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!
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
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!
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
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)
“Patience is a virtue” they say. I’m not quite sure who they are, but as I join the applause and celebrate this God-quality, I am also very aware however, the closest we often get is “Hurry up and WAIT!” while possibly running a few folks over in the process.
In the New Testament there are two main kinds of patience mentioned, with a third quality attached. Paul states he had been praying that those in Colossae live a life worthy of God and please Him in every way “…bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father” Col. 1:10-12 (NIV, emphasis mine).
Endurance, (hupomone in the Greek) is patience in circumstances. The quality of steadfastness. Some would say – staying power. This staying power is motivated by HOPE. It is the characteristic of a man (or woman) who is not swerved from their deliberate purpose, sustaining through to the end – regardless. Keep, keeping on.
Among the Fruit of the Spirit, there is love, joy, peace… patience. The word Paul uses here, is not hupomone (though defiantly a quality of the Spirit). BUT Paul uses makrothumia which is unlike hupomone, patience in circumstances, inspired by hope. Makrothumia is patience with PEOPLE, inspired by MERCY. Relational.
Jesus teaches this through the parable in Matthew 18, (I paraphrase). The King has a servant who owed a large sum of money, when the debt was called, the servant fell on his knees before the King. “Be patient (Makrothumia) with me!” he begged. The King offered mercy, holding back punishment, releasing him. As soon as the servant went free, he found a friend that owed HIM money. He too called the debt. The friend begged the same, “Be patient with me…” But the servant refused mercy and put the friend in prison. The King heard of this, summoning the servant, stating, “I gave you mercy, shouldn’t you have given mercy as well.” What an amazing picture! The unmerciful servant. Patience is motivated by mercy. May we too “remember when…” When God has patience with us!
Paul continues this thread, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Makrothumia). Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col. 3:12-13, again I emphasize, see also Eph 4:1-3) The “bearing” with one another, literally means “to put up with” – but not just that, it is holding back – to hold in. STOP! Good Godly interaction with others is not only about what we DO just as much as what we don’t – RESTRAINT. (May I just offer – “OUCH!”)
God’s mercy is withholding what we do deserve, where His grace is giving us what we do not. One hand pushes forward in giving, the other holds back in restraint. What divine coordination. God patiently bearing with us.
I am challenged to pray for patience, sounds a bit risky (in all honesty). Do I really want to point out, wave in the direction of patience? Yes (as I duck). Loving others can be messy, but perhaps kind patience could be the missing piece needed. While I am reminded of the patience and mercy and the most amazing grace God has for me.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Paul wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1, ESV)
What is the biblical yoke?
The yoke figuratively represents the burdensome nature of slavery. It is a symbol of servitude (either by choice or forced). It suggests restrictiveness, yet this is but one aspect of the yoke. A yoke for the most part is an idiom (something known to a specific culture or era). Of the sixty-one times “yoke” is used in the Bible, all are metaphorical (apart from seven uses).
Stick with me, this gets good.
In the first century the yoke had taken on a unique meaning, a cultural meaning. The Jewish culture was a discipleship culture, a “we” culture (vs our “me” culture). Our western mindset focuses on “What does the scriptures teach me about me? Who am I? What do I do? The eastern mindset, “What does the scriptures teach me about the nature and character of God?” Disciples would attach themselves to a Rabbi, following close, listening and learning. The Rabbi would teach the disciple their interpretation and application of the scriptures. The phrase “sitting at the feet of a Rabbi” was cultural. Remember Paul said he was educated “at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3). When Jesus taught in Matt 5-7, what does the narrative say, “after He sat down… He opened His mouth and began to teach them.” (5:1) And in Luke 10, Mary is found at the feet of Jesus “listening to His word” (v39). Jesus allowing and championing for it (seen in the “Martha, Martha” conversation) was a radical move on His part – accepting a woman disciple so boldly.
Most Rabbis were “Torah Teachers.” These Rabbis spent most of their time in the synagogues, reading and teaching the written Law of God and taught only accepted interpretations (passed to them by their Rabbi). These teachings were called the “yoke of Torah” or the Rabbi’s Yoke.
In Jesus’ day, Jesus’ world, every Rabbi (and Pharisee) had one. It was their collection of teachings. It was their theology and perspective on the scriptures: Who God is and what it means to walk with Him. Their disciples would accept it and emulate it, taking on the “yoke” (teaching) of their Rabbi.
Over the many years, many of the Rabbi’s (primarily Pharisees) inflated and added commands, making following them rather rough. To fulfill every command (interpretation) was difficult. Each Rabbi having their own emphasis.
Consider now, Jesus’ words in Matt 11 “”Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (vv28-30). In essence, consider my summary “Let ME be the one to show you who the Living God is – what He is like – what it means to follow Him!” Think now, how many times Jesus continued to point to the Father (i.e.) “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (Jn 5:19) And Jesus speaks only how and what “to say” from the Father (Jn 12:49). He speaks with authority from the Father.
Now THAT is a YOKE!
There was a smaller group of Rabbi’s – known to have s’mikhah – (pronounced Smee-KAWK … Hebrew throat slur). “Walking in the authority of God.” These Rabbis with s’mikhah (authority) could make NEW interpretation, application AND pass legal judgments. Many scholars believe Jesus had taken on the authoritative Rabbinical role.
