Christmas, a time of sharing, loving and gift-giving. We are in the season of gift-hunting, we may not have anything in mind, but there is hope of something jumping off the shelf and literally wrap itself with a glorious bow and going headlong in our cart. (Ok, perhaps that’s MY form of hopeful shopping).
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 seem less significant items to be had in the excitement. Gifts. Consider if you will, (imagine with me) the Magi as they prepare for their trek out to find the child to whom the shiny Star belongs. 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 “Dude, 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? Gold, we have that one down. Frankincense is ground dried up tree sap used as incense. And myrrh, what is THAT?
The divine significance of myrrh: It too comes from the sap of a tree and used in the divinely prescribed anointing oil of the Tabernacle and the priests (Exodus 30:22-23). It was the perfumed oil poured over Jesus’ feet (John 12:3, Matthew 26:12: The ointment or costly perfume is ‘myron’ which is myrrh-oil). It was used 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 (took the Magi some time to get there – no GPS), Jesus and 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, Jesus our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16). The same perfumed oil poured on His feet as a grown man, those feet that would one day hang on a cross and be pierced. The oil added to the spices wrapped around His body following His death. He 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, 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 learned principle, a person no longer lonely – gifts given in Jesus name – the gift that keeps on giving.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Photo credit Jan Pashley http://www.janpashley.co.uk/ (Love her work)
Immanuel. This time of year, we sing with a resounding ‘O come, O come Immanuel…” and it is written in beautiful font lettering across our Christmas cards. 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 Immanuel. Whether it is walking in the Garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8) the pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:22) or sandaled feet in Galilee (Matthew 4:18) or gloriously residing within us (1 Corinthians 3:16) The God who dwells with us, among us and in us – God is Immanuel.
Immanuel is first mentioned in Isaiah (chapter 7) within a strong warning to King Ahaz to get his act together in the midst of political uprising and trust that God is with them – but the guy chose poorly. Isaiah prophecies: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will be called Immanuel.” (v14) As we know, God’s people were quite fickle in their love, trust, and obedience, causing them to do what was right AND evil in God’s eyes, they STILL didn’t fully comprehend God’s presence. 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 gives narrative: “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 Emmanuel – 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! This holiday season, as you consider Immanuel, step up, lean in, look to the far left, back to the beginning and then follow the timeline all the way to where YOU now stand and then continue to the right, following the thread into eternity as declared from the heavenly throne, 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 – Immanuel.
In Him DeDe, (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
*Why do we often see two spellings for Immanuel? The different spellings ultimately are because of 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.
Christmas and gift-giving, standing among all the stuff, the noise and the chaos. Christmas has become somewhat of a plummeting oneself into the art of either grab and go at the store or park yourself in front of the computer and let your fingers do the shopping, ‘Click‘.
Swirling inattentive, not really there, moments.
How often are we somewhere else when we are with people or in circumstances or perhaps even in church? Our bodies may be present but by golly, our minds are full of grocery list writing or a prior situation or while someone is talking to us, we are busy formulating our response. WHAT did we miss?
Be in the moment.
In Exodus (the theology of Exodus is Presence) Exodus 24, God called Moses up the mountain, “The LORD said to Moses, “”Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” (v12, emphasis mine, NKJV). For 40 days Moses was there, on the mountain, in God’s presence. Eight chapters worth of divine instruction was given. Moses was there. Many translators interpret God telling Moses to ‘stay there’ or ‘wait there.’ Yet a 19th-century Rabbi wrote from a different perspective which I adore. He explains that ‘there are times we go to a place and not actually being there, simply saying: we can exert ourselves getting to a destination, yet when we arrive, our thoughts remain at the original point of departure. The Rabbi imagined God was telling Moses not only come up the mountain but – be fully there, with complete attention, concentration – leaving all behind.’* Can you imagine how the story would have played out if Moses was distracted, thinking he forgot to blow out the candle in his tent or was busy taking in the view from ‘way up here, OH WOW, Aaron and all are so small’ all the while God’s talking and has to say, “Moses, over here, eyes HERE, pay attention, you’re going to want to hear this, know this!”
May we too be there, this holiday season and every day – be in the moment. Giving folks or our situation complete attention and concentration. It is a gift we give to others and ourselves when we are giving presence in the present, full-on presence. And may we pay close attention and not allow our mind to wander (even when we read God’s word) we don’t want to miss anything – we may need to hear this, know this!
Let’s look the bell-ringer in the eye, tell the cashier “Merry Christmas” while using their name and reciprocate a firm handshake or hug and pay close attention to the details of what others are telling us.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
*Lois Tverberg, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus – I had the privilege of being on the original launch team for this book, I highly recommend it.
Image credit: scottberglan.org
Forty. Noah and crew got rained on for 40 days. Israel wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. Moses was on the Mt with God 40 days. Caleb was 40 when he spied out the land. Goliath taunted the Israelites for 40 days. King David reigned for 40 years. Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and later, among man 40 days after His resurrection.
The year was 1979. Jimmy Carter was in office. Folks were glued to their foil-wrapped antenna TV sets watching M*A*S*H, Three’s Company, Brady Bunch and Dukes of Hazzard. We were listening to our 8-tracks of Billy Joel, the Bee Gees and yes, the Village People, (ok, maybe not the Village People). It’s been 40 years.
