* Miscellanous Stuff

More

Our neighborhood has a resident peacock.  Kevin doesn’t belong to anyone, (the kids named him from the bird in the movie “Up”). He lives in the thin line of woods behind the houses and often appears on rooftops.  We only hear him three to four months out of the year in the late springtime.  It is in his created design to call out for a mate.  When I hear him one block over, it makes me smile.  It reminds me of the God given desire within us – for Him.  To long for more.  More than this world can offer.

I’ve heard the phrase, “Where’s the MORE!” (In a frustrated tone) in regard to the Christian life. We all want more. More joy. More happiness. More love. Even more – stuff.  But do we want PRESENCE? That is the key. God is the key.

Some use King David’s words from Psalm 37 as if to rub a divinely ornate bottle, treating God like a genie: “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart” (v4).  “I’m delighting God” (rub, rub) “Where’s my stuff, give me what I desire” (extensive rubbing).  Give me more.  More money.  More possessions.  More. More. More. (Ok, who just thought of the girl in the old Willy Wonka movie “I want it NOW!”).

There is a design for more. Genesis 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.” Our bodies were made of the dust – earth – biological. The soul was not made of the earth. So, earthly things cannot quench the hunger of the soul. It is ONLY the breath of God that feeds and nurtures the spiritual man! It is divinely birthed and divinely maintained. (Brilliant design!) How often do we seek things, people, position and even events to satisfy our deep longing and cravings? Without God’s breath and presence in our lives, (His Word, see 2 Tim 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12) we are an empty vessel. God initiated this for mankind, now we by invitation in turn – seek that breath.  We seek Him! 

HE is the more.

I love how Paul prayed over the Ephesian church, he got right to the heart of it.  He, by God’s grace and mighty power was given the privilege of spreading the Good News and to pray, “I ask Him to strengthen you by His Spirit, not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength, that Christ will live in you as you open the door and INVITE HIM in. And I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know, far MORE than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us” (Ephesians 3:16-20, emphasis mine – paraphrased – The Message).

MORE! Exceedingly abundantly above all. The fullness of God. Enjoy Him. Enjoy the more.

The world is looking for more. Go share – the more.  Him.

More.

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

Meet Kevin the peacock


The Mountain

The hills of life often turn into a mountain of challenge. Ever feel that way? One more heap of this or that and it continues to grow. We’ve all had a mountain put in our path these last few months. I have asked the Lord to tell me about the mountain. What a journey.  I have found that if we sit at its base and do nothing, nothing is attained (goals). Nothing obtained (possessions).  Nothing is conquered (battlefield untouched).

In God’s word there are different mountains and different aspects of His character met at each mountain.

In Genesis 8-9, as the flood waters swirled around Noah, it says “God remembered Noah”. God caused a wind to blow, and the waters began to subside. Noah and crew ended up on a mountain top. There, was the place of new beginnings, the place where God’s covenant was birthed (9:9).

Genesis 22, God calls Abraham to the mountain – to sacrifice. There was the laying down of a deep love, yet in obedience – he offered.  It says, “God called out to Abraham”. He again, is faithful.  In His faithfulness He provided.

Exodus, Moses is taken to the mountain, God gives His word. His word becomes their guidance.

1 Kings 18, the show down on Mount Carmel. Elijah against the false prophets of Baal.  While all of Israel watched, (with their ever-changing allegiance).  God brought fire down, consuming not only the sacrifice, but the wood, stones, the dirt and all the drenching waters. God proved powerful.  “The LORD, He is God!” (v39)

Matthew 5, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down and He began to teach them” (v1-2). For three chapters, one hundred and eleven verses He taught them. The crowds were amazed at the authority of His teaching (7:28-29).

Matthew 17, the Mt of Transfiguration. He takes Peter, James and John with Him, as He unzips His humanity, showing His glory. How powerful to be in such Presence. What a glorious invitation.  Jesus is faithful to show Himself.

Yes, each of these scenarios were with or to certain people, yet each one waves an eternal God quality at us. God is faithful. He remembers us. He remembers YOU. He calls out to us; He gives His word; He is powerful; He teaches us, and He invites us into incredible revelation of Himself.

What is YOUR mountain?  What do you need? (Point to Ponder). Get up and conquer, attain and obtain the good things of God. The remembering, calling, word, power, teaching, and revelation of God!

The mountain.

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


Thrill On

Thrill seekers, they go and do just for the sake of experiencing something out of the ordinary.  They fly high, they jump as to free fall and there are those who desire speed.  Much is spent to seek this out and usually at a high price. A price for an exhilarating, yet fleeting, temporary – moment. 

I personally do not do adrenaline, nope, not me. But I have boarded a wild ride and this one causes my hands to be thrown in the air, with shouts of joy.   It does not require a ticket or weeks of planning.  BUT it does cost me something – all of me.  There is an option to get off – but I won’t. I settle in and hold on!  It offers excitement where not expected. Views I would not normally see. Experiences only this ride can give.

One of my favorite verses in all the Bible, “You thrill me, LORD, with all You have done for me!  I sing for joy because of what You have done” Psalm 92:4 (NLT).

God is my wild ride. 

You thrill me, LORD…”  conveys results of the past. The present. It also is a request for MORE!  When was the last time we got excited about God and knowing Him?

Peter writes “May grace and peace be lavished on you as you grow in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord!” (2 Peter 1:2, NET)

Peter isn’t talking about head knowledge. The word in the Greek points us to personal investment – involvement, experiencing God firsthand.  See the process Peter lays out?  Grace and peace will be attached (lavished on you) “as you grow in the rich knowledge of God…”  We are not bystanders, or observers. We are participants.  Participating and wanting – more.  Growing in personal rich knowledge of Him.

Will it always be peachy?  No.  Life alone can be a roller coaster ride with the ups and downs and hairpin turns.  The un-expectancy of it all.  But, if you long for something out of the ordinary, go for the extraordinary – ride with God Almighty. Now THAT is the wildest ride of your life. Wanting more? Invest yourself.  Read His word.  Pray.  Praise.  James wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (4:8a).

You thrill me, LORD!

