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Giving Presence in the Present

Christmas and gift giving, standing amongst all the stuff, the noise and the chaos.  Christmas has become somewhat of a plummeting oneself into the art of either grab and go at the store or park yourself in front of the computer and let your fingers do the shopping.  My goal this year is to slow’r down. Taking time to smell the cinnamon infused pinecones, watch yet another Hallmark Christmas movie, listen to Elvis and enjoy our son home from college.

Christmas to me is so very sentimental.  I gave my heart to Jesus on December 21, 1979, at the age of 16 ½ (the half counted back then) while sitting on the white carpeted floor of the Associate Pastor’s living room.  I had been visiting the lil corner church, now with Pastor Ben’s wife Brenda, lovingly, openly, full of acceptance telling me about Jesus, His love for me and what it meant to be a Jesus follower.  That day will always render special to me, that moment and the moments following as I walked home, down the street.  As I walked, the Christmas lit houses took on a new glow, the plastic baby Jesus in the front yard demanding my attention and respect.  That baby Jesus was no longer just yard deco, but now my Lord!  Not just a baby, but a KING! I stopped, pausing to take it all in, I was in the moment!  Thirty-nine years later, (*GASP*) I remember the moment, I cherish the moment.  The moment changed me. Sing with me, “O come let us adore HIM…”

How often are we somewhere else when we are with people or in circumstances or perhaps even in church?  Our bodies may be present but by golly, our minds are full of grocery lists or a prior situation rehearsing over and over in our head, or while someone is talking to us we are busy formulating our response.  What-did-we-miss?

Be in the moment.

In Exodus 24 (the theology of Exodus is Presence) God called Moses up the mountain, “The LORD said to Moses, “”Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” (v12, emphasis mine, NKJV)  For 40 days Moses was there.  Eight chapters worth of divine instruction was given.  Moses was there.  Many translators interpret God telling Moses to ‘stay there’ or ‘wait there.’  Yet a 19th-century rabbi wrote from a different perspective which I adore.  He exclaims that there are times we go to a place and not actually being there, going on to say that we can exert ourselves getting to a destination, yet when we arrive, our thoughts remain at the original point of departure.  The Rabbi imagined God was telling Moses not only come up the mountain – but be fully there, with complete attention and concentration. *

May we too be there this holiday season and every day, be in the moment, giving complete attention and concentration to those we are with and in the moment of where we are.  It is a gift we give to others & ourselves when we are giving presence in the present.

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

For Pastors Ben & Brenda, ‘Thank you.’  That lil corner church became my home church for two years following, then they sent me out to the big world to attend Bible college, study God.  Now a Bible teacher.  Thank you for being in the moment!

*Lois Tverberg, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus (BakerBooks Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2018)

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The Names of God – Yahweh

Continuing our ‘Names of God’ study, today we look at the promised name of God.  The name, according to Orthodox Jewish tradition is so full of majesty and considered so ‘other’ and too holy to even utter, that when reading from the scriptures the name is verbally replaced with HaShem (Hebrew for ‘THE Name’).  His name is Yahweh.  In the original Hebrew text (O.T.) it is YHWH, (the vowels added later for pronunciation sake).  YHWH is referred to as the ‘Tetragrammaton’ (Greek for the ‘4 letters’) this is indicated in the Bible when we see LORD, (used over 6,500 times) all caps distinguishing it as the covenantal name, Yahweh.

LORD (Yahweh) is built on what God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3; Moses is on the far side of the desert attending his father-in-law’s flock when he sees a bush on fire.  This was no ordinary bushfire; there was no ravishing destruction of the bush.  I adore the direct and clarifying Word of God, verse 4 states, “When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush…”  Moses turned aside, he stopped everything, going and giving his full attention…  THAT is when God spoke. May we take note; there are times God waits for us to stop and give full attention before He speaks.  God tells Moses to go to Egypt and demand His people be set free from slavery, Moses basically asks “Whom shall I say is sending me?”   God answers, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me.” (v.14)

‘I AM’ conveys ‘to be’ the root word signifying existence.  God’s all-pervading, ever-present nature, His character, all-that-He-is, is our here and now, simply put, He is. The Pastor of Hebrews wrote: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (11:6, emphasis mine)    God states, “I am the LORD, that is My name, I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8)   “I AM.”

