Passion. When you read that word what first comes to mind? That passion or zeal we have that compels us – makes us –forces us to places of the heart that we HAVE to have more! Does our desire for more include more of … GOD? More of His word. More time spent in His presence. Passion is our response to being completely, utterly, astonishingly captivated by Him.
A while back, I had a gal express that she was amazed at my passion for God and His word and compared it to (I will summarize what I heard) her lack of desire, discipline and delight in her relationship with God. Instead of those three, she found herself basically surviving in the doldrums found in duty of relationship. I’ve been there – done THAT! (Still do at times).
I would offer, if we lack passion – ASK FOR IT! God will “give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Then we seek discipline. We are putting feet to our desire. We want more, so now we are going to position ourselves for just that. If we want more of His word, then we set aside time to read His word, study it and think on it, most importantly, have the word–study us. It is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). God’s word is designed to be engaged. This takes discipline. This is the practical side of positioning.
We may need to address our alarm clock issue, so we can get up just a few minutes earlier. Or remove the other books on the nightstand and place only one Book there. Ask the Lord to show us creative ways to make way, make room for reading, talking and listening.
When Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). He is saying our all is with completeness – no holding out! There is no dividing up our love, like a pie graph. We draw out a slice for this and for that and what is left is God stuff –God’s slice. No, He gets the whole pie.
Desire, discipline and delight for me, it paints a picture of getting in line, like that at the store. Our desire takes us to the line. We want the prize that is offered at the head of the line. Discipline keeps us in the line. We may be distracted by those walking by with other stuff, but we REALLY want what this line has to offer – so we stay. Delight is getting to the head of the line and so overwhelmed with the prize (JESUS!) that we RUN and again get back in line for MORE. THAT, to me is PASSION! The progression of passion: Desire, discipline, delight. May we find ourselves always in the line and always running back for more–of GOD!
It is up to US to take our relationship with the Lord seriously. Any relationship must be cultivated. Bible scholar and good godly guy, Charles Spurgeon said “To delight in God is as much a privilege as a duty.” Both delight and duty (a task or action required for responsibility) are part of knowing, loving and serving God.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).
Have you ever stood in the woods – just stood. Didn’t move. You listened. Quiet. Leaving the noise of the city for this contrasting quiet. It can be captivating can’t it? “Be still” conveys not only to “let drop” what is in your fisted hand, and stop striving, but too formulates a forsaking, an abandoning. May we abandon the chaos around us, the crazy wild noises that can forge our perspectives and let us settle in with the knowledge that HE IS GOD.
Recently I had the honor to speak to our young adult women at our church, their ages ranging from 18 to 28(ish). I was given an hour to share my heart, a blueprint on practical ways of being a Godly gal in this generation. As I looked into the eyes of each young woman, I truly knew the privilege and opportunity before me. I was honest. I was real. I was bold. I shared from God’s word and my personal experiences.
(In short) First, “Have a pre-determined answer.” How often do circumstances arise and demand a response from us and we tend to flounder – grasping for the right answer, the right behavioral response. When we do, we usually grab the closest and easiest and often comes in the form of compromise. We looked at Genesis 14, where Abram stood before the King of Sodom, refusing his offer of the spoils of war, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing from you. So that you can say “I” made Abram rich” (vv22-23). Immediately after this, God comes and tells Abe “I am your shield, your very great reward” (15:1). Abram had a pre-determined oath. He had his God answer. We too need to be prepared. Now is the time for preparation – don’t wait until you’re in the midst of the stuff.
Second, “Don’t get distracted.” Solomon, the wise guy wrote: “Look straight ahead and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path” (Proverbs 4:25-26, NLT). We discussed “what is it that distracts you most – the quickest?” Be aware of this and apply the first element – have a pre-determined answer for your distraction. Stay the course. Follow Jesus. NEVER waiver.
This flowed right into the third element: “Position Yourself.” King David wrote: “I have set the LORD always before me, because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8). You desire good God stuff? What – who have you set before you? Be intentional about placement. Where are you and what are you thinking and doing? Are you in church? Your friends, have you chosen wisely? Do you have some folks that will lovingly address your stuff? Are you reading God’s instruction manual? Also, has God told you something specific? What are you doing about it? Intentional positioning.
With the fourth point, we camped out there most of our time together. We discussed what it is to “Be a good family member.” When I was growing up, my dad was a businessman. He owned two grocery stores, one convenience store and two restaurants. We (myself and the sibs) heard dad often say. “Remember you’re a DeBus.” Meaning, we were expected to speak and behave in a manner that represented the family well. So it is with our God family. Not only be a good witness to Jesus’ name, but a good member to each other. Kind and forgiving.
Jesus said we are to love God with our all and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). Paul too wrote: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). Loving our neighbor, our brother (in particular) means we help protect them. We talked about our personal expression, about – modesty (in detail, I don’t think we forgot a thing). Our brothers have a responsibility for their own eyes, their own heart, their own disciplines and decisions – but why not help them out!
We closed the evening (being a good family member) with brainstorming how they (the younger folks) can connect with the older folks. There is a boatload of wisdom wrapped up in our older saints. Prior to this evening, I polled six women, (ranging in age from 30’s to 70’s). I asked them to please tell me, if they could reach back and speak to their younger (20 something) self – what advice would they offer. I read the list to the gals. It was impacting.
A great reminder for us all (myself included). Practical ways for good God stuff in this generation: Have a pre-determined answer. Don’t get distracted. Position Yourself. Be a good family member.
All for His glory. (In Jesus name).
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).
Recently I heard a most profound statement. While out blueberry picking, the farmer handed me a bucket and waved me off down the trail, pointing out beyond where I stood. He told me where the best picking was. He closed with “And don’t get distracted on the way.” Meaning, you’ll see berries, but if you want the BEST, and lots of them–keep going–stay focused!
It was true. As I walked the dusty aisles between the mounded rows of bushes, yes, there were beautiful blueberries scattered here and there. But as I took a closer look, they had been picked over. I could tell other folks stopped here, at the very beginning of the field and picked. So did the next picker and the next. They didn’t journey out, they stopped at the first sight of berries. I would venture to say, some may have grown frustrated, thinking, the berries weren’t ripe yet (since primarily only green berries were left where they stood) and not going forth caused their perspective of the field to be lacking.
As I picked handfuls of plump berries (at the other end of the field) I thought about how true his statement was, “And don’t get distracted on the way.” We can apply this in our daily lives. How often are we venturing along and “Oh, looky there – ‘shiny.’”
Before we know it, we have dropped our (metaphorical) roadmap and we are all over the place. Distraction keeps us swerving and from the best!
King Solomon, the wisest biblical guy wrote: “Look straight ahead and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path” (Proverbs 4:25-26, NLT). What wonderful imagery. The idea being conveyed is someone who studies what is ahead. It isn’t a quick glance; it is a taking pause and looking intently as to squint (“fix your eyes”). Once understanding what is ahead, the plan is weighed out and the best route is calculated (“mark out a straight path”). Solomon goes on to say, “Don’t get sidetracked” (swerve to the right or to the left) – distracted.
The Pastor of the book of Hebrews wrote: “…let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (12:1b-2, NLT). THIS is our specifically designed “fix your eyes – mark out a straight path” plan.