Note: “LORD” is not me yelling (although worthy of loud declaration). In the original Hebrew text, it is YHWH, (the vowels added later).  YHWH is referred to as the “Tetragrammaton” (Greek for the 4 letters) this is indicated in many translations of the Bible when we see LORD (all caps) distinguishing it as the covenantal name, Yahweh.

Thrill on LORD, thrill on.

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


Be Celebrated

We are all image bearers.  In Genesis chapter one, it says God created mankind in His own image, male and female (v27). This Mother’s Day weekend, we celebrate moms.  We celebrate the God nature in us.  We are physically designed and spiritually designed to nurture and guide.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Yet, I’d like to take the banner and run further. Regardless of where we (women) fall on the feminine spectrum:  Princess to tomboy.  Small to big.  Young to old.  We are women, we are female (regardless of the world’s confusion).  Proverbs 31 gives examples of a woman (don’t groan).  When we begin reading it – we are exhausted.  When done with the last verse, we can be overwhelmed with all that is listed.  BUT.  It is not a job-description.  It is a – celebration.  (Stay with me, I’ll explain).

At first glance it is strongly assumed it is written by a man. Well, it is … kinda. Most jump straight to the popular verses, beginning at verse ten and neglect the opening (vv1-9).  It is a man telling what his mom taught him.  One Jewish tradition claims the mom is Bathsheba teaching this to her son, Solomon.  She tells her son not to spend himself on women (plural). Do not waste yourself on wine.  And to be bold speaking up for the poor and helpless, – THIS is what a king does.  The following twenty-two verses are acrostic (the first letter of each sentence is in alphabetical order, in the Hebrew).

Mom goes on say, but this “woman” (singular) she is worth far more than valuable jewels. If the son is Solomon, it is said in 1 Kings 10, that he was the riches king, riches man on earth, and well, that wealth doesn’t stack up to a woman who “fears the Lord” (Prov 31:30).  A woman who is faithful, kind, prepared, charitable, hardworking, smart and confident.  She is a good wife and mother.

Verse 10, (paraphrasing) “Who can find such a woman of virtue.”  Many translations say, “wife” due to the context that she has a husband.  In the Hebrew “eishet chayil” (woman of virtue).  Chayil paints a vibrant picture. It can mean brave, excellent and noble.  It conveys a military tone as well, “one of war” – a warrior.  She is a woman of valor.  She is strong.

Of the 235 times “chayil” is used in scripture, all refer to either God or men.  All except – two.  Here, where Mom tells the son, a good God-fearing woman, a kind, STRONG woman is worthy of your interest, your strength.  The other?  Ruth.

In Ruth chapter three, just before Boaz is about to begin the process of taking her as his wife, he says the people of his village know her to be “eishet chayil” – “You, Ruth, are a woman of strength.”  You are hardworking, brave, faithful and wise.  Ruth, unlike the Proverbs 31 gal, is not married (she was, he died).  She does not have any children. 

Ruth goes on to marry Boaz and together they have a son named Obed.  He had a son named Jesse – he had a son named David.  This eishet chayil (woman of strength) was King David’s great-grandmother.  David went on to have a son named Solomon.  (God is the most brilliant Orchestrator!) 

Oh, beloved women of God, what a great connecting story!  A Godly woman is both married AND single.  She has children, while others do not. All women are to be celebrated.  Do not allow others to define you or frame you.  Not to be compared with – be celebrated

Be blessed in your image bearing – to the glory of God.

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

I had the honor of speaking this to the women of our church this weekend at our annual Mother Daughter Tea & Breakfast.  I encouraged them to go back and read all of Proverbs 31 (and the 4 chapters of Ruth).  May the Holy Spirit breathe over them their worth – far more than valuable jewels.

Please note: It is the Jewish young men, who are encouraged to memorize Proverbs 31, NOT the young gals.  It is also tradition: at the Shabbat meal the men sing the Eishet Chayil (traditional Proverbs 31 song) to the matriarch and the women of the family – they celebrate them – weekly.


Guarding the God in Me

The year was 1983.  A young woman of 20 in her second year of bible college, kneels, while the men of God lay their hands gently on her head in a church service. Through prayer, they speak words of promise, hope and declarations of spiritual potential in her life. With anointing, they install a teaching mantle* along with… a warning. “You will protect yourself…”

That 20-year-old is now 58, that was me 38 years ago, (Gasp!) A lot has transpired in these many, many years. There have been (will be) hours and hours of study – preparation is positioning for the potential.  There have also been stupid mistakes, which held hands with frequent lapses of judgment. There were attempts: some quiet, and some blatant, attempts to destroy me. Destroy what God wanted to do in and through me.  I see the ever-increasing need to – protect

What am I protecting?  I am guarding the God in me.  Guarding what He entrusted to me, and in me and what He will do through me. 

Guarding.

Danger, in the spiritual realm, does not generally stand up and yell, while waving its arms, “Over here. Yep, HERE! I saved you a seat!” It is subtle. Evil watches for an opportunity to ensnare with no written invitation. Peter knew this: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him and be strong in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Paul too strongly urges, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11).

In our guarding we are to be shrewd. Acute in our awareness and preparedness. “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences” (Proverbs 22:3, NLT)Other translations say when danger or evil is seen, the prudent person “hides”.   In the original Hebrew, hide is repeated, emphasizing the action. Using the context, a prudent man sees the evil and “in hiding, he will hide.” Meaning it is active and progressive. You do, so you stay … doing.

Our hiding ourselves is not a game of “peek-a-boo”.  Immature, “nothing can hurt me” games. Thinking we are hiding by merely covering our eyes and peeking out through our fingers.  It is a case of running AWAY (run FAST).  A running from – to.  To God. Hiding in His presence. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).   Protection. We do this by staying daily in His word. Staying in fellowship with strong believers and staying under good biblical teaching.  Precautions, positioning, boundaries and accountability. (You do, so you stay … doing).

Guarding.

Solomon also wrote, “Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23, AMP). One resource explains it: Guard the affections of your heart; the emotional attachments you make determine the course of your life. Those things and people I attach myself to – determine which way I go. (See Psalm 1:1). Which way do I want to go?  God’s way.  Oswald Chambers strongly adds: “Never become attached to anything that continues to hurt God. For you to be free of it, God must be allowed to hurt whatever it may be.”