Matthew makes note, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (The Torah Teachers in the synagogue). (Matt 7:28-29). Many times, the narrative speaks of people’s amazement at His authority.
Remember multiple times Jesus said, “You have heard it said – But I say to you…” Especially in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus gave clear instruction, often quoting the Law, yet reaching beyond the interpretative mandates. Some teachers of the Law would step as close to the “line” of law, assuming to not break it – “You can look and lust, but don’t touch.” Jesus said, “It all begins in the heart” (summary).
Those hearing His words had never heard the scriptures explained like He did, with NEW insights, application – with authority. Jesus spoke of covenant – the NEW covenant – passing legal judgments. Authority indeed.
Jesus commissioned His disciples: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20, NASB, emphasis mine).
Swinging back to the beginning, regarding Paul’s words in Galatians 5:1 – Paul originally taught those in the region of Galatia the gospel is of grace through faith and not of works – Christ had set them free from Jewish ceremonial laws and regulations, those regulations heaped on its followers. Metaphorically, he had reached over and took the heavy burdened yoke off – yet they again had reached for the “yoke of slavery.” (See also Acts 15:10 “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” ESV)
Fascinating note: When researching the actual yoke and the training of an ox for more understanding, I found that fitting the ox with the yoke: It is BEST that the ox raises its head up into the yoke for the most comfortable and profitable fit. This comes with time and trust, that the animal is willing to voluntarily lift their head to the master. If forced down, the fit could cause irritation, causing the ox to lean, favoring one side, and possibly altering the direction of their steps. A “harnessed heart” is a true lifting of the head to the Master.
May we too be mindful of the yoke we raise up into – be it the yoke of Jesus. Being His disciple; following close, listening, learning, and taking on and emulating His teaching.
Resources: “Rabbi and Talmidim” (except from “In the Dust of the Rabbi”) by Ray Vander Laan. “The Yoke” By Archdeacon Allan Paulsen. “The Yoke” The Messianic Prophecy Bible Project (Free.messianicbible.com). Prof Kristi McMelland, Professor of Biblical Culture, “Jesus & Women: In the First Century & Now“. The ESV Commentary. Barnes Notes on the NT: Galatians. Bible Background Commentary (Acts 15:10). And any other geeky place I forgot to jot down.
Happy New Year! As the calendar rolls to a new year, we flip through the photos, whether it be of puppies, sunset images or as I just hung mine, a simple calendar with a pretty marble border. The empty squares indicating days yet to be lived. Those twelve pages can either propel us or paralyze us.
The change of the New Year has traditionally become a re-setting if you will of our life compass. We evaluate the past and plan for the future. For some of us, this means sitting down and writing out our Resolutions. Money to be made, exercise routines, diet plans, buy that new house, get that promotion, clean out those closets, get organized – the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, these are all a good plan of attack. Yet there is more. A New Year’s Resolution can be defined as “a firm decision to do or not do something, a course of action designed with the intent to keep a vow.” Statistics claim, one in three Americans makes a New Year’s resolution of some sort, yet only about 75% of these folks stick to their goal for at least … a week.
Have we considered that instead of a resolution to do better, get more, and perhaps try to be something other than we are, that we seek … revelation? As we stand at the door of 2021 (with a hardy “Good-bye” wave to 2020), may we take pause and truly position ourselves to seek a fresh revelation of our God.
Revelation. The act of disclosing or discovering what was before unknown. I would offer; we may have read it, even know it (the story) but let’s reach beyond. Let’s be intentional (is the focus of our church for 2021). As we read through our Bibles, invite Holy Spirit to read with us, pointing out incredible and wondrous things. Showing us unwavering and astounding qualities of His character. Paul wrote, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2a, NLT). That is my plan, this is my goal. I seek to be transformed. Not only doing/being what is in my finite human power to do – but HIS transforming. Making a firm decision to take action to learn and accept and walk in more of His love, trust His hand and bow more in gratitude of His mercy and grace.
I pray over us as Paul did, “I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Amen) – Ephesians 3:14-20 (NIV)
From our home to yours, a hardy blessed (full of revelation) Happy New Year.
In Him, DeDe & Mark (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
This holiday season I have been pondering and rolling around in my head, the little seasonal rhyme, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” It fits well as a lapel pin, even hangs proudly as an ornament on our trees. I like it! The message is clear and points to Jesus!
Yet… I began to think of this in theological terms, the accuracy of it. I know… I KNOW you are rolling your eyes at this point. But bear with me. I am a people watcher. I watch how they walk, how they talk, their mannerisms, their facial expressions. The other day as I was Christmas shopping, I watched their faces, looked into their eyes, wondering if THEY knew Jesus. Then it dawned on me – “THEY are the reason for the season!”
The season is Christmas. Christmas is JESUS, His birth. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) The best gift ever! Jesus came to earth, the divine embodied in human form. His life message pointing to Kingdom stuff. His death representing us. He resurrected in full power and authority and now sits, enthroned on the right hand of the Father – for US! He came to fix the man-made mess. WE are the “whosoever.” WE are the reason for the season! Bring it down – YOU are the reason for the season! (Ok, group cyber-HUG!) Yes, it’s all about Jesus – what He did for YOU! He came for YOU! THE best gift giving possible.