Peter too adds with strong encouragement, “Discipline yourselves, keep alert” (1 Peter 5:8a). Folks there is a “roaring lion” out there ready, waiting to destroy your “everything.”
Don’t get distracted.
What is it that distracts us most? What distracts us the quickest? Do we too stop and begin picking and attempting to fill our bucket, all the while there is abundance further out in the field?
Point to ponder.
Look straight ahead, fix your eyes, mark out the straight path. Jesus.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).
Life. Life happens. Have you ever come out of a foggy situation, tattered, a little bruised, (metaphorically speaking)? Your heart aches with that familiar ache of disappointment in someone’s behavior? (Or is the behavior yours?)
Their pain, jealousy, hatred, and insecurity causing them to act out in anger. Pain and anger are very intricately linked, that the dividing line fades when actions are applied. If these words resonate even with some small hint of recognition, then you too can relate to Joseph of the Bible.
Joseph, an incredible story–the events that groomed him, the people that mocked him, and the God Who delivered him. One verse dances off the page as it defines his circumstance. Genesis 37:4 “When the brothers saw that their father loved him (Joseph) more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.”
The word used, they “could not speak a kind word to him” seems to get lost in many of our bible translations. In the Hebrew, the word (kind) is shalom. The brothers due to their jealousy and hatred could not speak peace to Joseph. Peace, meaning health, prosperity, blessing and amazingly so, it can be rendered–safe.
Noticing on in the story of the brothers (turn tormentors) they see Joseph from afar. Their deceitful plan is forever etched in history. First, they plan to kill him. Nope too harsh, (don’t we ALL rationalize). Then they found what was convenient. A deep well. When in haste convenience seems to always trump wisdom!
It says they stripped him of his robe, one of many things that ticked them off, let’s start with the robe, the outward sign of our jealousy. They attempted to remove the evidence of his favored relationship–the gift from their father. I believe this was not done in silence. I bet there was a lot of taunting going on. Rude comments, jesting, a jab here and shove there. Then the final shove, leading to pit dwelling. Then their brother was sold into slavery.
Jealousy and hatred withhold peace. May we think of our own lives: Are we speaking peace to and over others, (regardless of how brief our time is with them). Are we allowing them a safe place in our life? Are we doing our part to help them prosper, stay healthy? Or not? Is there someone who has what we want? Oh, it may not be the enduring love of a father, but perhaps our jealousy stems elsewhere. At what cost does our lack of peace affect others? Is it worth it? Are we giving them the gift of peace or throwing them in a pit? (Ouch!)
I have heard it said, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” It actually hurts us in the long run. The story goes on that Joseph becomes highly successful while the brothers and family live in feminine. They ultimately end up going to Joseph for their very survival. So, who was it that ended up in the pit? The brothers or Joseph?
The Pastor of Hebrews exhorts, “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life ” (Hebrews 12:14a, NLT). Yes, work it WILL be. It won’t be easy and not pretty at times. Yet peace is what we are called to. Paul states in Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit–the qualities of having Jesus in our life are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control” (5:22,23).
Oh Jesus, we invite You, we need You, live in and through us! May it begin with us. May we be Your ambassadors of peace.
Peace or a pit? For us and them.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24)
In the final days and moments before Christ’s death, Jesus instructs Peter and John “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover” (Luke 22:8). Jesus goes on to explain the plan, and the disciples go and do as He says. This, the beginning of an incredible time between the disciples and the Lord.
Joshua too gave preparation plans. They were at the edge of the Jordan River, ready to cross over into the Promised Land. Men were sent to each encampment telling the Israelites that when they saw the priests with the ark, they were to move out and follow it, (but keep your distance) “then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before” (3:2-4). Joshua tells the people, “Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you” (v5). The priests and the Ark (God’s presence) were to stand in the Jordan and eventually remained standing in the middle until everyone was on the other side. God parted the river, allowing His people to cross over to the much awaited, highly anticipated, it’s finally yours–Promised Land.
Preparation and positioning.
Other instances when folks prepared? Noah (enough said). David, bringing the Ark back (Take 2) he prepared and implemented the instructions (Ex 25:13-15; Nu 4:15; 1 Chron 15:15; 2 Samuel 6). And “the LORD gave him rest from all his enemies” (2 Samuel 7:1b). Jesus, He told the disciples to stay put and wait for the Presence and the power (Acts 1-2).
This preparing for God, has the Hebrew picture of adjusting. Picture if you will– straightening your shirt. Brushing the hair out of your eyes. Patting the dust off your pants. Standing ready. Head bowed. Possibly even taking your shoes off–for this is holy ground. Jesus and the disciples, their preparation carries the same exact meaning, to make ready, to adjust. The disciples, through obedience, adjusted their plan, their direction, their focus. The opposite of prepare? Neglect. It even goes to the extreme as to overlook, NOT by accident, but intentionally ignoring.
WOW! If we too had such anticipation–excitement for God to move in our midst! What would we do to prepare? Would we intentionally obey or ignore it? The people were called to consecrate themselves, simply put, step aside. Step aside, withdraw from (worldly things) and step to (God). It often meant to clean up and abstain from certain behaviors. Out of obedience, perhaps we too need to adjust our plan, our direction and focus. For some of us, just showing up is a clear starter. Listen. Listen for His instruction. *
Preparation and positioning – anticipation of Him.
*Many years ago, while in a very dry place spiritually. I asked the Lord what I needed to do to prepare for Him to move in my life. He was faithful and gave me precise instructions. I was to get up early (O dark hundred early) and read ONLY from a certain Bible that didn’t have any (not a one) note in it. No study notes, no handwritten notes. Just His word. Out of obedience, and anticipation, I prepared and positioned myself. I read and read and prayed. Just me and Him and His word. After a couple of months doing this, I ended up on the floor, face down – He moved. It was finally after six months I felt released to study again. One half of a year. One hundred and eighty-one days. Prepared and positioned in obedience.
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The human hand, an unbelievably intricate part of the body. Consisting of twenty-seven bones and movable joints. With the bones, there are thirty-four muscles and over one hundred ligaments and tendons. (Pause) Look at your hand. Wiggle your fingers. Magnificent design! The hand is known to be one of the most utilized parts of our anatomy. The hand is the gentle brush against the cheek of a peacefully sleeping infant. The confident grip of a firm handshake. The welcoming wave to a friend across the aisle at the store. The hand resting on a shoulder as to comfort. It is valuable moving parts to our daily lives.
But the lifting of the hand, is where the heart connects in worship to God. I’m not just speaking of and to the Pentecostal pews. Abraham, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22, ESV). Out of commitment, Abram (his name not yet changed) declares, in conversation with the King of Sodom, saying a hardy “No” to his offer of the battle spoils (read the story of Sodom & Gomorrah in Genesis 18:16-33, 19:1-29). His response is due to his predetermined value, a standard (an oath) by which he was to conduct his life and that of his family – to worship God and God alone. Worship involves our lifestyle. Our choices. Our giving and taking. The hand.
The Israelites. After returning from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem, when rebuilding the walls of the city, the Law was brought out before the people. When opened and read, “Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:6). Worship is our response to God’s word.