Where do you need to become more vigilant?  Guarding the God in you!  Others are counting on it!

Guarding.

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

*In Bible days, a Mantle (as mentioned above) was an outer cloak used for additional covering and warmth, especially at night, like that of a blanket.  From the idea of something that “covers” in the natural, a mantle represents spiritual covering as well.  It usually refers to spiritual authority and anointing, we can see this in the story of Elijah & Elisha found in 2 Kings 2.  A spiritual mantle can be wrapped as a scriptural metaphor (symbol) in a calling, gift, ability, anointing, skill set, or level of authority that God has given a specific person.  God determines the mantle – we do not select it!  It is established, designed and imparted by God.  It is an anointing, to serve God in the capacity of our spiritual DNA, destiny and calling of God.  It always has a cost. It always demands great responsibility.


Beyond What We Seem to Be

Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” (1 Samuel 17:33, emphasis mine)

I LOVE the story of David and Goliath.  Big nasty dude yelling stupid things about God and God’s people. (Um, best not to do that).  But one day a boy comes to camp.  Goliath continues yelling, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other” (v10). Goliath is not just asking for any opponent; he wants a man.  A grown, trained, mature – “give me a challenge” – man.  

There is but one response. David.  Scholars believe him to be about seventeen(ish) when he told King Saul “send me.” Saul’s response says, “you are but a boy, an adolescence.”  The situation is beyond you, beyond what you are.  

The rest of the story is amazing.  Saul tries to get David to wear his suit of armor. Nope.  “I cannot go in these…” (v39). There was no hesitation on David’s part.  There was no “give me a minute while I figure this out.”  He takes his sling, stick and smooth stones and RUNS toward Goliath.  I must add to paint the picture correctly; Goliath’s shield-bearer was out there too (v41). Not so tough now big guy! David swung his sling, the stone hit the target.  Down went the giant of a man.  Goliath called for a man, King Saul declares a mere boy.  A boy did what God called him to do, “…in the name of the LORD Almighty” (v45). 

What is God calling us to? 

May we too not hesitate when we are called beyond what we seem to be.  Perhaps too young, untrained, too small, or possibly too big, too old.  Do not let others measure us against what God can do through us!  They will always come up short. When someone tells us, “You are not able to…. You are only…” Let us not begin a wardrobe change – try to fit into someone else’s stuff (armor).  But take up what we know (sling & stones) and RUN toward what God calls us to, declaring as David did “…the battle is the LORD’s” (v47). I’m sure if you wish to yell, “For Narnia!” God will understand.   

Now go…

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


It is HIS WAY!

Paul stands before King Herod Agrippa explaining his encounter with the risen Lord Jesus:

O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me… And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 26:13-15, emphasis mine).

Jesus calls Paul (his Roman name) by his Hebrew name “Saul” and tells him “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”   What is THAT? 

The bible is full of idioms (a common expression known to a specific culture or era). “Kicking against the goads” was a Greek proverb painting a picture the ancient culture easily understood.  A goad was much like our current day cattle prod (minus the electric current).  Farmers would use a pointed stick with a piece of iron on its tip to urge or prod a stubborn ox forward or along the guided path. Often the ox (in resistance) would kick against it. When doing so, the ox caused more pain for themselves. The Greeks used this saying to imply “ruinous resistance.” Paints a picture, doesn’t it?  It narrows down to this: unyielding rebellion is the refusal to accept or comply resulting in self destructive habits. 

Kicking against the goads.

Paul was a contemporary of Jesus’ time.  Scholars believe they both may have been in Jerusalem at the same time, resulting in Paul hearing or seeing Jesus speak.   Paul stood by as Stephen gave glorious testimony of Jesus.  Paul had ample opportunities regarding Jesus.  But he refused. Jesus rebukes Paul, telling him that he was only hurting himself in resisting the truth. Resisting Him.  He had to learn the hard way – resisting Jesus is a losing battle. Not to mention (but I will) a losing battle that WILL (like Paul) knock you on your butt. 

When reading the bible, we remember that there are specific words or warnings to specific people, yet in principle, it is for us as well.  Jesus says this to Paul but packs a punch likewise for us.  Are we actively in stubborn resistance?  How often do we sabotage our own spiritual growth by opposing God?   Like it or not. Resist it or not.  God is sovereign.  It is HIS WAY! Solomon wrote, “Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path” (Prov 15:10a). Stay on the path! 

Kicking against the goads may come in many forms.  Jonah is a great example.  God pointed in one direction – he went in another.  His “goad” got him a dark smelly fish belly.  What does your goad look like?  Is yours a smelly mess?  Or sharp jabs?  Point to ponder.

Listen to the pains of consequences – by resisting God’s authority we are only punishing ourselves, “ruinous resistance.”

Kicking against the goads.

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


Post-Easter – Now What?

Earless chocolate bunnies and leftover deviled eggs in the frig. Post-Easter. Now what?   Do we rummage through the calendar for another holiday or an event to look forward to? What excites us about the future or even … daily?   May I be so bold in asking, what causes our inside to burn with excitement? What consumes our mind and emotions? What drives our behavior?

Post-Easter.

Jesus’ resurrection is AMAZING!  WONDERFUL!  DIVINE! REDEEMING! However, let’s not stop there. There is MORE!  Let’s unpack this in brief summary.  Stay with me, this is good! Luke 24, it speaks of the women going to the tomb, once there they find two angels who notify them that Jesus was no longer there. He’s risen from the dead! The gals go back to tell the others. Peter, as energetic as he was, runs to go see and confirms. Just following that, (v13) it says “Now that same day…” It proceeds to unfold the story of the two walking to Emmaus, who unknown to them at first, encounter Jesus. They are flabbergasted that this Stranger didn’t seem to know what had just transpired in Jerusalem.  Sharing their disappointment, “We had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Going on they explained how Jesus’ body was not found. Verse 27, “Then He (Jesus) started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to Him.”   WOW!  I’d love a one-on-one instant Bible study from the lips of the Master!