Even with all the self-interest, self-emersion, self, self, self and all the “I” focus today, this Christmas look into the eyes of those around you, up and over your mask and consider THEM! What a great opening line to the gospel, said with heartfelt humility as you tenderly lean forward “Did you know YOU are the reason for the season…” Then tell them about Jesus and why He came, use their name (read their name badge if they have one) “Bob, He came for YOU!” Most know about the baby in the manger, now tell them about the baby-grown KING.
“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
Blessed Christmas to you and yours,
In Him, DeDe & Mark (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Christmas, a time of sharing, loving and gift giving. We are in the season of hunting for those perfect gifts. Regardless of what makes it home with us from the mall, masked and ready to buy or what arrives from Amazon. All of us have gifts to offer. God-given gifts that He asks that we share with one another. Whether it is the gift of serving or the gift of encouragement, or the gift of a listening ear. Or perhaps hospitality, providing an extra place at the dinner table. No gift is too small, or seemingly insignificant.
We often read the Christmas story and highlight the most spectacular parts: Singing angels. “Fear Not” statements. The Star of Bethlehem, and yes, the dingy manger. YET, there are some quiet and less compelling items to be had in the excitement. Gifts. Consider if you will, (imagine with me) the Magi (Matt 2) as they prepare for their trek out to find the child to whom the shiny Star belongs. (Tradition, not scripture, says there were three wise men, only because the three gifts that were given). They are packing, dividing the supplies list. Then they come to the gift inventory; gold is given to the first, then frankincense handed to another. “Oh yeah” the myrrh is last. How would you like to be handed the myrrh and picture yourself bowing low, head to the floor while you offer to the King of Kings, M-Y-R-R-H (said with an Eeyore deep tone). You may think “Why do I have to carry the white elephant gift?” White elephant it is not. It is one among the triune gifts that are of great value.
Have we thought about these gifts? Gold, we have that one down. Frankincense is ground dried up tree sap used as incense, highly fragrant when burned. And myrrh, what is THAT?
The divine significance of myrrh: It also comes from the sap of a tree, yet it is not just some sticky goo creatively used. It was:
- In the divinely prescribed anointing oil of the Tabernacle and the priests (Exodus 30:22-23).
- In the perfumed oil poured over Jesus’ feet (John 12:3, Matthew 26:12: The ointment is “Myron” which is myrrh-oil).
- Also, as one of the spices to prepare Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:39-40).
Picture now, the Christ child, perhaps two in age or younger. Jesus with curly dark hair, possibly pudgy cheeks. At His feet, the Magi place gold, frankincense, and MYRRH. The same anointing oil used to anoint temple priests, now set before Jesus – our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16). The same perfumed myrrh now before small feet – would one day be oil poured over a grown mans feet, those feet that would one day hang on a cross and be pierced. Jesus was also offered wine mixed with myrrh, but He didn’t take it. (Mk 15:23; Matt 27:34) Scholars believe Jesus refused to drink the mixture, due to its numbing effect. He wanted to be fully aware, fully present in the suffering for mankind. Myrrh was the oil added to the spices wrapped around His body following His death.
Jesus, now a child, will one day, be the man fulfilling this gift. Myrrh, HOW PROPHETIC.
Christmas gift-giving, following the Magi’s example: Regardless of how insignificant it may seem at a quick glance among the noisier aspect of things – we never know the impact and how far-reaching our giving may be. Today it’s not so much the item, but the heart of giving. The giving of self is a gift. An encouraged heart, a feed soul, a person no longer lonely. Gifts given in Jesus’ name – the gift that keeps on giving.
Note: For those of you who work Crossword Puzzles: 5 letters down: “Anointing oil of the Tabernacle, the priests and Jesus?” The answer: “Myrrh” (YAY! You’re welcome).
This is a bit long, but I encourage you to keep reading to the end.
There is a story of four young Jewish Yeshiva students, (Jewish seminary). One afternoon in a study session, one student gave a book to one of the men asking him to take a look and “Tell us what you think.”
Later that night, curious of the book, in eagerness, he sat down and opened to Genesis 1:1. He started to read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Pause). “What?” he thought. He read it again “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Excited, he stood up, exclaiming, “NO!” And continues, “God’s not finished!” And closed the book!
You see, in the ancient writings, originally there were no chapters – no verses and no punctuation. According to Hebrew thought (and method) they never paused until the complete thought was finished, they read to the edge of the story. The book handed to this young man was the English version of the bible, The King James.
The very first verse is just part of a story. That story is part of a bigger story – the historical story of God. We often read, pause, or stop before the whole of a particular story is in sight. Or we come to a famous or familiar portion of scripture, so familiar that with a “Oh I know this part” we run our finger down and turn the page.
I want to offer; in our familiarity we may be missing some very key elements to the story.