Jesus, God in the flesh – boldly stated in John 8:58 “I tell you the truth before Abraham was born, I am!” The Jews were so irate; how dare he say THAT!  They picked up stones to kill Him.  Later in the olive grove (John 18) when Judas, on the night of betrayal, approached with the soldiers, they said they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus answers, (in the original language) “I am.”  The narrative says the soldiers drew back and fell to the ground, struck no doubt by the MAJESTY of not only His words but the essence of Who He was.

Each time we read ‘LORD’ let us take pause, look at the context, insert “The Great I AM, the One Who is…” – He is everything.  Like David wrote, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) “O, LORD…the Great I AM! The One Who is and ever will be, the One Who comes to me with all that He is… my strength and my Redeemer!”

Yahweh, the promised name of God, “I AM.”

By the way for you Scrabble players, ‘Tetragrammaton’ … BOOM!  67 points!

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

 

The Names of God – El Roi

 

Continuing our ‘Names of God’ study, we take pause in Genesis 16.  Giving a brief summary:  Sarai & Abram have been promised a son, an heir in their old age.  Sarai’s impatience motivates an assuming creative alternative – MAKE it happen – by giving one of her maidservants (Hagar*) to Abe (as was the custom of the day) so they can create a child with the family name.  Like all ‘let me do it myself’ plans – it didn’t go so well.  Hagar becomes pregnant, Sarai & Hagar get all ‘girl-fight’ on the issue, Sarai was rather harsh and Hagar runs off.  There in the desert, Hagar is alone and upset… yet … she is found – by God.  The Angel of the Lord calls her by name, “Hagar, servant of Sarai…”  May we not miss the importance of this; Hagar was a slave, a servant, a title that considered her the property of another – BUT the title does not outweigh God-knew-her-name!  We may be the wife of… the mother of … the employee of… the friend of… BUT God knows our name.

The Angel of the Lord speaks directly to her situation, (in short) the discussion leads to promises, promises that Hagar will see her son (Ishmael*) grow to be a nation.  She once the run-off-slave now the heir of promises. Hagar ends the encounter by naming the Lord, ‘El Roi’ (EL-row-EE) the “God Who sees” – Hagar, the only person in the Bible to give a name to God.*  The “God Who sees” – in the midst of rejection, anger, aloneness, hurt and yes, even a dysfunctional family – God sees!

The Psalmist wrote of the watchful eye of God over Israel, but we, who by the blood of Jesus share in the same seeing God. “The LORD Himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (121:5-8)

El Roi, the God Who sees me and sees …YOU!

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

*Hagar, the Egyptian servant (Gen. 16:1) – how did she join this Hebrew caravan?  Remember when Abe took the family on a detour down to Egypt due to famine in the land, with the whole ‘Sarai is my sister’ facade.  Well, before Pharaoh found out the truth and kicked Abe and all out of Egypt, he gifted Abe with “sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants (Hagar) and camels.” (Genesis 12:16, emphasis mine)  Note to self: DO NOT TAKE DETOURS; you never know what attachments might mess with your life and MANY others!

*Ishmael: Fascinating, when the Angel tells Hagar about her son there in the desert, he explains that Ishmael will be a donkey of a man, (nice warm fuzzies) his hand will be against everyone, and everyone against him, then at the very end of verse 12 (Gen. 16) ‘and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”  Now skip to Genesis 25, it speaks of the descendants of Ishmael andthey lived in hostility toward all their brothers.” (v18)  The ‘he’ turned into a ‘they.’  Also, interesting side note:  Jumping WAY ahead:  Josephs brothers and their jealous outburst of selling him off – look who they hand him off to, “So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.” (Gen. 37:28)  WOW.   It was Abraham’s ‘other’ sons descendants who transported his great-grandson Joseph (of the true heir bloodline ‘Isaac’) into Egypt and we know what happens in Egypt.

