1 TIMOTHY 3:16-17

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us...God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

PSALMS - Hallelujah!

It's always interesting to me where I land in my "Bible Pick 'Ems."

This week is a great pick!

We have landed in Psalm 111:

"Praise the LORD!
I will thank the LORD with all my heart
as I meet with his godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the LORD!
All who delight in him should ponder them.
Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.
His righteousness never fails.
He causes us to remember his wonderful works.
How gracious and merciful is our LORD!
…All he does is just and good,
and all his commands are trustworthy.
They are forever true,
to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.
He has paid a full ransom for his people.
He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever.
What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!
Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true wisdom.
All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.
Praise him forever!" (Psalm 111:1-4, 7-10)

A little background. Psalms 111-118 are called *hallelujah psalms.* The word hallelujah literally means "praise the LORD" – and it is an expression of great joy. Don't you think that perfectly reflects the uplifting and optimistic tone of these heartfelt songs?!

Psalm 111 is like an ode to our wonderful God, the Almighty LORD, the One that we all worship. It is an affirmation that all that God does is good. It contends that reverence for God is the beginning of wisdom.

It is a beautiful outpouring of love.

And the Bible does not record who wrote it.

There are a total of 50 anonymous psalms, and there is widespread speculation on who the authors might be – including Ezra and Hezekiah. But for some reason, God has chosen to keep these authors anonymous.

And so, I enjoyed reading this psalm as if I wrote it.

These eight verses contain meaty truth!

Here's what came to my mind:

Verse 1 – We should practice being grateful, really and truly grateful, with our whole hearts. And a great place to be thankful is in the community of believers("as I meet with his godly people")

Verse 2 – We must cultivate and nurture our sense of awe at what God does. He is amazing. We should delight in Him, and ponder(one of my favorite pastimes) – really think on, meditate on, contemplate His mighty deeds. (Definition of ponder: To reflect or consider with thoroughness and care)

Verse 3 – Everything He does reveals His glory and majesty. That includes the *bad stuff* of life – the difficulties, the struggles, the suffering – ALL things are good. HIS righteousness is perfect. (In Greek the word for "righteousness" is dikaiosune, which literally means equity of character. Equity of character is to possess all good qualities in perfection and perfect balance)

Verse 4 – It is the work of the Holy Spirit within us that continues to make us aware of God. HE causes us to remember. What a reflection of God's grace and mercy! He does not ask us to do what His Spirit will not enable us to do.

Verse 7 – God is both just and good. (I thought this definition of God's justice was really good – that perfection of his nature whereby he is infinitely righteous in himself and in all he does, the righteousness of the divine nature exercised in his moral government. Justice is not an optional product of his will, but an unchangeable principle of his very nature)

And because God is perfectly good, and perfectly just, then all of His commandments are trustworthy eminently worthy of trust. We can depend on them.

Verse 8 – God's words are eternal. His Truth stands forever. Our part in it? To obey faithfully (adhering firmly and devotedly) and with integrity (adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty). Faithful integrity reflects the God we serve. It is a necessary character trait that all of God's children (as representatives and ambassadors) should have.

Verse 9 – The ransom here pictures the rescue by God of the Israelites. Ransom means "to free from captivity by paying a price." Of course, we know that the ultimate ransom was paid by Jesus on the cross, forever freeing us from sin. His ransom was indeed FULL – once and for all.

God's covenant – the new covenant sealed by the blood of Christ – is guaranteed. The Holy Spirit is the seal on our souls. And this contract cannot be changed, for it is based on the immutable promises of God.

Yes, what a holy and awe-inspiring name He has!!

Verse 10 – The only way to become truly wise is to fear God. I loved this definition:

the fear of the Lord: an inward attitude of humble reverence toward God, in light of His self-revelation, that results in outward expression of Christlikeness

"According to this definition, the fear of the Lord involves two parts. The first is the inward attitude. This attitude is humble because as the Lord reveals His character, His majesty, His power and holiness, we are humbled before Him. We realize that God alone is worthy of our devotion and reverence. The second part is the outward obedience, which flows from this inward humility. God reveals Himself to us so we will obey Him. The two parts are linked." (Find the link to the whole article here):

The more we know Him, the more we love Him. The more we love Him, the more we obey Him. The more we obey Him, the more we become like Him. And that is the beginning of true wisdom – the secret to life.

No wonder the author of Psalm 111 ended with his resounding coda!

