Christianity 201

July 17, 2021

God’s Peace for You

Today something radically different. Our devotional thoughts are taken from one of many 5-day reading plans at YouVersion. For those who don’t know it, just as desktop and laptop computer users tend to gravitate to Bible Gateway or Bible Hub, cell/mobile users tend to download the YouVersion app. It offers an endless list of Bible translations in hundreds of languages. It was conceived by Bobby Gruenewald (an associate of Craig Groeschel) who got the idea and immediately registered the domain name while standing in line at an airport.

Today’s excerpt from the notes has been edited for space; you’re encouraged to click the link which follows to read in full. There are also many suggested scripture readings for each of the five days you select, and you can click on them to read the passages.

Experiencing God’s Peace

What Is Peace?

If you ask people what peace means, they’ll give you a variety of answers…

While those answers aren’t bad or wrong, they are usually from a viewpoint that doesn’t include God in the equation. The world’s peace is different from God’s peace. Worldly peace is temporary and dependent upon circumstances, and doesn’t provide the kind of peace Jesus is offering. When things are calm, we’re at peace. When our circumstances grow dim, we’re not at peace.

In John 14:27, Jesus doesn’t want our hearts to be troubled. Because although we concern ourselves with temporal struggles, He’s offering a permanent solution, which is His peace. It doesn’t matter how intelligent we are, how decorated our resumes are, how many inventions are credited to our names, or how smart, creative, and wise we are—we don’t know how to create peace.

The Creator of peace is the One who created us. He is our Lord, our Creator, our Mighty God, and our Everlasting Father…

Peace With God

This peace that God gives may be beyond our comprehension, but it’s not beyond our grasp. It’s readily available to us. If we want to have peace with God, there are no “Three easy steps to peace with God.” There is only one way—Jesus.

When Jesus died on the cross, God put all of the sins of the world on Jesus—past, present, and future. When we accept this gift from God and put our faith in Him, we get the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness, according to Romans 4:23-24, is “credited” to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus from the dead.

We all want God’s peace. But until we come to a saving relationship with Jesus, receive His gift, and are saved, we’ll never have it. It’s best stated like this: If we want the peace of God, we must first have peace with God.

When we sin—and we will—this does not cancel out peace with God. When we are justified by God, it’s a one-time event. We’re not justified over and over. Praise God that our human condition doesn’t render our saved, spiritual condition as null and void.

So, what does peace with God do for us during uncertain times? It grants us hope. Hope that the life we live on earth is just the beginning of our forever life with God. As followers of Jesus, people who’ve accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, we’re given life abundant and life eternal. They go hand in hand.

Because we have the hope of Jesus and His Holy Spirit guiding us, an abundant life is possible here on earth. When we’ve taken our final breath in our temporary body on this earth, we are ushered into eternity. This life in our forever home is eternal and abundant. But, they are both just a continuation of what was begun on earth.

If you know Jesus, if you’ve made Him your Lord and Savior, then you can rest assured that whatever earthly scenarios or circumstances are weighing heavily on you don’t have eternal power over you. In light of what awaits us in our true home, this life is just a tiny segment in time. The peace we have with God is what guarantees our hope of what’s to come.

Peace of God

…To experience the peace of God, let’s dive into two Bible passages to see how we can make the peace of God our constant reality.

Romans 8:6-11

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[b] his Spirit who lives in you.

A Spirit-controlled mind leads to life and peace, and letting our sinful nature reign brings death. Think about it. When we cave and entertain sinful thoughts that are far from God’s best, our minds don’t have the peace of God. Not because God isn’t near, but because our sin has put a barrier between us and God. The peace of God and our sinful nature are at war. They cannot co-exist. But when we simply submit to our good God, trust in His ways, and obey Him, we’re no longer succumbing to our sinful nature and instead experience His perfect peace.

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The peace of God covers us like a blanket when we stop worrying but pray about everything instead. That’s right—everything. We turn every burden or hardship that we’re carrying over to God and when we do, His peace that “passes understanding”  floods our hearts and minds. It’s so beyond our understanding. It’s not something we can create but something we obtain when we choose to trust, obey, and walk in faith…

Peace With Others

Sometimes our lack of peace with others is because we’re stubborn and don’t want to meet in the middle when we don’t agree. We think arrogantly that our way is the best way. Another reason we don’t have peace with others is because we don’t want things to go well for them, either because they’ve hurt us or we’re jealous of them. We don’t want them to flourish, but instead want them to fail.

