The Covenant Relationship

This Bible study article by Jack Kelley from GraceThruFaith goes along well with my Marriage Triangle series which is published at The Relevant Christian Magazine (TRC). You can also read the articles here.

The Covenant Relationship

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. (1 Samuel 18:3-4)

The making of a covenant was serious business. It was the strongest bond known to men, and had both business and personal applications that extended even to the descendants of the two parties involved. A covenant was typically solemnized by great ceremony and ritual, some of which is mentioned in the passage above. All in all it went like this.

First, several animals were cut in half and arranged along a path. Their purpose was to symbolize the penalty for breaking the covenant. The two men entering into a covenant relationship walked between and around the animal parts in a figure eight. (An eight on its side is the symbol for infinity.) This was to show that they understood and accepted the penalty and that the agreement committed them forever. (When God entered into His covenant with Abraham, promising him an heir and giving him the Promised Land, He was the only one who walked between the animals. This meant that only He was bound to the terms. There was nothing Abraham had to do. In fact, God put him to sleep so he couldn’t participate. The land was given to Abraham and his descendants unconditionally and in perpetuity (Gen.15:9-21).

Read the rest here.

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The #Faith to Walk on Water

Another great Bible study from GraceThruFaith.

 The Faith to Walk on Water

Impossible goals can be brought into perspective through faith.

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

Most people don’t know that when they use the word stress they really mean distress. Distress is the feeling caused when there’s a need to perform accompanied by a perceived lack of ability.

They also don’t know the other stress word, eustress. It’s the opposite of distress, a combination of euphoria and stress. Eustress is the feeling that comes when there’s a desire to perform accompanied by confidence in one’s ability.

With distress the perception is of impending failure; with eustress it’s of certain success.

Distress causes a depletion of energy, compulsive behavior (which actually increases the probability of failure), a general sense of discouragement, and eventually, depression. To sum up, distress makes me feel like I have to perform, but I’m afraid I can’t.

Symptoms accompanying eustress are a wellspring of energy, propulsive behavior, a sense of well being and confidence, (which improves the probability of success) and an intense desire to succeed. In other words, I want to perform, and believe I can. See the difference? 

Read the rest here.

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Sunday Praise and Worship: #Joyful, Joyful

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For the past month or so I’ve been sharing different Scripture passages about JOY on Facebook and Twitter. I started reading Bible passages about JOY to keep my mind focused on Jesus, no matter how I’m feeling. Then it dawned on me that others are probably having the same struggle, so I began searching for passages to share on social media.

Beloved, if you are living with any kind of burdens, you know that holding on to your JOY in the midst of those struggles is not easy. It is a choice that has to be made every single day.

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.
—Psalm 95:1-17

While  you listen to Casting Crowns singing “Joyful, Joyful,” lift up your hands and hearts to “the God of glory and the Lord of love.” How can we not be JOYFUL in the Lord our Maker and the Rock of our salvation?

Joyful, joyful, we adore You
God of glory, Lord of love
Hearts unfold like flowers before You
Opening to the sun above
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness
Drive the dark of doubt away

 

 Please excuse any ads that may appear before the video begins
If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

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Renewed #Strength

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Renewed Strength

By Patricia Knight

 “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31)

Eagles are magnificent birds, flying at level speeds around thirty miles per hour. It is fascinating to observe the great birds soar without flapping their wings for long periods of time, gliding on thermal updrafts, disappearing above the clouds at altitudes of a mile or more.

The eagle is opportunistic and fast. Spying rodents in a field or fish swimming beneath the water, the eagle can obtain diving speeds of one hundred miles per hour, splashing into the water to grasp a fish with its sharp, curved talons. Capable of lifting its prey while ascending at full speed, the eagle may slice the catch with its hooked, razor-sharp beak to eat in mid-air, or it may deliver the meal from miles away to feed eaglets in the nest.

God masterfully created the eagle with hollow bones for minimum weight and maximum flight aerodynamics. Each bird is covered with about seven thousand feathers, tapered for flight and downy for insulation. It has been estimated that, pound for pound, an eagle’s wings are stronger than the wings of an airplane. Is it any wonder our Lord has selected the example of the eagle to promise the renewal of our own strength? 

Human weakness provides the ideal occasion for the display of divine power. The apostle Paul prayed repeatedly for God to remove his distracting physical problem, but the Master Physician replied that the better solution would be to convert Paul’s weakness to His sovereign strength. God’s answer prompted Paul to admit, “‘For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’”(2 Corinthians 12:10).  Paul  established his priorities and trust in the almighty source of all power, who promised to respond to believers with the gift of extraordinary strength. 

The classic example of power in weakness is the cross of Christ. “He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by God’s power” (2 Corinthians 13:4). Imagine the tremendous divine force required to raise Jesus from the dead, the ascension power that restored the Son at the right hand of the Father in heaven. That same immense power is available to those who believe.

