Daily Verse – In the House!

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalms 23:6 NIVUK

Psalm 23 is familiar to most people, believers or not.

The view of God as a shepherd is an image which Jesus repeats and expands upon in the Gospels. Isaiah also depicts the coming Messiah in this imagery, contrary to most Jewish people’s ideal of the warrior king.

The Psalmist affirms surelyak – at least, certainly, nevertheless – God’s goodnesstowb – best, bountiful, favour – will followradaph (the only occurrence in the OT) – to chase, follow after, pursue – him/us.

I have purposefully left out the ‘love’ from the verse quoted at the top of the page, as in the Hebrew version it is written as mercycheced – merciful kindness, loving-kindness, mercy or pity.

The Psalmist trusts and has faith in the ‘Good Shepherd’ for the protection and gifts God provides but there is something that he will give in return – I will dwellyashab (this again is the only occurrence of this word) – make to abide, continue, make to dwell – in the house (it could be translated also as family) of the Lord.

The word translated as forever is also a little misleading. Rather than meaning ‘all the days in the future’ the Hebrew word yom means always or continually, implying daily or today and each day.

For what the Shepherd provides we are to continue in the family of God each and every day.

We ensure we remain in the House!

Daily Verse – First, Last, Everything.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33 NIVUK

Ordinarily I try to only refer to the words in the chosen verse, but today I need to add a little context.

The ‘all these things’ mentioned in the second half of the verse relate back to Verse 30, where Jesus tells his disciples that the Pagans worry about what they shall eat, what they shall drink, and what they shall wear, but they should not as their ‘Heavenly Father’ knows they need these things.

The Greek work translated here in the second part of the verse as given is prostithémi and occurs only three times and one time each in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, often being translated as added, but its better sense is of increasing or being given more.

God knows you need to eat, drink, and clothe yourself, and he makes provision for that but . . .

First you must seek his kingdom and his righteousness.

Know and understand that God is aware of your physical needs, and we should not worry about this, use the time instead to seekzéteó – desire, endeavour, enquire – after God’s Kingdom and his reign, and his righteousnessdikaiosuné – the rightness or right action of God.

God is the first thing we should seek each day and the last thing at night.

From this constant attention and focus, He gives us everything we need.

Daily Verse – Taste and See.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Psalms 34:8 NIVUK

One of the greatest first lines in a novel is reputed to be in George Orwell’s 1984 – ‘The clocks struck Thirteen’.

Our verse today may not be the beginning of the chapter but this verse has the same impact making you stop and pay attention.

Our brains are hard-wired towards order and being told to ‘taste’ to ‘see’ is not within order.

The Hebrew word taste is taam and occurs only here.

Its primitive root is to taste but if also occurs figuratively as to perceive.

When we taste something we are using more than just one sense, as our taste is also influenced by what we smell, and in part to what we see.

If we are offered a taste of something we understand that we are being invited to try the food and experience the flavours.

In some schools, potential new pupils are invited to have a ‘taster’ day. They will experience what that school environment is like.

The Psalmist tells us to taste – to experience, to get an idea of, and be influenced by those several senses – that the Lord is good.

Good – towb – is a much more common word often being translated as beautiful, best, better, cheerful, at ease, fair.

Blessed – esher – how happy or blessed – is the person who trusts – chasah (this is the only instance of the word) – puts trust in, has a hope in, makes a refuge – in Him.

Once you make the Lord your refuge, placing trust in Him, you will see and taste – experience in many ways – the goodness which comes from Him.

Taste and See!

Daily Verse – Three Things on Your To-Do List.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12 NIVUK

We are used to productivity gurus and time-management geniuses giving us the number one rule – have one main thing on your list, have five things, have as many as you can think of but only to the top two, etc. etc.

In this verse, the Apostle Paul puts three things on our to-do list.

Hope. Patience. Prayer.

The same three things every day.

Hope – elpis – to anticipate, to be expectant, to have confidence.

Patience – hupomenó (this is the only occurence) – to endure, to remain, to have fortitude, to persevere.

Prayer – proseuché – to pray, to worship, to be earnest in prayer.

Paul is always quite clever in the way he gives us the ‘big focus’ of our faith but also adds in qualifiers almost without notice.

Not only are we to have Hope, Patience, and Prayer, as central to our days, but we also have rejoicing, affliction, and constancy.

We are to rejoice in our hope – chairó – be glad, cheerful, calmly happy.

We are to be patient in affliction – thlipsis – trouble, burden, under pressure.

We are to be faithful in prayer – proskartereó – to continue, be diligent, to adhere to.