But we can learn how to live in peace with others from a variety of verses in God’s Word. Here are a few:

  • When someone persecutes us, we bless them in return (Romans 12:14)
  • Never pay back evil with more evil but instead be honorable (Romans 12:17)
  • Don’t retaliate with insults but pay back with a blessing (I Peter 3:9)

Even when we’ve blessed those who persecuted us, have chosen not to pay back evil, and been honorable in our actions, there still may not be peace. Why? Because people are people, and as good as we try to be and as much good as we try to do, we still fall short of perfection. Not every relationship can be salvaged, but let’s do everything we can to ensure that we’ve done our part.

  • Let’s love and be tenderhearted toward each other
  • Let’s believe and hope for the best for others
  • Let’s consider things from their point of view
  • Let’s apologize when we need to make wrongs right
  • Let’s pray for God to work in us and also in them

And let’s ultimately remember that people are not our enemies. We have a real spiritual enemy who loves it when we battle and accuse each other. If we blame people, circumstances, or struggles for our stress and lack of peace, then we are inevitably giving them control over whether or not we live in peace. Let’s not give anything or anyone in our lives this kind of power. There is only One peace-bringer, and His name is Jesus. He is the Prince of all Peace.

Peace Doesn’t Equal Perfection

…While earth is our home, we will have hardship and difficulties. We’ll go through seasons where the pain is intense because pain accompanies struggling relationships, struggling economies, and struggling health crises. These outside pressures don’t have the power to take away God’s perfect peace through Jesus Christ...

He meets us in our deepest time of need with an unexplainable, unfathomable, and inexplicable peace. This peace of God is unrivaled, and it’s beyond compare. No one or no thing is even in the same class as this perfect, mysterious peace. Even though it’s beyond our comprehension, we know when we have God’s peace and we know when we don’t.

We experience it in the midst of unspeakable pain and yet somehow, we have this calmness over us. We experience it when we’re in financial struggles and are unsure of how to pay the next bill, yet we’re amazed we can rest in God’s provision. We experience it when our health is in jeopardy and we don’t know when healing will come, yet we can’t explain the serenity we are living in. That’s the peace of God in imperfect situations. Life is not perfect, but our God is.

God doesn’t always take us out of our valleys, but He will always bring us through them. It’s often in the unknown that God shows us the most powerful revelations about who He is and who we are. We can still trust and rest in our good God during life’s challenges and exhibit faith during our own torrential, situational downpours. It’s this kind of faith that pleases our God.


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March 22, 2021

Two Psalms of Comfort

Today I paid a return visit to Prayerful Pondering by Pat Luffman Rowland. She has not been actively writing this year, so I reached back a decade in her archives finding this article from March, 2011. However… in the process I also noticed the ‘bonus’ devotional which appears further down the page, and realized I simply had to combine these. You might even want to print that one! (In case you do copy/p[aste that section, I’ve left out the green which normally accompanies scriptures here.) The links for each appear in the titles which follow.

Psalm of Comfort

Psalm 103 is a psalm of comfort for the one who feels ashamed and discouraged over sins and needs reassurance that God forgives and loves His children in spite of their actions.  It is for the one who needs encouragement, healing, and hope.  This psalm answers the question “Does God still care about me?”  And the answer is a resounding yes!

David, who wrote this psalm, was called “a man after God’s own heart.”  He was called that because he had, from his youth, developed an intimate and trusting relationship with the Lord.  He walked with Him and talked with Him — always.  Even so, because David was human, he sinned.  Adultery and murder were among those sins.  But David knew how to come back to God when he had gotten off track.  David knew the way back because he knew God.  His years of living intimately with the Father taught David who God truly was.  He knew that God hated sin, but loved him with an everlasting, unfailing love.  He knew God would always forgive him and always welcome him back when he came with a contrite heart.  What David had in relationship, we can also have.

Notice that David begins and ends with praise for God.  Scripture says that God inhabits our praise.  David wants to be heard, he wants the presence of God, and he adores his Maker with words of exaltation.  His intention is to establish a right position between Creator and created.  After David has entered God’s presence with words of exaltation, he continues to pay tribute to God by explaining all he finds in Him.  This is a defining poem about a God of love and David’s confidence in Him.

May this psalm provide comfort to the one seeking it, for whatever reason.  We can claim it as our blessing from the One who knew everything we would do before we did it and still sent His Son to die for us to save us from those things we could not save ourselves.   Before we were born, God knew the obstacles we would face and the pain we would go through, and He gave us the promise that He would never leave us to go through it alone.  Declare this psalm to your weary mind, body, and spirit and be infused with His love and the peace that follows.

Psalm 103  (NIV)

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children– 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. 19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. 20 Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. 22 Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.