It was December 21, 1979, on a Friday evening, when I sat on the floor in the living room of my pastor’s house. His dear wife Brenda explaining the gospel so clear, so lovingly. At nearly seventeen, I wasn’t sure about life, but I knew my life needed Jesus. We prayed. I invited Jesus to be my Lord and the center of my life. Everything changed.
I went on to Bible college at God’s command (for me) it was there He confirmed His call on my life and birthed a love and PASSION for His Word. As I look over celebrating forty years, it’s been a wild ride of God’s faithfulness, His love and at times His (many) well-deserved disciplines. Forty years of on my face before Him in complete wonderment of His Word, with hours upon hours of ‘can’t get enough’. When God calls and then equips, like that evening when Jesus became my Lord, everything changes. I have the most amazing privilege of teaching the women at church, doing research for pastors and the blog Inspired Fountain is now being read in over 50 countries and soon to be put in book form. All at HIS direction, to HIS glory, in HIS name. Go God!
Thank you, Jesus.
Here’s to another forty years! (wink)
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Turkey, cranberries, dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, salad. Breathe. Dinner plates, napkins, silverware, glasses, AND centerpiece. THANKSGIVING! I love this holiday; food, family, and football. A set time to pause, consider and ponder what we are thankful for.
Thanksgiving. There are seasons it may be difficult to pull forward on the shelf of our life something to be thankful for. We may have lost a job, or a loved one. Or our bank account matches our emotional bucket of strength, ’empty’. Yet there IS something to be thankful for. You have a REASON for thanksgiving. The great Psalm of thanks opens with, “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good.” (Ps. 136) The Hebrew language renders a beautiful word picture, “Give thanks…” offers the idea of a reverent acknowledgment and of worship – with extended hands.
“His love endures forever.” The author found it needful to repeat this phrase 26 times throughout the rest of the Psalm. This word love (in Hebrew) is ‘hesed’. We know it biblically as mercy, goodness, loyalty and steadfast love and even … grace. What a pivotal word.
This mercy-filled (undeserved) love is enveloped in personal involvement and commitment to relationship. God is pleased when it is reciprocated “For I delight in loyalty (hesed) rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) Our Lord desires faithful love and covenantal commitment. With this, His lovingkindness is precious (Ps. 36:7) marvelous (Ps. 17:7) undeserving (Ps. 103) abounding (Ps. 86:5) reviving (Ps.119:159) satisfying (Ps. 90:14) and everlasting (Ps. 103:17). THAT is our God! Thankful yet?
David’s well known and beloved Psalm 23 (verse 6) “Surely goodness and MERCY will follow me all the days of my life” (mercy is hesed) This ‘follow’ is not a mere tag along behind, but … PURSUIT. David knows the concept of pursuit. God’s unending – steadfast love full of mercy pursued David. He pursues us! He pursues YOU. He is unrelenting. Aren’t you GLAD He does not let go! Reason for thanksgiving indeed! “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.”
As we share around the table amongst the laughter and love, the blessings of health and family, may we too raise a hand “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so…” (Ps. 107:1-2a)
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
I love the Psalms, the poetic sway of song and praise, thankfulness and yes even repentance. Some give heavy pen so emotional you can almost feel the author lean from the pages, grab you with fisted hand, look you in the eye and with a raspy voice: “Turn from evil and do good!” (37:27). Ok, perhaps not the raspy voice.
Yet of all the Psalms, what most resonates for me is the exalting of God.
King David wrote: “I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:1, ESV) This, the only Psalm titled ‘A Psalm of Praise, of David’, with twenty-one verses, he opens his praise with direct address ‘my God.’ Then as king himself, with surrendered heart ‘my God and King’ and his declaring is unending ‘forever and ever.’ Such humility and so much praise.
‘I will extol You’ – extol, the word is pretty much obsolete these days. It sounds so ‘Old English.’ When was the last time we used it in a sentence? It isn’t active in our speech, prayers, or worship. (Or should it?)
There are two main emphases when praising God in scripture: We worship God, (expressed in word AND deed) we are personally declaring Him as Superior: He is more, He is beyond, He is above … all. He is! In the Hebrew ‘extol’ conveys movement, the act of raising. When extolling God, we are not only raising Him in high status, but we lift His attributes as well, (the whole God-package) we grab all we know about Him and raise it as high as we can, declaring HE IS and He is all THIS! David continues the psalm extolling God in His greatness, glorious splendor, majesty, His abundant goodness, righteousness and oh, (OH!) He is abounding in steadfast love!
When we worship and extol WHO God is, we are indeed in the act of raising. Raising Him high, higher – higher than the stuff, HIGHER than ourselves.
May our life, in word and deed, extol Him.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so pants my soul for You, O God.” (Psalm 42:1). Lovely, poetic, so full of longing. Have you ever wondered why the Psalmist compared his thirst for God with a deer? Why not, say … a camel, there are camels in the region as well.