King David worshipped even in the hardship of the desert (Psalm 63). Scholars believe he may be referring to his troubles in 2 Samuel 15, when running from Absalom. “Because Your loving devotion is better than life, my lips will glorify You. So, I will bless You as long as I live; in Your name I will lift my hands” (Psalm 63:3-4, BSB). Worship is reaching beyond ourselves, beyond our circumstances. To Him. Regardless.
The Hebrew words used in these verses is the open hand, (in context) the palm. Not a fisted hand. Not closed, holding the stuff of this world. Closed as to withhold from God. Open, conveying surrender. Allegiance. Honor. Awe.
Worship is just being overwhelmed with Who He is. “I will exalt you* my God and King and praise your name forever and ever. I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever. Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness” (Psalm 145:1-3, NLT). There are times I cannot get my hands high enough. My arms seem too short. To exalt Him over my life, over the stuff that seems big at times. To place Him up higher – a representation of my heart’s love, my reverence to a Holy God. My hands in the direction of the One worthy of my adoration.
The lifting of the hand.
*Exalt (Hebrew, “ramam”) to extol, to raise, to lift up. Indicating something is literally raised up high.
Our neighborhood has a resident peacock. Kevin doesn’t belong to anyone, (the kids named him from the bird in the movie “Up”). He lives in the thin line of woods behind the houses and often appears on rooftops. We only hear him three to four months out of the year in the late springtime. It is in his created design to call out for a mate. When I hear him one block over, it makes me smile. It reminds me of the God given desire within us – for Him. To long for more. More than this world can offer.
I’ve heard the phrase, “Where’s the MORE!” (In a frustrated tone) in regard to the Christian life. We all want more. More joy. More happiness. More love. Even more – stuff. But do we want PRESENCE? That is the key. God is the key.
Some use King David’s words from Psalm 37 as if to rub a divinely ornate bottle, treating God like a genie: “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart” (v4). “I’m delighting God” (rub, rub) “Where’s my stuff, give me what I desire” (extensive rubbing). Give me more. More money. More possessions. More. More. More. (Ok, who just thought of the girl in the old Willy Wonka movie “I want it NOW!”).
There is a design for more. Genesis 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.” Our bodies were made of the dust – earth – biological. The soul was not made of the earth. So, earthly things cannot quench the hunger of the soul. It is ONLY the breath of God that feeds and nurtures the spiritual man! It is divinely birthed and divinely maintained. (Brilliant design!) How often do we seek things, people, position and even events to satisfy our deep longing and cravings? Without God’s breath and presence in our lives, (His Word, see 2 Tim 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12) we are an empty vessel. God initiated this for mankind, now we by invitation in turn – seek that breath. We seek Him!
HE is the more.
I love how Paul prayed over the Ephesian church, he got right to the heart of it. He, by God’s grace and mighty power was given the privilege of spreading the Good News and to pray, “I ask Him to strengthen you by His Spirit, not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength, that Christ will live in you as you open the door and INVITE HIM in. And I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know, far MORE than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us” (Ephesians 3:16-20, emphasis mine – paraphrased – The Message).
MORE! Exceedingly abundantly above all. The fullness of God. Enjoy Him. Enjoy the more.
The world is looking for more. Go share – the more. Him.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we can spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).
Meet Kevin the peacock
The hills of life often turn into a mountain of challenge. Ever feel that way? One more heap of this or that and it continues to grow. We’ve all had a mountain put in our path these last few months. I have asked the Lord to tell me about the mountain. What a journey. I have found that if we sit at its base and do nothing, nothing is attained (goals). Nothing obtained (possessions). Nothing is conquered (battlefield untouched).
In God’s word there are different mountains and different aspects of His character met at each mountain.
In Genesis 8-9, as the flood waters swirled around Noah, it says “God remembered Noah”. God caused a wind to blow, and the waters began to subside. Noah and crew ended up on a mountain top. There, was the place of new beginnings, the place where God’s covenant was birthed (9:9).
Genesis 22, God calls Abraham to the mountain – to sacrifice. There was the laying down of a deep love, yet in obedience – he offered. It says, “God called out to Abraham”. He again, is faithful. In His faithfulness He provided.
Exodus, Moses is taken to the mountain, God gives His word. His word becomes their guidance.
1 Kings 18, the show down on Mount Carmel. Elijah against the false prophets of Baal. While all of Israel watched, (with their ever-changing allegiance). God brought fire down, consuming not only the sacrifice, but the wood, stones, the dirt and all the drenching waters. God proved powerful. “The LORD, He is God!” (v39)
Matthew 5, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down and He began to teach them” (v1-2). For three chapters, one hundred and eleven verses He taught them. The crowds were amazed at the authority of His teaching (7:28-29).
Matthew 17, the Mt of Transfiguration. He takes Peter, James and John with Him, as He unzips His humanity, showing His glory. How powerful to be in such Presence. What a glorious invitation. Jesus is faithful to show Himself.
Yes, each of these scenarios were with or to certain people, yet each one waves an eternal God quality at us. God is faithful. He remembers us. He remembers YOU. He calls out to us; He gives His word; He is powerful; He teaches us, and He invites us into incredible revelation of Himself.
What is YOUR mountain? What do you need? (Point to Ponder). Get up and conquer, attain and obtain the good things of God. The remembering, calling, word, power, teaching, and revelation of God!
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds – Hebrews 10:24).
Thrill seekers, they go and do just for the sake of experiencing something out of the ordinary. They fly high, they jump as to free fall and there are those who desire speed. Much is spent to seek this out and usually at a high price. A price for an exhilarating, yet fleeting, temporary – moment.
I personally do not do adrenaline, nope, not me. But I have boarded a wild ride and this one causes my hands to be thrown in the air, with shouts of joy. It does not require a ticket or weeks of planning. BUT it does cost me something – all of me. There is an option to get off – but I won’t. I settle in and hold on! It offers excitement where not expected. Views I would not normally see. Experiences only this ride can give.
One of my favorite verses in all the Bible, “You thrill me, LORD, with all You have done for me! I sing for joy because of what You have done” Psalm 92:4 (NLT).
God is my wild ride.
“You thrill me, LORD…” conveys results of the past. The present. It also is a request for MORE! When was the last time we got excited about God and knowing Him?
Peter writes “May grace and peace be lavished on you as you grow in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord!” (2 Peter 1:2, NET)
Peter isn’t talking about head knowledge. The word in the Greek points us to personal investment – involvement, experiencing God firsthand. See the process Peter lays out? Grace and peace will be attached (lavished on you) “as you grow in the rich knowledge of God…” We are not bystanders, or observers. We are participants. Participating and wanting – more. Growing in personal rich knowledge of Him.
Will it always be peachy? No. Life alone can be a roller coaster ride with the ups and downs and hairpin turns. The un-expectancy of it all. But, if you long for something out of the ordinary, go for the extraordinary – ride with God Almighty. Now THAT is the wildest ride of your life. Wanting more? Invest yourself. Read His word. Pray. Praise. James wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (4:8a).
“You thrill me, LORD!”
Note: “LORD” is not me yelling (although worthy of loud declaration). In the original Hebrew text, it is YHWH, (the vowels added later). YHWH is referred to as the “Tetragrammaton” (Greek for the 4 letters) this is indicated in many translations of the Bible when we see LORD (all caps) distinguishing it as the covenantal name, Yahweh.
