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.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
*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.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
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?
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
*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.
A few years ago, (many actually) while on our way to a mid-week church service, glancing over at my then 11-year-old son, he was wearing his favorite ‘Ducks’ cap. I asked him to make sure to take the cap off before going into church. Then explaining that it would show reverence to the Lord. His weird smirk gave evidence he didn’t quite understand. I thought for a moment and proceeded to tell him, “You taking your favorite cap off, the one you wear everywhere. I know it’s your favorite and kind of your trademark. Taking it off can tell God He is TOTALLY COOL. He is worth it; He is bigger and better. Taking it off could be your way of thanking Him in such a way as to bow to His coolness.” His response, “Oh I get it.”
Although that may be a silly mom thing, but it made for a great illustration. The cap was taken off and laid on the car seat.
How do we bow?
King David wrote, “But I, by Your great mercy, will come into Your house; in reverence will I bow down toward Your holy temple.” (Psalm 5:7) Reverence, not something commonly displayed these days. If a head is bowed, onlookers raise an eyebrow or two. If effort is put forth in showing honor, others scoff. If preference is offered, others may challenge.
The Pastor of Hebrews strongly declares: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our “God is a consuming fire.” (12:28-29, NIV)
This godly reverence paints a most honoring picture. It isn’t a haphazard quick nod of the head as to casually acknowledge something or someone. Like we do when at the grocery store a few yards away from a friend, offering a brief wave of the hand. It is a true awareness of self. An accurate estimation of being humble in the presence of goodness. Biblical reverence is whole-hearted, full awareness – GOD IS GOOD! Yes, we are commissioned to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). But may we not do so with lack of awe and wonder, in that we might dishonor. Reverence is NOT about performance. It is an issue of the heart. An established mindset. Remembering, that He is BIGGER and BETTER. He is the One Who sits on the throne – King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
How do we bow?
By the way, the picture above is the lovely Ducks gap. A treasured token, a mom’s memory of honoring.
I have been asked as a Bible teacher, “What does the Word of God do for you, YOU personally?” Oh my, where do I start. Besides the Bible being a sturdy textbook in my hand. A book that is true. When I read God’s inspired Word, first it confirms. Confirms that I too am a fallible person just as the characters in the Bible are – real broken people peppered throughout the story of God. And when I read about Peter, I can so relate to his ambitious outbursts, his swinging the sword and getting the guys ear. Yup, that would be me. And with all good intention, ask Jesus if we can build forts for the visitors (See Mark 9). Yes, God’s word confirms.
God’s Word also gives me courage. I read King David’s story; I see the longing of his heart. His running at full speed toward his God. And I also see the stupid mistakes. I so appreciate God did not cover up the faults of His heroes. Repeatedly, in each person’s experience, we see too the character of God. His serious response. His care. THIS gives me courage. In the same breath, it encourages me. Taking those experiences, observing, and learning from them, folding them into my own and giving me courage to walk in the same direction.
Confronts. Oh, His Word confronts and thankfully so. If when reading His Word and we feel no discomfort at times, then we are reading it wrong. We are guarded and unyielding. Professor D.A. Carson* insightfully stated, “We read the Bible, not to be a master of it, but to be mastered by it.” THAT is my desire. Do I heed and yield every time? No. Regretfully, painfully, remorsefully, no. But I know the sweet moment of repentance followed by the glorious insertion of God’s forgiveness and grace.
And for me, God’s Word calls. Not like some creepy native drumming sound coming from the corner of the room (Ok, I’ve seen Jumanji too many times). But knowing what God’s word contains – it beckons. It beckons with the fullness of God – His promises, His guidance, His correction, His character wrapped in His love and yes, His comfort. Life can be stressful and assuredly messy and overwhelming, but His Word waits for us to reach for it and when we do, His Spirit uses it to calm us. “They (God’s commandments, words, and instruction) are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.” (Psalm 19:10, NLT, emphasis mine).
God’s word confirms, gives courage, confronts, calls and comforts, but most of all – it CAPTIVATES me. I am fascinated with the stories; the triumphs, war cries, the bush a flame, mud in the eyes, violent storms and the unrestrained and abandoned “My Lord and my God!” declaration. (John 20:28). And all those words in red: “It is written… Get up… Take courage it is I… Quiet, be still… Come forth…Who do you say I am… Then neither do I condemn you” and “It is finished.” (Just to highlight a few).
