Scripture: Breaking It Down

MorningDevotionsFrom time to time, a person will say to me: “I know that I am to meditate on Scripture, but I’m not sure how to do that.”

When I meditate on God’s Word, I try to break it down by asking myself some questions that will help me see what it suggests, implies, or commands.

Since Psalm 16:11 has been on my mind for several days, I’ll use it as an example of how I approach a verse of Scripture:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

  • What does This Psalm mean when it says: You make known to me the path of life
  1. There is more than one path in life that a person can follow.
  2. If there is a path of life, then there must be a path of death.
  3. While God will reveal the path of light to you, He will not force you to walk it.
  4. Companion Scripture: Proverbs 3:5-6
  • What does This Psalm mean when it says: In your presence, there is fullness of joy
  1. A person is either in or out of the presence of God.
  2. If fullness is a characteristic of being in His presence, is there a sense of unfulfillment or a lack of satisfaction when a person is absent His presence?
  3. If there is a correlation between joy in His presence, is there a lack of joyfulness in His absence?
  4. Companion Scripture: Psalm 1
  • What does this Psalm mean when it says: At your right hand are pleasures forevermore
  1. If there is a place where there are pleasures evermore, is there a place where there are pleasures nevermore?
  2. If these pleasures are associated with God’s right hand, what’s left when a person steps away from the hand of God’s provision?
  3. If these pleasures can be recognized, they are to be utilized.
  4. Companion Verse: Philippians 4:19

I hope this example of how I examine a verse of scripture will help you as you study God’s Word.

Monikers and Meanings

baby-name-surprisedMost people who know me call me by the shortened form of my name.  Although my birth certificate reads, Stanley Lee Seymour,  most people call me Stan.   An etymological search of Stan reveals that it is Old English in origin and means rocky meadow or from the stony field.

Etymology, however, had nothing to do with the selection of my name.  Because my last name starts with an S, Mom and Dad thought it would be trendy for the first name of each of their children to start with an S.  My older brother’s name is Steve and my younger brother’s name is Brad.

Before he was born Brad’s name was going to be Stuart, but Mom was already having trouble calling Steve, Stan, and Stan, Steve, so Stuart became Brad.

Had Mom continued her practice of using an S in the naming of her sons, Brad would have been Stuart; and, his name would carry the idea of one who is a guardian or steward.

Here, in America, we seem to be more ambiguous than rigorous when we consider the meaning of the name written on the birth certificate that labels our children for life.

This has not always been the case. In the biblical eras, names were pregnant with meaning and often prophetic in nature. The best example is the name that is above all names and the Old Testament descriptor assigned to Him: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Little did Mary know the angelic proclamation and the meaning of her son’s name would be as full of pain as it was promise:  You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

When that babe lying in Bethlehem’s manger was named Jesus, it was not just a slip of the tongue or a casual moniker, it was a bold declaration: The Savior has been born.

May we all remember the reason for this season.

Rituals and Wrinkles

mirrorIt is 4:19, and I’ve finished the first part of my morning routine: I just swallowed the last drop of my first cup of coffee.

The next item on my morning ritual will be the couple of minutes I spend facing a mirror to examine my wrinkled mug, to apply some shaving cream, and to wield the razor as I shave my whiskers.

When I check the stubble on my face, I often think of Paul’s statement to the church at Corinth: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).”

When you think about it, isn’t life one examination station after another?

  • In your bedroom, do you examine your shirt for wrinkles before you button it up?
  • In the grocery store, do you check the apples to see if they are bruised or too green before you place them in your cart?
  • After you buy something, do you check to make sure you have been given the correct amount of change?

Do you take any time during the day for a spiritual examination?  The Psalmist said: “I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies (Psalm 119:59).”  Are there times when you use God’s Word to iron out the wrinkles of your life?

The methodology of the Psalms was the same message espoused by James (1:21-25):

Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the

When you use the “perfect law of liberty” as a mirror to examine your life, what do you see?

  • Do you see a reflection of righteousness?
  • Is there an image of personal purity?
  • Do you recognize the features of faithfulness in the face you see?