Father, there is no one’s forgiveness we need more than Yours.  We may hide our sins from other people, but we can never hide them from You.  There is no one that can encourage us like You.  A word from You, O God, is precious beyond measure.  We come with praises and thanksgiving for a love like Yours!  We hide ourselves in the shadow of Your wing, where we are comforted and restored.  No matter how hard life gets, there is always healing in Your presence.  There, you renew our hope and give us new vision. We bless Your holy name, most high God!     

Comfort Prayer

The book of Psalms provides much comfort.  As David and other psalmists share with us their own emotions, we learn how to deal with our own.  Psalm 91 is a psalm many of us like to pray for ourselves or others when comfort is needed.  We do that by personalization.  To make it your own declaration, or your prayer for a family member or friend, fill in the blanks accordingly.   If it is your loved one who needs comfort, bless them further by reading it to them.

Psalm 91 (NIV translation, but with capitalization of pronouns indicating God’s name)

1 He (or she) who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  2 _______ will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  3 Surely He will save _______ from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.  4 He will cover _______ with His feathers, and under His wings _______ will find refuge; His faithfulness will be _______‘s shield and rampart.  5 _______ will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.  7 A thousand may fall at _______’s side, ten thousand at (her/his) right hand, but it will not come near _______.  8 _______ will only observe with (her/his) eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.  9 If you make the Most High your dwelling– even the LORD, who is my  refuge—  10 then no harm will befall _______, no disaster will come near (her/his)tent.  11 For He will command His angels concerning _______ to guard _______ in all (her/his) ways; 12 they will lift _______ up in their hands, so that _______ will not strike (her/his) foot against a stone.  13 _______ will tread upon the lion and the cobra; _______ will trample the great lion and the serpent.  14 “Because _______ loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue _______; I will protect _______, for _______ acknowledges My name.  15 _______ will call upon Me, and I will answer _______; I will be with _______ in trouble, I will deliver _______ and honor _______.  16 With long life will I satisfy _______ and show _______ my salvation.”

Father, may this bless the lives of the wounded and weary.   May it bring needed peace and new hope.  May Your children feel Your very presence surround them as they pray these words.   

February 5, 2021

Care for the Soul

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we were introduced to, and are now introducing you to Elisha who is a former school teacher and now a homeschool mom. Her blog is titled Mindful Heart and Home. I do love that she transparently shares the challenges of life with her readers.

In November, after a stressful day, she wrote:

…Have you ever had days like this?
How do you reset?
Do you throw in the towel and wait for the next day?

…I decided to stop and embrace a pause.

In that pause I felt God’s gentle reminder that I am enough. I’m not a failure because my plans did not get accomplished. I could hear Him tell me that out of all the mishaps, I loved my kids well today…

Several days later, she continued this theme:

May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.” – Psalm 103:34

…Cue autoimmune flare ups. The thing about autoimmune diseases, at least the one I am diagnosed with, is that stress is a major catalyst for flare ups. Refusing to pause, and ignoring the signs my body is screaming for me to STOP sends me to bed for days. I feel as though I am hit with a terrible flu bug, my body feeling completely exhausted, migraines, and pain from neck down my spine. These episodes where I am unable to take care of myself and family is my reminder to embrace a PAUSE.

The best way I have been able to embrace my pause is through meditation. Instead of filling my mind and body with the stress of to-do lists, playing my fears and failures on repeat, or comparing myself to others on social media. I begin pouring bible verses, uplifting songs, helpful podcasts, and soaking up the sounds of baby giggles into my heart. I cling to these joys and truths in my moment of pause. It allows my heart to meditate on the comfort and promise of God’s word. This grounds me, calms my nervous system, and allows my body to feel at peace instead of a flare up…

The post by Elisha we actually chose to share today appeared just hours ago. I invite you to send her some “link love” by reading this at her site, and I’ve closed comments here so that you can leave some encouragement there instead. Click the header which follows.

Self Care is Spiritual Care

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”– Mark 1:35

When you hear the term self care do you immediately think what a selfish thing to want or do you think spa day, shopping spree, and Starbucks?

Self care shouldn’t be a term that makes you cringe or feel guilt. It should be a term that you should embrace in your daily life as act of loving the person God created you to be and giving thanks to your creator.

God took six days to create the beauty all around us and then rested on the seventh. He commanded his people of Israel to take sabbath on the seventh day to do nothing but wait and trust in Him. Jesus took time to be alone in order to spend time with his Father in prayer.

These are spiritual acts of self care and a daily practice we should incorporate into our lives in order to refuel and find our grounding. This allows us to come closer to God. It helps us to embrace a much needed pause in our busy day to praise God for his blessings. It helps us to realign our expectations by asking God to show us what needs to be done and where our focus needs to be that day. It takes our focus off us and puts it on God.