Now, I present the question to YOU. “What does God’s Word do for you?” If your response is a shrug of the shoulder, ask God to grow your passion. Ask Him to show you things unnoticed, to color the stories vibrantly, and challenge you beyond comfort – He will.
*Professor D.A. Carson is retired Professor of the New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Used by God.
Matthew (author of the Gospel of Matthew) was a detailed tax-collector, turned disciple of Jesus. He was a numbers and money man. He mentions gold and silver 28 times, but they’re only mentioned once in Mark and 4 times in Luke. Matthew uses an accounting term when quoting Jesus, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matt 6:12).
In both the books of Luke and Acts, Dr Luke (as described in Col 4:14) uses specific medical terminology. Luke gives a detailed description regarding the bent over woman, (Luke 13) the words he uses to describe her condition and Jesus’ healing are actual medical terms.
And there is Peter, the one who was passionately outspoken, enthusiastic, and at times quite brash, he actually told Jesus “Never, Lord!” And it was also him who aggressively swung his sword in the Garden. Yet it was Peter who wrote with divine instruction “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV).
All biblical writers wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16) BUT they did not lose their individuality. God used each one to offer a different perspective, a unique expression only that person could bring.
We too, do not lose our individuality being used by God. Our artistic creativity, He will use it. Our love for words, He will use. Our love and gifting of hospitality, He will use that. Even that rebellious, (or stupid) season in our past, He can and will use it – for His glory! Interestingly, we do not read Peter apologizing later, “Dear beloved church, in my early days I was impulsive, hasty and at times a bit reckless, sorry about that.” Instead we read, “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:1). Yes, yes he was.
Let us be open and available (and ever transforming to the image of Christ) to be used for a unique GODLY expression. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whatever we are holding and saying – to the glory of God. Where the pages of our life (my life) also reads, “Dede, a servant and disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Used by God.
Photo Credit: Country Guide Magazine (My emphasis: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” – Luke 10:2a)
At our women’s bible study, we recently looked at the serpent in the Garden. Genesis chapters 2-3 are packed with descriptive information. We looked at him being made by God (3:1; See also Ezek. 28:15). satan, as he is later known, is NOT God’s equal. Not equal (by far) in power, character or authority. He is a created being – God’s creation, making GOD the Ruler over His creation. Knowing THAT, does it change your perspective of the one who prowls, looking to devour and whose ONLY goal is to steal, kill and destroy? (1 Peter 5:8; John 10:10).
He is also crafty – skilled in achieving his objective by tricky manipulation. We see this in his scheme of using a question, “Did God actually say…?” (3:1, ESV). He still uses this. How often do we too fall prey to the same question, “Did God actually…” and we throw in an “Or…” (with a shrug of shoulder) then we continue to rationalize our behavior or decisions.
But what jumped out to me most is found in the over-all conversation between the serpent and Eve. In chapter 2 it explains the creation of man and woman. Of those 21 verses, the narrative refers to God as “LORD God” (and v1 of chapter 3 and picks up again in v8). BUT. In the historic conversation (3:1b-5) we see Eve following the example of the serpent. There is a deliberate avoidance – the serpent does not, will not, cannot, call Him, (LORD) God.* LORD, is YHWH, (Yahweh) the Self-Existent One, known as the covenant name of God. Eve also refers to Him only as God, Elohim, (which in itself is GREAT) but in this context, He is minimized. There is a shift in narrative, it changes (and changes back).
What an example to us. Minimizing our God – in simple conversation. How often have we, at work, or other settings, shrug God off, perhaps laugh Him off? With lack of boldness, we conform (like Eve) and make Him less than He is – change the narrative of God’s character. (What a scheme, Eph 6:10). “Ouch!”
May we be ever so mindful. Being so profoundly aware of His sovereignty, His covenant with us, that we live our life under the authority of God – to the glory of God.
Please know, I do not capitalize the enemies name, although considered a proper noun, I will not give him the courtesy.