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Though our Lord delights in enhancing our physical strength, He is far more interested in providing our strength of character by empowering us spiritually. “‘Let not wise man boast of wisdom or strong man boast of strength; but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in this I delight,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23).  

The apostle Paul prayed to God, “‘that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you … may have power … to grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God’” (Ephesians 3:16-19). How incredible that God desires to share His infinite love and strength with His finite children! His magnificent love measurements are beyond our calculations, unfathomable in human understanding. God desires to fill us up to the brim with the inexhaustible measure of His love.

Paul prayed that the Ephesian church would experience God’s “‘incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength’”(Ephesians 1:19). In Greek, the term for God’s greatness of power is “dunameos,” the  origin of our word dynamite. God’s power extended to us transcends the force produced from a blast of dynamite, the intense power of an atomic bomb, or the energy required to launch a rocket into space. God promises that His power will be available to us upon request, for the purpose of buttressing our stamina to serve Him. Spiritual dynamic power is ours to claim!

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who loved us and by his grace
gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
encourage your heart and strengthen you
in every good deed and word”(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

We were created in our heavenly Father’s image. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we assume His characteristics of purity and righteousness. God not only commands that we mirror His personality, but that our motives align with His. He provides the inner strength we need to maintain a sovereign replica.

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” (Psalm 119:28). The grieving psalmist asks for God’s encouragement in order for him to endure emotionally. Strength is endowed for truth and obedience to prevail, providing a lesson to us about requesting our Lord’s intervention for our daily needs and emotional courage. Like the eagle who is uplifted in the thermal air currents, our spirit rises on the strength of God’s provisions. 

Extraordinary expressions are emitted from those of us who observe the graceful, powerful feats of an eagle soaring to the heights of the atmosphere. Do we exclaim in proportion to the Designer of such a magnificent bird, for His awesome gifts to us? As with humans, the eagles’ only strength comes exclusively from its Creator. Let us soar in God’s love and glide on the strength of His encouragement, as He lavishes us with gifts of love and power!

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Sunday Praise and Worship: Glory

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This praise song is so appropriate considering that Resurrection Day was celebrated and commemorated one week ago. I don’t think you can sing “Glory” by  Phil Wickham without being filled with the JOY of the Lord Jesus for what He suffered on our behalf. This chorus is my favorite part:

Blessing honor
Glory power
All our praises
Yours forever

Holy, holy
Holy is the Lord
Almighty, Worthy
All the earth is filled
With Your glory, glory
We give You glory, glory

 

Beloved, please join me in praising our Lord through this portion of Psalm 86:

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.
For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
—Psalm 86:12-13

 Please excuse any ads that may appear before the video begins
If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

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#JOY Mishmash

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Today’s mishmash is brought to you by the word JOY. The dictionary describes JOY as:

  • the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires
  • a state of happiness or felicity
  • a source or cause of delight

However, this definition of Christian JOY by John Piper is the kind of JOY I’m writing about:

Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world.¹

I haven’t done this in awhile, so today I’d like to share another of the devotionals I wrote for the anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleThis particular devotional was included in the section titled “Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God for His joy . . .

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

—Psalm 100:1-2
 

[The  LORD says] The joy of the LORD will fill you to overflowing.
You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.

—Isaiah 41:16 NLT
 

We are praying . . . that you will be filled with his mighty,
glorious strength so that you can keep going  no matter what happens—
always full of the joy of the Lord.

—Colossians 1:11 TLB
 

You will make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence is fullness of joy.
—Psalm 16:11 NASB
 

Be full of joy in the Lord always.
I will say it again, be full of joy.

—Philippians 4:4 NCV

. . . I will pray.

Glorious Father,

Today I woke up singing a praise song that I heard on the radio yesterday. I guess it must have settled into my mind because I remember hearing it play through my dreams during the night as I slept. What a wonderful way to start the day! No matter how tired, cranky, or achy I feel when I wake up, praising You in song overcomes any pain or irritation I may be experiencing.

There are so many reasons to be joyful when thinking about You. Knowing I can always turn to You for guidance makes me smile with gratification. Your comforting arms holding me close make me sigh in blissful contentment.

Your heavenly joy becomes visible when I hear the delighted giggling of a child or see the tiny hands and feet of a newborn baby. And how can I not rejoice with You when a glorious rainbow paints the sky? I always appreciate Your readiness to show me the joys in life, especially when I’m at my lowest. You give me joy enough for each and every day. Thank You for Your gracious gift.

Amen.

I have no understanding of a long-faced Christian.
If God is anything, He must be joy.

—Joe E. Brown

¹ How Do You Define Joy?


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[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]


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