I’ve been focusing on hope in all these journaling entries, but the greatest hope by far is that when we access the blood of Christ, we receive a true cleansing and the promise of salvation (I John 1:7–the blood of His son purifies us from sin). The ultimate sacrificial lamb.
When I was young, I always wondered why God chose to depict Jesus as a lamb and why lambs were used for sacrifice. There are many other animals with helpless young. But in later years, I came to understand that it’s an animal with great humility who willingly goes to be slaughtered (like the reference in Isaiah 53:7 says).
The author of John 1:29 gives John the Baptist’s declaration about Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” A little confusing, because the author Remember these words were uttered while John the Baptist was out baptizing to prepare men and women for the coming of Christ. They’ve been waiting for this savior, this lamb of God, which was foreshadowed with the sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. The men and women received John’s baptism with water, but would soon be able to take part in baptism in the name of Jesus like what’s given in Acts 2:38:
Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
With this baptism, they could access the blood of Jesus, and have their sins washed away. Salvation because of his sacrifice. (1 Peter 3:21).
There have been many vivid visuals of Christ’s sacrifice over the last several years, most notably The Passion of the Christ, which did stir deep emotion, but also scarred my brain with a series of gory images. I do feel it’s important to reflect on the pain and suffering that Christ endured on our behalf, but I also think Scripture emphasizes the humility Christ expressed when he went to the cross. It’s not a gory, gruesome, disgusting bloody battle that’s described in Scripture. It’s a flowing blood that continually covers our sin.
John 1:29 does not depict Christ as a great spiritual warrior or champion. He’s not described as a roaring lion or fierce panther. No, he is given the persona of a gentle, innocent lamb. The Lamb of God. The savior who willingly took the weight of the world’s sin on his shoulders and accepted the punishment and shame on our behalf. And if you can’t find hope in that, what can you find hope in?
For my journal today:
- In John 1:29, underline the phrase: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
- Sketch a lamb in the margins near this verse.
- Write: Hope for eternal life through His blood
- Write a reference link to Isaiah 53:7 and Acts 2:38
Jesus has been our light from the very beginning of the world.
This was so noteworthy that John mentions it in his Gospel account. In fact, John starts “in the beginning” and explains that all things were made through Jesus (the Word)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
So many important ideas here. First, Jesus was God from the beginning. He wasn’t created in the form of a baby and sent to earth–he was God the Son, part of the trinity, who stepped down from his majesty to become helpless and completely submissive the way a baby has to be. I wonder sometimes at what point Jesus had the full mind of God in that process. The whole time, or did his human form grow into it? Did he reflect on his future sacrifice as Mary rocked him to sleep? Did he know prior to the creation that he’d need to be the light to lead us out of the slavery of sin?
Colossians 1:13-17 is mirror evidence for the presence of Christ at the creation. The passage talks about Christ having the preeminence, or superiority in all things. But it also mentions our delivery from the power of darkness. Jesus is the light, so we don’t have to succumb to the consequences of our sin. His light will show us the way out. And we knew that, but to think of this in the context that he made us and made this world for us to live in, it just makes his love for us feel so much deeper, don’t you think? And it intensifies the hope and security we can feel in his presence.
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. Col 1:13-17
Sometimes when I teach the toddlers at church, we use a flashlight to illustrate this. I imagine that just as the flashlight can be pointed into a dark corner and all the little dust bunnies and bugs are revealed, Christ’s light reveals to us our sin. Then, we can purify ourselves and live guilt free, in Him.
For journaling today:
- Start in Genesis 1:1, and write the reference to John 1:1. If you have extra time, you might draw pictures over the creation verses like this one: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/364299057336768989/ I did it in a different journaling session.
- In the margins of John 1, draw a sunburst in a clear blue sky.
- Circle the phrases: He was in the beginning with God, and the light shines in the darkness.
- Write the references to Colossians 1:13-17 and Genesis 1:1
- In Colossians 1:13-17, circle the phrases: He has delivered us from the power of darkness, and for by him all things are created (I didn’t do anything else in Colossians because I have an idea for a future drawing that might go there).
What do you hope for? During the month of January, many teachers and students hope for a snow day. In February, singles might hope to find a date for Valentine’s day, or a widow might hope for comfort from the pain of losing her spouse. Brides-to-be might hope for a June wedding, or in November, a community might hope their candidate wins an important election.
Many of these hopes are fleeting. That snow day comes and goes and you might have to make it up in June. The wedding is a one-time event that turns into faded memories. Candidates serve their term then make way for the next one.
God, however, is a constant. That means that when we put our hope in Him, we are putting our hope in something that does not fade away or decay. Something that remains steady and unmovable.
I could have chosen so many verses to support this thought, but one that I particularly love is Isaiah 40:8:
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (ESV).