One example is 1 Samuel 17, David and Goliath. We all know the story, we’ve heard it, we’ve seen it played out on the flannelgraph board. Younger brother comes into camp. He hears the noise out front. He is told the battle line has been drawn. The Philistines’ biggest warrior awaits one of the Israelites to come fight him. David volunteers. The king offers his armor. Young David tries it on. Too awkward. Taking it off, he goes with what he knows best. Gathering stones, carrying his staff and sling. He and Goliath have words – he runs at the giant of a man. Swirling and releasing his sling, the stone struck Goliath in the forehead and down he went. YAY! Great story! Turn the page. But.
The story isn’t over. Keep reading. It says David ran over, taking Goliath’s sword and cut off his head. It was here, the narrative says the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they turned and ran (v51). From their perspective they may have only seen the lil guy throw something at Goliath but taking his head off – he was dead – bad dead. He was not getting up from THAT!
Another example of reading beyond the familiar. We fast forward to the NT – Mark chapter 4. Jesus and the disciples are on the shore of Galilee. Jesus tells the guys, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” They load up and head out. At some point Jesus lays down and falls asleep. A huge storm hits the lake. The disciples wake Jesus up rather excitedly. Jesus rebukes the wind and says to the waves. “Peace! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. YAY! Great story! Turn the page. But. The story isn’t over. It reads that the guys were filled with great fear. The narrative says the disciples weren’t afraid of the storm – they were overwhelmed with great reverence and respect for – Jesus. Asking each other “WHO IS THIS?” The wind and waves obey Him (v41). They had underestimated Him. Jesus had their attention.
We read the story of Christmas. Found in both Matthew and Luke. We know this story as well – very well. Both Mary and Joseph are told great things, divine things through angelic visits. In short (but not belittled) – Mary, although never being with a man, would become pregnant, conceived of the Holy Spirit. This baby boy would “save the people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21) At one point, Joseph, and Mary head to Bethlehem for the national census. There are some housing issues. Once settled, the baby, who is to be called Jesus, is born.
Luke chapter 2 tells of the shepherds living in the fields taking care of the sheep. They too get angelic declarations. An angel appears declaring good news, for “Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (2:11) The shepherds are told what to look for, the wrapped baby laying in a manger. Then the backup singers appear, angels singing God’s praises, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…” (v14) When the angels exit, so do the shepherds, excited, they go and find Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. As they do, they tell any and all who will listen what they were told. YAY! Great story! Turn the page.
We tend to stop here. We close the book and head to Christmas dinner or begin ripping the presents open. But the story isn’t over. Keep reading. All who heard what the Shepherds reported hearing were amazed. Then v19, this verse is challenging, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” This young gal took all that has been said to her, Joseph and now the shepherds and treasured them. What do you do with a treasure? A truly valuable treasure? You guard it!
The Jewish people were (are) a storytelling culture. From a noticeably young age, they are told the story of God and of their people. From the very beginning when Adam and Eve were in the Garden – where mankind broke relationship with their God. Throughout many, many generations God used prophets, law and the lives of people to tell His story – the story of restoring relationship. May I point out, the excitement of the shepherds sharing with the people wasn’t what they saw, although spectacular – it was what they heard! When the angel declared to the shepherds “Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2:11) there were keywords used, these Jewish shepherds didn’t miss it! What they heard, slipped into the ongoing story line, and fit perfectly.
Savior is referenced as one who rescues, a Rescuer. Christ is the Anointed One, the Messiah, the One they had been waiting for – the answer! And Lord, (Kurios) was the word the Greek-speaking Hebrews used for God. In essence, the angel’s addition to the story was saying; You’ve been told all your life, the Jewish people were waiting to be rescued, the Messiah, the Answer – is God Himself. And it’s happened!
The angelic choir too adds to the story, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…” Peace. Biblical peace isn’t just the lack of conflict; it is the presence of the rightness of God. It literally means (Eirene in Greek) “to set at one again.” Conveying that once something was upright, but has toppled over (chaos, strife is the result) but when righted and set at one again – peace. Mankind broke relationship with God through sin – God has just sent the answer – His Son Jesus (more historical story to come). Peace isn’t a concept or a feeling, peace is a person.
Mary took ALL this and she pondered it. Her pondering isn’t mere tucking it away and thinking on it now and then. The word Luke uses conveys “putting together.” She connected all the dots. She lined it all up. When all strung together – all the pieces (so far*) fit. Each piece has beauty in itself. But what a glorious bigger story. There is evidence we see later of her pondering. Jesus is a grown man. He, Mary and the disciples are at a wedding. Remember when Jesus turns the water into wine? Mary tells the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (Jn 2:5). These are the last recorded words of Mary.
Such confidence in the fitted pieces of God. Jesus.
This is an excerpt of the message I recently shared with the women of our church. I challenged us, first, when reading our bibles, don’t stop or skim over the famous or familiar parts, keep reading beyond to the edge of the story. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the writers, inspires we the readers – invite Him to read with us. And second, as we are in this Christmas season, may we truly treasure the bigger story, ponder, keep putting together the great God stuff – be in awe of Him – God’s gracious, loving restoring of relationship, “Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” May our mindset and our last recorded words be the same as pondering Mary – “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
*I say “so far” because we know, Jesus had yet to die and resurrect from the dead – a HUGE element yet to be added to the bigger story.