Yet taking a much closer look the reason is beautiful. Why NOT the camel: The camel is designed to be self-sustaining; they store all the water they need in fatty tissue, conserving the water by self-regulating their body temperature. With the self-sustaining, self-regulating they can last up to not only weeks but MONTHS without drinking water simply by eating green vegetation and without even that they can survive up to 2 weeks. Water is not a daily concern for them.
The Psalmist wrote as the deer. The deer. We would first think, well, the deer is young, they need leading to water, but the word used as deer, is a mature male, not a doe or even a fawn, this isn’t Bambi, this is his dad, the Great Prince of the Forest, the stag who knows where the water is, and if he doesn’t, he will find it! According to ‘Realtree Hunting’ a 200-pound buck will typically drink 3 to 5 quarts of water per day and as observed, will go to water before going to food. Water is their prime desired source of survival – every day. The panting done by the deer is not likened to that of a dog panting – dogs don’t sweat, so panting is a form of regulating their body heat. The ‘panting’ of this deer is a passionate, life-threatening desperate plea for survival! (see also Joel 1:20)
Think about it, what are our survival patterns? Do we tend to be more like the camel at times; self-sustaining, self-regulating, thinking we can make it on last month’s water or longer? Or are we (should we) be more like the deer, in his maturity, seeking, longing-PANTING for daily water and go to the water before anything else.
So yes, my soul pants for You, O God just like the deer longs for life-sustaining water.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
This week I again had the privilege of teaching the women at church as we passionately move through the book of Mark. We paused as we stepped into chapter 11, ‘The Triumphal Entry.’ So good, so powerful, so God speaking. We looked at the significance of the crowd laying down their cloaks and of palm branches. But what also spoke loudly to me was Jesus riding the untamed colt.
Jesus riding the King’s procession into Jerusalem was fulfilling Zechariah’s words: “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.” (9:9 – NLT) What leadership style! Jesus is establishing everything He will do & say going forward. Other leaders of the day would come into town bloodied from war on a warhorse, strutting in pride – Jesus comes in on a colt, humble in holy restrained power. (Be assured that power will soon be un-restrained).
Fascinating, WHY an untamed animal? Something to consider, just an observation -another incident of untamed animals (1 Samuel 5 & 6).
(Setting the scene) The Philistines seized the Ark of the Covenant and placed it in the temple of dagon, (not worthy of capitalizing as a proper noun) the next morning the statue of dagon was toppled over FACE DOWN before the ark of God (YAY!) they picked their idol up, but the next morning the same thing – face down, BUT this time, the statues head & hands were broken off (Go God!) and were laying in the doorway of the temple (let’s just say, ‘Don’t mess with the Presence of God!’) and soon the Philistines were breaking out with tumors, even when they sent the Ark to Gath and onto Ekron, still the people broke out and went into a great panic.
The Philistine people cried out to send the Ark back to the Israelites, calling for their idol-worshipping priests (just like Pharaoh & the King in Daniels day called for their magicians & sorcerers) they asked them to figure out how to handle and get rid of the Ark. (In short) they conceived the plan to build a cart and harness two nursing mama cows that had never been yoked AND take their calves away! (Boo! Not kind!) This was a test to see if the now mad nurturing mama cows went directly – staying on course back to the children of God, if so, then the whole fiasco was not coincidence, but the work of the God of Israel (with the golden Ark going along for the ride – now THAT would have been a sight!). BUT the cows went straight to Beth Shemesh (the desired location). In the natural, a mother cow will go where the calf is and do anything to get to them, only God has the power over the natural order. The narrative states the cows lowing the whole way, not detouring to the left or right.
God is powerful over the untamed. God controlled the cows who carried the Ark of God – just like the young colt carried the Son of God. Do you think he (the colt) KNEW Who was draped over his back? Definitely. The creation, fully-divinely aware of his Creator. Untamed is nothing – the Presence of God is everything.
As Isaiah said, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (30:21) – God’s voice. And Jesus said the Father would send the Holy Spirit, teaching us all things and reminding us of ALL that Jesus said. (Jn 14:26 – Holy notepad!) He also invites us to harness up with Him and take His yoke (Matt 11:28-30). THAT is some great untamed holy yoked guidance!
If God can control two mama cows and a young colt to carry the Presence of God – He can do the same with me, (“… your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you… you are not your own.” – 1 Cor 6:19). Even in my untamed moments – BUT – the Presence of God! I surrender.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Sacred Spaces. Those places and moments when you block out the world, the noise, the chaos and quietly bow your head, offering a moment for a spiritual breath, exhaling the exhaustion of the day and inhaling His glorious strength. A place and moment of divine recognition.
When God moves and speaks, revealing Himself to us, what is our response? Do we mark those moments on the timeline of our life, like we do when measuring the growth height of our children on the doorpost or do we just give a quick nod of the head and continue with our day? I have been studying those great names of old … Abe, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, I found all had many things in common, but one, in particular, stood out to me … they built altars.
