on me, and most every time I’m listening- I’m looking for answers. And most of the time, I am the sort of person who keeps pushing until I find the answer.
But I think that lots of times people come to the church, or open their bible to study, and the message doesn’t meet them where they are at, and so they shut the book or turn off the preacher, and sadly, give up.
Are you like this? Do you try to do devotions, but nothing makes sense, and you don’t know how to make it have any application to your life? Do you go to church but the sermons go over your head, or worse, make you feel farther from God?
I have to tell you- unfortunately, this is not unusual. For hundreds, even thousands of years, people have had questions, and they go to the church, and sometimes it helps. For me, it has helped. I’ve found the Answer I’ve been looking for.
But for other people, it doesn’t help. They come in and drift out, or worse, they come in and are chased out, and leave thinking the church, and therefore God, are lies and liars.
Even in Jesus’ day.
Look at Nicodemus. He was a leader in the church, although it wasn’t called the church back then. But it was a leader of God’s people, and he was among those who were supposed to teach the people good things, and lead them to God. And yet, when Jesus came, the Son of God, performing miracles, even though he said “We know you are from God,” implying that the other religious rulers knew it, too, he went to him alone, at night. Secretly. The rest of them didn’t want to go. This is not good! This means that the God’s people didn’t want God! And it also means that they probably were no help to the people.
The reason why people ran to Jesus and followed him and looked for him at night was because Jesus met their heart’s cries. He had the word from God for them, directly, exactly what they were hungry for. The religious rulers obviously weren’t doing that, or people wouldn’t have been so hungry for it.
And do you know what? The religious rulers of the day didn’t like it. They were against Jesus, and in turn, he was against them. He spoke most harshly towards those were supposed to be his biggest leaders. They were religious, but they were not on God’s side. They were no longer doing the work of God’s people- teaching the people good things, and leading them to God.
Some people draw the conclusion that all religion is wrong. I don’t. Jesus himself said he would “build his church.” And God Almighty ordained the priests of the temple. I am not a religious anarchist.
But I do think that too often our religion, our organized and traditional methods of finding the Lord can get stale and rote and stop meeting people where they need to be met.
The solution is clear- we have to meet Jesus ourselves, not just go to the church or Christian books or Christian music or Christian this or that. Whether we are on the outside of the church, or whether we are leaders. We have to not lose touch with him. We have to go, like Nicodemus did.
We have to go, and find him ourselves, and ask him our questions. Or just go, and say anything- and let him answer the questions we don’t ask.
What are you doing tonight? Because you can go and find him. You’ve got things in your heart, I know, that bother you and plague you and stress you out, and he has answers.
This post is part of a continuing series covering the book of John, bit by bit. You can follow by subscribing above, or you can go to the lead page and take it at your own pace.
Before we go any farther, I want you to know that this John, the Baptist, is not the same John that the book is named for. I know, it’s confusing. So many biblical names are hard to pronounce, or similar to other names. But the writer of the book of John is John, one of Jesus’ disciples, or followers. He’s going to come into the story in a little bit, but so far he’s been talking about a different John. The one we call John the Baptist. Let’s keep going, because John the Baptist has a little more to say about Jesus before the story shifts to Jesus himself for the rest of the time.
Starting in verse 29, Chapter 1, in the book of John.
The next day he (John) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
Here John is talking to some of his followers. Back then, there were few books and no internet, and if you had the desire, and the time, and the resources to learn, you would find a person you considered wise, and go to them and ask to learn from them, or be their student. Like an apprentice. The word for this student was disciple. And the word for teacher was Rabbi. There’s a lot more to know about that, but that’s enough for now.
John the Baptist is with his disciples, and he teaches them these things about Christ. And the reason why we know what he taught is because John, the writer of this book, was one of John the Baptist’s disciples. So here he writes what was actually taught to him. John the Baptist taught that Jesus was before him, and ranks before him, and not because Jesus was born first, because he wasn’t. But because Jesus existed from the beginning, which John the Baptist knew because John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit of God.
And here he talks more about this Spirit. How he saw the Spirit descend like dove onto Jesus, and remain on him. And also, how “He who sent me to baptize…” Who was this “He?” God, and probably through the Spirit.