Let me share a favorite verse that I use as a mirror: Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

When you look into God’s Word, what do you see?

The Weary and Wonderful

wonderfulThe older I get the more truth I find in an old cliché—Whatever gets your attention gets you. Some mornings, it’s my aches and pains that get my attention.

I’ve found that when my mind is full of misery, I’m mighty miserly in my praise for God.  Instead of focusing on a sore muscle or a stiff joint, I make it a point to learn from David who contemplated the splendid and wonderful things of God: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 139).

When was the last time you considered how “wonderfully” you are made? Here are three facts to get you started.

  • You are unique: When you were still in your mother’s womb, you developed your fingerprints when you were three months old.
  • You are a person of rhythm: At 80 beats per minute, your heart beats about 4,800 times an hour or 115,200 times a year pumping blood through the 100,000 miles of blood vessels in your body.
  • You are no dimwit. When you are awake, your brain is producing enough electricity to light a lightbulb.

Each of us is unique and have a special purpose in the grand scheme of life as designed by God.

This may be what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he said: We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10); or, as The Voice says, we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives.

Those Who Know

6325259a3ec2cdd15a2b3fbf87cf9de4It happened yesterday; it was one of those bright light moments of fresh comprehension. As I was reading Psalm 9, a verse stood out from the rest like a sunflower in a field of bluebonnets.

The words that caught my attention were a positive affirmation of God’s faithfulness: those who know Your name will put their trust in You.

At certain times and places, God would use a specific name to reveal His character to His people.  Many of the Psalms speak about the nature of God. From the many, I share a few that encourage me to put my trust in God:

  • Psalm 3:3 tells us that God is a shield.
  • Psalm 5:11 where God is seen as a defender of His people.
  • Psalm 13:6 states that God provides for the needs of the faithful.
  • Psalm 19:14 praises God because He gives the strength we need, and He redeems us.
  • Psalm 23:1 reminds us that the Lord is our Shepherd.

Then, there is Psalm 18:2 which is a compendium of God’s attributes. As you begin a new week, I encourage you to think about it today:

I will love You,  O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock  and my fortress  and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Indoor-fins: The Science of Laughter

fish-bowl-small-sizeThe health benefits of laughter were known centuries before recent studies discovered the connection between laughter and endorphins (indoor-fins).

Somewhere around 900 BC, King Solomon assembled his collection of wise and pithy principles for life. Proverbs 17:22 is a good example: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

An article in Forbes does more than just confirm the words of Solomon, it lists six benefits of laughter:

  • Laughter is a potent endorphin releaser.
  • Laughter contagiously forms social bonds.
  • Laughter fosters brain connectivity.
  • Laughter is central to relationships.
  • Laughter has an effect similar to antidepressants.
  • Laughter protects your heart.

If you’ve been sick, down-in-the-dumps, needled by pain or coping with stress, laugh a little and let your brain release the endorphins that will kick-start your immune system, enhance your mood, soothe your pain, and tame your stress.

I hope the words of John McLeod will nudge you in the right direction and put a smile on your face:

Can I give you a handful of laughter

A smidgen of giggles to boot,

A cupful of tease and a comical sneeze

Followed by a hilarious hoot.

A Tribute to Mom

IMG_0539Four years ago today, I walked into my mother’s room and said: “Mom, today is your birthday.  Do you know how old you are?”  She thought for a moment and said: “No Stan, I don’t think I do.” “You’re 101,” I said.  My statement revived her spunky and independent spirit, and she informed me that, “I might not know how old I am, but I know I’m not 101!”

Mom died about a month later form the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Since today is her birthday, I’m re-posting this blog as a tribute to her. . .

Times were tough in 1930. The stock market crash in 1929 had knocked the economic wind out of the United States and left it gasping for survival. Some 1,350 banks would fail and close their doors. The newspaper headlines reported on financial failures as well as world leaders like Mussolini, Stalin, and Herbert Hoover.

Times were tough in 1930. The stock market crash in 1929 had knocked the economic wind out of the United States and left it gasping for survival. Some 1,350 banks would fail and close their doors. The newspaper headlines reported on financial failures as well as world leaders like Mussolini, Stalin, and Herbert Hoover.

