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 – Nothing Returns Empty.

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11 NIVUK

The word of the Lord never returns empty.

I’ve always thought of this verse and the return of the doves to Noah’s Ark in the same way. The doves returned with the olive branch indicating that the flood was receding and dry land was present again.

Likewise God’s words return with a sign of something better or changed.

God’s word always impacts us and others.

Isaiah speaks out loud God’s message – God’s word will not return empty – rê·qām – in vain, without cause, or void.

It will accomplish – tsalach – cause, effect, be profitable, be good – what God pleases and it will accomplish – asah – advance or become – the purpose for which He sent it.

Our words go out, but do we think about how they might return?

It is obvious from many sources that many people don’t think about what they say, or only focus on what it achieves for themselves.

We should always be careful and considered in what we say – a lesson I am often reminded I need to still learn!

Creatively, it is similar. We should consider what our creative output says to others and expect a return sign.

Words and actions.

Nothing returns empty.

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.

Daily Verse – Inwardly Renewed

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4:16 NIVUK

In this verse the Apostle Paul draws attention to the difference between our physical and spiritual presence.

Outwardly we are ‘wasting away’ – we are wearing down or out, our bodies follow the natural process of aging and weaken.

One of the key characteristics I appreciate about Paul is that he is direct and straight with his audience and us.

He doesn’t pull any punches in his assessment of us but, likewise, he then takes us to the other end of the scale, and both can be difficult to digest or come to terms with.

Inwardly – esó – that which is within, the presence of God through the Holy Spirit, is being renewed – anakainoó.

This is the only occurrence of anakainoó in the New Testament, and probably the best way to understand it is with the word ‘renovate’.

Whilst the exterior of us maybe be getting a little more aged and weather worn, inside – the spiritual connection with God – is being renovated – improved, updated, tidied up – day by day!

When times are tough, or our circumstances wear us down, remember that God is always with us and whilst we maybe focused on the outward situation, we are being renovated – adapted, changed, improved – on the inside to match the difficulty.

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 – Gladness and Singing.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Psalms 100:2 NIVUK

The Hebrew word translated here as ‘worship’ – ‘iḇ·ḏū – is more correctly ‘to serve’ – to be linked together in a close bond.

We are to be bonded to serve God with gladness – bə·śim·ḥāh – with pleasure, rejoicing, joyfulness.

King David was a singer and musician, so it is natural that he wrote that we should sing – bir·nā·nāh a joyful voice – to the Lord but I think we can bring to God any of our gifts.

All of our creativity can be offered in joy and service.

When you paint, when you write, when you dance or, like David, when you sing and create music, think of it all as praise and service to God.

Whatever we bring to the Lord let us do it with gladness.

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!

Discard.

Having expectations and an overall aim are widely believed to be useful for success.

Some suggest that to be truly successful you have to break everything down into stages and specific blocks of thought and action.

Many people do achieve what they set out to using this style of methodology.

Sometimes, however, we are not clear or honest enough in our criteria.

I want to paint a cathedral is perhaps only part of our thinking, and maybe it should read I want to paint a cathedral just like Monet did.

When the image doesn’t look like we wanted it to, then we feel a sense of disappointment and doubt our abilities as a creative.

This type of thinking can affect every creative no matter what the medium.

So what can we do?

Discard.

Search through those drawers and cupboards of expectations, find them out hidden at the very back, and recycle them, or if they are plain broken then take a trip to the skip.

Discard what is not useful or helpful, no matter how long we have held onto it.

When we approach any creative endeavour we need to know the direction of our journey, but let go of the way markers we think we must count before arriving at the destination.

Like a pilgrimage, the Way should alter us.

The experience, spiritual and physical, of the journey will effect and influence us, and this will be seen in our creativity.

Monet was changed by the light. He realised that it couldn’t be captured in one painting, so he chased it. across a number of canvases, switching from one to another as the light moved.

Monet started out painting a cathedral. He finished painting light, which happened to have a cathedral in it.

Imagine if the French painter had only produced one canvas of the building in the way he thought it should look originally?

Discard your assumptions and expectations, and learn from the process, tools, and the materials you are using, how the image should finally look.

Like home and business experts advise us, take time each month to declutter and discard (or recycle) our things and our environment.

As a creative person, a major part of this should be our expectations in the realising of our final pieces.