So much here about the Spirit of God, the invisible, mysterious, confusing, beautiful person of the Trinity, who descends like a dove.
And even more- that Jesus will baptize with the Spirit. What does this even mean? How can you wash with the spirit? Or be immersed in the Spirit?
Who is this Spirit?
Let me tell you what I know of Him.
The Spirit of God is the still, small voice that leads you to the Lord. Many people call it their conscience, but it is not only that.
The Spirit of God is a distinct person from you. He has his own voice, His own knowledge, His own will.
Before you are a child of God, the Spirit does interact with you some. He leads you to God. And I have heard of people being protected and encouraged by the Spirit even before they knew who He was.
But once you have turned to Christ, and submitted your heart to Him as Lord of it, the Spirit is so much more. The Bible tells us that one who has been washed from the sins and become a child of God is marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, as a deposit. Every believer has the Holy Spirit. He is her constant companion, and He is the presence of the Lord to her, as well. He reveals the Lord and his will to us, just as he did for John. He told John to baptize- and He told John who the Christ was. He does the same thing for us.
In my own life, my relationship with the Spirit began with long walks in the woods. I remember thinking of bible stories where people heard from God, and asking Him if I could hear him, too. The voice I heard in response was not booming voice from the clouds, but instead, I can only describe it as bubbling up responses to my questions, within my own thoughts, but that answered my thoughts. Sometimes, it would be a Scripture quotation, but other times I heard distinct, first person answers to things I asked of the Lord.
I asked my pastor at that time, if that was normal. If everyone could hear the Lord like this. He answered me very diplomatically, by saying that there must be some, for many love the old hymn, “In the Garden.”
“I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses…
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known. “
Even the end of that hymn suggests the same question I had- Do others hear this voice? It is rarely spoken of. It’s such an intimate, personal thing, this conversation with God. I think we hesitate to speak of it because it seems prideful to suggest that we can personally hear the voice of the Lord. It also seems, from a worldly point of view, crazy. Like some split personality thing or something.
And so over the years I have shut out the voice in doubt or confusion, or I have cultivated it in times of distress and need. Sometimes people have encouraged me in it, and sometimes I have been taught that it is imaginary, or even evil.
For most of my life, I have been quiet about it except among those who I know also embrace it.
But I am writing about it now because the Spirit himself has told me to. In the past, I have been afraid of rejection, especially from other believers that I think will condemn me as a heretic, or as a fool.
But I believe the Spirit wants to speak to His people, and I’m writing to you, now, beloved, to say that He wants you to hear Him. I know now what it sounds like, I know it to be true what it says in John 10, that…
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…”
I am learning it, anyway. I am learning to recognize it, and not shrink away.
Hearing the Voice of the Lord through the Spirit is the single most rewarding, beautiful part of Christianity to me, and I feel actual sorrow for the believers who reject this experience and blessing. I see so many believers who lovingly run to the fountain of salvation, but shy away from this intimate, powerful, actual experiential way of knowing the Lord. I believe that embracing the Spirit of the Lord is the only way to see true abundant life, as Jesus promised, and that by quenching the spirit, by holding your hands up in fear of this strange, mysterious spiritual experience, you deny yourself the inheritance that the Lord has promised you and live as though you had no living God at all, only a written history of what he used to do for other people.
This is strong language, but I have been in so many groups of Christians- and I tell you, it breaks my heart to see people who say they are believers but they miss this most wonderful blessing that comes from believing.
And so I give you my testimony- that I love the voice of the Lord, and I wish for you to know it and be blessed by it, too. And if you have any doubts or hesitations, I ask you to consider this verse, and to take its advice.
“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
I have much love and affection for you as you seek the Lord in this matter, and I know He will be faithful to answer you.
This post is part of a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here
This post and series is now a podcast! You can listen to it instead of reading, or read and listen at the same time! Just click here.
John, chapter 1, starting in verse 4.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not understand it.
