Daily Verse – Struggle.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12 NIVUK

In this verse the Apostle Paul is teaching, and reminding, believers that our world and lives are more complicated than we think.

Before becoming believers we were purely physical beings and existed in a world of physical situations and challenges.

Now, as believers, we have had the spiritual connection, which Adam and Eve originally possessed, put back into place through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

This spiritual ‘refit’ brings us to a new life but a life which also has it’s own unique set of circumstances.

When I read through this verse this morning I got stuck on the ‘struggle’.

The Greek word used is palé and occurs only in this verse in the whole of the New Testament.

Translated mostly as ‘struggle’ it derives from the word ‘pallo’ which means wrestling or to wrestle.

Often our struggles are very much like a wrestling match. We are in the grip of an issue or problem and we are trying to pull away or overpower the ‘thing’.

I am reminded again of the story of Jacob wrestling the Angel of the Lord, mentioned in yesterday’s Daily Verse.

Jacob saw and understood our lives/world is much more complicated than we often care to consider.

We can struggle creatively as well.

Creativity is a mental and physical experience.

Even creatives who are not believers will refer to their practice as often being a spiritual process.

Recognising and making connection with the spiritual can still mean we struggle or wrestle – with doubts, with processes, with realising that physical form of the mental idea.

If we wrestle like Jacob we will become stronger in our spiritual lives and creative practices.

Daily Verse – Fear and Confidence.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

Psalms 56:3 NIVUK

When I am afraid.

The writer of this Psalm isn’t overconfident and says ‘if’ I am afraid.

He acknowledges that we often feel afraid.

Remember this was David who slew the giant Goliath, when he was little more than a teenager.

The Hebrew word for afraid used here is yare’ – if you are/or made to be frightened or something bad happens.

As soon as the great King David was afraid, he put his trust in God.

The Hebre word here for trust is batach – to be bold and confident, to feel secure and sure, to have hope and confidence in God.

David’s response to feeling afraid is to be confident that God will take care of him.

We have many fears in our lives. Some big and some small.

Sometimes our biggest fears are money or health.

Sometimes they maybe confidence in ourselves or what we do.

It is interesting reading letters written by Vincent Van Gogh, he was rarely afraid of having no money, other than when he was running low on art supplies, but he was worried all the time that his painting was not good enough.

Whatever your fears today, have David’s confidence in God to bring you through them.

Daily Verse – Walking with the Wise.

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 13:20 NIVUK

In this recent technological era we can gain unparralleled access to the very best people in our field of interest.

Most of them even do Masterclasses to teach you everything they have learnt on their journey.

We are often told in the marketing blurb ‘they have made the mistakes so now you don’t need to’.

According to Proverbs, however, this will not make us wise.

We are instructed to walk with the wise – hō·w·lêḵ – to go along with, keep pace with, to be conversant with.

Rabbi’s like Jesus did not just ‘teach’ in the synagogues, as we might here a preacher in a pulpit, but every footstep, every conversation, every gesture, even the way he ate his meals, would be observed by his disciples and imitated.

A teacher’s wisdom was the sum of every part of them, physical, spiritual, and thought.

Literally, walking in the footsteps of those wiser than ourselves in our field of interest, creativity, spiritually, or our work, will help us to become yeḥ·kām – to be wise in word, action, or thoughts. This word only occurs three times in the Old Testament, with all of them occuring in Proverbs.

I am not suggesting that we ignore every bit of wisdom which isn’t given to us in person – as much as I might like it, I cannot take a walk with Claude Monet if I want to paint ponds – but we should perhaps make more of an effort to form relationships/friendships – mentors – where we can experience their gifts in proximity.

Find a mentor/teacher and howlek them!

Daily Verse – Psalm 105:1

Hallelujah! Thank God ! Pray to him by name!

Psalm 105:1 MSG

Depending on which translation you are reading from the phrase here ‘thank God’ could be written as ‘Praise God’.

The Greek phrase hō·w·ḏū allows for both thank and praise.

‘Thank God’ seems easier to do in your everyday life – ‘Praise God’ conjures images of spontaneaously bursting into your favourite worship song, which could be embarrassing in the middle of your favourite coffee shop.

The root of the Greek yadah is ‘yad’ which literally means to hold out your hand or throw something.

When we give thanks to God we are to hold out those thanks or literally throw them out.

Giving our thanks to God isn’t meant to be an intensly private internal thing to do.

The mindset is to be outward, towards God.

How many of us sit down with a coffee or cup of tea and exclaim, ‘I needed that!’?

Instead, trying saying ‘thank you God, I really needed that’.

If you are in your coffee shop, when you say it, people may join you in a spontaneous worship song, or just move their chairs a little further away from you.

The important thing is that your focus is upon God and giving Him thanks becomes the habit rather than moments saved up for your church service on a Sunday.

If you are a list person, or goal orientated, choose a random day and log how many times you thank God. Then, pick another day and try and beat that total.

You obviously can thank God for other things than coffee – I just know on any given day that will get my tally going strong!

Daily Verse – Isaiah 12:2

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord , the Lord himself, is my strength and my defence ; he has become my salvation.’ NIVUK

The first part of this verse is sufficient for us in a world filled with so much uncertainty at the moment.

Trust and be not afraid.

Why?

Because the Lord, the Lord himself – emphasised by repeating the name – is my strength and my defence.

A poweful ally to be sure but in the original Greek, the Psalmist does not say that the Lord is his defence.