So do I!


A big amen to that.

Won't you join me today in celebrating this psalm, and thanking God for all He is and all He's done?!

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

JONAH - Whale of a Story

OK, so I have to start with a small admission – (confession?)

I’ve *cheated* a little on my "Bible Pick 'Ems" this week. I've *hedged my bets* so to speak.

But I've got a good reason.

There are so many great verses in the Bible, so many wonderful people. And God has much to say through the stories of their lives. But, especially when it comes to those pesky minor prophets, it would be *divine luck* indeed if I "happened to land" in their chapters.

And I just don't want to miss out!

So, I sorta fudged – I picked a book, and then I "randomly" opened my Bible.

So, with my *fessin' up* over with, let's get on with the lesson.

We're in Jonah – and I like Jonah.

Jonah is like me.

Stubborn, willful, ornery (yes, I have that capability within me). Fearful, mistrustful, doubting (definitely have that within me!) And yet, in the end – lesson learned trusting and obedient (with God's help, that is also me).

We're all quite familiar with the story of Jonah, aren't we?

The small, four-chapters-long book of Jonah is packed with great stuff.

But, today I'm pondering these verses:

"I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head. I sank down to the very roots of the mountains…But you, O LORD my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you…" (Jonah 2:3-7)

Have you ever thought you were going to drown?

When I was younger – (oh, so much younger) – I used to go bodysurfing. I can remember *wiping out* all the time. It was really scary being tossed and turned, chewed and churned, by the mighty waves. The ocean can be a washing machine, for sure.

I remember being frightened, but I don't think I ever thought I was going to drown.

But, there was this other time.

I was on vacation with my parents, my sister, and my brother. We rented a cabin on Bass Lake in Northern California. And we went water-skiing…all the time.

My dad liked to get us up really early in the morning to go out – before all the other people got up – before the water got all choppy.

It was glorious water-skiing on that glassy expanse of clear water.

I remember this one morning, this one very cold morning, and I had just finished my "run."I was freezing. I had myself all bundled up in my jacket and like, two or more towels. I was wrapped like a mummy.

My brother was skiing, and my sister was keeping watch. Dad was steering the boat. Well, my brother got all "fancy" and fell trying to execute some crazy maneuver. My sister cried out to my dad to turn around, and as he leaned on the steering wheel to make a very sharp U-turn, the plastic steering wheel broke.

The boat went crazy.

And I, wrapped up like King Tut, slid erratically to one side of the boat, and then rapidly to the other. My sister tried to grab me, but I slipped out of her hand.

And so, I plunged over the side of the boat.

I was terrified!

The waters were seething around me – I was pretty sure that the outboard motor was going to shred me to bits and if that didn't kill me, then my swaddling layers would.

Somehow, (and I think it was God), those towels loosened, and I was finally able to claw my way back to the surface very nearly at the end of my breath.

I gasped, I choked – I floated there numb.

Finally, the boat made its way back to me, I was dragged on board, and that's when I freaked out. I hyperventilated, I sobbed uncontrollably. I had a total panic attack. The shivering was no longer just because of the cold.

But, I lived.

I can only imagine the horror that Jonah felt as he was sinking, entangled in seaweed, running out of breath. I'm thinking that that "random" hungry fish was a very good sight to behold! (I love how the Bible puts it: "Now the LORD had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah" – 1:17)

Here's where my lesson is for today.

Jonah said, "AS MY LIFE WAS SLIPPING AWAY, I remembered the LORD."

This sounds like me.

Why do I so often wait until the last minute to call on God?

Why do I have to be on the edge of panic before I turn to Him?

Why must I be drowning in confusion, or fear, or doubt, or any other emotion, before I finally "remember" the Lord?

Why do I wait?

I don't always, but so very often (too often) I do.

The Lord was there for Jonah, and He's always been there for me, too. I have to think, though, that many times when I finally cry out to HimHis first thought is probably this:

"What took you so long?"

I'm learning to make God my FIRST *go-to* – the One place that I immediately turn to in my times of trial and struggle. I'm practicing making my *earnest prayer* go out to God before I start to drown. I'm asking Him to save me before I start to sink.

He will.

"For my salvation comes from the LORD alone." (Jonah 2:10)

God's mercy is even deeper than those waters that threaten to overtake me. He is stronger than those fearsome waves.

He longs to rescue me, even before I need it.