This reminds me of another verse, later on. In chapter 3, a man comes to Jesus asking about eternal life. Jesus answers his questions, but says more… he says,
…the light has come into the world and men loved the darkness instead of the light,because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be made known that his deeds have been accomplished in God.”
He also says,
“God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
Jesus came to shine light into dark places, and both fortunately and unfortunately for us, those dark places are within us.
At first this is good news. At first, we see Him as our savior, rescuer, redeemer. He lifts us up and brushes us off and sets us on solid ground.
But after awhile, it’s harder. After awhile, the Word pierces into our hearts and the light exposes things we don’t want exposed. The light shows us things we don’t like about ourselves.
It seems so simple- when the light exposes our sins, we should repent. But it doesn’t feel simple. Often the light hits us and we run away, or duck, or defend our sins. What I, personally, do is complain and whine. I can’t. I tried, I can’t do any better. It’s too hard. I flop on my bed. What’s wrong with me? You’re asking too much. How could I give up this thing? How could I do better? You’re asking too much.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it.
Over, and over again, I hear his gentle voice, calling me to pick up, and come after him. After so many times saying I will reject sin, and so many times failing, what he asks of me is to get up, and come after Him again.
Not, “From now on I’ll do better.” Just, “Right now, I will follow you.”
He doesn’t condemn us for trying and failing. He saves us.
There are times when we feel the reproach of the Lord- do you know when that is? It’s when we don’t even try. When we give up, shut off the voice, quench the Spirit. When we choose to reject conviction and ignore Him.
But as long as we desire to be after Christ- He never condemns us. He only shines his light, gives us life and hope, and saves us.
The darkness doesn’t understand that.
This post is part of a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here
The King of kings stands on the mountain. In one hand, he holds a sword, and in the other, he holds out life. Which do you take?
We all want life. Very rarely does one claim to want death, and when we do want death, we want it quickly, without suffering or pain. But life comes in the way we least expect it. It comes through surrender, it comes through the sword.
The bible says that the Word of the Lord is a sword. It pierces to the deepest parts of us. It shines light on things we’ve tried to hide, things we are embarrassed of. Our deepest shame.
What do we hide, but cancer and decay and rot? Fungus and evil of every kind. It only kills us, weakens us, and terrifies us. Life comes through the light, light comes from the edge of the sword that we fear. Light comes through the Word.
Think again of the man on the mountain. He looks over the kingdoms of men and judges them rightly, with justice and love and mercy for the ones he created. Time passes like a wind, but it does not affect him. You are seated on the grass by his side, safe in the shelter of his shadow. There is no enemy that can reach the point where you are. There is no danger, only peace.
You are as safe and secure as you could be in his presence. Your position of honor is real, more real than the room around you. In this world, our senses dim the reality of our position, but it is still real. The delusion of the physical world distracts us from the real, but it is still there. Close your eyes and you can feel it- the grass by your feet, the wind in his mane. The Lion stands over you, and the Lamb grazes nearby.
There is only one Truth, and that is Him. He is the Beginning and the End, He is all knowledge and wisdom and understanding.
When He speaks, everything is still.
When He looks at you, you are fully known, and fully loved.
He sees to the deepest parts of you, even to the parts you wish you could hide, and He loves you. With one hand he cradles you, and with the other He cleans and heals those inner parts.
The Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost, and you were the lost. Broken and cast aside, you wallowed in filth and agony until He found you, picked you up, and rescued you. Now He calls you to come higher, to look on the cross and climb, to enter the mountain and find the riches of salvation where there is no shame, only glory. Where suffering is a joy and shame is no more. Will you enter? Will you take his hand and look upwards, forgetting what is behind and pressing on towards what is ahead?
The King of kings is on his throne, and in his hand is the reward for your labor. On either side he upholds you, and angels usher you into his presence. Will you come? Will you step into the light, and let all be revealed, and be transformed into the image of his glory, the image of who you were created to be?
Only a little while, and this will all be past. Only a little while, and every eye will see him. The trumpet will sound, the heavens will be swept away, and every knee will bow at his glory. Will you be one of his, found in righteousness and beloved, or will you tremble and shrink at the sound of his voice? The King calls you now, The King bids you come.