“He (Abe) built an altar there to the Lord…” (Genesis 12:7) “Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 26:25) “Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him…” (Genesis 35:14)
And Moses, he’s found sitting on top of a hill, below him the battle wages on. Joshua leads the Israelites against the Amalekites, they were winning as long as Moses kept his hands raised. And when he grew tired? Aaron and Hur placed a stone under him to sit and then stood beside him, holding his arms up. They did win the battle miraculously with God ability, “Moses built an altar and called it ‘The Lord is my Banner.’” (Exodus 17:15) It doesn’t say it in the narrative, but I can imagine Moses taking rocks and placing them on top of the large stone he sat on during the battle, marking the fight, marking the victory.
An altar is a landmark of God’s presence. It declares a sacred space, sacred because the holy God of the universe was there. May we be like the Patriarchs of old, may we too be altar builders. Perhaps gratefully etching the doorpost of our heart or writing in our journal or like mine, the back of my Bible. And although culturally, we no longer gather various rocks and pile them in our backyard, yet maybe in the far corner – a stone marks the season where battles were fought, where battles were WON! Recognizing, remembering and declaring THIS is where God met with me. Honoring and worshipping He Who is faithful, He Who is worthy.
Have you ever wondered why the gal with the bleeding issue (in Mk. 5; Matt. 9) reached for and touched (in the Greek she literally grabbed it, not a mere swipe) Jesus’ hem? Not His sandals, or even His hand? Granted the folks were packed in tight, but why the hem, why so deliberate? Others too desired to touch His hem (Matt. 14:36; Mk 6:56). They went for His authority, His priesthood. In doing so, HE being God in the flesh were healed.
The hem: It goes way back to ancient(er) days, God instructs the Israelites to wear garments with specifically designed borders, hems or fringes also known as tassels. (Nu. 15; Deut. 22; Ex 28). These fringes came to represent authority, personality, their place in society and even lineages were sewn into the hem. Noblemen of the day would sign their name, authenticating, by lifting their robe and pressing the hem into wet clay tablets – specific stitching indicating family and function. Today, we would wear our badge (if you will) on our chest ‘General Manager’ or in the military on the shoulder and sleeve, ‘Captain’. Or a laminated nametag around our neck. The ancients wore it on the fringe.
Remember in 1 Samuel 24, David was running from Saul. David and his men were hiding in the cave and Saul came in to relieve himself? The men urging David on, “Come on, this is your chance!” he snuck up behind Saul and cut off the corner, the hem of his robe. A moment later, David was (as the narrative states) conscience-stricken, he goes out to Saul and humbly shows him the piece of the hem – he could have killed Saul, he didn’t – BUT – David was convicted because he CUT Saul’s lineage and symbolically took away the identity and authority of the Lord’s anointed. It was not God’s instruction; it was not God’s timing. Saul understood what had just taken place, saying: “And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Swear to me therefore by the LORD that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house.” (vv20-21, ESV)
Oh, we may not (although some do) wear traditional stitched hems with customary respect, BUT how often do we too ‘cut’ others? How often have I, cut off another’s personality, authority in an attempt to make ME feel better, cut their fringe, yes under peer pressure trim away so my own badge glows brighter? (OUCH! THIS is painful). May we too (with the wooing of Holy Spirit) be conscience-stricken when we begin to bring out the scissors of the tongue or reach for behavioral shears.
Respecting the hem (symbolically) of others.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24)
*Numbers 15:37-41: The fringes were originally designed as a reminder (a visual reminder, for those around and those wearing them) as a mark of their status as the chosen people of God. If YOU are in Jesus, you are marked with His blood, you are ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood and a holy nation, God’s very own possession.‘ (1 Pet 2:9) May we treat each other with such respect. For more on the fringes: Consider these articles: Jesus’ Clothes and Our Rabbi Jesus.
Blessings to you my royally fringed family member of God!
Remember back and for some of us WAAAAY back, when we were in the 4th or 5th grade, out on the playground we would divide up in teams for a ball game? That had to be some of the most frustrating moments of childhood. Nervous thoughts of “Will I be picked?” Or remember when the list was posted for those making the team following tryouts? We stood a slight distance away, just close enough to see if our name was there, but not too close to be faced with rejection by our name’s absence.
Making the list. Go ahead admit it, we all want to be wanted, picked and deemed valuable! We all have areas of our life that we fall short, lack the skill or just can’t seem to get it right. In these, we begin to see ourselves as less valuable than others. Perhaps even become resentful, envious of those who do seem to have it all together. (They really don’t by the way).
Ever notice that we may take these perspectives, or may I say insecurities into our relationship with God? Often, we may find our head bowed, not necessarily in reverence, but out of frustration. Words painfully escape our whispering lips, “Will You, can You … use … ME!” Then continue to list all our shortcomings, these becoming our excuses and before we know it, we are telling God why He shouldn’t want us.
In short Beloved, have we ever considered the ‘list’ that God compiled? The list of Biblical proportion. These folks did stupid things, (STUPID) made BIG mistakes, when told to do something God’s way, they chose the DIY and ran. Some were too small, too old, too ugly and too worrisome.