*“The serpent does not use the expression “Yahweh God” [LORD God] because there is no covenant relationship involved between God and the serpent. He only speaks of “God.” In the process the serpent draws the woman into his manner of speech so that she too only speaks of ‘God.’” [New English Bible Commentary]. “It is noteworthy that the serpent also deliberately avoids using God’s personal name “Yahweh” (“LORD”) when he addresses the woman. Here is another hint that his presence in the garden presents a threat. Although his initial words appear deceptively innocent, his subsequent contradiction of God leaves no doubt about the serpent’s motive and purpose.” [English Standard Version Commentary].
God is gracious.
I begin in Genesis chapter one. God created everything. Genesis two, the narrative slows down and zeros in on the detail of God forming Adam and putting him in the Garden. Giving him the garden tending instructions, He also tells him he can eat from any of the trees, but do not eat from “the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (v17). God then makes Eve. Both man and woman living in relationship and divine favor with their Creator. Genesis three, the serpent meets up with Eve, there’s conversation. She ends up eating and sharing the fruit from the forbidden tree with Adam. Instantly everything changes. Everything. In their disobedience, sin rushes in. God and man(kind) are now in a broken relationship, the relationship that was intended to be eternal.
God comes and finds the man (and woman). He addresses his position and condition. He is hidden and ashamed. There is blame-shifting, Adam to Eve, Eve to the serpent. God curses the serpent and to the woman, He pronounces she will suffer pain. He curses the very ground that Adam was formed, there will now be struggle and toil for man.
God then slaps His hands together and with a heavy sigh, “Good riddance and good luck out there” as He waves them off, sending them away.
No. Not that last part. Not like that.
The key is in verse 22 (chapter 3). They, Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten from the Tree of Life (yet). They HAD to leave; He does send them away. They were in a fallen state, broken relationship with their God. If they had stayed, they would have eaten from the Tree of Life, they would then live FOREVER in broken relationship. His sending them away and blocking the entrance to the way of the Garden was needed and merciful. He was gracious, still bestowing favor, in sending them away. Looking at this story from our angle, our timeframe, (we the descendants of Adam) and knowing the rest of the story – you can almost hear the Holy whisper as He points, telling them to go, “It’s alright, I have a plan…” The rest of the written Word is the description and history of that loving, gracious – redemptive plan.
God is gracious.
Gracious. Being gracious depicts the heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need – someone who does not deserve or can repay what is given.* Man(kind) was in need! The Hebrew word conveys stooping, stooping in kindness.
Fast forward: Jesus.
Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy:
“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was His plan from before the beginning of time—to show us His grace through Christ Jesus. And now He has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.” (2 Timothy 1:9-10, NLT – emphasis mine)
Grace is the absolutely free expression of the lovingkindness of God to men.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8-9, ESV)
Not only was it a gracious act of God to send man out of the Garden, but He also sent His Son. Sent in our place, making amends to restore relationship. Jesus, because of His life – death, blood atonement and powerful resurrection, was the appeasement needed for our sovereign pardon. We once were out – far off from God’s presence, now we are brought near (again). What an amazing divine gift, a very precious gift. Theologian, Arthur W Pink wrote, “Even though grace is unmerited favor, it must be exercised in a sovereign manner.” Planned by the Father, accomplished through His Son, accepted by mankind and applied by the Spirit. (BRILLIANT!)
God is gracious.
I strongly urge us to always consider the plan, the loving, gracious – redemptive plan. What God did to get us back. May we never-ever belittle it, dismantle it, devalue or abuse it.
God. Is. Gracious.
*Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament
I can’t think of a better documented example of Jesus’ faithfulness to an individual, than Peter. Peter was a disciple. A disciple is a learner, follower, an apprentice. It is someone who seeks to know and gives full life attention to their Rabbi (Teacher/Mentor). Within the Jewish culture in Jesus’ day, (and some aspects continue today) there was a whole process of life discipleship. Discipleship (in general) was designed in such a way that the student (or disciple-wanna-be) would seek out the Teacher and make a formal request to be their disciple. If the Teacher agreed to the request, (finding them worthy: family, status and education) they would then allow them to become their disciple. They were now chosen. The words, “Follow me” were spoken. The disciple was then required (it was not optional) to totally submit to the Rabbi’s authority in all areas of his life. The Rabbi’s teaching was therefore binding. Everything the disciple did or how he viewed things were all filtered through the Rabbi.