Will you come?
I have not lived many years, but I am learning that everything I have done that is not seeking Him is loss. He is the only true joy, He is the light and the Way and the Hope. When I think of Him, I think that I only wish I knew Him more. Every experience I have of the Lord has filled me with peace and perfect love, and I regret that I have not gone after Him more.
When I picture the Lord, I see him standing in a doorway, with light coming from behind so that I can see his outline but not his face. This is the way it is for me now. I recognize him but I want to draw closer, I want more. I want to get up and run to the doorway, run to the light, and look Him full in the face.
I used to hate being a woman. Women are so powerless here on the earth. I know, I’ve heard the pithy sayings, men are the head but we are the neck. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. But in truth, women are second, and we know it. We talk loud about our influence, but we don’t hold the power, we don’t have the authority that men do, at least very rarely. A queen may have it, but even she has to fight for it.
I used to hate being a woman. I saw it as a sign that I was less. Loved less, honored less, given less. Less potential, less opportunity, less… everything. But now I know something I did not know. I know that as a woman, I have the opportunity to know love the way men wish they could. I can look at the Lord and know Him as my bridegroom. I know what it is to be wrapped in his arms and feel safe and secure and protected. I know what it is to be looked at and found lovely, to be prized and cherished. This blessing is far more to me than any position on earth, though I have only recently changed to understand that.
I bless the Lord for making me a woman, so that I might know this, and I only look forward to the day when men can pass to the other side of the veil and experience how wonderful it is.
In knowing the Lord, I find peace and understanding. I understand Him, and I understand myself, and I understand those around me. Not that I fully understand, but each time I meet with Him, I find another measure of it. Another measure of goodness, as far as I am capable of receiving without bursting. One day I may be overfull, and my body will not be able to withstand it, and on that day I’ll reach glory. I think this is the way of the martyrs.
He is peace. He radiates peace, even while he gives judgement and punishes the wicked. But for us, his children, even the heaviest judgement is as sweet as a kiss, as light as a blessing on the head of a child. This is how it is for his children. There is no fear in Him correcting us, only perfect love and joy.
Won’t you come to the Father, won’t you turn your face to see Him? He stands even now at the mountain, with one hand extended, His eyes turned full on you. Won’t you take it?
In order to find Jesus more, I’m starting a new series going through the book of John. This is your invitation! Follow along here.
Once upon a time, I was a bare-foot, scraggly-haired kid in Florida. So much stems from our childhood hurts and dreams that I have to begin there. I have to start by telling you I was born to a 17 year old mother, and my step father was a house painter, and my two round face little brothers were always having dangerous adventures, and I was the kind of child that would get in a fight with the neighbor girl and run home and crawl out of the hot white light of the sun into the shade of a bush, and dream of the future.
I used to dream that when I was sixteen, I would magically evolve into a Barbie-like butterfly, with a ponytail and a pink convertible and a boyfriend who looked like Prince Charming. Schoolwork was easy for me, and the teachers used to praise me, and so as I grew older my dreams were about success and moving to a city and running for president or maybe singing at the Metropolitan Opera. But I always dreamed. In my dreams, I was the perfect version of myself. Blond, tall, beautiful. Always gentle, lovely, kind. Talented and intelligent- no, wise.
But in reality, I hated myself.
I hated my huge teeth, and the gap between them, and when I grew older I hated that they were evidence that my family did not have the money for “cosmetic” braces. I hated my square hips and my wide feet, and eventually the not-flat-at-all belly I had. I hated how my hair got darker as I got older, and I used sun-in and home bleaching kits. I hated my short nails, and how I kept biting them even though I tried and tried to stop.
But even while I hated those things, I kept thinking that they would all fade away, somehow. I’d grow up and overcome them. They were temporary embarrassments, as was our slight poverty. I was acutely aware that I didn’t have brand name clothes or shoes, and I fought and bickered and gossiped to get into the highest clique at school I could. I leveraged my musical talents and art skills and occasional sharp wit to elbow my way into the spotlight whenever I could, and when I was left out, I was mortified.
I wanted so much. I wanted so, so much to just get through to that magical future where everything was better.