So as a hardworking, on the go, busy mama that you are; you may be wondering how do you possibly implement this act of spiritual self care?

⁃ On your drive to work talk with God or turn up that praise and worship music and sing your heart out.

⁃ while you’re watching your kids play, give thanks to God for these amazing little humans that he trusted you to raise up.

⁃ Instead of reaching for your phone in the morning reach for your bible and fill your heart with His truths

⁃ Have a dinner or game night free of distractions and talk about things you’re thankful for or what God is doing in your lives.

⁃ Find a few minutes each day to retreat in a quiet place to connect with God.

This act of spiritual self care gives us the opportunity to be intentional with God. Through our act of pause, prayer, and worship we are putting aside our pride and self sufficiency and admitting we can’t do it all.

How will you begin practicing this act of spiritual self care? Leave a comment.

 

 

June 8, 2019

Falling Prey to the Lies that Lead to Failure to Trust

Today we’re making a return visit with Ted Gosard who blogs at Jesus Community.

leaving (instead of living) the lie

Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers
who rule this people in Jerusalem.
You boast, “We have entered into a covenant with death,
with the realm of the dead we have made an agreement.
When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
it cannot touch us,
for we have made a lie our refuge
and falsehood our hiding place.”

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
will never be stricken with panic.
I will make justice the measuring line
and righteousness the plumb line;
hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie,
and water will overflow your hiding place.
Your covenant with death will be annulled;
your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand.
When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
you will be beaten down by it.
As often as it comes it will carry you away;
morning after morning, by day and by night,
it will sweep through.”

Isaiah 28:14-19

I think it’s far more common than we imagine, just how we live in lies. And I’m thinking of Christians, too. Specifically I’m thinking of myself, included. Part of what got me thinking this way were two posts quoting Dallas Willard who says it quite eloquently in the details spelled out in Scripture (here and here).

We live lies in a multitude of ways. Essentially living in the truth is “truth in Jesus” and an important aspect of that is living in the Father’s care, so that we’re free to seek his kingdom and righteousness, not encumbered with any of the cares common to humanity, or part of our culture. That is so much more easier said than done.

When one is weighed down, maybe nearly stricken with panic, that’s a sure sign one is not living in the Father’s provision, or as it’s been called, his providential care. We’re failing to trust in God, at least not to the extent needed. We need to take our hands off so to speak, but through prayer, find our way into that peace that frees us up to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.

Patterns in our lives will have to be broken, and that can be hard. It will require effort by us, but an effort essentially to let go, and let God take over. We need to find his peace. Part of this is not just to be freed up to put first things first, but with the prior commitment to that.

As the text above tells us, life simply doesn’t work well when we make a lie our refuge. And God won’t let it work well for those who name his name, who profess faith in him.

This is something we need to strive to enter and remain, come what may. God has us, as we seek first of all to live in his care and love and will. Part and parcel of being followers of Jesus in and through him.

July 24, 2018

Strengthening Our Minds

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today we’re paying a return visit to the Canadian devotional blog, Partners in Hope Today.

I Will Strengthen My Mind

Just for today I will strengthen my mind. I will take a few minutes to read and meditate on God’s word, seeking God’s perspective for my life today. I will take note of one helpful thing God is saying to me and seek to behave accordingly.

There are many ways we can interact with God’s word on a regular basis. Most individuals in recovery start their day early with a bit of quiet time and read a selection from the Bible, from the Big Book, or from a meditation book – often a combination. It doesn’t matter if the words are from a traditional book or from an app on our smart phone, these truths can help us focus on a positive agenda for the day.

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me …Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9 NLT)

Our minds have long been patterned on the negative and the self-centered. By starting the day with a desire to hear from God we give ourselves fresh eyes with which to see and understand life in us and around us. God has plans for us to have a meaningful day and have a positive influence on every person and situation we encounter. We read God’s Word to get to know God and to know these good plans. Spending time with God also helps us learn His principles for life and relationship and understand how He acts on our behalf.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

Jesus said: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

(James 1:22 NLT, Matthew 7:24 NIV)

Real change happens for us when we don’t just get to know God’s will but actually put it into practice. Each time we read God’s Word it’s important to ask Him to show us what He wants us to know and what He wants us to do with what He is teaching us.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank you for taking time to meet with me today as I read Your Word.   Help me to understand what You are saying to me. Fill me with courage and power to put what I read into practice. Amen

Audio for JUST FOR TODAY – I Will Strengthen My Mind


Here’s a bonus devotional from the same blog:

