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