I can vividly see myself, at nine years old, sitting in an orange tree, picking fruit after fruit, slicing them in half, and greedily sucking the juice, and throwing it down for a better one, on another branch. Or at my eighth birthday party, for which there is a two hour long VHS record, where I am rushing from place to place, never standing still. Everyone else sits and enjoys cake and games, and I fly from thing to thing, not enjoying any but looking for more. I think of the walks I took on beautiful Florida beaches, and the nights I laid awake in my pretty pink bedroom, and how I barely enjoyed any of it because all the time, my mind was somewhere in the future- at some distant point in my life where I would be… me, but not me. Happy. Fulfilled.
There was a brief time in there when I had a boyfriend. He slowed the world for me. While he was around, I wanted only him, nothing else mattered. To me, he was perfect- he was the hope of all my dreams in person, and all I wanted was for him to look at me and see what I hoped was there. Time was slow then, really like slow motion. I remember walking on a starry night as rain fell, as only it does in Florida, rain falling with clear sky above. I remember looking up and thinking, Finally. Life has become what it is meant to be.
But you can guess, it was only temporary. Of course, teen romance usually fades away, and mine did, and left me worse than before. As the years went by, there were other things that seemed like they were about to get me where I wanted- awards, school programs, a new job, a move to a new town, a new man on the horizon, or a new diet. Each time I thought that maybe this would be the magic thing that would launch me into that future that I wanted. But time after time, the plan would fail and I would be right back where I started.
What was it that I wanted so much? I wanted to be rich and beloved and perfect. I wanted praise and adoration and glory. I wanted safety and acceptance. I wanted something I couldn’t put into words.
I grew up in the church. Several different churches, but always in church. Because I was quick to learn and competitive, I absorbed a lot in those early years. Memory verses, hymns, bible stories and stories of missionaries. Church was another place to succeed for me, and for a while it was my favorite place to succeed. The game was so easy at church. Dress pretty. Bring your bible. Don’t drink, swear, chew, or party with those that do. I didn’t understand other girls who flirted with the normal teen fun- sex and drugs and rock and roll seemed like silly things that would get in the way with achieving perfection. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been the type who loves fun, and I can still turn my music up and dance as loud as any teenager. But at the time, it was only sanctified music. Only at the correct time for dancing. And it was never, ever, EVER sexy dance. I was a good Christian girl.
But a series of events happened to me in those years. The first thing that happened was that for my birthday, my mother sent me and a friend to a Christian concert, and I bought the cassette tape of their album. It was my only cassette, and I played side A and side B over and over for weeks. One night, as I lay in my bed, looking at the orange light on my ceiling from the street light, I listened, really listened to the words. The man sang, “I was saved by the Mercy Man. He touched my heart, he helped me understand that there was shelter and unfailing love, if I’d just take the hand, the hand of the Mercy Man…”
And as I lay there in the dark, I suddenly knew that I did not know this Mercy Man. I knew God, yes, I knew that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. I knew that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, I knew that God is love, and he who loveth not knoweth not God. I knew God is able, God is great, God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I knew God is the invisible, immortal, the only wise King. I knew of God…. But I did not know this Mercy Man.
At least, not like the singer knew him. Who was he? Was He Jesus? How was that different from God? And how could you know him, and not just know of him?
I don’t know that I was not saved, I mean, there are all sorts of doctrines about when the moment of salvation is, but I had had times, many times in my childhood where I was convicted of my sin and asked to be clean. Where I admitted I believed that Jesus was the Son of God, who died for me. So I do not think that it was a salvation problem in me.
It’s just that I knew, at that moment, that there was more. I saw very clearly that there was a potential for knowing, really knowing, like a friend, this Mercy Man. The God of the Universe was more than an entity- he was capable of being a friend to me. It was new.
My life didn’t change, instantly, in that moment. But my ears were suddenly tuned to a new idea. When I went to church, I was more interested in this strange idea that maybe, just maybe, there was more to Christianity than being good and walking straight.