Thrill on LORD, thrill on.
We are all image bearers. In Genesis chapter one, it says God created mankind in His own image, male and female (v27). This Mother’s Day weekend, we celebrate moms. We celebrate the God nature in us. We are physically designed and spiritually designed to nurture and guide.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Yet, I’d like to take the banner and run further. Regardless of where we (women) fall on the feminine spectrum: Princess to tomboy. Small to big. Young to old. We are women, we are female (regardless of the world’s confusion). Proverbs 31 gives examples of a woman (don’t groan). When we begin reading it – we are exhausted. When done with the last verse, we can be overwhelmed with all that is listed. BUT. It is not a job-description. It is a – celebration. (Stay with me, I’ll explain).
At first glance it is strongly assumed it is written by a man. Well, it is … kinda. Most jump straight to the popular verses, beginning at verse ten and neglect the opening (vv1-9). It is a man telling what his mom taught him. One Jewish tradition claims the mom is Bathsheba teaching this to her son, Solomon. She tells her son not to spend himself on women (plural). Do not waste yourself on wine. And to be bold speaking up for the poor and helpless, – THIS is what a king does. The following twenty-two verses are acrostic (the first letter of each sentence is in alphabetical order, in the Hebrew).
Mom goes on say, but this “woman” (singular) she is worth far more than valuable jewels. If the son is Solomon, it is said in 1 Kings 10, that he was the riches king, riches man on earth, and well, that wealth doesn’t stack up to a woman who “fears the Lord” (Prov 31:30). A woman who is faithful, kind, prepared, charitable, hardworking, smart and confident. She is a good wife and mother.
Verse 10, (paraphrasing) “Who can find such a woman of virtue.” Many translations say, “wife” due to the context that she has a husband. In the Hebrew “eishet chayil” (woman of virtue). Chayil paints a vibrant picture. It can mean brave, excellent and noble. It conveys a military tone as well, “one of war” – a warrior. She is a woman of valor. She is strong.
Of the 235 times “chayil” is used in scripture, all refer to either God or men. All except – two. Here, where Mom tells the son, a good God-fearing woman, a kind, STRONG woman is worthy of your interest, your strength. The other? Ruth.
In Ruth chapter three, just before Boaz is about to begin the process of taking her as his wife, he says the people of his village know her to be “eishet chayil” – “You, Ruth, are a woman of strength.” You are hardworking, brave, faithful and wise. Ruth, unlike the Proverbs 31 gal, is not married (she was, he died). She does not have any children.
Ruth goes on to marry Boaz and together they have a son named Obed. He had a son named Jesse – he had a son named David. This eishet chayil (woman of strength) was King David’s great-grandmother. David went on to have a son named Solomon. (God is the most brilliant Orchestrator!)
Oh, beloved women of God, what a great connecting story! A Godly woman is both married AND single. She has children, while others do not. All women are to be celebrated. Do not allow others to define you or frame you. Not to be compared with – be celebrated.
Be blessed in your image bearing – to the glory of God.
I had the honor of speaking this to the women of our church this weekend at our annual Mother Daughter Tea & Breakfast. I encouraged them to go back and read all of Proverbs 31 (and the 4 chapters of Ruth). May the Holy Spirit breathe over them their worth – far more than valuable jewels.
Please note: It is the Jewish young men, who are encouraged to memorize Proverbs 31, NOT the young gals. It is also tradition: at the Shabbat meal the men sing the Eishet Chayil (traditional Proverbs 31 song) to the matriarch and the women of the family – they celebrate them – weekly.
The year was 1983. A young woman of 20 in her second year of bible college, kneels, while the men of God lay their hands gently on her head in a church service. Through prayer, they speak words of promise, hope and declarations of spiritual potential in her life. With anointing, they install a teaching mantle* along with… a warning. “You will protect yourself…”
That 20-year-old is now 58, that was me 38 years ago, (Gasp!) A lot has transpired in these many, many years. There have been (will be) hours and hours of study – preparation is positioning for the potential. There have also been stupid mistakes, which held hands with frequent lapses of judgment. There were attempts: some quiet, and some blatant, attempts to destroy me. Destroy what God wanted to do in and through me. I see the ever-increasing need to – protect.
What am I protecting? I am guarding the God in me. Guarding what He entrusted to me, and in me and what He will do through me.
Danger, in the spiritual realm, does not generally stand up and yell, while waving its arms, “Over here. Yep, HERE! I saved you a seat!” It is subtle. Evil watches for an opportunity to ensnare with no written invitation. Peter knew this: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him and be strong in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Paul too strongly urges, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11).
In our guarding we are to be shrewd. Acute in our awareness and preparedness. “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences” (Proverbs 22:3, NLT). Other translations say when danger or evil is seen, the prudent person “hides”. In the original Hebrew, hide is repeated, emphasizing the action. Using the context, a prudent man sees the evil and “in hiding, he will hide.” Meaning it is active and progressive. You do, so you stay … doing.
Our hiding ourselves is not a game of “peek-a-boo”. Immature, “nothing can hurt me” games. Thinking we are hiding by merely covering our eyes and peeking out through our fingers. It is a case of running AWAY (run FAST). A running from – to. To God. Hiding in His presence. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). Protection. We do this by staying daily in His word. Staying in fellowship with strong believers and staying under good biblical teaching. Precautions, positioning, boundaries and accountability. (You do, so you stay … doing).
Solomon also wrote, “Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23, AMP). One resource explains it: Guard the affections of your heart; the emotional attachments you make determine the course of your life. Those things and people I attach myself to – determine which way I go. (See Psalm 1:1). Which way do I want to go? God’s way. Oswald Chambers strongly adds: “Never become attached to anything that continues to hurt God. For you to be free of it, God must be allowed to hurt whatever it may be.”
Where do you need to become more vigilant? Guarding the God in you! Others are counting on it!
*In Bible days, a Mantle (as mentioned above) was an outer cloak used for additional covering and warmth, especially at night, like that of a blanket. From the idea of something that “covers” in the natural, a mantle represents spiritual covering as well. It usually refers to spiritual authority and anointing, we can see this in the story of Elijah & Elisha found in 2 Kings 2. A spiritual mantle can be wrapped as a scriptural metaphor (symbol) in a calling, gift, ability, anointing, skill set, or level of authority that God has given a specific person. God determines the mantle – we do not select it! It is established, designed and imparted by God. It is an anointing, to serve God in the capacity of our spiritual DNA, destiny and calling of God. It always has a cost. It always demands great responsibility.
“Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” (1 Samuel 17:33, emphasis mine)
I LOVE the story of David and Goliath. Big nasty dude yelling stupid things about God and God’s people. (Um, best not to do that). But one day a boy comes to camp. Goliath continues yelling, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other” (v10). Goliath is not just asking for any opponent; he wants a man. A grown, trained, mature – “give me a challenge” – man.
There is but one response. David. Scholars believe him to be about seventeen(ish) when he told King Saul “send me.” Saul’s response says, “you are but a boy, an adolescence.” The situation is beyond you, beyond what you are.