At this time in our nation’s history bread was 9 cents a loaf, gas was 10 cents a gallon, and a movie ticket was 35 cents.

On Friday, June 20th, about halfway through 1930, Buzz Aldrin was born. At the time of his birth, the idea of space flight was just science fiction; however, Aldrin would join Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969; and, they would be the first two people to walk on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin wasn’t the only person born on June 20, 1930. A baby girl, who would never experience his fame and notoriety, was also born. Her family had little money but a lot of love. Her fragile world was shattered a few years later when her mother died. She quit school in the 8th grade because her dad needed her to help work the fields—the fields of a farm he would later be forced to sell.

As a young lady, she married, but heartache found her again. At the age of 35, she became a widow when her husband was killed on the job, and she was left with three young sons. A short time later she married again. Five children came with her new husband. His 5 and her 3 made for a memorable life that could be as harried as it was happy.

When her second husband died, the truth was exposed: She was weaker than any of her family knew. Her cognitive skills were becoming cobwebs; Her sense of direction failed her; and, she was often lost.

 

On Monday of last week, my siblings and I had to stand toe-to-toe with the toughest woman we’ve ever known to break the news: “Mom, you can’t live by yourself any longer—we’re moving you into assisted living.”

 

Mom’s independent spirit has served her well for most of her life. She kept going and remained positive when she had every right to be negative and quit. It’s that same spirit that keeps saying: “I’m not staying here. I’m going home.” But with the next sentence, it’s evident that Alzheimer’s has a befuddling grip on her once vibrant mind and spirit.

 

Buzz Aldrin may have walked on the moon, but he stands in the shadow of my mother, Evelyn Lou Lacy–the girl who was also born June 20, 1930. She’s been a loving and loyal daughter, a faithful wife to two fortunate men, and a sometimes-fearsome force who molded the life of her children.

Thanks for reading this annual tribute that I share to honor the memory of my mother.

More Than Adequate

When Paul was writing his second letter to the church at Corinth, he mentioned his “thorn in the flesh.” Paul said, Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Here are four reasons that God’s grace is just as sufficient for us as it was for Paul:

  1. God is omniscient—He knows everything that can be known; therefore, He knows everything there is to know about you and your needs.
    • Psalm 139:1-3: O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
  2. God is beneficent—He is generous in His love for His children.
    • Psalm 145:15-19: The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
  3. God makes you proficient—He provides the strength I need.
    • Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
  4. God will never leave you deficient—God nurtures those He loves.
    • Isaiah 40:31: But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

As you think about the sufficiency of God’s grace, I encourage you to also give some thought to these words of the Apostle Peter: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature . .2 Peter 1:2-21

Life’s Trials and Trails

pathA person’s path in life will be shaped by the trails he walks and the trials he endures. I’ve walked many trails that have been scenic adventures, and I’ve encountered several trials that were dismal and disappointing.

There will be times in life when nothing makes sense.  The trail will seem too steep to climb and too long to endure. When David experienced a situation like this, he realized that God had already walked where he had never gone and could see what was beyond his vision.

David said: When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path (Psalm 142:3).

The next time you have a tussle with a trial, remember that:

  • God never leads His children down the wrong path
  • You may not know where the path will lead you, but God does.
  • Just because you’re confused, God isn’t confounded.
  • God is present, and He will not abandon you.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

 

Life’s Trails and Trials

pathA person’s path in life can be influenced by the trails he walks and the trials he endures. I’ve walked many trails that have been scenic adventures, and I’ve encountered several trials that were dismal and disappointing.

There will be times in life when nothing makes sense.  The trail will seem too steep to climb and too long to endure. When David experienced a situation like this, he realized that God had already walked where he had never gone and could see what was beyond his vision.

David said: When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path (Psalm 142:3).

The next time you have a tussle with a trial, remember that:

  • God never leads His children down the wrong path
  • You may not know where the path will lead you, but God does.
  • Just because you’re confused, God isn’t confounded.
  • God is present, and He will not abandon you.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).