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 – Trouble and Delivery.

The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;

Psalms 34:19

We used to have to deal with postage and packing.

Now it is mostly subscriptions and delivery.

There were, and can be, problems with both systems.

Most of the time it isn’t our fault.

In today’s Psalm we are told that a righteous person – tsaddiq – just and lawful – may have manyrab – abundance, enough, full, great – troublesra’ – adversities, afflictions, distresses – in life.

Who would be a righteous person, you might ask?

You act justly and lawfully, do you best by all others but still there can be problems.

In this verse there is no blame or incriminations, outwardly or inwardly.

You may have many problems – a simple fact.

But!

In the original Hebrew the word is kol and forms part of a longer phrase out of all of them.

It only occurs in this one instance and means every one, the whole, as many as, altogether.

Despite the troubles the Lord natsal – defends, delivers, without fail, snatches away, preserves, rescues, rids, saves – you from each and every one.

If you are in difficult circumstances they may not be your fault.

But even if some are, be assured that part of your ‘faith’ subscription you have delivery!

Troubles and delivery.

There are and will be troubles.

God delivers you from those troubles.

All of them. Every time.

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!

Daily Verse – Overcome.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:21 NIVUK

Short. Simple.

Overcomeniko – the only occurence of this word is here and it means to not be conquered or prevailed against.

We are not to be conquered by kakos – anything bad or harmful.

This could be an external situation or even an internal situation.

We are to stand against any situation, any thought, any action, which is bad and could do us harm.

We are not to be conquered or prevailed against.

How are we to do accomplish that?

By taking action ourselves.

We are not to be passive in our difficulties and troubles, but we are to counter or prevail against this ‘evil’ with ‘good’.

This second instance of ‘overcome’ is present only twice in the New Testament and is linked to the first instance in the verse.

Nika – essentially carries the same meaning of conquering or prevailing over – in this case we prevail against evil with good – agathos – actions and thoughts which benefit rather than harm.

We overcome negative situations by countering them with positive words and actions.

Try it next time you are in a difficult place or frustrated that something isn’t working out for you.

We cannot be passive. We must take action.

We can overcome.

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 – 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.