One of my favorite songs is “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. I love that line where it says,
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?
How many times have I had that very thought? Too many to count, for sure. And I’m sure you have, too. But we can rest assured knowing that God is our constant throughout these changing seasons. His promises are new every morning–I know, I quote that one a lot, but honestly, I survive on that hope. You can, too.
For the journaling thought today, I did a light sketch of the flower from the meme and simply underlined the verse. I wrote “God is our constant hope!” I thought about adding a fallen petal, but that seemed too much like Beauty and the Beast. I like to think of it as more like God keeps our petals from falling. We wither, and through His powerful word, He gives us strength.
Hebrews 10 is a worthy read about how animal sacrifices could never do for us what Christ did, and how His death was God’s will, to take away the first covenant and to establish the second. It talks about how Christ gave the ultimate offering for our sin, and how by that offering, it brings perfection to those who are sanctified. Powerful thoughts, for sure.
In the second part of the chapter, there’s this bit about how righteous people live by faith and can know that amidst the destruction or plundering of worldly goods, they have an “enduring and better possession in Heaven.”
At the end of the second part is Hebrews 10:35, which simply states:
Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
The chapter ends with the thought of promise for those who live by faith and continue to do His will.
My journal version (ESV) said to not throw away your confidence. This made me think of a wastebasket, which is what I chose for the journal entry today.
How often do we do this? The Bible teaches in I John 5:13 that we can know with some assurance that we have eternal life. And yet we doubt. Then, we get discouraged. Holding tight to confidence is what helps many athletes triumph in their quest for that much-coveted win. They’re told to keep their eye on the prize, and Christians should, too. We CAN triumph over Satan. We CAN have hope of eternal life. We CAN be confident in this!
For the journal entry:
I circled the phrases: Do not throw away your confidence, and you have need of endurance, and highlighted those in purple. No reason for the purple today 🙂 I was just feeling it. And then, I circled: you may receive what is promised, and highlighted in green to make the promise stand out.
I spent last quarter working with the 1st-3rd grade class studying the book of Job. You may be thinking, “That’s a THICK book for elementary kids,” and you’d be right. Job’s tough. But it contains a ton of great lessons, AND we’re preparing for Lads to Leaders Bible Bowl competition this April. Considering the January theme of hope, there’s no better book to walk through the ups and downs of life and come up on top.
The first passage I chose for today is often taken out of context. As it stands alone in the meme above, it’s a picture of complete positivity. Like the tree, we have hope. If we’re torn, we can regrow. Rebuild. Renew.
Job 14 is a continuation of what many Bibles label “Job’s Despondent Prayer.” He doesn’t utter these words because he’s being encouraging or uplifting. Rather, this is a point where Job’s spirit is low because he’s lost hope. It begins with desperation in verse 1:
Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not.
And following this thought in verses 7-9, Job is pointing out that there is hope for a tree, while there is no hope for man. In verse 10, he laments that “man dies and is laid low, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and does not rise again.”
This might lead a flailing Christian to believe that there is no hope at all. But thankfully, we have the second verse in the entry, which appears in Romans 5:5-6:
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
My journaling thought for today:
- Draw a budding branch in the margins close to Job 14:7-9. Write Romans 5:5-6 beside it to remember that these two verses are connected in our entry
- Draw this same branch in Romans 5:5-6
- In Job 14:7-9, circle the phrases: hope, sprout again, and it will bud. Remember that this is what our Christianity does for us. It allows us the renewal through Christ because he died for our sin.
- In Romans 5:5-6, circle: hope does not disappoint, the love of God has been poured out in our hearts, and “Christ died for the ungodly”
- Write the phrase “Yes, there is hope. In Him.” in decorative text.
*Mine ended up spanning two pages, so I wrote the link to Romans at the top of the next page and carried a little of the tree over to there.
Carrying on with the theme of hope…
Lamentations 3 has always been one of my go-to chapters when I get discouraged. Reading that first line where the prophet says, “I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.”
The book of Lamentations is about the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, and every time I get discouraged, I try to remind myself that none of the obstacles that I ever face are as terrible as the events leading to such devastating words as “even when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer” or “He has also broken my teeth with gravel, and covered me with ashes.”
At first, reading this chapter, one might ask how it could possibly bring encouragement. Well, true. Prior to verse 20, it’s definitely a valley. But then, you read these powerful words.
What an amazing thought, to be renewed every day. And, to have the promise that we are not consumed.
For the journaling today:
- Circle the phrases: never ceases, never come to an end, new every morning, and I will hope in him. I chose blue for this because blue skies in the morning always bring hope of a brighter day.
