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Desert Declaring

Desert, the short definition is ‘a barren region of landscape.’  How is our landscape, metaphorically and spiritually speaking?  Are we parched, drying up and quite weary from trekking through the rugged terrain? Recently on one of my many rabbit trails, I was taken to Luke chapter 4.  Here Jesus is lead by the Spirit out into the desert place.  The desert place. He encounters the devil, where he tempts the Divine with some pretty cool stuff (not that they were his to give mind you) Jesus’ response, ‘It is written…” In these 3 responses, Jesus reaches back and quotes Moses from Deuteronomy, (6:13,16 & 8:3).  “Man does not live on bread alone… worship the Lord your God and serve Him only … do not put the Lord your God to the test.”  Here’s the cool part, this whole ‘God talks – man receives’ – where did it happen as Moses speaks?  In the desert place.

Seeing a pattern?  Oh, we don’t have to go out running towards the dryest region we can find to hear God, and be strong, but there is a significant desert purpose!  The desert offers a lack of distractions. (Use it!)  It offers true, genuine desperate need for survival. (Long for it. Long for HIM!) That desert is designed.  (Accept it!) It is instruction time, just before time.  Remember Moses and the Israelites, Deuteronomy was just before; Moses last words just before he dies and just before Joshua takes them into the Promised Land.  Instruction time – just before. (Listen for it!)

Be encouraged folks, there IS a purpose,  listen for the words of instruction like Moses, and declare the word like Jesus.

The desert place.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

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WAIT! Don’t Jump Ship Yet!

Waiting. Isn’t it HOARDS of fun? Yes, that is a rhetorical – sarcastic question. Nothing floats my boat, rolls my socks, more than … waiting. I am kidding, of course, whether it be in a checkout stand, gas line, or in a season of life, I am not a good wait-er.

Recently studying in Genesis, (LOVE that book, I always seem to be in Genesis) I was again reminded of just how ‘human’ the characters are. Noah. Quickly setting the scene: God is grieved over mans ‘ickiness‘.  He’s starting over. He instructs Noah to build the first Titanic; however, this one IS unsinkable. Noah obeys beyond the critical looks, and behind his back snickers. He builds the ark and gathers the animals. Loading up, God shuts the door and it begins to rain.

Forty days it rains. (Genesis 8)  FINALLY, the rain stops. Noah sends out the raven, then the dove, they both return because there is no place to land yet. Verse 10 “He WAITED seven more days …” (emphasis mine) Noah waited. In the Hebrew, this waiting is a painful waiting, as to wring the hands, not a mere sitting on a crate playing cards passing the time. It refers to either pain in the physical sense or in the emotional. Noah and his family in the ark, God preserves them, now he (they) … wait.  Perhaps Noah’s thought bend towards, had God forgotten him? Will he forever spend the rest of his life in a stinky ship full of animals?  “How many rounds of ‘Row row row your boat’ do they HAVE to sing, those silly sons!”   I must mention, Mrs. Noah, what a trooper, not one mention of complaining – in contrast to the dusty folks in the wilderness. Think about it, she’s on a voyage of no destination, no itinerary, with no time of arrival determined, with plenty of animals and animal stuff.  No complaints.

BUT, the story, the waiting does NOT stop there. Noah sent out the dove AGAIN, that evening the dove returned with an olive branch, “Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but THIS TIME it did not return to him.”  (8:11-12)

Noah waited and waited some more. We read that and think … ‘the guy is getting good at waiting.’ YET, his waiting has changed, the narrative uses a completely different word for wait. First he ‘hil’ (Hebrew) ‘painful waiting’, now after the olive branch, he sends the dove out with hope, ‘yahal’ (Hebrew) a confident expectation in his wait.  His pain has turned to hope. The results of his hope … “but this time it did not return to him,” knowing the dove had landed happily in an olive tree somewhere. I LOVE the ‘this time’ of waiting, the ‘this time’ of God.

Hope – it will carry us a long way, as long as it doesn’t carry us in the wrong direction. “Hope is NOT a pacifying wish of the imagination which drowns out troubles….” * Folks, whether we are in a season of painfully waiting, or our waiting is full of hope, don’t jump ship yet!  Keep sending those doves, perhaps God is in the ‘more.’  Take heart, God is just preparing us a dry place, His timing … perfect. Look for those olive branches, they will be there.  Our ‘this time’  … is coming!

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” –Hebrews 10:24)

* Quote from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (LOVE those geeky books!)