It wasn’t until Jesus was in their home, seated at their table, and they accepted the bread He offered, that their eyes were opened, and they had a revelation of Who He was. Could it be, that as Jesus reached forward, giving the bread, the sleeve of His garment slid up and they could see His nail scarred hand? At that exact moment, Jesus disappeared. I LOVE their response, “They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”  (v32)

Their hearts burning within them. I want spiritual heartburn! I want my soul, my mind, and thoughts, passions, desires, and appetites to burn with Him and His Word! The word Luke chooses to use for “burning” is very colorful. It doesn’t mean to simply strike a match and light the kindling and watch it slowly give off heat. No, it RAVISHES through the wood and consumes it!  Burn Lord!

Notice Jesus didn’t lay hands on them or put mud on their eyes for the revelation. He didn’t drift from the shore in boat to speak to them. He didn’t even send them to the Priest for verification! He simply – walked with them. Walking and talking.  The narrative says they got up at once and went back to Jerusalem testifying that Jesus has indeed RISEN.

For us? The next time we find our seat at church or open the Bible for devotion time, let’s not daydream off to another place. Let’s do some focused walking, and talking.  Jesus told us, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things…” (John 14:26). We just need to show up for the lesson. Pay attention, take notes, and ask questions, engage in conversation. THIS is the event. The daily event we will look forward to.

And …burn Lord, BURN within us! 

Post-Easter.

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


THE Red-Letter Day


Have you ever sat and read in the New Testament ONLY the words in red, Jesus’ words? For a completely new perspective, I challenge us to do just that. I know context is everything, but let’s step out of the exegesis (interpreting the scriptures) box for a brief moment, to get an amazing snapshot of Jesus. His love, His compassion. His strength, and His authority.

Without all the narrative, those stand-alone red words pack a powerful punch, knowing they are Jesus. There are dramatic statements, strong commands, tender words and authority unlike any before Him. “Let it be so…” (Matt 3:15) “It is written…” (Matt 4:4) “Get up…” (Matt 9:6) “Take courage it is I…” (Matt 14:27) “Quiet, be still...” (Mk 4:39) “Come forth …” (Jn 11:43) “Don’t be afraid just believe...” (Mk 5:36) “What do you want Me to do for you…” (Mk 10:51) “Who do you say I am…” (Lk 9:20) “Then neither do I condemn you…” (Jn 8:11) “I am…” (Jn 18:6).

These are just a few.  But there is one more that stands out among the rest. Here I do want to set the context. Jesus is agonizingly set between two thieves. His feet and hands are nailed to a wooden cross. There at the foot of the cross, many mocked, some cried, and I am confident there were those in complete silence. After the vinegar water was given to Jesus, He said, “It is finished...” (John 19:30). He then bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

“It is finished.”  (Hang with me, this is GOOD God stuff!)  The word in Greek is amazing! Stand back and take in the whole Technicolor filled screen. I don’t think even Steven Spielberg with all his creative genius could convey the scene that was unfolding upon humanity. “It is finished” (Tetelestai). “To bring to an end, to fulfill. What is done corresponds to what has been said, ordered or commanded.”  (“Not My will, but Your will be done” – Jesus, Lk 22:42). It is accomplishing something not merely to end it but bring it to perfection for its designed goal.  Bring it to perfection for its designed goal!  Jesus. It signifies the successful end to a particular course of action.

Grammatically in the Greek, it is a crucial word; it is in the “perfect tense.”  Meaning, the action was completed in the past with results continuing in the present. Basically, “This happened, and it is still in effect TODAY.”  One might say, (so I will) “The gift that keeps on giving.”  This is different from “past tense” which points to an event, declaring “This happened – nothing more – the end.”  Head hung, shoulders slumped, nothing to see here, we’re going home.

NOT our Jesus – He is our NOW God!

It is finished!  Then, now and forever.

As Jesus said this, His blood flowing down His forehead, from His hands and His feet. His sacrifice, His action, now eliminating the debt owed (by you and me). May we take careful notice, Jesus didn’t say, “I am finished.”  That would imply He was a mere man and die defeated. Instead, He declared “It is finished.”  When He died and with His resurrection power, He left no unfinished business behind. He successfully completed the work He came to do.  Please note (this is HUGE) when Jesus rose from the dead and the stone was found “rolled away” it was NOT so He (the Son of God, Who walked on water. Who spoke to the wind and waves and they obeyed) could get out. It was so mankind could get in!  Get in and see “He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. Come, see where His body was lying” (Matthew 28:6, NLT).

God doesn’t waste a detail. Jesus’ redemptive work: His hands nailed, redeeming Adam and Eve reaching and taking what was forbidden. His pierced slide, Eve was taken from man’s side, she, the first to respond to deception. His feet nailed, (the devil thought he had Jesus with this one). God’s curse to the serpent – hostility between serpent and Eve’s offspring “He will strike your head…” (Gen 3:15) WELL. Jesus did the striking indeed! (regardless of His confined feet).

As the pages turn from Genesis to this very moment, the culmination hits THIS important time and place. Jesus rises from the dead triumphantly (Happy Easter) the bridge back to the Father is perfected – He engages and commissions the disciples, returns to heaven to reign forever.

Does it end here?  No. Now we the church, with the authority given by Jesus Himself, as inspired by Holy Spirit carry on with the red-letter dramatic statements, strong commands, and tender words.

Move over Easter Bunny, here comes the risen King! Let’s all stand to our feet!  Raising our Hallelujah – “It is finished!”  Relationship offered; relationship restored.

May we live each day as a red-letter day! 

Blessed Easter.

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


Palm Sunday

This weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday. May we pause and look at the scriptural events.

Six days before the Passover…” Mary took a pint of perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet, the house filled with the fragrance.   This was one day prior to Jesus’ triumphal entry (Palm Sunday) found in John 12.  The narrative describes the triumphal entry, “The next day…” It is safe to say, Jesus still smelled quite fragrant from the oil.  This being of Jewish telling, in Jewish culture, whilst Jewish people stood on the street as Jesus passed by, they (potentially) smelling the fragrance, resonated the Kingly procession, as they shouted: “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the King of Israel” (v13).