*People gave names to places & altars on behalf of God’s actions, indicating a quality of God (I.e. Abraham called the place ‘The Lord Will Provide’ – Jehovah Jireh – Gen. 22:14 and Moses built an altar and called it ‘The Lord is my banner’ – Jehovah Nissi – Ex. 17:15-16).  God refers to Himself as ‘God Almighty’ – El Shaddai  – Gen.17:1 and through Jeremiah God speaks of the coming Messiah, King as  ‘Jehovah our Righteousness’ – Yahweh Tsidqenu – Jeremiah 23:6.  And at Moses’ request for God’s name, God responds, “I AM THAT I AM” (in short) ‘Yahweh’ – Ex. 3:14.

The Names of God – Almighty

Continuing our ‘Names of God’ study, we are looking at Almighty (Shaddai).   The power in which God is and operates is ‘beyond’ in the sense as ‘overpower’ (All-powerful) thus the title, God is ‘Almighty.’  There is one particular Psalm that when read, folks declare it their favorite: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty [Shaddai].   I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (91:1-2, ESV)  Beautiful! 
 
When reading this Psalm it is most helpful to place it and the author on the historical timeline.   Scholars believe it was written by Moses, composed sometime between the wilderness and the Promised Land.  Knowing this helps paint the picture of Moses’ heart.  He wrote in Deuteronomy that their God led them “through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock.” (8:15) It was the Presence of God that protected and provided for them; Moses speaks of the same protection here in Psalm 91.
 
He is very careful in his directness, he doesn’t dance around or imply they run to God at times and enjoy occasional approaches – they DWELL.  Dwelling (in short) means to ‘sit’ – sit as to stay, not be moved, it is our unwavering presence in THE Presence (of God).  Moses doesn’t let up – he continues that as we dwell, we also abide.  Abiding is the secure and peaceful rest of living close to God.  It is HERE, we experience the All-Powerful, God Almighty!  HERE that He is beyond all!   HERE we are protected! And here, we can say “He is my refuge, my fortress, my God in Whom I trust.”  Folks, it literally is a cycle, we stay – we experience God is.  
 
Whether we are in a dry desert place or stepping foot into our proposed Promised Land, may we remember to DWELL, staying put in the Presence of God Almighty.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Thankful

THANKSGIVING!  I love this holiday of food – family – fun, and football – a set time to pause and ponder thankfulness.  There are seasons that may be difficult to pull forward on the shelf of our life, wondering if there is something – anything to be thankful for?  We may have lost a job or a loved one, or our bank account matches our emotional bucket of strength – empty.  Yet there IS something to be thankful for, we indeed have the reason for thankfulness!  The great Psalm of thanks opens with, “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good…” (Psalm 136)  That alone is enough.

“Give thanks to the LORD for He is good. His love endures forever…”  The author found it needful to repeat ‘His love endures forever’ 26 times throughout the Psalm.  This Hebrew word love is ‘hesed’ (a guttural, ‘H-said’ )  we know it biblically as mercy, goodness, loyalty, steadfast love and even grace.  What a pivotal word, a pivotal attribute all rolled up and woven into one magnificent GOD!  The Psalms poetically describe His lovingkindness as precious (36:7) marvelous (17:7) undeserving (103) abounding (86:5) reviving (119:159) satisfying (90:14) and everlasting (103:17).  Are we thankful yet?

King David’s well known and beloved Psalm 23 (verse 6) “Surely goodness and MERCY (hesed) will follow me all the days of my life.” David writes this at the end of his life, he once the shepherd – has now and is being shepherded.   This ‘follow’ is not a mere tag along behind, but PURSUIT! The Shepherding God’s unending – steadfast love full of mercy pursued David. That same mercy, the same goodness pursues us, pursues YOU!  He is unrelenting.  The divine love of God is steady – sure – persistent and FULL of refusal to let go.  Aren’t you glad He does not let go!  (Thankful!)

As we share around the table amongst the declarations of health and love of family, and a few glee-filled shouts of  “TOUCHDOWN!”  may we ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.  His love endures forever!’