Eve listened to the Devil *Rahab was a prostitute *Adam blame shifted *Jeremiah and Timothy were too young *David had an affair and was a murderer *Abraham was too old *Elijah was suicidal *Isaac was a daydreamer *Isaiah preached naked (oops) *Jacob was a liar *Jonah ran from God *Leah was ugly *Naomi was a widow *Joseph was abused *Job went bankrupt *Moses stuttered *John the Baptist ate bugs *Aaron watched the idol-making *Peter denied Christ *Gideon was afraid *The Disciples fell asleep while praying *Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer *Martha worried about everything *The Samaritan woman was divorced, (more than once) *Zacchaeus was too small *Paul was too religious AND Lazarus was dead! DEAD I tell you!
Here it comes … (Wait for it) … HOWEVER. God used ALL these people! They were part of His plan. They all had weaknesses of some sort. Do you find yourself among this list? Do you worry, then beat yourself up for lack of faith? Do you fall asleep when you pray, then believe the lie you don’t love God enough?
God moved in and through these people’s lives. Aren’t you glad God didn’t hide or remove the background history from these folks? God is the Redeemer of our soul, life and YES mistakes, failures, and shortcomings. Have you been divorced, afraid, abused, bankrupted or drunk or eat weird things? Or let’s face it, said things before your brain was engaged? (YAY Peter!) God is God. He compiles the list. YOU made the list, the list of redeemed mankind. (Group hug!)
YOU my friends are sons & daughters of the Most High God! YOU are valuable! YOU are loved! YOU made the List! HIS list! Regardless.
Big plans for YOU!
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24)
One day (Luke 5) Jesus was out in Peters’ boat teaching to the folks on the shore (no fog machines, no colorful backlighting, but great acoustics on the water). After Jesus finished teaching the crowd, He told Peter to put his nets out in the deeper water and there you will catch fish. Peter and crew had fished all night with no catch to show for it. Being professional fishermen, they knew the skill of the waters, the timing, and the fish patterns. Peter could have assumed he knew better than Jesus (not to mention, but I will… it being HIS boat and his men watching) he could have offered a lengthy debate and completely refused to obey. YET he responds with some of the most profound words in scripture, “Master … because You say so…” (v5). They did as Jesus said, the catch was SO full, they had to ask fellow fishermen in another boat to help, ‘soon both boats were filled with fish’ (v7). Peter teaches us, although we may not understand what/why Jesus tells us to do something, our obedience brings HUGE blessing and that blessing spills all over others as well (you may have to take a shower) but blessings all the more.
Peter, what a guy. You can’t but love him. He was the one who went on to ask Jesus, “So, how many times am I to forgive someone? What, say … 7 times?” Way to think BIG Pete! Jesus tells him, “No, seventy times seven” (Matthew 18). In the upper room, humbly Jesus begins to wash the disciple’s feet, Peter was the one (the ONLY one) who insisted Jesus not wash his feet, (and well, then requests the whole bath package, John 13). And Peter’s also the one wielding a sword and cuts off the guys ear in the Garden attempting to protest and protect Jesus (ever wonder what he might have been aiming for?) Interesting also, Luke, the physician is the only one of the four Gospel writers who offer the follow up, that Jesus healed the man’s ear (Luke 22). No one speaks in the gospels as often as Peter and Jesus spoke more to Peter than anyone else.
Does THAT resonate with you? It does me! I too would’ve been the one with all the mistakes, all the outbursts, act before thinking, Jesus needed to heal others of my messes and yes even the outrageous denying. Yet, in Peters’ doing and Jesus’ divine responses – what lessons, what grace, what love!
Peter messed up (a bunch) but he was the “Master… because You say so” guy.
What a challenge – may we be also.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrew 10:24)
When we think of back to school, what first comes to mind? Sack lunches, big yellow buses, school supplies (Oh I love school supplies) and what about routine? During the summer we tend to lighten up or throw out routine altogether. Spontaneity is exciting and good and at times a total hoot, yet routine gives aide to keeping our prone-to-wander ducks – in a row.
Routine helps anchor our season of life – our day – our moment. An anchor is used when a boat or ship needs to be centered in one location and not moved by the wind, waves or current. When we follow an established pattern, it gives us focus, a goal rather than a haphazard throw it to wind mindset. Routine is a time, a place and a purpose.
Daniel of the Bible followed a pattern of praying three times a day, regardless of what was going on around him. His time with his God solidified his assurance of God’s character, thus help shape his own stand-strong character. King David mentions multiple times his routine was ‘early in the morning’ (early & first) he sought God, read His law, setting everything aside to praise Him. Jesus, our ultimate example was often seen slipping away to pray to His Father. Routine is a time, a place and a purpose.
Nicholas Herman of the 1600s, known to us as ‘Brother Lawrence’ speaks of the development of acute awareness, in the beloved compiled letters ‘Practicing the Presence of God.’ Brother Lawrence spent years working in the kitchen, then working as a shoe repairman. If I may offer application; he speaks of routine as a tool for focus.
Each night as my husband and I crawl in bed, he reads over us. A portion of scripture or from an in-depth devotional. He does this even if he’s traveling for work, through the phone the established routine anchors us.
Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Oh. (OH!)
Perhaps we need to re-adjust some focus, smooth out our schedule, dotting our calendar with designed routine. A time, a place, a purpose: For prayer, praise, seeking HIM early and first. For family and relationship.