Don’t Back Down

Jesus, the disciples, and the crowd were leaving Jericho. A blind beggar named Bart (Bartimaeus) was sitting beside the road. When he heard that Jesus was there, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Dude Be quiet!” The people yelled at him. But this only got him more excited, he shouted even louder, “SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!” When Jesus heard him, He stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” So they called the blind man.  What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus asked.  The blind man said, “I want to see!”  (Mark 10:46-51)

I love the quotes of Jesus, this is one of my favorite. Blind Bart, works his way to Jesus, VERY apparent he lacks the ability to see, Jesus being God … KNEW! Yet, Jesus asked, “What do you want Me to do for you?” When the people tried to hush Bart, would he quiet himself? NO, he was desperate! Bart initiated the ‘ask’, would he follow through? How often do we ask, yet not follow through for a boatload of reasons? Are we desperate enough? Jesus wants us to come to the place that we tell Him. Notice too, that when Jesus asked, Bart’s response was NOT full of excuses or explanation, “Well, when I was 10, I was in a scuffle with my brother, I fell, my head injury resulted in my blindness, actually I am sure my brother pushed me. We haven’t spoken since. I have sought help from the doctors for years, but to no avail, it did not help. I am still blind, so here I sit every day waiting…”

He simply stated, “I want to see!”

May we too, in Jesus’ presence, not shy away, don’t back down, stay desperate, get straight to the point and ask of Him.

What happen to Bart? Jesus healed him.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

How We Impact Others!

Recently my friend Deanna and I were visiting a classmate from our growing up years.  We toured the blueberry fields with fascination as Beth points out the different varieties. Rows, and rows of lush green and blue.  Soon, we drive up to the farmhouse, when out steps Beth’s mom, Esther.  Full of a hospitable smile, she waves us into the house.

Once in, as introductions were made, and our conversation comfortable, I asked Esther what church she attended in the small farming community I grew up in. “The church across from the Grade School.”  Her response brought back memories I hadn’t thought about in years.  Memories of being handed a small red book, and reading the cover ‘New Testament’ and knowing nothing of God, or the Bible, I honestly thought the ‘New’ meant it has just come out and that ‘I’ was privileged to even have a copy.   I went on to tell her, that when I was little, we used to have ladies walk over from that church and get a small group of us and walk us back to the church and teach us about Jesus.  Her next words have forever changed my life – “THAT was me!”

At that moment, my eyes welled up; I walked across the room, enfolded her in a warm hug and told her “Thank you!”  She asked me, “Do you love Jesus?”  With heartfelt enthusiasm “Oh yes!” I replied.   Beth proceeded to tell her, “Mom, DeDe is an ordained minister now.” I shared that it wasn’t until about eight years later, when I was 16, that I was again shared the gospel and gave my heart to Jesus, I went on to Bible college and now after years of study, a Bible teacher.  Esther was so thrilled; she could not wait to share this at ‘testimony night’ at church.  I would have loved to have been in the grandstands with the angels when Esther rose to tell her story!

Esther sharing flannel graph stories about Jesus to a group of school kids seems so trivial, but OH NO it isn’t! She planted a seed that laid there until years later when Brenda, another woman of God sat me down and shared the gospel in terms a teenager could understand.  That action and those words caused the Esther seed to come alive!  The Holy Spirit watered it, it sprouted and gave new born-again birth to a confused and hurting 16-year-old.  God is AMAZING!

Never EVER doubt how we impact others! Regardless! Regardless of how small and trivial it may appear.  Solomon wrote: “Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.” (Proverbs 3:27 MSG) Paul says, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4) Thank you, Esther, for being obedient and being God’s hands and looking to the interest of those lil kids, THIS now grown gal is head over heels in love with Jesus and teaches HIM to others.  I am so thankful God orchestrated Esther and I meeting after 45+ years, our faith is encouraged, our faith is grown!  Be someones Esther!

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Note: I looked up what the colored coded lil Gideon Bibles mean: Red, in-school distribution. Green, for college/university. Orange, street evangelism. White, medical use. Dark blue, any other language other than English.  (Thank you Gideon’s!)  I am still in awe that I am privileged to own, and now teach the Bible!

Sin Not, Our VERY Best!

I have been studying Romans, verse by verse following Paul’s thread of thought.  I studied it in college, but that was a boatload (two trains, and a couple of semis) years ago.   I’ve revisited circumcision, atonement, and salvation, and now, now the ‘s’ word … yup … sin.  I have learned much more than I ever wanted, I’ve been forced to stop writing, and push away from the table having to bow my head multiple times.  (This is not a complete thesis on the subject, just what I am learning).

Sin is biblically known as to fail or miss the mark. The mark is the target God set out there for us, to not only aim for – but HIT.  Sin is a verb, an archer’s term, let me paint a picture: The archer takes a stance, the bowstring is drawn, and then released, the arrow flies and misses the target, the arrow has failed to fulfill the goal, due to the contemplated aim of the archer.  The archer has sinned.    Here’s a good example, in the book of Judges (chapter 20) it talks about a group of left-handed warriors who could sling a rock so accurately, they could not ‘miss’ (they didn’t ‘khata’ / sin) their aim was right-on, their slinging was ‘sinless.’  How is our aim?