Paul’s to-do list isn’t one to be ticked off and consigned to the ‘completed’ archive or filing cabinet of diaries, it remains our priority everyday. We may not tick the items off everyday, but we still have the chance to do it the following day.

So rejoice in the hope of our lives with God.

Be patient in difficult and troublesome times.

Be faithful in our Prayers to God and he will lead us in both hope and difficulty.

Daily Verse – Under to be Up!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

1 Peter 5:6 NIVUK

Action and Timing.

The secret sauce for many things.

Our society definitely has an action-based mantra.

Production is easier in many respects than it has ever been, even within the creative sector.

Keep striving and you will rise to the top, or keep standing on top of enough other people and you will get to the top, sometimes it is difficult to work out.

There is plenty of ‘action’ – spend five minutes on your social media and you will lose count.

Timing is the interesting part.

Of course, through many of the means of producing ‘action’ there is an expectant timing of ‘now!’.

The first computer I owned I had to program myself before it did anything – today we are impatient if anythng takes more than a second to access.

The Apostle Peter gives us advice in respect of timing – in due time – kairos – an appointed time, or a set and proper time.

This verse is a reminder that everything happens in God’s time and not ours.

Being lifted up – hupsoó – this is the only occurrence of this word in the New Testament – is to be elevated above others.

What ‘action’ do we need to perform before God lifts us up in ‘due time’?

We need to tapeinoó – to be humble, to not see ourselves as above or better than, but come to God in recognition of we are what we are and recognise that we will rise up due to his hand and strength.

We place ourselves under God in order that he may lift us up!

The ‘Chicken and the Egg’ Guide for Creatives?

It is a common catchphrase – which came first, the chicken or the egg? – which appears to have a simple answer, either way, until you come to justify it.

Apparently, it was Plutarch which first posed the question in the 1st Century AD, addressing the problems of origin and first cause. Aristotle, writing four centturies earlier wouldn’t even have considered the question as he believed there was no true origin.

By the close of the Sixteenth Century the Christian world didn’t even consider the dilema as God made, or created, everything. By the Twentieth Century Evolutionary Biologists decided the answer had to be the ‘Egg’ as they calculated that the first hard shelled egg – not laid in water – couldn’t have happened until about 312 Million years ago.

So what has 2000-312,000,000 year old debate have to do with creativity?

To answer the much more pressing question of whether I am procrastinating or not!

If the egg = researching for searching for the creative impulse and chicken = actually doing the creative thing, then you are looking at the problem as I am.

I am new to art and, although I have always loved looking at art and watched lots of documentaries on art movements and artists, I am acutely aware of the lack of reference points and natural triggers I possess when I come to do the creative action.

So I research. A lot.

The it struck me, this morning as I glanced at my still empty sketchbook pages for the day, that most of the time I had for the action of creativity was in fact being taken up by the research to obtain the creative triggers, to then be creative.

So which comes first?

Creative Action?

Or Creative Thought?

Ironically, as a writer I would definitely tick the box of Creative Action. I usually start with the thinnest sliver of a starting point – maybe a few words or a person walking or entering a building – then I write. As I write the Creative Thought occurs and I get the next scene or chapter developing in my head.

As an artist the process is definitely the reverse.

Perhaps it is because there are more elements to taking action? What type of surface, what type of meduim, brushes or palette knives, sketch an outline or simply apply the paint?

In general though, how does your creativity arrive?

If you are a person of faith, or an evolutionary biologist, then you maybe decisively fall on one side or the other of the debate. Or perhaps you give the answer of certitude ‘well, it depends . . . ‘

I appear to have a foot in both camps.

My faith make me certain that the chicken came first, and if it turns out the egg was created before the chicken, then the whole creation thing happened anyway, so the principle is still proven.

I beleive that creativity comes from the Creator.

So my creative thinking process is, as I have begun to suspect, an elaborate means of procrastination.

But taking time to think and research has definitely furnished me with many creative ideas and actions!

However, if I fill in the time sheet of thought versus action, then the beginning of the Bible would go like this:

In the beginning, God took five and a half days to do research then realised it was almost the Day of Rest, so he decided to do a final bit of research and then wrote in his planner to definitely create something first thing on Sunday!

(Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath – just in case you were wondering.)

So, maybe you are like me and you are certain you’re pretty sure you know which comes first?!

Then again both options are creative, so what does it matter?

Or maybe this brings us onto another age old debate?

If a tree falls in a wood with no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Or, are you only being creative if there is an end product to prove it?

Go and be creatively thoughtful or creatively creative, and I will join you.