As I grew older, I still wanted so much that ideal, perfect thing I was trying to achieve. I bought planners and listed my plans. I would go to to college- Harvard, no, Julliard. I would win awards and earn doctorates and do amazing things in the world. I still tried very, very hard to be good and keep all my ducks in a row. But more and more my dreams and plans started to involve things of the church- I briefly dreamed of missions, maybe being a medical doctor and starting a clinic in a third world country. I looked at Christian colleges and Bible schools. I stopped listening to classical music and Joni Mitchell, and spent my nights with Dr. David Jeremiah and whoever else was preaching on the Baptist radio station. My mindset began to shift with the new idea that God was real, and really relevant- and the result was that this “great thing” I wanted to do in the future stopped revolving around the world’s idea of success, and started revolving around what the church’s idea of success was.
In reality, not much had changed in my heart. I was still seeking the same thing. I was still striving for a future where I had what I wanted. What changed was that the means to get it had shifted. I had really begun to believe that God was real, and so my striving to succeed shifted from succeeding in the world to succeeding in God. I still was off base, but I was getting closer.
I was stumbling into something good, and it was completely His plan.
Because He knew me.
Before I was born, He knew me. In the Psalms it says I was knit together in my mother’s womb. Every day I would live, He had written in his book, before one of them came to be. He knew me. He saw me, dirty faced, fighting at the bus stop. He saw me, frightened of a wolf in the dark of night. He saw me blooming under the praise of an adult, and cut down by the words of friends.
He saw my beauty when there was dirt and warts and ugly hatred. He looked down at the gifts he had put in me, and rescued them from the plans of the enemy. He loved me when I was unloveable, and He had a plan.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with feeling like a failure. Ever since I grew up, and didn’t become president, or wear a size six, or sing at Carnegie Hall, I have kicked myself and hated myself. When I young, there was potential. If I had not succeeded, it was only for lack of time. Or being discovered, or opportunity. There was always the future me. She would succeed.
But when you’re an adult, the future is hazy. There is only now, and danger ahead. There is only 35 year old me, who has not been on the Times Best-Seller List, or managed to grow her nails out, or called her grandma in a month, or weeded the flower bed. Failure is a constant companion. It is everywhere. It’s in the unscrubbed shower and the small savings account. It’s on facebook, as my childhood friends build a beautiful new home or travel the world or promote their beachbodies. It’s closer than my breath.
And I always wanted so much more.
There have been times when I’ve accused the Lord. I’ve said, “Look. I went your way, and look what a mess I am. If I had gone my way, I would have a degree. I would have money. I would have succeeded in something. In your way, I have failed! Or you’ve failed me. You’ve brought me in a way that I’m not capable of succeeding in. You exposed my faults instead of highlighting my gifts. What was the point of going your way?”
I’ve thought, journaled, and even said these things out loud.
What is the point, really? What is the point of going the Lord’s way? What benefit does it even do? What if there is a Mercy Man, who can be known… Why know him?
This is what I write to you. I write to tell you what I know- that there is shelter and unfailing love. I write to tell you that I have come to the other side, and I know failure, and I know peace.
I write to tell you, lovely one, beloved and chosen of God, that there is hope. There is a future where you do not have strive or hide- where you are complete, just as you are.
I have metamorphosized (is that a word?)- not into a Barbie-perfect woman, but into a woman at rest. There is peace in my soul. There is no longer a fighting, wild-eyed desperate child looking to escape her life, but a calm, sure sense in me that I am right where I am meant to be.
I write this to you, desperate, craving friend. I write this that you may see a glimpse of what true life looks like. That the voice of accuser may be silent in your head for a moment, and you may see what you are meant to be- see who you already are in Christ. Beloved, safe, blessed and righteous.
I write to tell you that there is a Mercy Man, and He can be known, and that it is the most perfect, wonderful thing in all of life.
When I was younger, I liked the book of Psalms a lot. At least, I said I liked it. I mean, to my music-and-ballet loving heart, it had some of the best verses of the bible!
Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! Psalm 149:3
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Psalm 150:4
Yeah, I played flute, too. I wrote those verses in the back of my sticker-filled bible and on the front of my notebook next to my Ichthus fish doodle.