Anointing was a priestly and kingly custom: Moses pouring oil on Aaron’s head (Leviticus 8:12) and Samuel over Saul (1 Samuel 10:1) and the anointing of David (1 Samuel 16:13).  Interestingly, Mary anoints Jesus’ feet.  Could it be, (just an observation) yes, the custom was washing the visitor’s feet from the dusty paths but could the anointing of His feet, (not His head) display the declared Majesty of God on earth, His Kingly walk among man, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Hosanna. What an amazing prophetic word. Turning to Mark chapter 11, his telling vividly explains the events of the day.  Jesus and the disciples are preparing to come into Jerusalem.  Jesus sends two of them ahead to get a young donkey, “Go into that village over there.” He told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here” (v2). Further in the narrative, “When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, He sat on it” (v7). Jesus steps up and sits down. I believe the colt knew. Knowing the King of Majesty now drapes his back.

As Jesus rides through the cobblestone streets, the crowd begins to yell “Hosanna… Hosanna in the Highest” waving palm branches with enthusiasm.  It was common practice in the ancient world to welcome home a king or war hero by laying down branches in front of them (liken to our ticker tape celebrations today).

Hosanna is the Greek version of the Hebrew saying “yasha na” (yaw-shaw naw) meaning “Save now we pray.” This taken from what is known as the Hallel, (Jewish prayerful readings of Psalms 113-118). Specifically here, “O LORD, save us; (HOSANNA!) O LORD grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.” (Psalm 118:25, 26, emphasis mine).  Can we grasp the impact of what they are saying? Jesus was fulfilling the prophetic words of Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9:9).

However. Just four chapters later, the crowd was again yelling, but this time; “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:12-14). Little did they know they were basically yelling the same thing. Both times! For you see beloved, for Jesus to “save we pray” they had to “Crucify Him!” He allowed it. Apply John the Baptists words of splendor here: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He laid down His life for YOU and for me. By this act and His rising from the dead with all Kingly authority and power – He stood in the gap – reaching for your hand and placing it into the hand of the Father.  He is the Restorer of relationship.  Restoring God and mankind.

This weekend, may we not allow this moment to pass us by, as we whole-heartedly consider the impact and fulfillment of HosannaJESUS!  Jesus riding an untamed colt in a King’s procession.

“SAVE WE PRAY!”  

THAT He did!

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


The Heart

The Psalmist wrote, “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). Many scholars believe King David wrote Psalm 119, being that Psalm 19 is attributed to him and holds much of the same language. They speak of the law, statues, precepts, commands and decrees of God.  David’s desire to place God’s word in his heart conveys setting with intent to cover as to protect.  Much like when God placed Moses in the cleft of the rock and covered him with His hand (Exodus 33:22).  This hiding is to conceal something of great value.

While we are hiding God’s valuable word in our heart, we must be careful – so incredibly careful of what is hidden in alongside His word.  David leans into this, “Teach me Your way, O LORD and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11).  God told the Israelites they were to have “no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

Decluttering the heart – removing the “alongside, other” stuff.

David’s son, the wise man Solomon also wrote, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23, NLT). In the Hebrew, the guarding is in the “present imperative” tense. Meaning, it is a command calling for us to make this our habitual practice. We don’t just do it once, or now and then when seemingly needed. Seemingly is the key.  How many times in hindsight we KNOW we missed an opportunity to do us some guarding?  We are to do it always we guard.  Some translations state “keep your heart.” The heart is to be kept above all keeping.

The biblical heart is representative of our inner man. Where we think, feel and process our choices.  God’s wisdom, His words of command. His insight to moral skill are not to be clouded – they are to be single. They are worth guarding – above all.  For it is HERE (place the “X” here). Here is where the heart flows all the thoughts and words and choices of our life. Guard.

May we be like King David hiding God’s word in our heart – but may we be just as vigilant in guarding against what also may be hiding there.

The hiding, decluttering and guarding of the heart.

Point to ponder.

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


Caught & Taught of God

I recently had the honor of speaking at our annual Women’s Conference.  I spoke on “The Great Devotion” – the great devotion of God. I taught that King David had two responses to that devotion.  Below is a small excerpt of that teaching.

Most scholars agree that King David wrote his beloved Psalm 23 at the latter end of his life.  This was penned by an older David. A mature David. A wiser David.  He writes of the Lord, his Shepherd; leading, guiding, making, restoring, and preparing for him. Anointing him. And there is comfort.  These seen potentially from glancing over his shoulder, over the journey of his life and forward. His glance lands on the past, present and future. His past, his “was” helping to define his “is” and most definitely points to his “will.” 

I can look back over the course of the last 42 years of my God journey and I too see He led me, beautifully restored me and most definitely put me in a few “time outs” with “making me lie down” scenarios. You?

David closes this six-verse beauty with “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” (v6a) Goodness, that which is pleasing to the senses, both physically and spiritually. It is the sum total of who God is.  He-is-good!

Mercy, in the Hebrew is “hesed” meaning and translated as love, UNFAILING and unwavering love. It is kindness, faithfulness, grace and loyalty. The description of all that hesed is, continues. But there is one more I want to emphasize.  Devotion. If we were to take all the qualities of hesed and put them in a backpack, I would title the God pack – devotion.

King David continues saying the good God qualities “follow me all the days of my life.”  Follow.  This isn’t a mere tag along behind – it literally means PURSUIT (in Hebrew).  To pursue with intent to overtake.

This isn’t in the text, just an observation (nor am I trying to translate).  As I engaged heavily with this scripture and asked questions of the Holy Spirit, I came to this conclusion and offer to you: If David was being pursued with God’s goodness and the amazing mercy, love and great devotion of God, with His intent to capture him – what do you think David should do?  (What did he do?)

Stop.

Pause and be caught of God.

There is a positioning of surrender – stop.  Allowing all that He is to overtake us with His beautiful God package.

Be caught of God.

There is yet another element of David’s response to God’s devotion.  David requested God teach him.  Eighteen times in the Psalms David wrote “Teach me…”

Psalm 119:66 “Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I believe in Your commands.”

Psalm 86:11 “Teach me Your way, O LORD and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I might fear Your name.

Psalm 143:10 “Teach me to do what pleases You, for You are my God.  May Your kind presence lead me into a level ground.” (just to name a few)

David was positioning himself to be taught of God.

