* Miscellanous Stuff

Thankful

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving.

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

 

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The Names of God – El Shaddai

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

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

THAT is our God! Over… Beyond… ENOUGH! 

God Almighty! 

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

The Names of God – Elohim (Part 2)

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

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

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

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

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

Can I get a hardy “Go God!

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


The Names of God

 

 

I have the wonderful privilege of teaching our women’s Bible Study at church and stepping into this holiday season (and our building expansion is in full swing) we are doing Bible study HERE (in cyberland) for the next few weeks.  It is good God stuff, and excellent for all.  We are looking at the Names of God.

The very 1st appearance of God’s name “In the beginning God...” (Gen. 1:1) in the Hebrew is ‘Elohim’ (el-o-heem). It contains the idea of God’s creative power, His authority, and sovereignty. It is used well over 2,500 times from Genesis to Malachi, occurring 32 times in the first chapter alone. Elohim is the plural form of ‘El’ which means mighty or strong. Being in the plural form does not imply polytheism, (worship of many gods, as was the custom of surrounding nations). God was very direct when telling Moses to tell the Israelites, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God [Elohim], the LORD is one.” (Deut. 6:4) Remember at creation, day 6 – “God [Elohim] said, “Let US make man in OUR image…” (1:26, emphasis mine). Elohim reveals the triune nature of God, the ‘ontological equality’ (throw those words out at Thanksgiving dinner) of the Trinity. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit – all are equal in value but different in function. The Father planned redemption, Jesus accomplished it and Holy Spirit applies it. We actually see all three of the Trinity at the same time in the baptism of Jesus found in Matthew 3:13-17.

King David writes, “Create in me a clean heart, O God [Elohim] and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) David understands this ‘create.’ He knows that what he wants in his heart can ONLY be placed there by his God. Create, ‘bara’ is the Hebrew verb used exclusively of God. Sovereignty bringing into existence what wasn’t and now is – creating out of nothing. ‘Bara’ does not work like that of a recipe, taking ingredients and placing them together to form something, like that of a cake. It is new materials, new results. David knew he didn’t have within himself what it took to have a clean, a pure heart.  May we too cry out “CREATE! O God!” Bring stuff into our heart, good God stuff, YOUR stuff, give us qualities exclusively of YOU! Elohim, our creative and sovereign God.

Going forward we will look at the names of God, noting that these different names highlight the many amazing aspects of His character. 

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

 


Disciple

Christian.  If I were to go downtown Portland and ask a few folks how THEY would define ‘Christian’ I would get as many different responses as those I asked (*See additional stats below).  Did you know Christian is NOT defined in the New Testament, and it is only mentioned 3 times (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16).  It was those outside the Jesus community that gave the name or label ‘Christian’ to the Jesus followers.  These followers did not refer to themselves in this way.  The nickname was motivated by sarcasm and mockery, much like our ‘Jesus Freak’ today.  Remember, these Greek-speaking Romans citizens were not looking for the Messiah (Christ) and found these ‘Followers of the Way’ quite odd, and thinking, they associate with this ‘Christ’ – so they must be ‘Christ-ians’.

If I were to ask a Jesus believer of Peter’s day – of the early church, how they would define their life, they would answer in a very convicting, a very pointed way… “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.”  Disciple is not a word commonly used these days, (although mentioned numerous times in the Bible) due primarily to the whole “I am my own person, and no one tells me what to do” mentality.  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.

Hang with me, God has something for us.

Discipleship (in general) was designed in such a way that the student (or ‘disciple-wanna-be’) would seek out the Rabbi (Teacher) and make a formal request to be their disciple.  If the Rabbi agreed to the request, (finding them worthy: family, status and education) allowing them to become his disciple, they were now chosen (hold on to that word).  The ‘disciple’ was then required (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.  There was no curriculum or agenda, it was a continual daily relational living experience, that took YEARS in the making.

The Rabbi would ask questions of the disciple as he closely observed him.  ANY life experience was open for an opportunity for the Rabbi to speak truth into the disciple.  The Rabbi was persistent in his questioning, “Why did you do that?”  In context to what the disciple did, what he said, what was the motive. The emphasis was always on forming Godly behavior responses, not just the imparting of wisdom – the Rabbi was concentrating on developing discernment in the mind of the disciple, instructing him how to process in the best manner of honoring his God.

The disciple would initiate a discussion by asking questions.  BUT, (here’s the KEY) the mindset – the heart condition of the disciple as he asked questions was this – Before you answer, before you tell me what to do, or point me in any direction, my answer is “Yes.” The response of a disciple is Yes!  It was a radical life of submission.

THEN… Jesus comes on the scene, turning everything upside down.  There was no time for discipleship applications to be submitted in triplicate form – time was short.   The traditional format: Disciple sought out the Rabbi… Jesus sought out the disciple.  Jesus, The Rabbi, called out not the well educated or those of high status – to fishermen He said, “Follow Me.”  These two words were discipleship terminology.  They were CHOSEN.  Could this 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 15:16)  What a most wonderful reality. Chosen.  (Read that until it truly sinks in)

Jesus spent intense training time with His disciples.  His last night with the disciples He says: “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for Me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this, all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:33-35, NIV, emphasis mine)  If we want to know what Jesus meant by what He said – watch what He did.  He LOVED!  His love is filled with acceptance, forgiveness, restoration, compassion, mercy, grace, truth… (and…) …Love.  Following Jesus does not mean following His ‘followers’ (although helpful, Godly influence is vital – again… vital) but we are to follow HIM (See discipleship above).  I don’t think the ‘WWJD’ from years past is too far off… it really is “What would Jesus do.”

Beloved, YOU are chosen, YOU are deemed worthy!  YOU are His.  This ‘Christian’ walk… is a walk of discipleship.  Follower of Jesus.