The Exact Nature of our Wrongs

The exact nature of our wrongs is rooted in the lie that our problems are caused by what is around us rather than what is within us. It’s time to admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being that our way of dealing with problems does not solve them. Doing things our way creates greater problems for us and for those around us.  It’s time to confess that we cannot do life on our own and to seek God to help us change our ways.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again: I will obey your righteous regulations. I have suffered much, O Lord; restore my life again as you promised. (Psalm 119:105-107 NLT)

God’s instructions should be our first choice every time rather than our “choice of last resort.” We need to learn from God’s word and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit within us. We need to heed the advice of mentors and others who have faithfully walked with God for some time. With God’s help we can put into practice all that we have learned.

It’s time to agree with God about the exact nature of our wrongs. It’s time to admit that we are guilty of wrong thinking and wrong behaving.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:8-9 NLT).

When we finally face the reality of our sins it is helpful to recall God’s loving and merciful nature. No sin is too great to be forgiven. Jesus has already paid the price for sin with his death on the cross.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I admit that I cannot do life on my own. I need Your help. I turn away from my independent and self-centered way of living. I choose to trust and follow Your way to a purposeful life. Amen

Audio for THE EXACT NATURE OF OUR WRONGS

 

May 17, 2013

Comfort From the Word

I tend to read the scriptures for instruction and teaching. I’m looking for passages that engage my intellect and illustrate the inter-connectedness and symmetry of scripture; not to mention scriptures I can share with personal contacts and blog readers.

I wrote about that in a blog post that has actually run twice here, sharing a popular verse of scripture, II Tim 3:16,  in three translations and then ending with my paraphrase:

All scripture has its point of origin in God’s mind, and

  • shows us the path God would have us walk
  • highlights when and where we’ve gotten off the path
  • points the way back to the path
  • gives us the advice we need to keep from wandering off the path in future

But while this list includes four benefits of studying the word, it is not inclusive. The point is that whatever we think of when we think of the Bible, it is always so much more.

In Ps. 23:4 we read:

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

What is the ‘rod and staff’ spoken of here?  Most translations, including The Message preserve this imagery:

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.  (The Message)

Matthew Henry affirms that this imagery is pertinent to the phrase that precedes it; that the protection of the Lord described here is that needed in the face of death:

It is a comfort to the saints, when they come to die, that God takes cognizance of them (he knows those that are his), that he will rebuke the enemy, that he will guide them with his rod and sustain them with his staff. The gospel is called the rod of Christ’s strength (Ps. 110:2), and there is enough in that to comfort the saints when they come to die, and underneath them are the everlasting arms.

Ultimately, our comfort is God Himself. The Voice version, which tends to add things to the text, simplifies it in this verse:

Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
near with Your protection and guidance,
I am comforted.  (The Voice)

This echoes Psalm 46:1

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (KJV)

a verse which in many ways parallels the first verse of Psalm 23:

The Lord is my Shepherd…

This itself echoes Psalm 121:2

My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.  (NIV)

This comfort should sustain us at all times; not just as we reach the end of life; though it is often at the end of life that people turn to God.

Now going back to where I started, many times in my day, both here and in my personal Bible study time, I find myself engaging scripture more as an intellectual pursuit than to seek comfort, solace and strength from its pages. My faith is way up in my head somewhere and isn’t penetrating my heart.

Or there is also the “This is really deep stuff; who can I share this with?” mentality that sees the truths about God more as a type of theological email forward to be sent on to ten people who must promise to send it ten others.  “This is so good, I must send it to Bob.”

The result of this is what I am experiencing as I write this: In times of anxiety, stress or fear, I sometimes feel I have woefully inadequate resources at my immediate internal disposal because I have not “banked” the truths of God’s comfort and life-giving strength. I find myself totally broken because I have studied God’s Word enough to know the comfort of God is there to be taken, but living in the middle of a disconnect, not being able to draw on it as I should.

I don’t need God’s rod or staff to drive away 3rd party oppressors as much as I need to be hit over the head with it as a reminder, “Hey…I am right here; I am the strength you need.”

Do some of you resonate with this? Is it possible you’re attracted here to the “201” nature of this page — perhaps even looking for Christianity 301 or Christianity 401 — but are missing the “Christianity pre-Kindergarten” principle that Jesus loves us?

Yes, we need to search the scriptures and study to know the core doctrines and history that we learn from its pages. But we also need to know how to find comfort from the Word; because in those times, all our Bible knowledge and ability to explain theology will not hold us up. We need to know the reality of  “still waters” spoken of elsewhere in the 23rd Psalm.  

I know I do.