Teach me.

When we are learning, we are expanding our intellectual grid.  When learning of God, we are expanding our spiritual grid as well.  Think of an Archaeology site.  An ancient city is being discovered.  As they work meticulously over the detail, they map out a grid.  In that grid, what they learn frames their understanding.  So, it is with us, “Father expand our grid – teach us, show us more of YOU!”  And folks, He answers (Is. 65:24; James 1:5; 1 Jn 5:14-15). It is so very gracious of God to give us insight into HOW to honor Him, how to please Him.  When God spoke on the Mt of Transfiguration, while declaring His love for His Son, He said, “Listen to Him” (Matt 17; Mk 9; Lk 9). Teach me.

The devotion of God is not someone else’s story – it is YOURS!  It is mine.  You are not disqualified, turned aside, or sent to the end of the line.  Nor are you forgotten. Yes, you may have made some stupid choices, (like I have). But God.  All that God is (see His fabulous qualities listed above) He will continue to pursue YOU.

The great devotion of God is YOURS!  Respond. Position.

Stop – pause – be caught of God.  Ask to be taught of God

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


Give Him Just One

Women.  We are used to multi-tasking.  Having our minds and lives firing in five or more directions all at the same time. When we find ourselves on overload, what do we tend to do, and do well?  I’ll go ahead and answer – we criticize ourselves. 

I am reminded of a time when I sat amongst a small group of gals in a bible study setting years ago. In that discussion time, we were sharing our goals for the study. There was a mother of 4 (FOUR!) small, YOUNG, needing her attention, children.   In her frustration and complete weariness, she shared in depth about not having enough time for devotions and her bible study. She was exhausted.  She felt defeated. She was basically giving up, to where she hadn’t opened her Bible in some time.  Those in the group kept trying to help with creative ways to carve out enough time. “Go to bed earlier, get up earlier, use paper plates, when they sleep ….” This young mom was nearly in tears. I just sat and listened. These are all good disciplined goals. Yet they were more worried about the quantity of time, rather than the quality.

I finally leaned forward and looked the young gal in the eyes. Lovingly and tenderly asked, “Could you look at just ONE verse each day or one verse for the whole week?” She stopped talking. So did the others.  Silence.  Reading their expressions, yet not verbalizing, “This gal is NUTS! One stinkin verse?  THAT is NOT enough! I will get behind! I have to get through that one-year reading plan, gotta get my homework done! Gotta write in my journal.”

This attitude belongs to many of us.  How many of us too, feel defeated and allow our God time to slip, slip away because we can’t keep up with the quota.

I then shared that it’s not the quantity of time with God and His word that is important, it is the quality. If you have just enough time to read one verse – then the baby cries, or the dog is having a fit at the front door or milk is split (so goes life).  Then take that ONE verse, WHILE you are cleaning up the milk – holding the crying baby.  Ask Holy Spirit to speak to you about that verse. You, God, His word.  Quality time. Listen – listen for HIS application, throughout the day, throughout the week.  If need be at the beginning of the week, jot down that verse on a 3×5 card, tape it to the mirror in the bathroom, even though you may have a parade of offspring following you in there, READ it aloud.  Again and again.

Don’t get me wrong I am ALL OVER Bible study, BUT there are seasons, seasons when time captures us. Seasons even with discipline, our life, our arms are full.  The Pastor of Hebrews wrote; “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Allow the alive word to minister to you! Remember, God spoke the universe into place with His word, He can decorate your heart with the same. One verse?  Enough? Yes.  Yes, it is with the Holy Spirit “leading you into all truth.” (Jn 16:13)

During that moment of silence with the gals, I shared I often carry a tattered memory verse in my pocket. I once spent days just on Thomas’ “… my Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28). Knowing the context, I thought about it. I said it. I pictured it and I prayed it.  Just five words. It was amazing.  The gals just sat there and stared at me. (I was shocked that they allowed me to sit at their table the following week).

God knows us, knows our heart. He knows YOU.  For some of us whose season doesn’t allow for hours or minutes of quiet time alone – don’t stress!  Don’t feel condemned. If we can give Him just ONE verse, HIS word, He can and will minister to us. It can be amazing.

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


Breathe

I am reminded of a time a few years ago, when walking into church a bit tattered from the week that led to that day. I took my seat (5 rows back, first seat in). Placing my bible next to me, the first thing that captured my attention was the quiet melody playing over the sound system. It was familiar and soothing, “As the deer panteth…” It was then, I felt the Lord impress on me, “Just breathe!” As the worship began, we all stood. I closed my eyes and did just that: Took a deep breath. Overwhelmed with His presence, I was reminded of – the breath of God.

How often do we find ourselves in survival mode? Barely making it. You feel your existence evaporating with each step forward. As the day goes on you find yourself unsuccessfully reaching and grabbing for anything solid. Thinking, “If I can just make it through this day. Through this season.  To the next paycheck.  See that person. BE that person.  Get this done, that done.  Clean this.  Lose this, gain that.” BREATHE.

Just breathe.

In pondering this, (it may sound totally silly) I began looking at our breath and the ramifications of the lack of oxygen that takes place physically. How it affects us and how long it takes for a body to die. Not to be morbid or anything, but I feel it has quite a few similarities to our spiritual man.

In all the medical jargon, I found this quote: “A lack of oxygen to the heart muscle can cause heart attacks, and even if the individual survives the anoxic event (complete depletion of oxygen), there may be damage to the heart that proves deadly.” This doesn’t even speak of the damage to the brain. There are also “quiet” symptoms that are attributed to a lack of oxygen as well: Depression, irritability, and irrational behavior. Anyone? 

Just breathe!

Like that of our physical body, so it is with our spiritual man. We NEED to breathe. Without a constant intake of God, the ramifications can prove damaging if not deadly. I believe we all have people in our lives that once were thriving-active, God-loving folks. But somehow, somewhere along their spiritual timeline – they stopped.  They stopped reading God’s word. Stopped fellowshipping with other believers. Stopped believing God and stopped breathing God.  Now, where are they?  (Or is it us?)