THEN. Jesus comes on the scene, turning everything upside down. There was no time for discipleship applications. The traditional format: Disciple sought out the Rabbi – but Jesus sought out the disciple. THE Rabbi, calling not the well-educated or those of high status – but fishermen (and the like). He said, “Follow Me.” These two words were discipleship terminology, meaning they were CHOSEN. Perhaps, this can be folded into the context of why Jesus said: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…” (John 15:16a) What a most wonderful reality. Chosen.
Jesus calls Peter against tradition, “Follow Me…” (Mk 1:17a). In the original language, literally, “Come in behind me.” Get in line, get in step and focus on me. Peter, a spunky guy, with a sliver of rebel in him. He was the first to speak up (or out). He was the only one out of the boat (to swim to Jesus or attempt walking to Him). He was the sword swinging – in Jesus’ face guy. And, who ultimately denied his Rabbi.
But. Jesus knew. Jesus was faithful to Peter. He was the faithful Rabbi. He taught not only with words but lifestyle. He taught Peter what it meant to be a disciple. He taught him faithfulness. He taught Peter; He was Lord. Peter later wrote: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Pet 3:15a, ESV). Peter was taught hope. Jesus also taught Peter how to die to self; describing himself, “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ…” (2 Pet 1:1). Peter was a servant (doulos), one with a permanent servitude – his life altogether consumed with Jesus.
The last chapter of John (21) after the death and resurrection of Jesus, He is with the disciples. Singling out Peter, Jesus has the “Do you love Me?” conversation. His personal closing words to Peter were “Follow Me” (v19). Jesus started with “Follow Me” and ended with “Follow Me.”
Peter was a disciple.
Jesus, always the faithful Teacher – ALWAYS the faithful Lord. We too as His disciples are called to life learning. Our Great Rabbi’s teaching is binding. Everything we do or how we view things are all filtered through Jesus. His choosing is not only (but astonishing) for forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but also our lives are to be fruitful and productive in fulfilling God’s purposes.
May we continue to get in line, get in step and focus on Jesus, our faithful Teacher and faithful Lord.
We are His disciples.
Recently my husband and I traveled across parts of Oregon heading to a family wedding. There was plenty of time to watch the scenery pass on by. Observing the geographical change from plush green, to gorge, to dry, to waves of fields of wheat. Quietly, I sensed the Lord whisper to me, “Speak to the Corners.” Hm. Speak to the corners? Having no idea what He was referring to at first, I asked Him to SHOW me the corners. Suddenly I was made aware of the circular irrigation systems of the fields just outside my window. Studying those, I saw the corners. Green stalks of young corn, grown in a circular pattern – then there were the dry, intentionally forgotten corners of the fields. Assuming the farmers “did the math” and determined it wasn’t cost-effective to plant there. I sensed God say, “THIS is not what I intended for your heart – no unhealthy corners.”
Over the course of these last few days, I have prayed about, mediated and asked the Lord to show me the corners of MY life. He is ever so faithful to gently point to things I have tucked back, WAAAAY back into the corners of my heart. The corners of waste land, of no profit in my life, where nothing healthy and good can grow there. Concepts, perspectives, views of myself and unhealthy views of God. And wrong doings, habits or hurts. As I pursued this, I was drawn to 1 Samuel 24.
King Saul is in hot pursuit of David. David and his men are hiding in a cave. Far back, in the corner (if you will) they sat quietly. Saul comes into the cave for some privacy, to relieve himself. David’s men encourage him, “THIS is your chance! Kill him!” (paraphrased). Can you imagine the split-second thoughts that may have run through David’s mind? “Yes, you are right, I am called to be King, I end this NOW! This man has lashed out at me! What have I done to deserve this? Now, I end this rivalry!” But NO! There in the dark corner of the cave, David instead, stealthily crept forward, cutting off a small corner of Saul’s cloak. In this, David was quickly convicted of what he had done, (*cutting at the lineage of Saul’s family) telling the men he was wrong to do so and they too were not to harm Saul. Taking it further, he stepped out into the light, he called out, and revealed his presence to the King. In short, Saul is humbled by the “I chose not to” opportunity by David. Saul genuinely shares, “May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know you will surely be king…” (vv19, 20)
May we too be rewarded well for the choices we make in the corners. Sure, there may be brief missteps here and there. Yet, may we consider our thoughts, motives and actions. Knowing God knows our corners – watches our responses, waits (and invites) healthy cultivation.