- Lightly sketch a sunrise over the text. I kept mine muted because I didn’t want the sky to take over the sun. Also, when I shaded, I tried to make “I will hope in Him” stand out and didn’t add much shading there. Now, when I look at that passage, it’s the first thing I see.
- Add some hearts coming down from the sky to the horizon. I actually didn’t take this to the horizon because I drew the line below verse 24, so my hearts stop right as it says the steadfast love of the Lord. A lot of times, I picture his love as raining down on us and covering us, so I wanted to continue that thought.
My 2017 resolution is to spend more time reflecting on the scripture that I read. To do this, I’ll be doing some journaling and sharing on the blog. Feel free to join in and post your pictures/variations/thoughts in the comments. Be kind 🙂
Here’s today’s thought:
God is forever. Eternal. Everlasting. No matter what troubles you face or burdens you carry, God transcends them. Therefore, I need to learn to let go of my day-to-day, minute-to-minute petty issues and focus on what God has called me to do.
Disclaimer: Sometimes I draw well, and other times I draw like a third grader.
And, I’m kind of new at this myself. When I first started, I felt a little overwhelmed and needed step-by-step instructions.
So, here goes. Bible Marking 2017 #1 Theme: Hope
Psalm 90:1-2 reads:
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
- Highlight in green: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations” and “from everlasting to everlasting.” The color green was chosen for this thought because it represents nature, and specifically the earth, which God created for us as our dwelling place. And yet, this verse points to God himself as a dwelling place. Sometimes we get so caught up in the fear of natural disasters that we forget our security in him. So in 2017, I want the color green to remind me that God is in control of all nature. I have no need for worry. He calmed the storm, He called the rain in the flood, and He created everything that comprises nature.
- Circle the phrases: “in all generations,” “before the mountains,” and “from everlasting to everlasting” to emphasize that God is forever.
- Lightly sketch mountains over the two verses
- Choose one phrase to write in the margins with decorative text. I chose everlasting to everlasting. The (badly drawn) squiggles are supposed to represent continual growth. Something like a plant that continues growing and never dies.
Take away: I can place my hope in God because he is eternal.
A big thanks to everyone who’s downloaded Cavernous in my free promo. Humbling numbers in the rankings and I’m honored to share Callie’s story with so many people. Unfortunately, there was a small glitch in the download and a lot of readers only accessed chapter one. The revision has been uploaded to Amazon, but not before 200+ people downloaded the story. For those who have automatic updates turned on, hopefully you’ll get the revised version, but I’ve messaged KDP and requested they push the full one out to anyone who downloaded the story prior to the revision going live. I’m SO sorry for that!
It was one of those “proud of myself” moments where I learned how to do drop caps and decided to go back and put them in. Made a test file to preview with only chapter one, and apparently I never got around to uploading the correct one. When am I ever going to learn LOL? I so appreciate your kindness in forgiving me in this matter! Anyway, Cavernous is back up and the promo is going until midnight tomorrow, so everyone enjoy!
Connie Lounsbury has written a heart-wrenching and beautiful written story about second chances, love, and a man forgiving himself to become what God made him to be.
Pete Walters knows loss far too well following the deaths of his beloved wife and daughter, and a year later, he drowns his sorrows with alcohol and swims in his depression. Even worse, because his focus is so inward, he can’t seem to stop himself from making terrible mistakes that lead to further loss, like the devastating barn fire that sends his already-struggling friend into an even deeper financial chasm.
With his head tucked under his chin, Pete does the only thing he knows to do–he signs his house and horses over to his friend, packs up his veterinary equipment and a few personal things and travels cross-country to find work in Texas.
Misfortune follows Pete–thieves take his car and money, and he’s unable to find work as a vet. Through what can only be explained by God’s providence, a chance encounter with an experienced hobo gives Pete a glimpse at another life. Though Pete is hesitant at first, before long, he’s riding the rails like a pro, seeking work as he moves from town to town. He makes great friends along the way, but it’s not easy. Between hunger, jail time, and his ragged appearance, Pete’s self-confidence wanes. He perseveres, however, and comes to discover how small glimpses of happiness can be found in unexpected places, especially by offering kindness to others. When he stops focusing on inward things, such as his own self-pity, and reaches outward, he begins to hope again.
As he continues his journey, another hobo tells him about a place called Kathleen Creek, and he decides to go there to start a new life. But it’s difficult–no one likes or respects a hobo, and they sure don’t want his degrading presence in their town. Still, Pete’s not giving up. One-by-one, he finds small ways to serve them, from using his veterinary skills to help a wounded dog and a struggling farm family to offering a young man companionship and relationship advice. He even catches the eye of a beautiful woman and dreams of a second chance at marriage and a family. Can Pete convince the townspeople through his kindness that he deserves acceptance from this beautiful community he’s so grown to love?