Psalm 63 (NIV, 1984) is one of my favorite psalms—but only the first eight verses. I must admit I stop reading there. I have memorized these verses and often make them my prayer or my meditation. For me, this psalm contains and highlights the goodness of God and helps me focus on him rather than on myself or my problems. I hope you find this psalm as inspiring as I have.

“O God, you are my God.” Only you are my God, not money or fame or any of the glittering idols this world offers. Help me be more single-minded in my devotion to you.

“Earnestly I seek you.” Help me desire and seek you more than anything my fickle heart wants.

“My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you.” I need and enjoy you. Please give me a stronger desire to spend time with you in prayer and in your Word and remind me simply to enjoy your presence.

“In a dry and weary land where there is no water.” This world is like a dried up leaf, in great need of your healing, soothing balm. I get dry too; lead me to the river of your Spirit and quench my thirst.

“I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.” When I look at the moon and stars and gaze on the beauties of nature, I am in awe of your majesty, power and glory.

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” Nothing is better or stronger than your unconditional love. I have experienced your love and grace and know you will never leave me or stop loving me.

“I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” You deserve continual praise; I lift up my face to receive your blessings and lift my hands in surrender to your love.

“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” You and your goodness are a feast for my weary soul; you fill me up with heavenly delights and satisfy me as only you can—with yourself.

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.” You watch over me as I sleep; when I awake, you are there. I am always in your tender loving care and feel your loving kiss on my cheek as you sing me back to sleep.

“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” I have nothing to fear from my safe place near your heart.

“My soul clings to you.” I hold on as tightly as I can. Help me never let you go.

“Your right hand upholds me.” Thank you for holding me with the ferocious love that went to the cross for me. Amen.

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Freedom is precious. Most cultures protect the freedoms of their people, but sadly, some allow other priorities to get in the way and don’t allow as much freedom as they should. Those of us in countries where it is protected and defended often take it for granted until it’s encroached upon.

Chain expressing freedomGovernments can take away any or all of our freedoms but not our freedom in Christ. It comes with a guarantee more ironclad than any constitution. With his blood, he bought us back from the slavery of sin and death. Nothing can reverse the redemption we have in him. He has freed us from other shackles as well: fear, guilt, addictions, selfishness and worries about the future.

We are free, but what has he freed us for? What are we to do with our precious freedom? We certainly ought to cherish and appreciate it as it was purchased with so dear a price. God wants us to be thankful to be out from under sin and death, but he also wants us to use our freedom in positive and constructive ways.

We are free to live under grace, which means we are able to accept God’s gift with gratitude and joy. This allows us to live gracefully by turning around and freely extending his grace to others.

We are free to be the unique individuals we are. We can enjoy and appreciate the gifts God has given us and use them for his glory, without worrying we or our gifts might not be good enough. This opens up opportunities to serve God and our neighbors in ways we wouldn’t dare if we were still shackled by the need to conform or measure up to impossible standards set by others.

We are free to love and be loved. One of the sad consequences of legalism is that it often convinces us we aren’t good enough to love or be loved. It makes us feel we’re letting everyone down, God, family and friends. The grace of God lifts us up and tells us we are worth loving and we don’t need to measure up. Jesus measured up for us. Freedom in Christ means no more wondering if God really loves us. We have the freedom to accept his love, enjoy it and never worry it will be taken away. His love is ours to keep forever.

We are free to have our significance in God, rather than anything this world has to offer. The search for significance sidelines many from what’s really important in life and bogs us down in a mire of self-centered anxiety. Knowing God values us because we are his allows us to get our focus off ourselves and on loving God and our neighbors.

We are free to share in the fellowship of the Father and the Son through the Spirit, which is the biggest blessing of grace and is why we were created. Participating in the secure, loving relationship of Father, Son and Spirit gives us the foundation we need to follow Jesus and help others to a relationship with him.

Our freedom in Christ makes it possible to live confidently, be loved and loving, secure in our worth to God and free to have full, rich lives, doing all to his glory. We are free to be the best we can be and grow into the kind of human being Jesus was.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting on my blog over the past year. My intent when I began Bible verse a day was to write every day for the year and then turn the posts into a devotional, which I hope to make available in ebook and book form soon. I’ll let you know when it’s done.

My goal was to let God out of the box or rather, get our thinking about God out of the box, by exploring who he is in various verses. I hope I’ve helped you expand your concept of God. This been a real challenge for me—finding verses, writing every day and letting God expand my concept of him as well—and a great experience. Thanks for being part of it.