The rest of the story is amazing. Saul tries to get David to wear his suit of armor. Nope. “I cannot go in these…” (v39). There was no hesitation on David’s part. There was no “give me a minute while I figure this out.” He takes his sling, stick and smooth stones and RUNS toward Goliath. I must add to paint the picture correctly; Goliath’s shield-bearer was out there too (v41). Not so tough now big guy! David swung his sling, the stone hit the target. Down went the giant of a man. Goliath called for a man, King Saul declares a mere boy. A boy did what God called him to do, “…in the name of the LORD Almighty” (v45).
What is God calling us to?
May we too not hesitate when we are called beyond what we seem to be. Perhaps too young, untrained, too small, or possibly too big, too old. Do not let others measure us against what God can do through us! They will always come up short. When someone tells us, “You are not able to…. You are only…” Let us not begin a wardrobe change – try to fit into someone else’s stuff (armor). But take up what we know (sling & stones) and RUN toward what God calls us to, declaring as David did “…the battle is the LORD’s” (v47). I’m sure if you wish to yell, “For Narnia!” God will understand.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Paul stands before King Herod Agrippa explaining his encounter with the risen Lord Jesus:
“O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me… And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 26:13-15, emphasis mine).
Jesus calls Paul (his Roman name) by his Hebrew name “Saul” and tells him “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” What is THAT?
The bible is full of idioms (a common expression known to a specific culture or era). “Kicking against the goads” was a Greek proverb painting a picture the ancient culture easily understood. A goad was much like our current day cattle prod (minus the electric current). Farmers would use a pointed stick with a piece of iron on its tip to urge or prod a stubborn ox forward or along the guided path. Often the ox (in resistance) would kick against it. When doing so, the ox caused more pain for themselves. The Greeks used this saying to imply “ruinous resistance.” Paints a picture, doesn’t it? It narrows down to this: unyielding rebellion is the refusal to accept or comply resulting in self destructive habits.
Kicking against the goads.
Paul was a contemporary of Jesus’ time. Scholars believe they both may have been in Jerusalem at the same time, resulting in Paul hearing or seeing Jesus speak. Paul stood by as Stephen gave glorious testimony of Jesus. Paul had ample opportunities regarding Jesus. But he refused. Jesus rebukes Paul, telling him that he was only hurting himself in resisting the truth. Resisting Him. He had to learn the hard way – resisting Jesus is a losing battle. Not to mention (but I will) a losing battle that WILL (like Paul) knock you on your butt.
When reading the bible, we remember that there are specific words or warnings to specific people, yet in principle, it is for us as well. Jesus says this to Paul but packs a punch likewise for us. Are we actively in stubborn resistance? How often do we sabotage our own spiritual growth by opposing God? Like it or not. Resist it or not. God is sovereign. It is HIS WAY! Solomon wrote, “Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path” (Prov 15:10a). Stay on the path!
Kicking against the goads may come in many forms. Jonah is a great example. God pointed in one direction – he went in another. His “goad” got him a dark smelly fish belly. What does your goad look like? Is yours a smelly mess? Or sharp jabs? Point to ponder.
Listen to the pains of consequences – by resisting God’s authority we are only punishing ourselves, “ruinous resistance.”
Kicking against the goads.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Earless chocolate bunnies and leftover deviled eggs in the frig. Post-Easter. Now what? Do we rummage through the calendar for another holiday or an event to look forward to? What excites us about the future or even … daily? May I be so bold in asking, what causes our inside to burn with excitement? What consumes our mind and emotions? What drives our behavior?
Jesus’ resurrection is AMAZING! WONDERFUL! DIVINE! REDEEMING! However, let’s not stop there. There is MORE! Let’s unpack this in brief summary. Stay with me, this is good! Luke 24, it speaks of the women going to the tomb, once there they find two angels who notify them that Jesus was no longer there. He’s risen from the dead! The gals go back to tell the others. Peter, as energetic as he was, runs to go see and confirms. Just following that, (v13) it says “Now that same day…” It proceeds to unfold the story of the two walking to Emmaus, who unknown to them at first, encounter Jesus. They are flabbergasted that this Stranger didn’t seem to know what had just transpired in Jerusalem. Sharing their disappointment, “We had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Going on they explained how Jesus’ body was not found. Verse 27, “Then He (Jesus) started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to Him.” WOW! I’d love a one-on-one instant Bible study from the lips of the Master!
It wasn’t until Jesus was in their home, seated at their table, and they accepted the bread He offered, that their eyes were opened, and they had a revelation of Who He was. Could it be, that as Jesus reached forward, giving the bread, the sleeve of His garment slid up and they could see His nail scarred hand? At that exact moment, Jesus disappeared. I LOVE their response, “They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” (v32)
Their hearts burning within them. I want spiritual heartburn! I want my soul, my mind, and thoughts, passions, desires, and appetites to burn with Him and His Word! The word Luke chooses to use for “burning” is very colorful. It doesn’t mean to simply strike a match and light the kindling and watch it slowly give off heat. No, it RAVISHES through the wood and consumes it! Burn Lord!
Notice Jesus didn’t lay hands on them or put mud on their eyes for the revelation. He didn’t drift from the shore in boat to speak to them. He didn’t even send them to the Priest for verification! He simply – walked with them. Walking and talking. The narrative says they got up at once and went back to Jerusalem testifying that Jesus has indeed RISEN.
For us? The next time we find our seat at church or open the Bible for devotion time, let’s not daydream off to another place. Let’s do some focused walking, and talking. Jesus told us, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things…” (John 14:26). We just need to show up for the lesson. Pay attention, take notes, and ask questions, engage in conversation. THIS is the event. The daily event we will look forward to.
And …burn Lord, BURN within us!
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Have you ever sat and read in the New Testament ONLY the words in red, Jesus’ words? For a completely new perspective, I challenge us to do just that. I know context is everything, but let’s step out of the exegesis (interpreting the scriptures) box for a brief moment, to get an amazing snapshot of Jesus. His love, His compassion. His strength, and His authority.
Without all the narrative, those stand-alone red words pack a powerful punch, knowing they are Jesus. There are dramatic statements, strong commands, tender words and authority unlike any before Him. “Let it be so…” (Matt 3:15) “It is written…” (Matt 4:4) “Get up…” (Matt 9:6) “Take courage it is I…” (Matt 14:27) “Quiet, be still...” (Mk 4:39) “Come forth …” (Jn 11:43) “Don’t be afraid just believe...” (Mk 5:36) “What do you want Me to do for you…” (Mk 10:51) “Who do you say I am…” (Lk 9:20) “Then neither do I condemn you…” (Jn 8:11) “I am…” (Jn 18:6).
These are just a few. But there is one more that stands out among the rest. Here I do want to set the context. Jesus is agonizingly set between two thieves. His feet and hands are nailed to a wooden cross. There at the foot of the cross, many mocked, some cried, and I am confident there were those in complete silence. After the vinegar water was given to Jesus, He said, “It is finished...” (John 19:30). He then bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
“It is finished.” (Hang with me, this is GOOD God stuff!) The word in Greek is amazing! Stand back and take in the whole Technicolor filled screen. I don’t think even Steven Spielberg with all his creative genius could convey the scene that was unfolding upon humanity. “It is finished” (Tetelestai). “To bring to an end, to fulfill. What is done corresponds to what has been said, ordered or commanded.” (“Not My will, but Your will be done” – Jesus, Lk 22:42). It is accomplishing something not merely to end it but bring it to perfection for its designed goal. Bring it to perfection for its designed goal! Jesus. It signifies the successful end to a particular course of action.