We want to make sure we know what we are aiming for, WHAT is the targeted goal of our thoughts, behavior, and choices.    We look to Jesus, the ‘sinless’ One, Who did not fail to love and love completely.  In His response when asked what the greatest commandment is, His answer (in short) “To love God and love others. (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28:31) When we sin, we fail to love as commanded; our mindset works out in our actions in disobedience, we either hurt God, ourselves or hurt others, (usually all at the same time).  We miss the target, love.   If we are loving God with ALL our heart, ALL our soul, and ALL our mind… and loving our neighbor as our self, well our target is hit.   BUT, when we don’t and we miss, (and we will) John gives us the solution, “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn. 1:9) Confessing is coming back into alignment with what GOD says!  How’s our re-aligning?

Funny thing is, it does not stop there, in the original language, sin is the act of doing wrong(missing the goal) yes, but it is literally also ‘not the best‘ (OUCH!) The goal of the enemy of our soul is to kill, steal and destroy, he does so by getting us distracted, deviating from the truth, get our eyes OFF the target,  not doing and being our best. How many of us, if we were REALLY honest would be bold enough to say we are lazy, (my hand goes up!) we don’t always give it our best, we are undisciplined and often times just do a haphazard fling of our bow, not truly taking it serious enough, when our response is wrapped in lame-slang, “My bad!”  James understood this:  “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (4:17) He is describing what is theologically known as ‘sins of omission.’ It is not only what people do that matters; the good that they fail to do (due to the contemplated aim of the archer) is equally important to God. *

Here is an amazing example of how I feel Paul is strongly exhorting us all to do and be the VERY BEST.  He KNEW, he knew because Jesus told him, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) Yes, it is hard work, yes it is painful, yes, we do so by faith, and YES, it helps to have someone crawling alongside us!  I love how the mocking crowd changed their tune as they see the determination, can you imagine how the world would view us (and our God) if we responded in life like THIS!  Watch … watch until the very end “Alright, who’s next?”  May this clip and the words of Jesus ring true as we are taking proper aim and ‘giving it our very BEST!’  God gave His very best, why don’t we.

Paul, the coach…  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sUKoKQlEC4 (Click on link)

 

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

*Sins of omission defined in ESV Study Bible notes, commentary on James 4:17. Please also note, this author chooses to not capitalize the name satan, he is not worthy of proper grammatical rules.  Movie clip above is from ‘Facing the Giants’.

 

Prayer

This morning I was reminded of a time when prayer became more real and on a relational level for others.  A few years ago, while driving to work early at O dark hundred in the morning, I became aware of something, “Where’s Linda?” Linda is a gal I would see riding her bike every morning, she was but a speck of light at first with a headlamp on her forehead and flashing backlight.  I had never met Linda, I just gave her that name.

For a couple of months, this Linda and I passed each other every workday. I had begun to pray for her. She not knowing, but it doesn’t matter, our paths intersected for a reason. So I’d pray. I prayed for her safety on the road, for any unknown needs, that while she rides “YOU, God are speaking to her.” One particular morning, I didn’t see her. For never meeting this gal, my heart sank. However, about a ½ mile up the road, there she was. I again began our morning routine, unknown to her!

Prayer, an amazing thing. Some make it more complex than it is, more lengthy than needed and by golly more King James than understood. Paul shared multiple times about our CALL to pray for one another.  He bluntly states, “Brethren, pray for us.” (1 Thessalonians 5:25) Again, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)  James shares, in a more intimate environment, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 emphasis mine) Astonishingly, this was said of Job in the Old Testament, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10)

Prayer, simply coming to our God, and talking to Him. I would venture to say, most of our prayers may be “O God, help!” and that’s okay, “In Jesus name!”  Whether it be a quick bow of the head for a loved one, on our knees on behalf of the nation, face down in a battle for deliverance or heartfelt while driving by a stranger, let us converse. I would add, conversing is two-sided, remember to take pause to allow God to respond … and listen.

Prayer.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

It Has Purpose!