So, I'm going to practice trusting and obeying in the beginning, turning to Him before I'm overwhelmed leaning on His faithfulness, relying on His ability to keep me from drowning in this life of woe sending my prayers out FIRST THING…

…so He doesn't have to *fish me out* after the fact!

Do you turn to God in the beginning of your troubles, or does He sometimes have to "send a fish"?

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

DANIEL - Reputation On the Line


It's an important thing.

The dictionary defines the word this way:


1. (a): overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general
(b): recognition by other people of some characteristic or ability

2. a place in public esteem or regard; good name

Have you ever been in a position where people spread rumors about you?

Have you ever had your reputation doubted, attacked, soiled?

A long time ago, I did something that was out of character for me, and it affected my reputation.

I was a senior in high school(I told you it was a long time ago!) At the time, I was considering a career as a teacher. So, my good friend and I enrolled in a Teacher Observation class. Once a week, we were allowed to leave campus to visit a local elementary classroom.

It was a pretty big deal – for one thing, my high school was a closed campus. That meant that we weren't allowed to leave school grounds until our day was done. No open lunchno venturing off campus if you happened to have a gap in your schedule.

So, this was a real privilege to be able to leave for a class.

However, after a couple of months, my friend convinced me that we could just tell our teachers that we had an "assembly" at school, and we wouldn't be coming to the classroom that day. Then, we'd go eat and have some fun.

After awhile, my mentor teacher caught on (I suppose he questioned two or three assemblies a month, always on the same day of the week)and he reported us.


Our supervisor called us into her office and read us the riot act.

The worst thing was all the accusations she threw at me about my character. You see, I was a VERY. GOOD. GIRL. A solid citizen, an honor student, a pretty compliant and rule-following person.

And she accused me, among other things, of being a slacker, a cheater, a liar.

It hurt.

I flashed back on this incident when I read today's "Bible Pick 'Ems." It's found in the book of Daniel.

First, a little background information.

It is the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede – (the son of Ahasuerus) – who had become the king of the Babylonian Empire. During this first year, Daniel learned that Jerusalem must lie desolate for 70 years.

I love how Daniel says it, in his very own words:

"…I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the LORD, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting…I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed…"

You know, you gotta love Daniel.

Here he is, trapped in exile, and yet he is faithful to his God, and to the reading of His Word. And, not only does he read the Word, he is responsive and obedient to it – he does NOT stop at reading – he acts in faith.

His prayer is beautiful.

But it's this particular passage that has me pondering:

"'Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary. O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair. See how your city – the city that bears your name – lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy. O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for your people and your city bear your name.'"
(Daniel 9:17-19)

And here's what I'm pondering.

It's the way that Daniel prays. He prays for himself and his people, yes. But it's not what he prays for that is interesting to me – it's how he prays for it.

He calls on God's reputation.

Do you see it?!

Phrases –

For YOUR own sake, Lord, smile again…

See how YOUR city – the city that bears YOUR name…

We make this plea…because of YOUR mercy…

For YOUR own sake, do not delay…

For YOUR people and YOUR city bear YOUR name…

I've read passages like this before in the Bible. Where someone calls upon God's own reputation to move Him to act. I've often wondered about this.

Is it manipulative?

Is it self-serving?

Is it wrong?

It doesn't seem to be. At least if it's done from the proper heart-position. So, what am I missing?

I try to think of a human corollary. For instance, let's say hypothetically my son says something to me like this:

"Hey Mom, you might not want to wear your sweatpants outfit to pick me up, for your own sake."

Is he thinking about me? Or about HIS reputation – and the possible embarrassment from a sweatpants-wearing mom? Or is it somehow a combination of both?

I'm not sure I have the answers on this one, but I'm pondering.

God seems to welcome these kinds of prayers. Sometimes He even honors them.


I think it's that heart-position thing.

Daniel started his prayer with confession and repentance. He started with a humble heart, and a spirit willing to be obedient. He called on God's reputation, because he held God in such HIGH esteem. He KNEW God – and He didn't want God's reputation to be soiled because of His faulty and flawed people.

That makes sense to me.

Maybe if I begin to align my heart more truly with the God that I so highly admire and esteem – the LORD who inspires awe and reverent fear in me – then I can also ask for answered prayers for the sake of HIS honor – (of course, always yielding to His Sovereign will).

Lord, we bear Your name. Sometimes we don't wear it very well. But, in spite of all our failings, make us better ambassadors for Christ.