Grammatically in the Greek, it is a crucial word; it is in the “perfect tense.” Meaning, the action was completed in the past with results continuing in the present. Basically, “This happened, and it is still in effect TODAY.” One might say, (so I will) “The gift that keeps on giving.” This is different from “past tense” which points to an event, declaring “This happened – nothing more – the end.” Head hung, shoulders slumped, nothing to see here, we’re going home.
NOT our Jesus – He is our NOW God!
It is finished! Then, now and forever.
As Jesus said this, His blood flowing down His forehead, from His hands and His feet. His sacrifice, His action, now eliminating the debt owed (by you and me). May we take careful notice, Jesus didn’t say, “I am finished.” That would imply He was a mere man and die defeated. Instead, He declared “It is finished.” When He died and with His resurrection power, He left no unfinished business behind. He successfully completed the work He came to do. Please note (this is HUGE) when Jesus rose from the dead and the stone was found “rolled away” it was NOT so He (the Son of God, Who walked on water. Who spoke to the wind and waves and they obeyed) could get out. It was so mankind could get in! Get in and see “He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. Come, see where His body was lying” (Matthew 28:6, NLT).
God doesn’t waste a detail. Jesus’ redemptive work: His hands nailed, redeeming Adam and Eve reaching and taking what was forbidden. His pierced slide, Eve was taken from man’s side, she, the first to respond to deception. His feet nailed, (the devil thought he had Jesus with this one). God’s curse to the serpent – hostility between serpent and Eve’s offspring “He will strike your head…” (Gen 3:15) WELL. Jesus did the striking indeed! (regardless of His confined feet).
As the pages turn from Genesis to this very moment, the culmination hits THIS important time and place. Jesus rises from the dead triumphantly (Happy Easter) the bridge back to the Father is perfected – He engages and commissions the disciples, returns to heaven to reign forever.
Does it end here? No. Now we the church, with the authority given by Jesus Himself, as inspired by Holy Spirit carry on with the red-letter dramatic statements, strong commands, and tender words.
Move over Easter Bunny, here comes the risen King! Let’s all stand to our feet! Raising our Hallelujah – “It is finished!” Relationship offered; relationship restored.
May we live each day as a red-letter day!
This weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday. May we pause and look at the scriptural events.
“Six days before the Passover…” Mary took a pint of perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet, the house filled with the fragrance. This was one day prior to Jesus’ triumphal entry (Palm Sunday) found in John 12. The narrative describes the triumphal entry, “The next day…” It is safe to say, Jesus still smelled quite fragrant from the oil. This being of Jewish telling, in Jewish culture, whilst Jewish people stood on the street as Jesus passed by, they (potentially) smelling the fragrance, resonated the Kingly procession, as they shouted: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel” (v13).
Anointing was a priestly and kingly custom: Moses pouring oil on Aaron’s head (Leviticus 8:12) and Samuel over Saul (1 Samuel 10:1) and the anointing of David (1 Samuel 16:13). Interestingly, Mary anoints Jesus’ feet. Could it be, (just an observation) yes, the custom was washing the visitor’s feet from the dusty paths but could the anointing of His feet, (not His head) display the declared Majesty of God on earth, His Kingly walk among man, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Hosanna. What an amazing prophetic word. Turning to Mark chapter 11, his telling vividly explains the events of the day. Jesus and the disciples are preparing to come into Jerusalem. Jesus sends two of them ahead to get a young donkey, “Go into that village over there.” He told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here” (v2). Further in the narrative, “When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, He sat on it” (v7). Jesus steps up and sits down. I believe the colt knew. Knowing the King of Majesty now drapes his back.
As Jesus rides through the cobblestone streets, the crowd begins to yell “Hosanna… Hosanna in the Highest” waving palm branches with enthusiasm. It was common practice in the ancient world to welcome home a king or war hero by laying down branches in front of them (liken to our ticker tape celebrations today).
Hosanna is the Greek version of the Hebrew saying “yasha na” (yaw-shaw naw) meaning “Save now we pray.” This taken from what is known as the Hallel, (Jewish prayerful readings of Psalms 113-118). Specifically here, “O LORD, save us; (HOSANNA!) O LORD grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.” (Psalm 118:25, 26, emphasis mine). Can we grasp the impact of what they are saying? Jesus was fulfilling the prophetic words of Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9:9).
However. Just four chapters later, the crowd was again yelling, but this time; “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:12-14). Little did they know they were basically yelling the same thing. Both times! For you see beloved, for Jesus to “save we pray” they had to “Crucify Him!” He allowed it. Apply John the Baptists words of splendor here: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He laid down His life for YOU and for me. By this act and His rising from the dead with all Kingly authority and power – He stood in the gap – reaching for your hand and placing it into the hand of the Father. He is the Restorer of relationship. Restoring God and mankind.
This weekend, may we not allow this moment to pass us by, as we whole-heartedly consider the impact and fulfillment of Hosanna. JESUS! Jesus riding an untamed colt in a King’s procession.
“SAVE WE PRAY!”
THAT He did!
The Psalmist wrote, “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). Many scholars believe King David wrote Psalm 119, being that Psalm 19 is attributed to him and holds much of the same language. They speak of the law, statues, precepts, commands and decrees of God. David’s desire to place God’s word in his heart conveys setting with intent to cover as to protect. Much like when God placed Moses in the cleft of the rock and covered him with His hand (Exodus 33:22). This hiding is to conceal something of great value.
While we are hiding God’s valuable word in our heart, we must be careful – so incredibly careful of what is hidden in alongside His word. David leans into this, “Teach me Your way, O LORD and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11). God told the Israelites they were to have “no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).
Decluttering the heart – removing the “alongside, other” stuff.
David’s son, the wise man Solomon also wrote, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23, NLT). In the Hebrew, the guarding is in the “present imperative” tense. Meaning, it is a command calling for us to make this our habitual practice. We don’t just do it once, or now and then when seemingly needed. Seemingly is the key. How many times in hindsight we KNOW we missed an opportunity to do us some guarding? We are to do it always – we guard. Some translations state “keep your heart.” The heart is to be kept above all keeping.
The biblical heart is representative of our inner man. Where we think, feel and process our choices. God’s wisdom, His words of command. His insight to moral skill are not to be clouded – they are to be single. They are worth guarding – above all. For it is HERE (place the “X” here). Here is where the heart flows all the thoughts and words and choices of our life. Guard.
May we be like King David hiding God’s word in our heart – but may we be just as vigilant in guarding against what also may be hiding there.
The hiding, decluttering and guarding of the heart.
Point to ponder.
I recently had the honor of speaking at our annual Women’s Conference. I spoke on “The Great Devotion” – the great devotion of God. I taught that King David had two responses to that devotion. Below is a small excerpt of that teaching.