I liked to try to write music, so periodically I would flip through the book and try to put some of them to song… Like,
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens. Psalms 8:1
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
I felt like they were always so happy. Praise, praise, praise. Yay, yay, yay! They were nice to read if I felt really happy.
But I then I would stumble on something like this:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Psalm 32
And… suddenly I had NO idea what David was up to. So I’d scurry back to the New Testament.
I was taught that the Psalms were actually prayers, mostly by king David. But for a long time, they were mostly incomprehensible to me. Oh, sure, there were times that i was in the pit of despair, and I could flip open to a random psalm and it echoed my sobs.
I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
those who attack me with lies.
(I don’t know who would identify with this more than a kid in high school.)
But as a whole, I was mystified. I read them with the detatched curiosity that you might have if you leafed through your great-great-great grandfather’s daily journal. It was interesting… but I didn’t know any of these people, or understand why he used some of these weird metaphors about sheep or rams or miry bogs.
And then I had a breakthrough. It happened while reading Psalm 1.
Here’s the beginning of it:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
As I was reading, I suddenly had a thought: Who is the counsel of the wicked in my life? And the thought was instantly answered… Teen magazines.
(Don’t be judgy. I was a teen girl, okay?)
But seriously, I got out my notebook and re-wrote that first line in my own words: “Blessed is the girl who doesn’t live by the advice from teen magazines.”
And then I looked at the next line:
Nor stands in the way of sinners.
Conviction came to my heart again, and I remembered just the previous afternoon. I wrote again.
“or stand in the school halls and gossip.”
or sit in the seat of scoffers.
“Or hangs out at parties, doing drugs and other bad things… But her delight is in the Word of the Lord, and she thinks about it all day long.”
I remember just that much, just those few little lines, suddenly were more illuminating to my life than anything I had read in the bible. I walked around for hours, feeling like… well, feeling like I had pushed the ON button, and my bible was lit up!
I was so excited!
I got a notebook, and started going through the psalms, one psalm at a time, taking each verse and writing out a parallel for my own life. When David talked about other kings, I wrote about other teens. When he cried about battles, I cried about my moms’ divorce. I began to understand so much more what David was feeling and saying…
But more than that happened.
You see, I began to discover the key to the psalms.
It wasn’t that David cathartic-ally wrote out his emotions and “vented.” The key to the psalms is that in almost every instance, David came to the place where he had laid his troubles down, and taken up Trust in the Lord.
When he says
O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God… (psalm 3)
he then chooses to say,
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
Usually, it was about choice.
As David wrote, “Why so downcast, oh my Soul? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him…”
I had to say to myself, “Why are you so upset, Brianna? You can trust the Lord. So trust him! And show you trust him by praising him!”
And the more I did it, the more I began to understand, really understand, the heart of David, the heart of the Psalms… and the act of prayer.
That it was about being real, really real, with what was going on in your heart… and then choosing to trust the Lord.
It turned out almost… magic for me. Every time I would start the exercise of writing out a psalm, it seemed to bring out instantly the issue that was most causing my heart turmoil. And as I faithfully wrestled with how to apply each verse of the psalm to my heart, I would find that by the end of each one, I had a key to calming my fears.
So! Do the Psalms feel mind-boggling to you? If they do, I encourage you to try this!
Get paper and a pen, and your bible.
Open Psalm 1. Or Psalm 23. Either are a great way to start.
Ask the Lord for insight!
Take one verse at a time, and re-write it in a way that applies to your life. For instance, if you’re lonely, why not write, “The Lord is my best friend, I shall not be alone?” Or if you’re an athlete, “The Lord is my coach…” Or if you play violin, “The Lord is my conductor?”
It’s okay to wrestle with it. It’s okay to be frustrated and confused and sad. It’s okay to cry and even be angry. The beauty of prayer is that the more you bare your heart to the Lord, the more he heals the hurting.
But I encourage you to go through to the end of the psalm. Find the conclusion to the prayer. And when you find it, choose it.
Choose to trust, choose to praise.
I hope this blesses you as much as it blesses me! Praise the Lord for every new little bit of Him that he gives us!