Emmanuel. At Christmas time we sing with a resounding “O come, O come Emmanuel…” and it is written in beautiful font lettering across our Christmas cards. Emmanuel (Immanuel*) meaning “God with us.”
Many who attempt to say God is uninterested and doesn’t turn His divine head our way do not understand Emmanuel. The Creator God didn’t just create and wave Himself off, wishing us good luck. He is Emmanuel. He has been, He is – with us. He was with Adam and Eve while walking in the Garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). He was with Moses and the Israelites in the desert as the pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:22). He was the fourth man with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, as the three were in the fire (Daniel 3:24-25). He was with mankind as Jesus’ sandaled feet walked in Galilee (Matthew 4:18). He is with us, gloriously residing within us (1 Corinthians 3:16). He is the God who dwells with us, among us and in us – God is Emmanuel.
Fast forward to the New Testament, tucked in the story of the birth of Jesus – Matthew chapter 1: Joseph is about to take Mary as his wife, (according to cultural tradition, the engagement was a done-deal). BUT she is pregnant (Hm…) he, a good man, plans to dissolve the marriage quietly as to not disgrace her. Queue angelic messenger: Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife. The baby she carries is of the Holy Spirit. She will have a Son and His name will be Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. Matthew’s narrative continues: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.” (vv 22-23)
God was and is with His people throughout history, but sending His Son, slipping Him into human flesh, all He was, all He did, could not be more unmistakably striking evidence of God’s presence. A sign indeed! God keeps His promises. The All-Powerful, All-Sufficient, Sovereign Creator of the universe does not NEED to be with us – He wants to!
Jesus reveals to John, “the dwelling place of God is with man…” (Revelation 21:3). Unhindered fellowship with God Himself, the thread of God’s reigning government is “God with us.”
So beautiful, so comforting – Emmanuel.
Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel… (sing with me).
*Why do we often see two spellings for Immanuel? The different spellings are due to different vowels used in Hebrew (O.T. “Immanuel”) and Greek (N.T. “Emmanuel”) yet they are indeed the same God presence, just two different languages.
After Jesus had taught from Simon Peters’ boat, (Lk 5) He told him to cast his fishing nets out where it is deeper. Peter responded they had already fished all night, “But if You say so…” They put their nets in. The catch was so large, the nets began to break. Peter had to get other fishermen and their boat to help. This miraculous catch caused all those observing to be in awe. Two of these awestruck men were the brothers, James, and John. Going ashore, they left everything and followed Jesus. *
WHAT IF? (For the sake of making a point). What if Peter had declined to do what Jesus said, “It’s ok, I’m a professional fisherman, I got this” and went about his business?
WHAT IF? What if Peter delayed his obedience? Delayed it an hour or two? “F-I-N-E, I’ll drop the nets.” Perhaps by then James and John (in the other boat) would have been out of ear shot or too far away to help and the nets would have broken – the fish, the great catch, slip away back in to the deep. Perhaps their delay missed the school of fish that now travels in another direction.
WHAT IF? What if Peter didn’t go all the way out to deeper water, stopping short, dropping the nets in shallow water. Yes, he again had let down the nets, but NOT in the deep water. Reluctant to fully obey – devaluing Jesus’ words.
There is a strong principle for us: OUR obedience to Jesus does not just load up our boats of blessing – it causes others to be in awe – awe of Him. Our listening and doing what Jesus says (now) can lead ourselves (and others) in redirection to follow Him and leave it all behind. Our obedience is not for us alone.
May we not decline, delay or devalue what Jesus says. (Our response affects others).
Point to Ponder.
*Scholars are divided whether this incident is identical with Jesus’ call of these fishermen as recorded in Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20. Meaning, they all may be telling the same story, with more or less information or from a different angle. The story above happened about one year after Jesus and Peter’s initial introduction (John 1:35-42).
This world is a mess. BUT. You have to love the “but” in God’s economy. The apostle Paul gives list to the evidence of God – in us. We the redeemed. “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal 5:22-23a, NLT – emphasis mine).
Other translations render gentleness as meekness. Meekness, many know it as “strength under control.” It is an active and deliberate positive response to an undesirable circumstance. Positive is the key. Although a negative may be merited – positive is the choice. What a good God concept. Yet it is more. It is responding from the inwrought grace of the soul. Not just the inward grace of the soul, that it dwells there – but INWROUGHT.
Inwrought is not a word we use much today or use at all. Oh but, it has the most beautiful imagery. It is intricately woven material with a particular pattern. (Of fabric or woodwork, stonework, and metal). It is the adding of another element, working it into the material. Meekness is the evidence of God’s grace worked into our soul. What a lovely delicate yet vibrant embroidery, God’s grace woven in and throughout the pattern of our life. The beauty is that it all becomes one piece of material. To take this additional element out would leave holes – gaping, ripping holes.
HOW do we get this woven into us – to come out? Come out when our merited moments present themselves – controlled gracious responses? Three words: Holy Spirit and – yoke.