Most scholars agree that King David wrote his beloved Psalm 23 at the latter end of his life. This was penned by an older David. A mature David. A wiser David. He writes of the Lord, his Shepherd; leading, guiding, making, restoring, and preparing for him. Anointing him. And there is comfort. These seen potentially from glancing over his shoulder, over the journey of his life and forward. His glance lands on the past, present and future. His past, his “was” helping to define his “is” and most definitely points to his “will.”
I can look back over the course of the last 42 years of my God journey and I too see He led me, beautifully restored me and most definitely put me in a few “time outs” with “making me lie down” scenarios. You?
David closes this six-verse beauty with “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” (v6a) Goodness, that which is pleasing to the senses, both physically and spiritually. It is the sum total of who God is. He-is-good!
Mercy, in the Hebrew is “hesed” meaning and translated as love, UNFAILING and unwavering love. It is kindness, faithfulness, grace and loyalty. The description of all that hesed is, continues. But there is one more I want to emphasize. Devotion. If we were to take all the qualities of hesed and put them in a backpack, I would title the God pack – devotion.
King David continues saying the good God qualities “follow me all the days of my life.” Follow. This isn’t a mere tag along behind – it literally means PURSUIT (in Hebrew). To pursue with intent to overtake.
This isn’t in the text, just an observation (nor am I trying to translate). As I engaged heavily with this scripture and asked questions of the Holy Spirit, I came to this conclusion and offer to you: If David was being pursued with God’s goodness and the amazing mercy, love and great devotion of God, with His intent to capture him – what do you think David should do? (What did he do?)
Pause and be caught of God.
There is a positioning of surrender – stop. Allowing all that He is to overtake us with His beautiful God package.
Be caught of God.
There is yet another element of David’s response to God’s devotion. David requested God teach him. Eighteen times in the Psalms David wrote “Teach me…”
Psalm 119:66 “Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I believe in Your commands.”
Psalm 86:11 “Teach me Your way, O LORD and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I might fear Your name.”
Psalm 143:10 “Teach me to do what pleases You, for You are my God. May Your kind presence lead me into a level ground.” (just to name a few)
David was positioning himself to be taught of God.
When we are learning, we are expanding our intellectual grid. When learning of God, we are expanding our spiritual grid as well. Think of an Archaeology site. An ancient city is being discovered. As they work meticulously over the detail, they map out a grid. In that grid, what they learn frames their understanding. So, it is with us, “Father expand our grid – teach us, show us more of YOU!” And folks, He answers (Is. 65:24; James 1:5; 1 Jn 5:14-15). It is so very gracious of God to give us insight into HOW to honor Him, how to please Him. When God spoke on the Mt of Transfiguration, while declaring His love for His Son, He said, “Listen to Him” (Matt 17; Mk 9; Lk 9). Teach me.
The devotion of God is not someone else’s story – it is YOURS! It is mine. You are not disqualified, turned aside, or sent to the end of the line. Nor are you forgotten. Yes, you may have made some stupid choices, (like I have). But God. All that God is (see His fabulous qualities listed above) He will continue to pursue YOU.
The great devotion of God is YOURS! Respond. Position.
Stop – pause – be caught of God. Ask to be taught of God.
Women. We are used to multi-tasking. Having our minds and lives firing in five or more directions all at the same time. When we find ourselves on overload, what do we tend to do, and do well? I’ll go ahead and answer – we criticize ourselves.
I am reminded of a time when I sat amongst a small group of gals in a bible study setting years ago. In that discussion time, we were sharing our goals for the study. There was a mother of 4 (FOUR!) small, YOUNG, needing her attention, children. In her frustration and complete weariness, she shared in depth about not having enough time for devotions and her bible study. She was exhausted. She felt defeated. She was basically giving up, to where she hadn’t opened her Bible in some time. Those in the group kept trying to help with creative ways to carve out enough time. “Go to bed earlier, get up earlier, use paper plates, when they sleep ….” This young mom was nearly in tears. I just sat and listened. These are all good disciplined goals. Yet they were more worried about the quantity of time, rather than the quality.
I finally leaned forward and looked the young gal in the eyes. Lovingly and tenderly asked, “Could you look at just ONE verse each day or one verse for the whole week?” She stopped talking. So did the others. Silence. Reading their expressions, yet not verbalizing, “This gal is NUTS! One stinkin verse? THAT is NOT enough! I will get behind! I have to get through that one-year reading plan, gotta get my homework done! Gotta write in my journal.”
This attitude belongs to many of us. How many of us too, feel defeated and allow our God time to slip, slip away because we can’t keep up with the quota.
I then shared that it’s not the quantity of time with God and His word that is important, it is the quality. If you have just enough time to read one verse – then the baby cries, or the dog is having a fit at the front door or milk is split (so goes life). Then take that ONE verse, WHILE you are cleaning up the milk – holding the crying baby. Ask Holy Spirit to speak to you about that verse. You, God, His word. Quality time. Listen – listen for HIS application, throughout the day, throughout the week. If need be at the beginning of the week, jot down that verse on a 3×5 card, tape it to the mirror in the bathroom, even though you may have a parade of offspring following you in there, READ it aloud. Again and again.
Don’t get me wrong I am ALL OVER Bible study, BUT there are seasons, seasons when time captures us. Seasons even with discipline, our life, our arms are full. The Pastor of Hebrews wrote; “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Allow the alive word to minister to you! Remember, God spoke the universe into place with His word, He can decorate your heart with the same. One verse? Enough? Yes. Yes, it is with the Holy Spirit “leading you into all truth.” (Jn 16:13)
During that moment of silence with the gals, I shared I often carry a tattered memory verse in my pocket. I once spent days just on Thomas’ “… my Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28). Knowing the context, I thought about it. I said it. I pictured it and I prayed it. Just five words. It was amazing. The gals just sat there and stared at me. (I was shocked that they allowed me to sit at their table the following week).
God knows us, knows our heart. He knows YOU. For some of us whose season doesn’t allow for hours or minutes of quiet time alone – don’t stress! Don’t feel condemned. If we can give Him just ONE verse, HIS word, He can and will minister to us. It can be amazing.
I am reminded of a time a few years ago, when walking into church a bit tattered from the week that led to that day. I took my seat (5 rows back, first seat in). Placing my bible next to me, the first thing that captured my attention was the quiet melody playing over the sound system. It was familiar and soothing, “As the deer panteth…” It was then, I felt the Lord impress on me, “Just breathe!” As the worship began, we all stood. I closed my eyes and did just that: Took a deep breath. Overwhelmed with His presence, I was reminded of – the breath of God.
How often do we find ourselves in survival mode? Barely making it. You feel your existence evaporating with each step forward. As the day goes on you find yourself unsuccessfully reaching and grabbing for anything solid. Thinking, “If I can just make it through this day. Through this season. To the next paycheck. See that person. BE that person. Get this done, that done. Clean this. Lose this, gain that.” BREATHE.
In pondering this, (it may sound totally silly) I began looking at our breath and the ramifications of the lack of oxygen that takes place physically. How it affects us and how long it takes for a body to die. Not to be morbid or anything, but I feel it has quite a few similarities to our spiritual man.
In all the medical jargon, I found this quote: “A lack of oxygen to the heart muscle can cause heart attacks, and even if the individual survives the anoxic event (complete depletion of oxygen), there may be damage to the heart that proves deadly.” This doesn’t even speak of the damage to the brain. There are also “quiet” symptoms that are attributed to a lack of oxygen as well: Depression, irritability, and irrational behavior. Anyone?