God knows ALL. Regardless of how well we become at compact packing and creatively stuffing. We try to deny the reality of our corners and tuck it back. Until one day and it will – it all spills out!
God boldly states, “Can anyone hide from Me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the LORD.” (Jer. 23:24, NLT). And the Pastor of Hebrews wrote: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.” (4:13).
May we speak to our corners, our intentionally forgotten corners. May we echo the tender words of King David, “O Lord, You have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.” (Ps. 139:1-2). He closes with don’t stop THERE – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (vv 23,24).
God wants ALL our heart, healthy and profitable, for His good pleasure. Speak to the corners.
*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. David was convicted because he CUT Saul’s lineage and symbolically cut 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, and after his “may the Lord reward you for not killing me today” he continues 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.” (1 Sam 24:20-21, ESV)
Have you noticed how the art of handwritten letter writing is increasingly fading, or pretty much obsolete? Our once, “Hi how are you”, or “thinking of you”, followed by a lengthier note of encouragement, has been replaced with a quick text or a cute smiley emoji.
Our words of encouragement to others hold TONS of weight. To see it in writing, or verbally said, that you are loved, appreciated, and supported is priceless. I strongly believe encouragement is universally lacking.
The book of Philippians is an amazing lil blueprint for encouragement. Paul wrote this letter while in prison in Rome. This, his most personal of all letters to a church, has a main directive to thank them for their love and support. So basically, the letter is a huge “thank you” note. Yet, he doesn’t stop there. He continues with instruction and wonderful encouragement: “I thank my God when I think of you … I have you in my heart …. stand fast… be of the same mind… rejoice in the Lord always… don’t be anxious … be thankful … let your request be made known… think on these things …” (Just to mention a few). And he wraps it up with “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit…” That is some loving encouragement!
We need to pause for a moment to remember that Paul wrote this while in PRISON. He could have, in his humanity, turned the letter into a huge “whine.” Many excuses could have surfaced. He could have withheld the encouragement until the conditions were better. He could have waited until he walked free in the streets, felt the warmth of rubbing shoulders with others, breathed in fresh air. But he didn’t. He spoke from his captivity. He had faith, he reached for his God and with the help of the Holy Spirit, he shared his faith and love of Jesus with others.
What an example to us all, that we not “WAIT.” Wait, until we have it all together and think the conditions are exactly right. Wait until our own pain, our own struggle has subsided. Sure, some of us are thinking, “But he was PAUL, the guy had a direct blinding link to Jesus!” Yes, yes he did. But so do we. We have the same Lord, the same Spirit dwelling in us.
Our words, whether they be verbal, written, texted, tweeted, or posted – should reach out. May we hug with our words. Don’t wait! Someone out there needs us, needs YOU. The hurting, the lonely, the confused. Embrace them. They need our words of encouragement. They can’t wait for us to get it all together. (Or wait until all this Covid-19 is lifted).
*I honestly do not remember where I got the image above, I’ve had it in my files for years. But is speaks volumes.
Ever been in a situation that seems just too big, too deep and basically moving way too fast that you feel it is impossible to cross or get through? You begin to look for alternatives to get to the other side. But frankly there aren’t any. You just have to – go through.
Joshua chapter 3. Brief building-up-to summary; Moses guides the Israelites out of Egypt and out of slavery. They are heading to the Promised Land. They wander for forty years. Following Moses’ death, Joshua, who now holds the reins of leadership, prepares the people to cross the Jordon. Their tents are pitched at the river’s edge.
They could see it, after all those years, THERE it was! Only the river stands between them and their inherited land. The river is at flood stage. It is bigger, wider, faster and deeper than expected. Joshua summons the people, “Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” (v.5). Yes, God’s going to have to do something amazing to get them through! Amazing.
As instructed by God, Joshua has the priests head out first, carrying the ark of the covenant, representing God’s very presence, on their shoulders. “When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s water, go and stand in the river.” (v.8). Just stand. As they did, upriver, the water backed up, the flow stopped. They walked to the middle of the river. Standing firm on dry ground the Israelites passed by, the priests stayed right there until all passed to the other side. Twelve men were chosen to gather a stone from the river and take it with them to the other side, building an altar. God solidly and very clearly getting them through troubled waters! Indeed proving that what lies on the other side, they would (with His help) be able to conquer, whatever and whoever.