In ancient days, a disciple would attach themselves to a Rabbi. The Rabbi’s hope was that their disciples would walk close, listen, and learn. Live as they did. Each Rabbi would present their teaching, this is known as the Rabbi’s “yoke of Torah.” (their teaching, interpretation, and application). Their disciples would accept it and emulate it. Over the course of the Rabbinic progression through the years, many Rabbi’s would inflate, even create additional commandments. To follow and align with them caused great burden on the disciple. This sheds light on Jesus’ words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30). Many times, we read Jesus saying, “You have heard it said, but I say to you.” Aside from the current teaching, “I say walk close, listen and learn of …Me.” Jesus’ burden is light.
The yoke is a symbol of servitude. When researching the actual yoke and the training of an ox for more understanding, I found that fitting the ox with the yoke, it is BEST that the ox raise its head up into the yoke for the most comfortable and profitable fit. This comes with time and trust, that the animal is willing to voluntarily lift their head to the master. If forced down, the fit could cause irritation, causing the ox to lean, favoring one side and possible altering the direction of their steps.
Yes, this world is a mess. And we may have merited moments of opportunity from time to time. What a challenge. A challenge to give the world a good God quality. We are disciples of Jesus. We allow and invite the Spirit’s leading and growth in our lives. We lift our head up into the yoke – Jesus’ yoke.
Lifting. Making the world a little less messy, one (yielded) opportunity at a time.
I love autumn, the crisp morning air, and those vibrant yellow, orange and red leaves. I find it fascinating that so much beauty can come from a season of change.
With so much uncertainty in the world, there is however a guarantee there WILL be another spring that rolls to summer. Then fall and eventually winter. Once winter wears out its welcome, according to God’s design spring again bursts forth bringing new life.
The Lord has showed me that just as the environment and atmosphere change, we too experience a change of season. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (3:1) His following list consists of a time for birthing, dying, planting, and harvesting. A time to tear down and a time to build. A time to cry and a time to laugh. There is even a time for dancing. Oh Yah!
For some of us our season is lingering. The cold emotional winter drags on, and on and on. Or perhaps something triggers you and an unhealthy season reappears. A season of your life you were confident had passed. Have you ever hopped in the car and after getting underway, you reach for the radio, turning it on, a song comes on and within seconds you ARE THERE! The song brings back a familiarity either good or one that takes you back to THAT season. A time when sorrow was your companion. Pain an unwanted friend or a relationship gone wrong. Or you flip the calendar page and there it is – THE month. The one you dread. The month you experienced betrayal or the death of a loved one.
I experienced something similar in early September a year ago. It was a beautiful sunny fall day. I was driving to my granddaughter’s school to pick her up. Once in the parking lot, backing up, parking, stepping out – instantly I stopped …feeling complete dread and sorrow. Then again walking towards the school, I asked God, “WHAT is this?” He reminded me, that, the same scenario; sunny day, cool and crisp, orange, and red leaves, school buses, and it was HERE! Here, I received a phone call with very traumatic news. Sorrowful news – stop in your track’s news. It was all so familiar in a way that I was not aware of.
With this revelation, I knew this needed to be broken! “In Jesus name!” I took authority over the familiarity, over the dread, the sorrow. Breaking the emotional AND spiritual hold. From there I sensed Holy Spirit teaching me about the familiarity of seasons.
God does not want us living in the past. Each new day is a gift. If we keep our hands full of the old stuff, there is no room for the new. And folks we got us some stuff. And if we are not certain what it is that is overwhelming us – ask Him!
Times and seasons CAN be broken! Daniel praised God saying: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever. Wisdom and power are His. He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise. And knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.” (2:20-22)
“Oh God, may You reveal to us the seasons we may not be aware of. Seasons we only feel the effects. Perhaps it is time to lay a few things down, empty our hands and wait in expectant joy as You “… change the seasons.” Break the familiarity in JESUS NAME! Free us. Let there be no more stop in our tracks unaware – but moving forward with each new day. With NEW stuff in our hands. Amen”
God has new, restoring, healed, healthy seasons.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
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“Well that just blew my mind!” Slang. Slang has so crept into our vocabulary that we really are not aware of it. Much of our culture’s speech is informal. Some of what we deem casual has robbed the formal vault of Biblical language.
Amen is such a word. Hebrew in origin. We throw it around too freely (in my opinion) and even haphazardly without understanding its true weighted meaning. In biblical times when someone responded with “Amen” they were in essence binding themselves to fulfill certain conditions or conditions were now bound to them. In Deuteronomy 27, on the verge of crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land, the covenant is being reviewed and renewed. Moses offers a list of twelve curses. These statements provide the punishment for disobedience. As each statement is read, it is to be followed by the “Amen” of the people. Their response expresses their affirmation and acceptance of the justice and judgment of God. They were confirming and invoking fulfillment. “We know the terms and we will obey and continue to do so, knowing our violation brings consequences.”
Amen literally means, “so be it.” It is as if slamming the gavel down in a court of law, declaring “TRUTH!” Multiple times when Jesus was speaking, He would declare “For truly…” Or “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5, emphasis mine). This “truly” (or verily) is indeed “amen.” Truth is being declared.
Paul as well used the strong gavel declaring amen – “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways! For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give Him advice? And who has given Him so much that He needs to pay it back? For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory. All glory to Him forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36, NLT). This statement is boxed up and labeled – Truth!