Genesis 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.” Our bodies were made of the dust – earth – biological. The soul was not made of the earth. So… earthly things cannot quench the hunger of the soul, (regardless of how much kale we eat) nor can the soul continue to survive. It is only the breath of God that feeds and nurtures the spiritual man! Read that again. “It is ONLY the breath of God that feeds and nurtures the spiritual man!” It is divinely birthed and divinely maintained.

How often do we seek things, people, position, and even events to satisfy our deep longing, and cravings? Without God’s breath and presence in our life, we are an empty dusty vessel. God initiated this for mankind, now we by invitation in turn seek that breath. 

Just breathe.

Paul spoke to this in 2 Timothy, “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (3:15-17 – paraphrased, The Message). And the one who penned Hebrews wrote, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God.” (4:12, NLT)

Just breathe.

Have we found we can’t seem to catch our spiritual breath? Are we low in emotion, irritable and even find our self being irrational or treating others unkindly?  Are we apathetic about spiritual things?  Or how about walking to the “frig of life” looking for something to satisfy us.  If we are to survive, let alone THRIVE spiritually, we need God’s presence and His word to do so. When was the last time we quietly spent time with our God? Prayed, invited His presence? When was the last time we pursued Him, His qualities? When was the last time opened His word and really, truly saw beyond the printed pages, and breathed Him in?

Just breathe.

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


Crossing the Line

It has been said throughout history, “Now you have really crossed the line.”  Many, if not most often, was said to those who made stupid (STUPID) decisions. The line.  You know, the place where good and bad stand facing each other.  Ever find yourself there?  Standing either on the line, straddling it or now – just inches beyond.   

Crossing the line.

Aaron of the Old Testament was a line crosser.  Exodus 32.  Setting the context: Moses was up on the Mount with God; God was etching the Law on the Tablets (and giving the blueprint for the Tabernacle AND giving the instruction for the priesthood – for Aaron).  While this was happening – chaos below.  The people grew restless.  Aaron was left in charge.  Leadership was not new to him, being Moses’ brother, he was at his side confronting Pharaoh in Egypt. He was there when manna and quail was provided to the people, and when the rock gushed water.  He, along with Hur, held up Moses’ arms in the battle against the Amalekites.  Now.  Now the folks come to AARON frustrated and lost, saying, “Do something… make us gods to follow…” 

The line. 

Aaron responds by instructing them to take off all their jewelry, handing it to him, the narrative says he used a tool and he (Aaron) shaped the image into a calf. (Heavy sigh on the part of the readers). Placing the idol in front of an altar and the people – chaos. He truly crossed the line.

God sent Moses back down to the people. Out of disgust, Moses carrying the Tablets, threw them, breaking them to pieces.  Moses confronts all.  Aaron still across “the line” states, “Do not be angry, you know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf” (vv22-24).  Hm … interesting.  He actually went with the “Oh, looky there, a calf.” (*See note below of Moses interceding for the people and Aaron).

The line. 

As the people ran wild, Moses stood at the entrance to the camp, declaring “Those who are for the LORD, come…” (v26).  The line drawn.  A new line for Aaron. Immediately ALL the Levites rallied to Moses.  You see, here is where we pause – Aaron is a Levite.  Aaron crossed the line AGAIN.  He crossed back. The folks were instructed to grab a sword and about three thousand died that day. (There are consequences to running wild in and with the chaos).

What AMAZES me, Aaron crossed the line and made that HUGE bad, very icky bad decision. Yet. God. Forgiveness runs deep, so very deep.  God chose him to be a priest.  Going on to stand before the people, representing the holiness of God (See Lev 9; Nu 6:22-27).

How many of us have been where Aaron was, made some really STUPID decisions, crossed the wrong line, found our lives in chaos and not to mention (but I will) chaos too for those around us.  God in His most gracious love offers “cross the line again” opportunities. Cross back to where we belong.  His forgiveness running deep.  Just like Aaron, the opportunity was there, he immediately stepped forward. God used him mightily.  Perhaps you stand now rubbing your toe against the first line, wondering – just wondering, what’s on the other side?

Stop.

Life is not meant to be a hopscotch game, stepping and hopping from one line to the other, yet when the line is crossed – CROSS BACK!

I love Kings David’s Psalm 133.  “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

A restored line.

Beautiful.

Have you crossed the line? God offers the most easy and soul fixing opportunity: John writing to Christians, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9).  When we mess up, we come to God and get cleaned up (crossing back). Biblical confession literally means: to concede, come into agreement. In this case, agreement with God.  Confessing is not only saying we are wrong, but we are also saying God is RIGHT.  Crossing back, is coming into alignment with the rightness of God.  (Let’s stay there).

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

*See Deut 9:7-21 – a recap of the Exodus 32 calf scenario – God was very angry, “I have seen this people and they are a stiff-necked people indeed!  Let me alone, so that I may destroy them… and the LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him.” (vv13,14 & 20) – Moses interceded. May we be a Moses to those we love, who have crossed the line – intercede.


Is THAT in the Bible?

Once when perusing through Facebook, I came across a picture that looked to be taken from the pages of the Bible. The one who posted it thought it pretty, eloquent and held promise: “Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land who is Jesus Christ…” (v12) “YES, let’s claim it!” WAIT!  Not being a scholar by any means, but I don’t remember reading this.  At first glance it sounds a bit Old Testament(ish) doesn’t it?  After a lil research I found the verse to be from the book of Ether (2:12) and yes, I spelled that right Ether – it is from the book of Mormon. It’s the story of the Jaredites who were led by God to the Americas shortly after the Tower of Babel scenario (um…). It may be pretty – but not biblical.

How often do we refer to, strongly consider, or even quote what is NOT in the bible?  Example, “Pride goes before a fall…” although close, prides ultimate end isn’t a scraped knee – but destruction, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). How often do we hear; “Well the Bible says, ‘Money is the root of all evil!’”  Head hung, shoulders slumped; condemnation felt.  NO, it’s the “LOVE of money that is the root of all sorts of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10, emphasis mine).