Head bowed.

*The above I was privileged to share with our women’s Bible study group this last week.

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

*Stats: The Barna Group research found in 2016 that 73% of Americans say they are Christians.  However, only a minority are “practicing Christians” who attend church at least once a month, of these, 35% are professing Born-Again Christian, 23% are ‘Bible-minded.  And only 34% claim to read the Bible in their spare time at home.  (Christianity Today –  September 2016)

Resources:  Andy Stanley’s sermon ‘Christian’; Christianity Today; ‘First-Century Disciple’ (Article: Bible.org 2007 written by Doug Greenwold); The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament; Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words; Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon; Expository Dictionary of Bible Words; Strong’s Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.  Bible Translations referenced: NIV, NASB, Interlinear, ESV, NLT, KJV, NKJV. (And any other place I stopped and passionately read about this and forgot to document).


Flexible, Trusting and Obeying

Recently at Bible Study, as the gals were coming in, I handed them each a colored card with a number on it.   The only instruction given was “find the number that corresponds and that will be your seat for tonight.”  Feeling like a Flight Attendant, I did so with a smile, yet refrained from the urge to nod and quote the “B-bye, B-bye”.  There were a few not so excited being told where to sit, – BUT they were in church and I saw some ‘attitude checks’ going on (kinda fun to watch).  Yes, I was stretching them beyond their comfort zone.  As I opened, I assured them, “You are OKAY!  …Really!”  We, women, are creatures of routine and sitting where it isn’t familiar, not next to your very best friend or a family member is only a small, SMALL taste of what the Jewish Christians were experiencing in the book of Hebrews.

The cards I handed them did not ‘match’ the color of the cards on the tables, I watched as a couple gals went looking for the ‘color’ rather than the ‘number’ on the card.   I knew a few would and wanted them slightly confused, I used this as an example that the Jewish Christians had to figure out a few things on their own, they had to step into the new and find God truly was there.  Things were different (I moved some furniture around) they, along with the early Jewish Christians had to trust that this ‘NEW’ was a good thing.

We have been looking at the Pastor of Hebrews teaching that regardless of tradition, and regardless of what your lifestyle represented; Jesus is much more excellent. His covenant and promises – BETTER.  He as High Priest and His blood sacrifice – greater and more perfect and once and for all!  Can I get a hardy “Go God!”  THIS ran the Jewish Pastor’s fingernails across the Torah blackboard; it hit a nerve, contrary to all they had been taught.  Yes, different.  They (and our women) were learning God points but doesn’t always give us ALLLLL the details, sometimes we have to improvise, be flexible and just trust and obey.

Perhaps God is calling us to something new, a lil unfamiliar and unknown, if it is of God, it is good.  May we declare like King David in response to God’s amazing protective and promising character, “O Sovereign LORD, You are God! Your words are trustworthy, and You have promised these good things to Your servant.” (2 Samuel 7:28 NIV)

Flexible, trusting and obeying.

P.S. You never know what you may encounter at Bible Study.  Next week, the Book of Revelation — totally kidding! (I so love my assignment!)

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


Persuaded

I believe when Paul says, “I am persuaded…” in Romans 8:38, he wasn’t speaking from his well-educated theological understanding, he spoke from deep-down-personal-gut assurance.  Persuaded, we see this also in the life of David.  Remember in 1 Samuel 24 when David and his men were hiding in a cave when in walks Saul (um…to relieve himself).  David was encouraged by his men to take the opportunity and kill Saul and he’d finally be king.  However, David didn’t.   He did cut off a corner of Saul’s robe, but even in doing this David was troubled in heart.  When Saul was leaving the area, David went out and called to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him. David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground…” (v8)  In that moment David’s heart was ‘persuaded’ (conviction is not only pointing at the wrong but also points to the RIGHT) his heart was won over by the amazing certainty of God.  He didn’t HAVE to kill Saul.  Who was he to push his hand, to attempt to push God’s.   God’s purposed plan. Persuaded.  His-timing-is-perfect! 

THIS is what Paul is saying, he like David is won over by the amazing certainty of God, that “Neither death nor life, angels or demons, present or future or any powers high or low, indeed nothing in all creation can or will be able to separate us from God’s love – His willful – active good on our behalf whether we deserve it or desire it! (Romans 8:38-39, paraphrased) Persuaded.  God-loves-us!

James and Jude, two brothers of Jesus, John gives the account of the brothers trying to push Jesus out there for popularity sake and a personal jab of sorts, “You can’t become famous if You hide like this! If You can do such wonderful things, show Yourself to the world!” (7:4 NLT) In the same pen stroke, “For even His brothers didn’t believe in Him.”  Yet, years later, both brothers open their letters with “a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…”  What was it that took them from unbelief to full surrender to Who Jesus is?   Persuaded.  He-is-Lord!

Peter, don’t you love it that God didn’t withhold the rambunctious side of His servants. The guy was here – there – and saying just about anything at any given time.  One day after fishing all night Jesus says, “…go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish”  Now nearly noon, Peter is skeptical, however, he replies, “But if You say so, I will…”  He did and the catch was tremendous.  (Read his story in Luke 5) Trusting Jesus with the lifestyle of obedience.  Persuaded.  “I-will!”  

I am challenged by this, what areas of my life is there hesitancy, where do I stop short in my confidence in God.   I ask of you the reader the same of myself: What WILL it take for us to be persuaded, being won over by the amazing certainty of God?  Knowing with a deep-down-personal-gut assurance that His timing is perfect, He loves us, He is Lord and live the “I will” lifestyle of obedience.   Whatever expectations we might have, whatever prerequisites we may have mentally listed, let’s lay’m down, giving full surrender to Who Jesus is.

Persuaded.

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