Interesting, we can connect this to the story where God tells Abe and Sarah that in their old age, they will have a son and remember Sarah laughs? (Genesis 18:14). God responds, “Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” Too hard, it is the same Hebrew amazing word as in Joshua. Is anything too hard for God? No. THAT is our amazing God!
Like with Israel, the rivers edge is a meeting place with God. A place of dedication, devotion and purpose. Coming to the river is a place of decision. Our inheritance (joy, freedom, assurance, security, love…) awaits us on the other side. Our option? Cross or stay. Stay, just watch the water go on by. Or turn back … into the desert, wander some more, go back into captivity.
We do as the twelve rock toting men did, we take something from the river as a reminder and build in our heart as an altar before God. Here and now YOU preserved me, YOU brought me through, YOUR presence stayed there in the middle of it all, delivering me to the other side!
Delivering waters need to be crossed. God with us, God in us, God delivering us from what we deem impossible – impassable. THAT is our amazing God!
At the river’s edge.
Familiarity. It can be comforting, with a sense of security. I am reminded of a tremendous moment I experienced while working as a caregiver at a local assistant living home. Most of the folks were self-sufficient, enjoying the social aspect of the facility. While others struggled with high moments of joy only to be overrun with the anger and fear found in Alzheimer’s. While checking on a resident, it was pointed out to me that “Preacher” (whom I lovingly nicknamed) was wandering the halls. I went and found him. The look on his face was complete lost-ness. His aged demeanor in the previous days was that of dignity, maturity, and strength, but not today.
We had shared many conversations in the past, he tenderly spoke sermons as we shuffled to the dining hall. However today, there was no sermon. Alzheimer’s had again reached out and pulled him in. Finding him in the hall near his apartment, I suggested we go in and sit down for a little while. Taking the key, he held in his hand, I opened the door and lead the way. Preacher took a seat on his sofa, his eyes wandering about the room, as if looking for something ANYTHING that defined this place his, his home, which defined …him.
Looking at me with longing, he told me that his house, just across the river was a nice little place. Confusion taking over his continence, “But this morning when I woke up, I was here. All my furniture, my things, but this is not my little house.” Leaning forward, looking deep into my eyes, with bewilderment and agitation, he whispered, “What should I do?”
My eyes returning the intensity of his, I asked him, “Would you mind if we prayed, we’ll talk to God?” It was THEN, there it was, and there HE was. Something sparked familiarity. He may not have recognized me, or the place, or the time, but GOD he knew! His eyes began to well up. I reached for his hand, he in turn enveloped mine in his. And I prayed. I prayed for peace, for clarity of mind, and for God’s all-consuming calmness to come on him. As my words quieted, he too with confidence and strength that exceeds any I have known – prayed. When the final “Amen” was said, he grasped my hands a little tighter and generously thanked me.
As the Psalmist writes in Psalm 71, “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge… Be my rock of refuge, to which I can go … for You have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth…” (vv 1,3,5). Preacher conditioned himself over the years, to know his God, he KNOWS his God. He knows who and where he belongs. God is familiar. Familiarity prompts. It prompts what has well-worn our thoughts, our actions, and become embedded in our mind and heart.
There WILL be times when life gets unfamiliar – even fearful. When we too may wander the halls of this world. However, may we all be like Preacher, position and condition, and train to know our God. When His name is spoken, His word recited, and heavenly conversations suggested – something sparks in us.
Find Him familiar.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24)
Jesus is in the home of the sisters, Mary & Martha. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. Martha (being the Martha Stewart of the day) was in the kitchen working. Luke (10:38-42) describes Martha; while hospitality was a cultural expectation, she was distracted by all the stuff, the preparations, and the work. Frustrated, she urges Jesus to encourage Mary to help her. Jesus tells Martha, “you are anxious and troubled about many things” (v41, ESV). He continues that Mary is good right here – at His feet.
Mary was at Jesus’ feet. What a beautiful place to be. It is the place of learning. The custom was as a disciple, you sit at the feet of your Rabbi, your teacher. The one who you follow with your life. The one you desire to emulate. The common practice was for men not women to sit before a Rabbi. But here, here Mary boldly sits. Jesus so accepting of her.
Later, (John 11) Lazarus, the sisters’ brother is dead. He’s been in the grave four days. Jesus comes to them. Mary is again at His feet, this time, heartbroken. “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet…” (v32).