I shared the above with our women at church over breakfast at our September gathering.
This is Fred my aquatic frog, my husband named him, I wanted something more exquisite like ‘Sebastian Theodore III’, nope, Fred. He is just a lil guy, less than an inch from nose to frog rump. Most folks have a dog or a cat, but I have fish and a frog. Fred is often seen waiting… just waiting … still waiting. You see when I drop his food in the bowl, it is here (where he waits) that we meet. This morning when I saw him waiting yet again, I thought of his expectation, knowing it is our morning routine. The words of the Psalmist came to mind, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.” (130:5) Waiting in routine is good, waiting with expectation is great. “For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.” (Ps 107:9).
King David wrote, “O God, you are my God; early will I seek You…” (Ps 63:1a) He is saying he not only seeks God early but FIRST.
Finding inspiration from the Psalms and Sebastian Theodore III (aka: Fred). May we too find routine in the early – in the first – in expectation of our God.
Simple. We all seek the simple, the quick, and the ‘let’s get to it’ in life. But, when something is presented without difficulty, we pick it up, look behind it and wonder where’s the rest. We take this mentality into our Jesus walk as well, if it seems uncomplicated, effortless and even manageable, we begin to reach for stuff to fill in the cracks, make it heavier than designed and by all means, let’s OVER-THINK-IT!
Most of the basics are just that … simple.
This Jesus life is co-operative – His divine (instruction & empowerment) with our obedience, equates good God stuff! Example: John 9, the blind man, blind from birth encounters Jesus: (In short) Jesus puts spitty-mud on the guy’s eyes and instructs him to go and wash. “So, I went and washed and then I could see.” (v11, NIV) To wash – so simple. Yet, there are others who hesitate due to the simple: Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army (2 Kings 5) he’s a mighty man of valor yet had leprosy. Through interesting circumstances, he was told to go dip seven times in the Jordan and he’d be healed. But the man thought he needed-deserved more! Bring out the parade, Elisha wave your hand over me, pray a glorious King James prayer (ok, I added that). In his refusal of the simple, fighting against God’s instruction, he didn’t do it. But finally, in response to his servants challenging him, he went, did the dunking and was healed – his healing, however, was delayed due to denial of simplicity. The blind man in John 9, obeyed immediately – healed immediately.
What is God instructing us? Are we holding out for more, before we respond? Perhaps, we’re making it more difficult than it is.
We’ve heard the questioning phrase, “What’s in a name?” The answer: Biblically, a boatload, actually. When we begin reading John 11, we are introduced to a man named Lazarus. We find he is a brother, lives in Bethany and is ill. But beyond those three initial facts, before going any further so much gets lost in the translation – his name. Names given in ancient days helped define the person, gives a title and even their destiny. Lazarus is known to come from the Hebrew, meaning ‘God is my help.’ Continuing the story: Lazarus dies, he is buried, the sisters mourn, and after 4 days Jesus comes and calls him out with all Godly authority and out of the grave walks … Lazarus. THAT is indeed ‘God is my help.’
Names. I am known by many names, legally I am ‘Diana’ and if called out by my dad, I am ‘Diana Rena’ (and better respond quickly) but to most I am DeDe. To my sons, ‘Mom’, my granddaughter, of recent ‘Grams’ and to my Beloved, I am ‘Sweetheart’. These names offer relationship, title and yes destiny. But my most cherished name and the honored title is ‘Child of God.’ It is SO defining. John writes, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13, NIV) I am born of God, His child, His daughter.
The scriptures speak of the privileges that accompany the title (AND the responsibility) of being a child of God, one – inheritance (See: Ro 8:17; Tit 3:7; Eph 1:11,18; Acts 20:32; 1 Pet 1:3-12, Col 1:12-14, just to name a few). Folks, this alone is huge, when we are in Jesus, we get the full-meal-deal, the whole God package! Because of our relationship with Him, our name is more than DeDe, Lisa, Bob or Mary – it is CHILD OF GOD. So, you too, like Lazarus, may be a brother/sister, live in ___________ and even sick (be healed in Jesus name) but because of your titled name, YOU get the privilege of walking out of an assured death sentence to … LIFE! As your story continues, don’t let your name get lost in the translation of the world, keep walking, remembering who and Whose you are – a Child of God.
What’s in a name? Everything.
HIS, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
*Photo credit: product of IdealPin
Happy ‘Left-hander Day.’ Yes, it’s an annual national day. Studies suggest that approximately 10% of the world’s population is left-handed.
- Use the right side of the brain the most
- Twice as likely to be a man
- Better at multitasking
- Of the eight most recent U.S Presidents, 4 have been left-handed
- Less able to roll their tongue than a righty, (fun facts to share with your friends)
You may ask, “What does the Bible say about being left-handed?” ‘Left-handed’ in the Hebrew is itter and only mentioned 2 times in scripture (Judges 3 & 20) and literally means; ‘not of the right hand’ – thus …left-handed.
Judges 20: In short: There was a very icky situation, war broke out among the tribe of Benjamin and all the rest of the tribes of Israel. “Among all these were 700 chosen men who were left-handed…” (These leftys were in addition to 26,000 other men). ‘Chosen’ is a keyword. In essence, they went looking for left-handed men. WHY?