And for the sake of YOUR reputation, please show us mercy.

"I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, FOR MY OWN SAKE, and remembers your sins no more." (Isaiah 43:25, NIV)

What do you think about this? What does it mean to call on God's reputation in prayer?

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, January 8, 2012

JEREMIAH - The Noisemaker

"Bible Pick 'Ems" is a curious animal.

Sometimes, the place where God puts me in His Word is a *poser*. I have to ponder and pray and wrestle for a lesson out of it.

Sometimes the lesson just jumps out at me.

Today would be one of the "leaping lessons"!

I'm always conscious of context when I do "Bible Pick 'Ems." I don't have any desire to "re-mold" or "reduce" Scripture to *Sharon-size.* There is a world of difference between "The Word According to Sharon – with some support from the Bible" and "The Word of God According to God!"

I want to hear from God.

But, because His Word is alive, I believe that He SPEAKS through it all the time. And therefore, words from the past are intimately and appropriately relative to my day, my mood, my heart, my need.

This is one of those passages.

It's from Jeremiah, one of the great prophets of God, and it speaks to a very particular time in history. So, I'm going to start with the background information the framework, if you will.

Jeremiah 46 contains messages given to the prophet Jeremiah from the LORD concerning foreign nations. They were given in the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, the king of Judah, on the occasion of the battle of Carchemish.

At the battle of Carchemish in 605 BC, Babylon and Egypt, the two major powers after Assyria's fall, clashed. The Babylonians, led by King Nebuchadnezzar, entered Carchemish by surprise and defeated the Egyptians, who were led by Pharaoh Neco.

This battle, which passed the torch of world leadership to Babylon, was Nebuchadnezzar's first victory, and established him in power as the new king.

These words are from God's message about King Nebuchadnezzar's plans to attack Egypt:

"There they will exclaim, 'Pharaoh king of Egypt is only a loud noise; he has missed his opportunity.'" (Jeremiah 46:17, NIV)

The Egyptian pharaoh "missed his opportunity" because though he had come to help Jerusalem, he beat a hasty retreat when the Babylonians turned on him.

So, that's the historical background to these hearty words of judgment on Egypt.

But, they resonated deep in my heart because of when I read them, and what they spoke to me at that moment.

I've hinted around on my blog that the last month has been pretty stress-filled. In fact, last year had some challenges that I've never faced before – certainly not *onethingafteranotherafteranother* like they were. This last week was no exception. I am faced with some daunting decisions in 2012 – some situations that require wisdom and discernmentother situations that sorely test my "worry genes."

Last week, it all sorta got to me...

And when I'm overtired, and overwhelmed, I end up listening to the words in my head.

The words in my head are not usually good friends.

I mentioned in a recent post that I think there’s a committee in there. I've given them names. There's Nervous Nellie, the one who begins every sentence with "What if…" – closely followed by the very worst-case scenario. There's Belittling Bill, who always makes me feel like a loser. And his first cousin, Guilty Gail.

Give-Up Gus is a favorite. So is Irritable Irene and her twin sister, Cranky Carolyn. And oh, who could forget Doubting Thomas (c'mon, it was too easy…), who usually leads me down some trail that begins with this thought – "Can you really trust God???"

(DISCLAIMER: If any of my readers have these actual first names, it's a total coincidence!!)

Yup, I listen.

There are other voices, but these are the ones speak the most, and the loudest.

But, you see, the danger is this – I'm usually so busy listening to these blabbermouths, that I forget all about the guy who's running their show.


The enemy.

It's like one of those shadow government situations. You know what I mean. You see a country's leaders – but then there's the REAL leaders. The ones with all the REAL power. The master puppeteers who are pulling the strings.

That's how the enemy works.

He's the real voice behind the others. They are merely the mouths he animates with his words of poison. (Talk about Demon possession…)

So, when I read this one verse last week, it almost shouted its way into my mind. (I think it had to – the other voices were quite noisy). Yes, sometimes God speaks in the still, small whisper – but other times I need the whirlwind.

And instantly, I was greatly fortified by His Words.

They felt like a victorious battle cry. A banner I could stand under. A rallying shout to bring me back to my feet, and charge forward.

Yes, O enemy of mine – You are only a loud noise – You are nothing BUT a loud noise.

And you have missed your opportunity.