The phrasing occurs here and in two other places, Exodus and Psalms, as my strength and my song.

‘Strength’ is the word oz and carries the meaning of power, might, and boldness.

‘Song’ is the word zimrath and is, by implication, a praise song.

We trust God and He becomes our strength and song.

Singing is recognized to have a positive effect upon the human body.

The British Academy of Sound Therapy tells us that singing alters ourhormones and transmitters boosting our mood state and even our immune system.

Lyrics increase Dopamine and lower stress.

Rhythm increases our oxygen flow.

And the breathing which is required to allow us to sing reinforces the first two.

Isaiah was clearly onto something all of those years ago.

Trust in God because he is our strength and by singing to Him we lower the impact of any of our fears.

Daily Verse – Matthew 7:24

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24 NIV

There are two principle teachings of Jesus about ‘hearing’ his/the word – the sower and the seed and this contrast between two builders.

Everyone who hears – the Greek akouei which occurs in this single instance in Matthew’s Gospel – is to give an audience to, or make a point of listening to. It also relates to understanding and being reported.

Jesus taught throughout his ministry that his words and actions were not just to be treated as an academic teaching but to be acted upon. All throughout his ministy the parallels are drawn between the words of the religious leaders and the actions of Jesus and his disciples.

Here, again, the distinction is clear.

Those ‘who do’ – put them into practicepoiei meaning to make or do – are like a builder who build his house on the rock.

It is hard not to think here of Peter – Petros – and the word used here is the femine form – as the rock upon which the church would be built.

Jesus must be emphasising further the ‘action’ he expects from us all but also the disciple’s example of someone who didn’t always get it right, as we may not do.

Hearing Jesus’ words requires us to take action and in doing so we are on a sure foundation despite the storms of life which are inevitable.

Daily Verse – Psalm 119:11

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalms 119:11 NIVUK

When we hide something we normally do so to keep it a secret.

Good or bad.

We don’t want others to know, so we can surprise them or because we understand they would think poorly of us.

The Psalmist hides God’s Word.

In the New Testament we are encouraged to take God’s Word to the ends of the Earth.

The Hebrew word ‘hidden’ (to hide) is tsaphan and it only occurs three times.

It has also been translated as treasured, esteemed, or saved.

So to hide God’s Word in our hearts – our intellect and emotions – is to value it so much we keep it close. We keep it in our hearts figuratively and literally. It is the most important thing to us.

God’s ‘Word’ is imrah – His commandment and speech.

God’s Word is not something upon a page, but something which is voiced to us.

When we read scripture from the Bible, the words are active, alive, communicating with us.

These ‘words’ support us in not sinning against the Lord – chata – we will not speak words, or commit actions, which are contrary to God.

We won’t blame, or cause harm, or lead astray.

We hide away God’s Word not just because it is valuable but so it cannot be easily taken away from us.

We keep the good things of the Lord close to us.

If God’s Word – the good things of the Lord – are at arms length, then there is space in which we can become seperated from it.

It was common, even in the time of Jesus, to bring what was valuable into your house overnight. The ground floor of houses were more like our garages, places to put not cars but animals. Things outside the house could easily fall prey to thieves or predators.

Our hearts are like those houses.

Busy = Lose + Heart.

In Japanese writing the character for ‘busy’ includes the characters for ‘lose’ and ‘heart’.

To be busy is literally to lose heart.

In western society busy has come to mean working hard, becoming successful, going places.

Busy also means stressed, rushed, no time to think.

For creative people ‘busy’ can still mean working in our creative spheres but we could be losing touch with our creativity itself.

We can rush through a chapter in our novels, get another canvas started or finished, blaze through our instrumental practice.

Stuff may get done, but we may have lost our heart connection to it.

Being creative is a whole mind and body action.

It is physical action. It is mental concentration. It is an emotional effort.

Don’t be ‘busy’ or your creativity will suffer.

If you are busy then take a time-out.

Fresh air, coffee, tea, birdsong, a short walk, a shower – whatever you need to do to hit reset.

Remember your heart is in all of your creativity.

Daily Verse – Philippians 2:3

YouVersion

Do nothing according to eritheian – self ambition.

The two occurrences of this word, here and James 3:4 – are better understood as strife or contention.

Don’t act if it is a result of, or results in, faction or intrigue – being contentious or continuing in opposition.

Instead, act in humility – tapeinophrosune – modesty or humbleness of mind.

There are three occurrences of this word in the N.T.

This verse is often used to teach that as Christians we shouldn’t argue or be in opposition to things.

Jesus shows his opposition to many things in the Gospels – prejudice, bad religion, not supporting and helping others, and many more.

Paul tells us here to be open and honest in our opposition, doing it from a place of humility and honesty, not by intrigue and deception.

We are not to revel in our opposition but in respect of situation and those involved.

Daily Verse – Hosea 6:6

You Version

For I desire – chaphets – I delight in.

Nine occurrences in the O.T., all translated ‘desire’ but with a clear meaning to be something was pleasing or not.

Mercy – checed – goodness or kindness. Perhaps a good deed or favour.

We should all delight in kindness and favourable acts towards people.

At this time the Law allowed the Jews to offer animal sacrifices to cover or stand in place of their sins.

This is not what God wants.

He wants us to act towards our fellow people. When we show checed then we follow Christ.

How many times did Jesus heal or forgive sins, when the people of the Law told him he couldn’t?

Look back through the gospels because here we find the knowledge of God.