For 2013, I’m planning a series of posts on who Jesus is in every book of the Bible. I won’t be posting every day, but at least once or twice a week and will continue to post my monthly articles.

English: Gian Lorenzo Bernini - Dove of the Ho...

Happy New Year! May God bless you and may you continue, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to get to know him better.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, NLT).

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT).

Father & Mother with Newborn

When my son was little, I often gave him one hundred kisses on his forehead. Sometimes as I counted them out, he’d start squirming, so I held him tight until I finished. At other times, we’d play the “I love you more” game, going back and forth until usually I won by telling him and later, my daughter, I loved them the most. Most parents love their children so much they would do anything for them. We would rather be sick than watch them suffer. We would take the proverbial bullet for them rather than watch them die.

Some believe God the Father of all humankind only loves his children after they declare, in acts of contrition and repentance, they love him too. But that’s not how it works with human parents and it’s not how it works with God. We love our children before they’re ever conceived and God loved every man, woman and child before the foundation of the world. He doesn’t wait for someone to say the “sinner’s prayer” or stop sinning or even understand what sin is. He loved us first, best and most.

When you believe God can’t love you until you repent, your theology (what you believe about God) says he can’t love us as much as we love our children. If my child said he or she hated me (which happens, especially with teenagers) or ran away, never wanting to see me again, I wouldn’t stop loving him or her. I wouldn’t turn off the porch light. I would never stop hoping for reconciliation and would do everything in my power to bring them back.

God did just that. He loved the world so much he became a human being and took the bullet for us. He has already forgiven all. Just as loving parents never give up on their children, God never gives up on any of his children. His love is stronger than we can imagine and he proved his determination to reconcile with us by going to the cross. He loves us more!

“‘I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star'” (Revelation 22:16b, NLT).

I'm My Own Grandpa

A silly song came out in the mid-40s called “I’m My Own Grandpa.” It’s the mixed up story of how, through several marriages and births, a man became his own (step) grandfather. It’s an unlikely but possible scenario and the song was a hit because of the fantastic and humorous conclusion.

In a way, Jesus is his own great-great-great, etc., grandpa. He is the source of all life (John 1), a descendant of David and by extension, a son of Adam and a son of God. Matthew Henry’s Commentary notes: “this Jesus, as God, is the root of David, though, as man, his offspring—a person in whom all uncreated and created excellencies meet.” It’s a bit of a mind twisting experience to follow the relationships in the song but it takes only a little bit of faith to believe Jesus is the one who was and is and is to come. Thankfully he is the source of our faith and everything else we need. He is the bright morning star of life.

“‘Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave'” (Revelation 1:17b-18, NLT).

St Andrew's Church, Wood Dalling - grave stone...

Each year brings its share of death, but it seems this one in particular has been full of violent killings. Death is bad enough by itself, but many worry about what happens to their loved ones afterward. People believe many different things about the afterlife, including the belief there isn’t one, which is a sad way to live and die. Christians believe in heaven but hold various views on what it really is and worry about those who aren’t believers.

The truth is no one need be afraid of what happens after we die, believers or not. Jesus assures us we have nothing to worry about because he is the living one who died but is alive forever and ever. His resurrection means he holds the keys to death and the grave. He has forever locked the door on death and its power over us and he has opened the door to eternal life, which no one can close. Some think he may use the keys to lock out a few or even a lot of folks, but our loving Savior isn’t like that. He will only use the keys to lock out the real enemy, never his loved ones, the whole world, for whom he died.

“His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere” (Isaiah 61:11b, NLT).

Sunflower seedlings, just three days after ger...

Every fall the seed catalogs began arriving at our house and my dad would pore over them, making his list of all the vegetables and flowers he wanted to plant in the spring. He set up lights in the basement to get them going so the seedlings could be set out as soon as possible. Having a garden in Colorado could be iffy as it sometimes snowed as late as May, but it was wonderful to watch everything sprout and grow. His garden gave my dad a lot of joy.

In Christ, God’s righteousness is planted in the hearts of those who believe and trust in him. Just as seedlings take time to grow, so his righteousness in us takes time and nurture to develop. Sometimes we get impatient with each other, thinking because we’re Christians, we should be perfect, or at least further along than we are. We need to remember any good in us is from God—it’s his goodness, his righteousness and he is the one who causes us to grow and become more like him. Picturing each other as seedlings in God’s garden might help us be more like the Master Gardener as he patiently waits, nurtures and loves us to maturity.