Like that of our physical body, so it is with our spiritual man. We NEED to breathe. Without a constant intake of God, the ramifications can prove damaging if not deadly. I believe we all have people in our lives that once were thriving-active, God-loving folks. But somehow, somewhere along their spiritual timeline – they stopped. They stopped reading God’s word. Stopped fellowshipping with other believers. Stopped believing God and stopped breathing God. Now, where are they? (Or is it us?)
Genesis 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.” Our bodies were made of the dust – earth – biological. The soul was not made of the earth. So… earthly things cannot quench the hunger of the soul, (regardless of how much kale we eat) nor can the soul continue to survive. It is only the breath of God that feeds and nurtures the spiritual man! Read that again. “It is ONLY the breath of God that feeds and nurtures the spiritual man!” It is divinely birthed and divinely maintained.
How often do we seek things, people, position, and even events to satisfy our deep longing, and cravings? Without God’s breath and presence in our life, we are an empty dusty vessel. God initiated this for mankind, now we by invitation in turn seek that breath.
Paul spoke to this in 2 Timothy, “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (3:15-17 – paraphrased, The Message). And the one who penned Hebrews wrote, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God.” (4:12, NLT)
Have we found we can’t seem to catch our spiritual breath? Are we low in emotion, irritable and even find our self being irrational or treating others unkindly? Are we apathetic about spiritual things? Or how about walking to the “frig of life” looking for something to satisfy us. If we are to survive, let alone THRIVE spiritually, we need God’s presence and His word to do so. When was the last time we quietly spent time with our God? Prayed, invited His presence? When was the last time we pursued Him, His qualities? When was the last time opened His word and really, truly saw beyond the printed pages, and breathed Him in?
It has been said throughout history, “Now you have really crossed the line.” Many, if not most often, was said to those who made stupid (STUPID) decisions. The line. You know, the place where good and bad stand facing each other. Ever find yourself there? Standing either on the line, straddling it or now – just inches beyond.
Crossing the line.
Aaron of the Old Testament was a line crosser. Exodus 32. Setting the context: Moses was up on the Mount with God; God was etching the Law on the Tablets (and giving the blueprint for the Tabernacle AND giving the instruction for the priesthood – for Aaron). While this was happening – chaos below. The people grew restless. Aaron was left in charge. Leadership was not new to him, being Moses’ brother, he was at his side confronting Pharaoh in Egypt. He was there when manna and quail was provided to the people, and when the rock gushed water. He, along with Hur, held up Moses’ arms in the battle against the Amalekites. Now. Now the folks come to AARON frustrated and lost, saying, “Do something… make us gods to follow…”
Aaron responds by instructing them to take off all their jewelry, handing it to him, the narrative says he used a tool and he (Aaron) shaped the image into a calf. (Heavy sigh on the part of the readers). Placing the idol in front of an altar and the people – chaos. He truly crossed the line.
God sent Moses back down to the people. Out of disgust, Moses carrying the Tablets, threw them, breaking them to pieces. Moses confronts all. Aaron still across “the line” states, “Do not be angry, you know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf” (vv22-24). Hm … interesting. He actually went with the “Oh, looky there, a calf.” (*See note below of Moses interceding for the people and Aaron).
As the people ran wild, Moses stood at the entrance to the camp, declaring “Those who are for the LORD, come…” (v26). The line drawn. A new line for Aaron. Immediately ALL the Levites rallied to Moses. You see, here is where we pause – Aaron is a Levite. Aaron crossed the line AGAIN. He crossed back. The folks were instructed to grab a sword and about three thousand died that day. (There are consequences to running wild in and with the chaos).
What AMAZES me, Aaron crossed the line and made that HUGE bad, very icky bad decision. Yet. God. Forgiveness runs deep, so very deep. God chose him to be a priest. Going on to stand before the people, representing the holiness of God (See Lev 9; Nu 6:22-27).
How many of us have been where Aaron was, made some really STUPID decisions, crossed the wrong line, found our lives in chaos and not to mention (but I will) chaos too for those around us. God in His most gracious love offers “cross the line again” opportunities. Cross back to where we belong. His forgiveness running deep. Just like Aaron, the opportunity was there, he immediately stepped forward. God used him mightily. Perhaps you stand now rubbing your toe against the first line, wondering – just wondering, what’s on the other side?
Life is not meant to be a hopscotch game, stepping and hopping from one line to the other, yet when the line is crossed – CROSS BACK!
I love Kings David’s Psalm 133. “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”
A restored line.
Have you crossed the line? God offers the most easy and soul fixing opportunity: John writing to Christians, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). When we mess up, we come to God and get cleaned up (crossing back). Biblical confession literally means: to concede, come into agreement. In this case, agreement with God. Confessing is not only saying we are wrong, but we are also saying God is RIGHT. Crossing back, is coming into alignment with the rightness of God. (Let’s stay there).
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrew 10:24)
*See Deut 9:7-21 – a recap of the Exodus 32 calf scenario – God was very angry, “I have seen this people and they are a stiff-necked people indeed! Let me alone, so that I may destroy them… and the LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him.” (vv13,14 & 20) – Moses interceded. May we be a Moses to those we love, who have crossed the line – intercede.
Once when perusing through Facebook, I came across a picture that looked to be taken from the pages of the Bible. The one who posted it thought it pretty, eloquent and held promise: “Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land who is Jesus Christ…” (v12) “YES, let’s claim it!” WAIT! Not being a scholar by any means, but I don’t remember reading this. At first glance it sounds a bit Old Testament(ish) doesn’t it? After a lil research I found the verse to be from the book of Ether (2:12) and yes, I spelled that right Ether – it is from the book of Mormon. It’s the story of the Jaredites who were led by God to the Americas shortly after the Tower of Babel scenario (um…). It may be pretty – but not biblical.
How often do we refer to, strongly consider, or even quote what is NOT in the bible? Example, “Pride goes before a fall…” although close, prides ultimate end isn’t a scraped knee – but destruction, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). How often do we hear; “Well the Bible says, ‘Money is the root of all evil!’” Head hung, shoulders slumped; condemnation felt. NO, it’s the “LOVE of money that is the root of all sorts of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10, emphasis mine).
Another, “The lion shall lay down with the lamb.” There is no mention of this in scripture. Many would say, oh sure it is – in Revelation. Nope. However, in Isaiah 11:6 (see also 65:25) it speaks of the wolf and the lamb will dwell and graze together, but no lamb sweetly nestled against the side of a powerful lion. And those with the rolling of the eyes while saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” As they continue urging, “It’s in Proverbs.” Again, nope. It comes from a line from William Congreve’s play, “The Mourning Bride.” The proverb they may have been referring to “It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” (Pro 25:24)
The next time something questionable is seen or quoted to us, or perhaps sounds “good” or conveyed as trivial – seek it out YOURSELF. Charles Spurgeon said, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” It’s that “almost right” that causes us heartache. Trusting first in trivial things, leads to blind deception (See 2 Timothy 4:3-4). May we not be easily swept away by pretty, eloquent or what sounds promising. Go for the truth. Jesus said when praying to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) And Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)