Looking at Mary’s example, I have much to learn. I desire to be at Jesus’ feet, in the good times and not distracted by the stuff, or anxious and troubled. Or by what others are demanding of me, or what society expects of me. I want also to be at Jesus’ feet when my heart is overwhelmed, when tears stain the pages.
At His feet – In the good and in the painfilled.
“One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD. And to meditate in His temple.” King David, Psalm 27:4, NASB
The word behold points to bygone days and may be considered archaic and obsolete. With the ever-growing society, some words tip and fall, deemed no longer useful or necessary and easily replaced.
Webster’s defines behold, “to gaze upon or observe a remarkable or impressive thing or person.”
What do we behold?
The English Standard Version uses behold a total of 1,069 times. In both the Old and New Testament, behold renders two uses. First, in context to an unrestrained interjection of new or exciting elements into the story. Essentially, “See here!” or “Look and take note!” In the Hebrew it is attached to hope, expectation, and certainty. Isaiah declares, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2, emphasis mine).
John, expressing his revelation and interaction with Jesus, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17-18). God is our strength and salvation and Jesus alive forevermore and He has the keys – YES! Exciting elements indeed!
The second use for biblical beholding is the gazing Websters speaks of. A steady gazing – do not look away. It is calling to attention – THIS (a verbal pointing) is worth our time and there is value in our full stop. One resource stated, the gazing goes beyond sight, but to all our senses, not only physical but mental and spiritual.
John the Baptist, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Full stop. Full regard.
In our current culture we tend to call attention to so much and so many, other …than Jesus. We flock (or did) to stadiums, concert halls and think nothing of it to stand with arms waving in full unrestrained excitement. There are moments, among the crowd we too would quiet ourselves due to awe and wonder.
Why aren’t we so excited about Jesus? Where is our applause? Where is the awe? May we reclaim what it is to behold our God!
This song! (see below) Oh! That our hearts would behold Him so tenderly, so unrestrained. So full of awe and regard. Listen to the words. He is worthy of our awe. Behold Him. (I am not exalting the worship, but the One we worship!)
*I do not know where I got the image of the lil boy above, it has always captivated me – challenged me.
Have you ever stood on the edge of the pages of your life and just shake your head in complete bewilderment and think one simple word, “HOW!” Then the rest of the frustration tumbles out, exclaiming, “But God, this … and …” continuing with a list of “can’t do’s – won’t work – not happening” statements – especially in this unprecedented (key word for 2020) day we live in.
Wait! Keep turning the pages. Believe it or not, “But God …” (or “But the Lord”) is mentioned 325+ times in the Bible, in GOD’S favor. In this study, spending four hours looking at these verses, I was captivated. In the story, in the context, I saw God’s character being placed in the forefront. There were loud moments of reassurance and yet quiet whispers of His love. This is what I found; this is what I learned. In short, briefly stating, just a few from Genesis:
I begin with Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are in the garden, the presence of God so intimate that He literally takes walks with them. They have just made some very poor choices (thanks, guys). God is heard walking through the garden and the couple hides. “But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?” (v9). God calls. He knew very well where they were, the question was intended for Adam, to consider his location, his position and his condition before Him.
Then there’s Noah and crew, out in the big boat, floating. Floating. More floating. The waters were high and the large hand-built boat was tossed back and forth. A man and his family all alone among the precious cargo of every kind of animal created by God. Obedience led them to this completely unknown. Genesis 8:1 “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.” God remembers. He will send a wind to our circumstance, His wind and resolve the flood in our life.
Next, a man by the name of Jacob, he worked hard as requested and then was treated unfairly by his father-in-law. Genesis 31:42 “But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands…” God sees. He sees us where we are, how we are and how we are being treated. He cares – He will act.
Joseph, the cocky favored son, who was thrown into a pit and sold as a slave by FAMILY MEMBERS! Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done and the saving of many lives.” God accomplishes. He redeems the bad and transforms for good to accomplish His plan.
Amazing, just amazing! The Word is full of examples like these and more, many, many more: “… But the LORD was my support.” (2 Samuel 22:19) “But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever …” (Psalm 73:26) “But God promised…” (Acts 7:5) “But God had mercy on him…” (Philippines 2:27) “But God is the builder of everything…” (Hebrews 3:4)
God is incredible! He is never late and never ignores and is extremely attentive to detail and He is concerned more for our welfare than our comfort and goes to extraordinary effort at times to make sure we hear Him.