Back up to Judges 3, Israel had AGAIN gone about doing ‘evil in the eyes of the Lord’, (Boooo!) God allowed the bad king Eglon of Moab to help teach the Israelites a lesson, through warfare. Israel cried out to God and He sent ‘Ehud’ (of the tribe of Benjamin) who just happened to be left-handed, who goes on to defeat the bad king. (YAY!) Moab became subject to Israel and there was peace in the kingdom for 80 years. (Ahh!) All of Israel KNEW the story of the ‘left-handed’ Benjamite – Ehud! THAT is why the Benjamites went looking for leftys – in hopes of having an ‘advantage.’ They were known for being able to “sling a stone at a hair and not miss.” (Jg 20:16). The Benjamites, however, did lose the battle – guess the left-handed missed. (Oops!)
What a lesson for us, we can’t always reach from our past in hopes that what worked ‘then’ will work now. God used the left-handed man to show the Israelites that when they are in fellowship with Him, He takes the least (one man) and makes the MOST. His lessons take on new angles with each battle. Left-handed or right-handed, new battle, new battle plan. God’s plan.
Patience. At times a hurry up and wait mindset. When the hurry isn’t an instant thing, then anger becomes our response. GOOD patience is a God quality, Paul lumps it in with love, joy, peace, patience…and self-control. (See Galatians 5:22-23). My husband and I together, have worked through the devotional book, “Praying the Attributes of God” by Ann Spangler and I mean ‘WORK’ through. One does not merely read when you open your heart and mind to transformation. The chapter on patience, looking at God’s patience with us. OH-MY-GOODNESS! God makes declaration of Himself: “The Lord, the Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6). In short, God does not grow frustrated with us like we do with others, things, circumstances or … ourselves. Patience is being long of feeling, delaying one’s anger.
Impatient trigger points, what is it for you? Long lines at the gas station or 23 items in the gals cart ahead of you at the grocery store when the sign clearly reads only ‘15’? For me, it is tangled hangers – NOTHING makes me more instantly frustrated than when I reach for one, ONE, and they tangle, and others come tumbling out and fall to the floor. Instant ‘hurry up and get it the way I WANT IT’ – mad woman moment! The imagery in life is the same – we are SO busy, our mind so full, that when we reach for one thing, the thing needed or wanted, it potentially all comes tumbling down. What is the first step to de-tangle my hangers and decrease my instant anger? CLEAN OUT THE CLOSET! (I know, DUH!) The same is true with our lives, clean out, get rid of, grow pass all the stuff, so when we (or God) reaches for something… there isn’t a tumbled mess at our feet.
“Thank you, God, for being so very patient with us, willing to allow us to grow and learn. We invite You to work YOUR precious attribute of patience, full of mercy and slow to anger in us. May we this week, sense You as we clean out the stuff, making life easier and not so cluttered, reducing our frustration. De-tangling for Your glory! In the powerful name of Jesus. Amen”
De-tangling the tangled hangers. Pursuing God patience.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:2
“I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever.” (King David, Psalm 145:1, ESV – emphasis mine) Extol, the word is pretty much obsolete these days. When was the last time we used it in a sentence – it doesn’t just roll off our tongue? (Or should it?)
Webster’s defines it, ‘to praise highly or enthusiastically.’ Looking at the many different words translated in the Old Testament on praising and glorifying God, there are two main representations: When we exalt God, (in word AND deed) we are personally declaring Him as Superior: He is more, He is beyond, He is above … all. When extolling God, we not only raise Him in high status, but we lift His attributes as well. God, YOU are holy! You are merciful! You are loving! You are sovereign! You are grace-filled and grace-giving! (Selah)
The imagery is likened to when we raise our hands in church, not only are we in a posture of surrender but raising God above – above the stuff, higher than ourselves. There have been a few times when I, reading His word and becoming so keenly aware of Him and His holiness, on the floor face down I can-not-get-low-enough. A true revelation of God will cause a gut response to do nothing else but lift Him up!
King Nebuchadnezzar experienced just this when stating: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of Heaven, for all His works are right and His ways are just; and those who walk in pride He is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:37) As the ancient folks came across on dry ground, safely on the shores, with the Egyptians who sought to again enslave them, now lay dead, it is said of them, the Israelites ‘believed in the LORD…” (Ex. 14:31) and sang: “The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him.” (Ex 15:2)
Praising lavishly and magnifying His majesty! May ours, be a lifestyle of extolling God above all. (In Jesus name)
As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man, hearing the commotion that Jesus was there, called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” In which he was told “Be silent!” by those around him. Well, THAT didn’t stop him, he cried out even louder, “JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!” Jesus stops, has the man brought to Him, He asked (although apparent of the mans need) “What do you want Me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus tells him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight. (Luke 18)
Mark chapter 8: In Bethsaida, a few folks have approached Jesus, begging Him to heal their friend who also was blind. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and walked with him out of the village. “When He had spit on the man’s eyes and put His hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put His hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” Amazing story, the man went from blind to the ability to see, to seeing with perception and detail.