Way back at the beginning of my life, you lost my soul to the One who saved me. And though you try, you will ultimately lose every opportunity to defeat me.


God spoke, I heard, and I stopped listening to the committee. The Holy Spirit quieted their shadow leader.

I claimed these words for my own victory in the Lord (taken from the end of Jeremiah 46):

But do not be afraid, Sharon, my servant.
Do not be dismayed, Sharon.
For I will…return [you] to a life of peace and quiet, and no one will terrorize [you].
Do not be afraid, Sharon, my servant, for I am with you.


God gets the last word.

The noisemaker is silenced.

And I am stilled.

What words does God say to you to silence the "loud noise" of our enemy?

Linked today with Peggy at SOAKING ON SONDAY!

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, January 1, 2012

LUKE - Happy New Year!

A new year.

I can hardly believe that it's already 2012.

Remember when everyone was freaked out that the world was going to stop when it turned midnight on December 31, 1999? A new year, a new century, a new millennium was looming. All the computers would blow up, there would be massive black-outs, a technological Armageddon was supposed to occur.

Well, it didn't.

And now it is TWELVE years later.

Sometimes I feel like a modern-day Rip Van Winkle. Did I sleep away the last 20 years? That must be it – there is no other explanation for the fact that I am closing in on 60 years old(thank goodness for smaller fonts!)

So, as I write these words, I am ending another year in my life. I am reflective. I ponder the last months. I think about the many things that have happened. There has been some wonderful stuff, for sure. But overall, it's been a year of challenge.

Truthfully? I'm entering 2012 a bit frayed around the edges – a little down, a little anxious, a little weary.

I hope I make it to midnight – so I can stick my head out the front door and mumble, "Happy New Year!" (Will "The Hub" make it so I can at least kiss him?? To be determined…)

So, I have done today's "Bible Pick 'Ems" with a desperate need for a word from the Lord. A timely word, an apropos word, a word that speaks to my need. A word that ushers in a new year with hope.

God does not disappoint.

Here are His words:

"And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened…how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." (Luke 11:9-10, 13)


I ask myself my year-end questions in view of this passage.

What am I asking for?

What am I seeking?

What doors am I knocking on?

It's difficult sometimes to get this straight in my mind. It's harder to get it straight in my heart.

Because there were many things I asked for in 2011 that did NOT happen. Many questions that I was seeking answers for, that were NOT found. Quite a few doors that I knocked on that were NOT opened.

So, what do I do with that?

I will not question the Word of God – especially when the words are written in RED! Jesus speaks – I will listen!

Therefore, I must question my questions, I think.

It's all a matter of perspective.

Am I not receiving things that I ask for because I'm asking for the wrong things? Or am I asking for them in the wrong way?

Are my questions not being answered because I want a certain answer? In a certain way? At a certain time? (Read: my answer, my way, my time)

Are the doors I'm knocking on not being opened because they are doors of my own choosing? Am I leaning on my own understanding for direction and guidance?

Is God really and truly answering my prayers – but I'm just not recognizing it?


I believe that there is a clue here in these verses.

And it has nothing to do with the end results. It isn't about the things, the answers, the doors.

It's all about the asking, the seeking, and the knocking.

You see, God is making something happen to me in the process. Persistence overcomes MY insensitivity, not God's.

He is changing my heart and mind. I am not changing His.

He is all about my relationship to Him. So my persistent, bold prayers help me understand and express the intensity of my need. They make me focus on the bottom line of my need. My need for Him – alone. For Him – only.

There's another very important element at the end of today's "Bible Pick 'Ems."

What does God want to give us?

Good things – yes. Answers – sometimes. Open doors – often.

But what does He really want to give us?

Actually, He has already given it to us – the Holy Spirit.

The Lord wants us to be more and more filled with Him. He wants us to let Him live through us. He desires a closer relationship with us. He wants disciples that resemble and reflect His Son.

Change the perspective of those verses – and it changes everything.

Ask for more of the Holy Spirit…and you will receive Him.

Seek the Lord with all of your heart, your mind, your soul, and your strength…and you will find Him.

Knock on the door of His presence…and you will find the Kingdom thrown wide open.

Lord, as I enter a new year, may I look at You in a different way. May my asking and my seeking and my knocking be directed to You – alone. You – only.

And as I draw close to You – draw close to me.

Happy New Year, Lord.

Where are you asking, seeking, knocking as you enter the new year?

"When in doubt, search God out!"