If our circumstances seem frustrating, just keep turning the pages. God is calling, remembering, seeing and accomplishing and SO much more!
You can go to Bible Gateway (link below) and read for yourself, ‘But God.’
Earless chocolate bunnies and leftover deviled eggs in the frig. Post-Easter. Now what? Do we rummage through the calendar for another holiday or event to look forward to? What excites us about the future or even – daily? May I be so bold in asking, what causes our insides to burn with excitement, what consumes our mind and emotions? What drives our behavior?
Jesus’ resurrection is AMAZING! WONDERFUL! DIVINE! All the adjectives worthy of the King of Kings! However, let’s not stop there. There is more! Let’s unpack this in a 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! I cannot step any further without emphasizing the detail of God. John’s account states “…and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.” (John 20:12). Remember God’s very specific instructions when building the Tabernacle in the wilderness – and the furniture? “Make the atonement cover (Also known as the Mercy Seat) of pure gold… Make two cherubims out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second at the other end.” (Exodus 25:17-19, emphasis mine). Two angels at either end, overseeing the atonement blood. Coincidence? I think NOT!
The gals go back to tell the others. Peter, as energetic as he was, runs to go see and confirms Jesus wasn’t there. Just following that, (v13) it says “That very 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, “But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.” Going on, they explained how Jesus’ body was not found. Verse 27, “Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (NLT). WOW, I’d love a one on one instant Bible study from the lips of the Master!
It wasn’t until Jesus was seated at their table, in their home and they accepted the bread He offered, that their eyes were opened, and they knew WHO He was. It doesn’t say it in the narrative, but could it be that when Jesus served them, He pulled His sleeves up? THERE! There were the wounds! 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, mind, 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 just mean to strike a match and light the kindling and watch it slowly give off a tender glow. No, it RAVISHES through the wood and consumes it! Luke is emphasizing to be GREATLY moved of heart.
Notice Jesus didn’t lay hands on them or put mud on their eyes. He didn’t even send them to the Priest for verification! He simply… walked with them. Walking and talking, divinely revealing Himself and they were transformed. 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 open the Bible for devotion time, or when the time comes, we find our seat at church, let’s not daydream off to another place, let’s do some focused walking and talking. Jesus said, “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, ask questions). THIS is the event, the daily event we will look forward to.
And burn Lord, BURN within us!
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; 1 Chronicles 29:22). Interesting, 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, knew 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. He laid down His life for YOU and for me. By this act and He resurrecting 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, 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)
Remember as a child sliding the crayon from one dot to another until getting to the last dot, excited to see a picture form? Often, this is how we come to understand certain things, connecting the dots. Have we considered the “dot connection” (if you will) of the Lamb of God? As we draw near to Easter, let’s pick up our crayon and begin connecting as we see the progression of the Lamb. From Genesis to Revelation, from beginning to the end.
Genesis 22: God declares to Abraham to take his son Isaac, his only son to the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice. As Abe and son begin their hike up the mountain, the father placing the wood on the shoulders of the son, Isaac says, “The fire and wood are here.” Then asks, “But where is the lamb …” Abraham confidently responds, “God Himself will provide the lamb…” As the story progresses, Isaac willingly climbs up on the altar. Abraham obeys to the fullest, God knowing his heart, stops him and provides a ram for the sacrifice. The Lamb … provided.
Exodus 12: (in short) God prepares the Israelites to leave the captivity of Egypt. Instructions were given, as the Angel of Death would soon be unleashed, “… take the lamb…” slay and place the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of the home. The blood now over them, death avoided. The Lamb … protected.
John 1: John the Baptist, known as an eccentric evangelist, sees Jesus approaching; he openly declares, “Look, behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” John purposely points to Jesus and shifts the attention to Him. The Lamb … proclaimed.
Revelation 5: The angelic choir sings before the throne, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” THAT verse! Read it again as Holy Spirit breathes on you with His Majesty! (Let’s all stand to our feet!) The Lamb … PRAISED!
It’s not about the bunny – it’s about the LAMB!
Dots connected. Worthy is the LAMB!
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)