Thanksgiving.

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

 

The Names of God – El Shaddai

Continuing our ‘Names of God’ study, we look to Genesis 17:1, where we see God identifying Himself to Abram, “I am God Almighty, walk before Me and be blameless.” God (El) Almighty (Shaddai) a divine title used only 8 times in the O.T.  and ‘Almighty’ used 40 times, 31 of those in Job alone (When Job questions God’s purposes, God displays His wisdom & power, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?” 40:2, DUDE!).  Each time a new name of God appears we are to take notice, it reveals His nature, character, and majesty.   In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Bible) it translates ‘Shaddai’ as ‘all powerful’ and according to rabbinic teaching, it is a compound word ‘sha’ (who) and ‘dai’ (enough) One Who is enough … All-Sufficient One. Many scholars deem the ‘power’ in which God is and operates is ‘beyond’ in the sense as ‘overpower’ thus the title ‘Almighty.’ 

Interesting point, in the same chapter that God introduces Himself as God Almighty, (‘All-Powerful Sufficient One’) God changes Abram’s name to Abraham (‘father of many’) and Sarai to Sarah (‘woman of nobility’).  New character quality-name introductions all around.  Peter declares this of us, that we too have a character quality-name change, when he said, you who believe, (and as Paul says, “you who were once far off, have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” – Eph. 2:13) you who through adoptive grace “are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.” (1 Peter 2:9*)  God’s gracious great power through Jesus! We are HIS!

THAT is our God! Over… Beyond… ENOUGH! 

God Almighty! 

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
* Peter is making reference to God’s words: “Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be My treasured possession. Although the whole earth is Mine, you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Exodus 19:5-6)

The Names of God – Elohim (Part 2)

This week we are looking at the first mention of the name of God, ‘Elohim’ (“In the beginning God…” Genesis 1:1) used well over 2,500 times from Genesis to Malachi (think God is trying to tell us something!) containing the idea of God’s creative power, His authority, and sovereignty.

Elijah and the bad king Ahab of Israel (“Ahab did more evil in the sight of the Lord than any of those before him.”- 1 Kings 16:30) are at the showdown on Mount Carmel.  Ahab became a Baal worshiper, so…Elijah requests all the people of the region and the 450 false prophets of Baal to come and let’s get this decided right now! ‘Show me what ya got’, let’s see whose god can bring down fire – the winner – is THE God!  The Baal folks prepared their bull sacrifice and began their calling out, yet funny how nothing happens, Elijah offers, “Perhaps you should yell louder” –  they do. From morning until evening the fiasco continued… still no response. There is no movement or sound from the heavens, not even a slight flutter of a ravens wing (See 1 Kings 17:6).   Elijah steps up (dramatic drum roll) he took 12 stones, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, creating an altar, he arranged the wood and the sacrificed bull.  He didn’t stop there, he dug a large trench around the altar and had 4 large jars of water poured on the offering and the wood, again and again – 3 times the water was poured, filling even the trench.  Elijah prayed…

O LORD, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that You, O LORD, are God [Elohim] and that You have brought them back to Yourself.” Immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The LORD—He is God! Yes, the LORD is God! (1 Kings 18:37-39, NLT)

Here’s the totally cool part… as Elijah steps onto the pages of scripture, he speaks the word of the Lord that there would be no rain – for years (1 Kings 17:1).  ‘Baal’ was considered the god of rain and what do you know, there was a drought in the land, so much for a ‘reigning Baal’ (HA!)  What does Elijah do as he stands with his offering? With the lack of water, valuable as it is, he drenches the altar with it.  I love it!  Let me pour your god on here too and let THE God burn’m up!  After this, the 450 false prophets were destroyed at Elijah’s command, and guess what?  Elijah again prayed… it rained!  God not only opened the heavens with fire, but He did what the false god could not!  Nothing and no one comes against God’s word!

The Lord doesn’t just show up to show off, He-is-God!  Full of creative power, and sovereign authority, Elohim.

Can I get a hardy “Go God!

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