Do we really want all that we free and easily declare “Amen” … to be and made binding? What are we committing to? What are we stating as truth? May our speech not be so casual that we inadvertently attach ourselves to something we really do not want to. “Father, ‘set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips.’” (Psalm 141:3)
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrew 10:24)
Sitting down, my coffee mug in hand, opening my bible, “WAIT!” Jumping up, “I forgot to put the clothes in the dryer.” Coming back later, determined to finish this time. The phone rings. “Chit-chat, chit-chat.” Minutes later, “Bye.” Ok, now! Reaching for the bible again. Hearing the clock chime, “Oh my, I have to run.” Book closed.
Jesus is in the home of the sisters, Mary & Martha. Mary is found sitting at Jesus’ feet. Martha, being the Martha Stewart of the day was in the kitchen working. Luke (chapter 10) describes Martha as being distracted by all the stuff, all the preparations.
It is interesting the way Luke narrates the scene, distracted. The word he chose (in the original language) is the only place this word appears in the N.T. It isn’t a soft quick glance the other way, it is a full on “over-occupied” in a different direction – distraction. It denotes the misplacement of cares and responsibility. Grammatically (geek alert) it is used in the passive voice, meaning: The action is emphasized rather than the subject of the sentence. Martha was DISTRACTED!
Mary, still sitting and listening “at the Lord’s feet” may get lost in our western mindset. “At the Lord’s feet” is an idiom* (see definition below). Paul used the same phrase when declaring he was found “at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3) this phrase refers to a disciple studying at the feet of their Rabbi. So Mary was not sitting on the floor for lack of space at the table, indeed she (a woman, Rabbinical teaching was reserved primarily for men) was bold. She positioned herself as a disciple, focused and listening.
With Mary’s focus elsewhere Martha begins to complain, she urges Jesus to encourage Mary to help her. I love Jesus’ response, “Martha, Martha…” It doesn’t say it in print, but you can almost see the slight swaying of Jesus’ head as He repeats her name as to emphasize a deep sigh. He continues by stating she worries and gets upset about many things. However, her sister has chosen wisely, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it…” (v 42, NLT)
How easily we too are distracted with life, our cares, and responsibilities. If you are like me, at times I squirrel all over the place. I need to focus! Like Martha, we have great intentions and motives, after all she was preparing a meal for them all. Yet there is a call to be at Jesus’ feet. Setting aside what occupies our time, thoughts and attention. Learn of Him.
We need a planned positioning. What does that look like for you?
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Heb. 10:24)
*An idiom is a phrase or expression that has a meaning that in most cases is specific to a culture or time period. Example: “It is all up in the air as to who won the race.” Folks from another culture may begin looking up due to lack of understanding.
“It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the *LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Dt 11:13, NASB). Moses conveys the urgency of what God is saying about obedience with (in essence) repeating himself, “… if you hear and obey…” (listen obediently ‘shama shama’ in the original language). In the Hebrew culture, hearing and obeying are synonymous. If we do not ‘do’ what is heard, then there was no hearing. We’ve all experienced this as mothers when telling our kids to go in and clean their room. (Enough said). Moses’ narrative continues to explain the blessing and cursing of obedience or the lack of.
When God said to Solomon “Ask for whatever you want Me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon didn’t ask for high and lofty things, he simply asked for wisdom. This is what we are told in Sunday school. Yet. Solomon’s request can be lost in the cultural understanding. It was indeed high and lofty. In the Hebrew, Solomon said “Natan ebed shama leb” Meaning, “Give (your) servant hearing heart…” (v9) Solomon was asking that he would hear God. He would do God’s words. All this to govern the people. Wouldn’t it be great if we prayed our leading officials were granted God hearing hearts? Hearing and doing. Wouldn’t it be great if WE echoed Solomon’s request!
Multiple times Jesus says, he who “has ears to hear let him hear…” We better pay close attention, there is something Jesus wants of His hearers. A change of behavior, a surrendering of heart or a changed mindset. He also says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” (Lk 11:28)
I am taking an online class on Biblical Studies. The professor left us with one (strong) homework assignment in week one. It wasn’t to exegesis a verse or write out a diagram of the contextual cross references. He said, “This week, allow the Holy Spirit to point out: Is there something you’ve read or heard that you are NOT doing.” OH MY! We came back and we were to grade ourselves, did we hear? Did we do? All this to point out the IMPORTANCE of God’s word.
How well are we hearing? Are we doing what we’ve heard? Either sitting in the pew (or watching from online) or when reading in our quiet time. Are we positioning ourselves to hear the Holy Spirit? Are we asking Him for the plan to implement? Or are we just filing it all away for another time, a convenient time, an easier time. If we scour the words in red, there are no statements of convenience – it is NOW.
When DOING doesn’t happen, did we hear?
*LORD; Many of our Bible translations contain the word LORD in all caps, this is known as the tetragrammaton, which means ‘consisting of 4 letters’ (in Greek). It is the 4-letter name of God, YHWH. Originally there were no vowels when writing in Hebrew, they were added later – Yahweh. LORD is used some 6500+ times in scripture referring to the Eternal, Self-Existent One, Covenant God of Israel.