As I sat on the edge of a prickly field in Pendleton, Oregon visiting family, I am again, in awe of God! In my morning devotions, I was directed to Luke 15, specifically verses 11-32, the parable of The Prodigal Son. I have read this numerous times, heard it preached and teached, (ok, it is really ‘taught’ – but it rhymes) it is packed FULL of wonderful principles. We can look at it through the eyes of the wayward son, through the frustrated older brother and the father, oh the father! Today I see it through new eyes, a fresh perspective; this is what Holy Spirit showed me, this is what I am learning. (Stay with me this is good)
The parable begins with “Jesus continues…” What was He continuing? Looking at the prior verses, there are two parables above, First: ‘The Lost Sheep’ Jesus ends the mini story with “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.” (v7) Then, the second Parable of the Lost Coin, He too ends with “there is rejoicing … over one sinner who repents.” (v10) Jesus is teaching on repentance. Even then, I go back further, the first verse of the chapter; it says, (Looking for where they were, who was there) “Tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Him.’ But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (NIV, emphasis mine, can you hear the ‘hissing’ in their muttering!) The principal pulled forward: Do WE position ourselves to listen or so distracted with criticism, perhaps MISS what Jesus is saying. (Ouch!)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son: In brief rundown: A father has two sons; the younger decides to leave, demanding he gets his inheritance NOW! It is given, he takes off and treks far away completely wasting all his money on wild living. When his pockets are empty, a famine hits, he’s hungry – he finds work at a farm, his boss puts him to work feeding the pigs, he sees what he is tossing to the pigs, being so hungry, even THAT looks good! The story comes to a pivotal point when “He finally comes to his senses…” (v17, complete sermon in those few words) He says to himself, ‘even at home, dads hired servants get better than this, I will go home to dad and tell him; “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, I am not worthy to be called your son, please take me on as one of your hired servants.” Here’s the key verse (to me) Verse 20, “So he returned home to his father.” As he nears home, the father sees him, so excited the father takes off running, meets him, embraces and kisses him. The son begins his speech. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son …” Not getting to finish, his dad turns and calls to the servants “Get the robe, the ring, sandals, and kill the calf we’ve been fattening up – let’s celebrate! My son who was lost is found!” (The story goes on; the older brother notices the celebration, he begins throwing a smaller ‘pity’ party version – the dad comes out and tells him to get over it, all I have is yours already!)

I want to reach down and unpack a few things: I noticed as Jesus told this story, there is no reference to the father speaking any words to the younger son; we only hear a one-sided conversation. When the son returns and gives his dad his speech, the father does NOT reply to the son but calls to his servants. The father gives no verbal response – but only ACTION. His dad’s forgiveness is action-filled, he gives him a ring, robe, sandals and a BBQ. (The significance of each for another time).

I also noticed, the son refers to his dad’s servants, and his dad calls to his servants. Each time they both use different words. The son (see verses 17, 19) uses (in the Greek) ‘misthios’ meaning ‘wage earner.’ The father (v22) uses ‘doulos’ – meaning, ‘one whose will is consumed with the will of another.’ The son was going back ‘for the paycheck’ – NOT to be taken over by his fathers’ will. Let that sink in. HOWEVER, (pause) I am fully convinced, that as the son saw his father’s response, no words, just action – regardless of how empty his stomach was, everything changed! Actions speak LOUD! Action can detour any conversation, there were no ‘follow up’ words, ‘BUT DAD…’

I see also that good intentions only profit – IF we act on them, while the son was still in the pig pen, ‘he said’ – he not only ‘said’ but also he got up and went TO his father. He could have continued in the pen and rambled on and on and on, the neighbors could hear him lamenting over at their place! But he truly repented – repentance is not just turning away FROM, but in the same movement – it is turning TO! It has purpose! Repentance took him away from his icky pig pen, and home TO his father. His dad couldn’t do anything about his son’s situation until he came home. (Read THAT again) Yes, Jesus is teaching about repentance.* (See defined below)

The prodigal son, YES, he messed up, but took notice of his situation, was humbled, responsible and sought resolution, (RIGHT AWAY, ‘when he came to his senses’ – there was no delaying, sat on it – wrote ‘Dear Abby’ – consulted his friends) – he put action to his personal repentance. This father put his forgiveness into action as well. What about us, are there circumstances that have us in the pig pen, whether small or fills the back 40. Do we need to quit just talking about it, but get up and DO! A purposed turning from and turning to (God). Or perhaps, we need to offer forgiveness to another, oh we may not need to throw a robe over their shoulders and put sandals on their feet, but we may need to back up our forgiveness with action. Point to ponder – remember, the father gave his son his portion of the inheritance, but upon returning, the father had MORE to give, – our God has and IS more! And sometimes, God allows us to go the full run of our sin, to truly appreciate the MORE of HIM when we come home!

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

*Repentance means a change of place, or condition, to exercise the mind, to relent, a true change of heart toward God. The OPPOSITE of repentance: To continue. [The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament] Those who, conscious of their sins, are intent on obtaining God’s pardon. [Thayers Greek-English Lexicon] To change one’s purpose [ Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament] Perceiving one’s prior opinion, feelings, or purpose was wrong, taking on the sense ‘to regret’ – in so doing, a change is made. [Theological Dictionary of the New Testament] Interesting side note: ‘Prodigal’ in the Greek means: Extravagantly wasteful because of “loose living.” [ Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament]

Pictured above, the sunny skies over Pendleton.