Daily Verse – No Weapon.

no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord , and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

Isaiah 54:17 NIVUK

This verse starts with danger and a promise – no weapon!

The Hebrew word for weapon is keli and it occurs 39 times in the Old Testament. Apart from this instance it is generally translated as article or vessel, in the other occurences.

It is, however, often associated with something an armour bearer may carry, or possibly a bag, or even a made instrument. The link to ‘weapon’ is easy to see, but I think it is misleading.

Keli comes from the word Kalah which indicates something prepared; it could even be furniture or a jewel.

The Lord promises that nothing ‘forged’ or man-made will prevail – tsalach – go over, be profitable – against you.

No scheme or evil intent will prevail, nor will any lies or accusations.

With the second part of the sentence it is easier to see that the word ‘weapon’ muddys the meaning.

Our vindication – tsedaqah – justice or righteousness – a word which only occurs here and twice in Ezekiel – comes from the Lord.

The Lord has our backs. He proves, or provides, justice and righteousness on our behalf.

Whatever your difficulty or trouble, pray to the Lord and know we are right before his eyes and he will help us prove that.

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 – Receive, Find, Open.

For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:8 NIVUK

The wording of this verse is interesting.

We have ‘everyone’ who asks, but then ‘the one’ who seeks, and ‘the one’ who knocks.

The Gospel writer Matthew appears to be drawing a distinction in people’s actions – lots of people ask, but only ones go through to the next levels.

It is easy to ask for things. Many of our prayers can sound suspiciously like our Christmas present list or a list of jobs for others to do.

Asking can be incredibly passive.

However, to seek and to knock requires us to act.

For everyone who asks – aiteó – a word which only occurs here and once more in Luke’s Gospel, they ask, beg, crave, desire, but they will – lambanó – receive or take.

But, the one who seeks – zéteó – desires, endeavours, seeks after in a sense of worship, finds – heuriskó – gets or obtains what they are seeking spiritually.

And, the one who knocks – krouó – literally knocks at a door, has the door – anoigó – opened for them.

The knocking and the door appears a bit of anti-climax after asking and receiving, followed by seeking and obtaining.

However, if you jump forward in Matthew’s Gospel to Chapter 25, you gain an insight into the what the door is which will be opened to you.

The parable of the ten virigins, as it is often known, uses the tradition of the bridegroom and his party arriving to escort the bride and the bridesmaids to the wedding feast as a comparison to expecting the Kingdom of God.

Due to the complexity of the various parts of the wedding traditions, the timing of the bridegroom’s arrival isn’t a set time. The role of the bridesmaids is to wait and announce his arrival to the bride.

However, in this instance some of the bridesmaids decide not to wait any longer and go inside, and are thus late to accompany the bridegroom. When they arrive at the wedding banquet, the door is already closed to them and won’t be opened.

Everyone ‘asks’ about the Kingdom of God and they are given responses, but too many of them will not wait, as some of the bridesmaids didn’t, then the ‘one’ – the few – who seek and continue to watch for the Lord enter the wedding banquet – the Kingdom – when the door is opened for them.

Asks-seeks-knocks is a three part action, which then leads to receiving, finding, and opening.

Receive the knowledge of God, seek to understand it, and then act to enter into the Kingdom.

Daily Verse – Every Thing

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 Peter 1:3 NIVUK

We are given everything we need . . . let’s stop right here and start on the shopping list of all our wants and desires!

Western society has embraced an attitude of ‘I want it all and I want it now’ philosophy, and you can even here this message being preached from pulpits.

The Apostle Peter thankfully qualifies this ‘everything’ for us as what we need for a godly life.

The Greek word translated as everything is pas – every and all manner. In terms of time it has an attached meaning of daily, calling immediately to mind the Lord’s Prayer where we are to pray for ‘our daily bread’- the here and now of our food needs.

Godly life – is eusebeia and zóé – godliness/holiness/piety and life in a literal and figurative sense.

Roll up your ‘desire’ list and through it into the rubbish bin.

Be assured, however, that we will be given everything we need to follow Christ and God in a manner after the Gospel message.

Everything we need comes from our knowledge of him.

The word for ‘knowledge’ – epignósis – only occurs here and in Ephesians 4:13 and is better translated as acknowledgement, or recognition.

Our acknowledgement of him – God – allows us to enjoy his divine power which provides us with everything we need to continue to learn, grow, and impact others, to the best we can.

This passage doesn’t necessarily mean we have everything in advance, but we will have what we need at just the right moment for us.

As we grow in the Lord, we are given every thing to continue in that growth.