Recently, in a small group study, while devouring the book of Genesis (verse by verse) we came to the conclusion and I have pondered this for days: “Yes, unity is good. Great. And encouraged. But.” But we must make sure what we are attaching ourselves to, investing time and energy (AND our soul) – HAS to be focused properly. Genesis 11, “All the people…” (v1) the story of the Tower of Babel. Their unity took them further away from God, further from His commands.
They weren’t that far away from the Noah saga (just a page or two) – a few generations step from “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become … The LORD was grieved…So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth…” And the LORD did. (Summary: Gen 6:5-7; 7:4,11-12 NIV). God offered mankind a fresh start. Not only that, the starter kit was wrapped in His ever-loving covenant! (See Genesis 9).
As the new settlers (post flood) proceeded, you’d think there would have been even a slight hesitation to run off and grab your tool belt and head to the build site. “Wait… What?” What are we doing? But didn’t God say…” Nope. Brick builders, tower builders – as a whole, they built. (Continue reading Genesis 11, see how well THAT turned out). There is much to be heeded: “Come, let us … build up.” Causing God, “Come, let us go down.” (Gen 9:4,7).
How often do we too, join the cause, and perhaps fail to read the fine print? We fail to truly find out the goal, the intent and by golly, “Did God say?”
King David wrote: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. COMMIT your way to the Lord; trust in Him…” (Psalm 37:4-5a, emphasis mine). “Commit” is a highly active word picture. In Hebrew, it means to roll upon or against into a heap. This rolling is an act of trust. WHERE are we attaching our trust? The world is FULL of “Join us. Trust yourself to us. Trust our cause – act now!”
Let us keep in mind, WHATever, WHOever we commit ourselves to, we become rolled up as one. I echo the King’s exhortation; I surrender to the plea – may we roll up to and in – God! Rolling our life, our will, our behavior and I will offer – our tool belt. Ask questions, read the fine print before running and committing. AND may we consider our “Like” as well.
It’s here. And it’s already in stores. Halloween. Stores have freshly stocked shelves with 30% off ticketed items by the rows. Tons of stuff! Black cats, witch hats, spiders, eerie tombstones, bright orange plastic pumpkins and yes, the ever-dreaded skulls.
I LOVE the fall don’t get me wrong, it is my favorite season. The crisp morning air and the vibrant rich colors! I decorate my home seasonally with the warm orange, burgundy and brown tones, (my mantle pictured above) but Halloween does not roll this gals socks.
I am often asked why I have chosen not to celebrate Halloween, why I don’t find it “all in fun.” What is fun about it? The basic theme is of fear and elements of death. Um… no, not for this gal. Before I get all kinds of comments, emails, texts, and smoke signals, please let me explain, why (for me) I choose not to.
My family used to do the Halloween thing when I was little. I wore the thin fabric climb in costume with the sweaty plastic mask. But, after I came to understand and was adopted as a daughter of the Most High God, and I learned of His Majesty and His glorious light – I no longer participate in the day of darkness. Yes, darkness and light struggle 365 days a year. True. Still, a day not for me. A day I can forgo.
For the life of me, I cannot understand WHY someone would voluntarily, even cheerfully submit themselves to haunted houses and ghost hunts. All in fun? No, not for me. I have seen with my own eyes – evil. I’ve seen and felt the demonic and choose not to play with it like a child’s toy or pretend in dress up. All the while (in the background) while kids run from house to house for the coveted BEST drop in their bucket – when no one seems to notice, there are cultic activities taking place. The number of self-identified witches in the U.S. is doubling every 2 years. Those deeply into the occult take this holiday very seriously and yes, the dark forces they are dealing with are very real! (* See the history of Halloween below).
Paul wrote, “Hate evil and cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9). Is it God-honoring if we are clinging to good, while we cheerfully allow evil to run rampant around our feet? That running around could soon become a snare to those who participate in seemingly innocent activities.
I know, I know, now I’m getting a lil bit too serious. But. We need to remember darkness always has an agenda. ALWAYS! It will come again and again for any crack. ANY opportunity to subtly peek in with ugly and seething wickedness. If not addressed, it will crawl in. Slither about quietly. It will sit unnoticed, silent in the corner (with a smirk). If we think it will stand up in the middle of the room and wave “Here I am!” then we are only fooling ourselves.
According to Wiccans, Halloween is the time when the veil between the living and the dead is considered to be the thinnest. They celebrate and take advantage of such status. And by the way, (standing a lil taller on my soapbox) there is no such thing as a “Good Witch” regardless of how Hallmark wants to title it. Adding one more (not in detail) note: For satanists, Halloween is one of the most important celebrations of the year, it is documented in their “book” that after one’s own birthday (and another icky day) Halloween is most important.
For me, a day I can forgo.
Gently climbing down off my soapbox (as not to hurt myself) and dragging it back to store for another time.
You are loved. You daughter and son of the Most-High God.
*History of Halloween: “Halloween’s customs are thought to have been influenced and dated back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities, this done in attempts to appease them. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.” [History.com] In addition, other articles speak of folklore that costumes were worn so as to disguise the living, so the dead returning could not identify them. The dead running amuck with the living. Also, the bonfires were built with the intent to keep the souls of the dead from falling to earth.