Notice in these stories there was dialogue. Jesus could have from a distance, with a miracle-filled wave and a divine word, heal the men and continue on His way. Yet, He didn’t. There was purposeful process. Walk with Me – talk with Me, process. Some helped in the process, while others tried to discourage it.
How is our process? How desperate are we? Do we earnestly seek out Jesus regardless of obstacles, regardless of dismaying voices? Do we have folks around us that match or exceed our pursuit of God? Folks, Jesus invites us into the process. Are we willing to walk with Him and process through? Point to Ponder. Faith sees Jesus is, Jesus can and Jesus will.
Walk with ME – talk with Me, purposeful process.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Said Thomas Edison, who after 1000 attempts, succeeds with the invention of the light bulb. Try just one more time! The 4 guys carrying the paralytic in Mark chapter 2, understood this. Jesus is preaching to a packed house (literally) “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they …” the story continues with the guys making an opening on the roof and lowering their friend right-in-front-of Jesus. Jesus seeing their faith, He heals buddy number 5, because they kept going, creatively going.
We are lazy people (in general) we give up quickly or keep our efforts minimal at best, after all, we wouldn’t want to exert ourselves. (Phew) We take this into our God walk as well. Peter wrote; “By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life… He has given us great and precious promises, enabling you to share in His divine nature.” (2 Pet 1:3-4, NLT) He continues, “In view of this, MAKE EVERY EFFORT …” (v5a, emphasis mine). Give all diligence in making good use of what God provides, apply it – apply yourselves! Peter goes on, saying ‘add to’ your faith; moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (vv 5-7). I would liken it to the Israelites in the wilderness, God provided the manna to survive, they were to go out and gather it, (yes, they had to work to get it) diligently they worked, adding to their jar each lil flake, they did this DAILY. (Ex. 16) Do WE put forth an effort to get the God stuff? Do we make time, make room, make it a PRIORITY to be in His word, talk to Him DAILY! Or do we mess around, give lil effort or quit altogether. Our very thriving existence depends on the effort we put into it!
Oh, and as for the guys and his lowered down friend? At Jesus’ word, he jumps up, grabs his mat and walked through the stunned onlookers. ‘They were all amazed and praised God…” (Mk 2:12) Those not giving up men with their determination to get to Jesus brought about a miracle, that miracle amazed the folks, which initiated praise. God doing a miracle in our own lives WILL catch the attention of others to the glory of God – our effort brings God glory!
Make every effort.
Know the facts, not the hype.
Having read the bible for many years, I’ve noticed a few scary verses, SCARY I tell you! Like those words in RED, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” (Matthew 12:36) Wide-eyed and hands over mouth! And, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (James 4:17) OUCH! Or of ancient days, Exodus 35:2, “For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it is to be put to death.” (immediately dropping laundry basket). And for those of us in our teen years, “If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death.” (Leviticus 20:9) It’s a GOOD thing I got water baptized as a late teen, I was raised to newness of life!*
But of recent, (seriously) I came across not so much a scary verse, but a wake-up verse: James 2:19 “You believe that God is one, you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder.” Here, James, Jesus’ brother, the younger brother who went from disbelief (Jn 7:5) to “James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ja. 1:1). James is speaking of faith and works, but oh the principle! “You believe … even the demons believe – and shudder.” This is the only time in scripture this particular word (shudder) is used, it means to tremble (with fear). We (the redeemed) are not to freak out in fear, thinking our God is going to step on us like an ant, but we are to have a FEARFUL-HOLY-REVERENCE! In context: demons do not have a redemptive plan, (you ARE going to get stepped on, so yes, FEAR!) Multiple times the scriptures tell us the demons knew Who Jesus was – there was extreme (crying out, falling at His feet, pleading) responses. The correct response. What is interesting, the opposite of the fear James mentions is …confidence, boldness. Here is where I was stopped immediately. (Head bowed).
I am fully persuaded in today’s culture; we are OVER confident! We reach and grab for what is considered owed us, we (the universal church) have embraced this and pulling the package into our perception of the Godly Kingdom. We are whitewashing the relationship between creation & Creator. We tend to exercise our boldness (inappropriately) and consider the God of the Universe our pal and approach His presence liken to a buddy: We go into His throne room, throw our stuff on the floor and fling ourselves across the celestial couch, with one leg hanging over the arm, while reaching forward, grabbing a fist full of food from the banquet table and popping it in our mouth and speak (with our mouth full), “Heh, how are ya?” To quote Paul, (yes, out of context – kinda) “May it never be!”
YES! A thousand yeses, our Holy God made provision for relationship. His smile is mercy filled. His grace the welcome mat and we CAN come boldly to His throne.
Father forgive us, forgive me! May we, (I) never become so confident that I miss the mark of trembling before You – reverently before You, taking pause before I open Your word! May my only boldness take me to Your feet! I echo a dear friends’ words, “May I never allow that kind of casual brashness (as the world) to enter into my relationship with the Holy One of Israel, the Creator of the Universe, who formed me from the dust.”
“All these things My hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word. ” – Isaiah 66:2
*Please note, YES, context is everything, and Jesus brings forgiveness and New Covenant terms, the above verses were stated for emphasis.