Another, “The lion shall lay down with the lamb.” There is no mention of this in scripture. Many would say, oh sure it is – in Revelation. Nope.  However, in Isaiah 11:6 (see also 65:25) it speaks of the wolf and the lamb will dwell and graze together, but no lamb sweetly nestled against the side of a powerful lion. And those with the rolling of the eyes while saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”  As they continue urging, “It’s in Proverbs.”  Again, nope. It comes from a line from William Congreve’s play, “The Mourning Bride.” The proverb they may have been referring to “It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” (Pro 25:24)

The next time something questionable is seen or quoted to us, or perhaps sounds “good” or conveyed as trivial – seek it out YOURSELF.  Charles Spurgeon said, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.”  It’s that “almost right” that causes us heartache. Trusting first in trivial things, leads to blind deception (See 2 Timothy 4:3-4). May we not be easily swept away by pretty, eloquent or what sounds promising.   Go for the truth. Jesus said when praying to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) And Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

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


Patience

“Patience is a virtue” they say. I’m not quite sure who they are, but as I join the applause and celebrate this God-quality, I am also very aware however, the closest we often get is “Hurry up and WAIT!” while possibly running a few folks over in the process.

In the New Testament there are two main kinds of patience mentioned, with a third quality attached. Paul states he had been praying that those in Colossae live a life worthy of God and please Him in every way “…bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father” Col. 1:10-12 (NIV, emphasis mine).

Endurance, (hupomone in the Greek) is patience in circumstances. The quality of steadfastness. Some would say – staying power.  This staying power is motivated by HOPE. It is the characteristic of a man (or woman) who is not swerved from their deliberate purpose, sustaining through to the end – regardless. Keep, keeping on. 

Among the Fruit of the Spirit, there is love, joy, peace… patience. The word Paul uses here, is not hupomone (though defiantly a quality of the Spirit). BUT Paul uses makrothumia which is unlike hupomone, patience in circumstances, inspired by hope. Makrothumia is patience with PEOPLE, inspired by MERCY. Relational.

Jesus teaches this through the parable in Matthew 18, (I paraphrase). The King has a servant who owed a large sum of money, when the debt was called, the servant fell on his knees before the King. “Be patient (Makrothumia) with me!” he begged. The King offered mercy, holding back punishment, releasing him. As soon as the servant went free, he found a friend that owed HIM money. He too called the debt. The friend begged the same, “Be patient with me…” But the servant refused mercy and put the friend in prison. The King heard of this, summoning the servant, stating, “I gave you mercy, shouldn’t you have given mercy as well.” What an amazing picture! The unmerciful servant. Patience is motivated by mercy. May we too “remember when…” When God has patience with us!

Paul continues this thread, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Makrothumia). Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col. 3:12-13, again I emphasize, see also Eph 4:1-3) The “bearing” with one another, literally means “to put up with” – but not just that, it is holding back – to hold in. STOP! Good Godly interaction with others is not only about what we DO just as much as what we don’t – RESTRAINT. (May I just offer – “OUCH!”)

God’s mercy is withholding what we do deserve, where His grace is giving us what we do not. One hand pushes forward in giving, the other holds back in restraint. What divine coordination. God patiently bearing with us.

I am challenged to pray for patience, sounds a bit risky (in all honesty). Do I really want to point out, wave in the direction of patience?  Yes (as I duck). Loving others can be messy, but perhaps kind patience could be the missing piece needed.  While I am reminded of the patience and mercy and the most amazing grace God has for me.

Patience. 

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


What is the Yoke?

Paul wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  (Gal. 5:1, ESV)

What is the biblical yoke?

The yoke figuratively represents the burdensome nature of slavery.  It is a symbol of servitude (either by choice or forced). It suggests restrictiveness, yet this is but one aspect of the yoke.  A yoke for the most part is an idiom (something known to a specific culture or era). Of the sixty-one times “yoke” is used in the Bible, all are metaphorical (apart from seven uses).

Stick with me, this gets good.

In the first century the yoke had taken on a unique meaning, a cultural meaning. The Jewish culture was a discipleship culture, a “we” culture (vs our “me” culture).  Our western mindset focuses on “What does the scriptures teach me about me?  Who am I?  What do I do?  The eastern mindset, “What does the scriptures teach me about the nature and character of God?”   Disciples would attach themselves to a Rabbi, following close, listening and learning. The Rabbi would teach the disciple their interpretation and application of the scriptures.  The phrase “sitting at the feet of a Rabbi” was cultural. Remember Paul said he was educated “at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3). When Jesus taught in Matt 5-7, what does the narrative say, “after He sat down… He opened His mouth and began to teach them.” (5:1) And in Luke 10, Mary is found at the feet of Jesus “listening to His word” (v39).  Jesus allowing and championing for it (seen in the “Martha, Martha” conversation) was a radical move on His part – accepting a woman disciple so boldly.

Most Rabbis were “Torah Teachers.”  These Rabbis spent most of their time in the synagogues, reading and teaching the written Law of God and taught only accepted interpretations (passed to them by their Rabbi).  These teachings were called the “yoke of Torah” or the Rabbi’s Yoke. 

In Jesus’ day, Jesus’ world, every Rabbi (and Pharisee) had one.  It was their collection of teachings. It was their theology and perspective on the scriptures: Who God is and what it means to walk with Him. Their disciples would accept it and emulate it, taking on the “yoke” (teaching) of their Rabbi. 

Over the many years, many of the Rabbi’s (primarily Pharisees) inflated and added commands, making following them rather rough.  To fulfill every command (interpretation) was difficult.  Each Rabbi having their own emphasis.

Consider now, Jesus’ words in Matt 11 “”Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (vv28-30).  In essence, consider my summary “Let ME be the one to show you who the Living God is – what He is like – what it means to follow Him!”  Think now, how many times Jesus continued to point to the Father  (i.e.) “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (Jn 5:19) And Jesus speaks only how and what “to say” from the Father (Jn 12:49). He speaks with authority from the Father.

Now THAT is a YOKE!

There was a smaller group of Rabbi’s – known to have s’mikhah – (pronounced Smee-KAWK … Hebrew throat slur). “Walking in the authority of God.”  These Rabbis with s’mikhah (authority) could make NEW interpretation, application AND pass legal judgments.  Many scholars believe Jesus had taken on the authoritative Rabbinical role.

Matthew makes note, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (The Torah Teachers in the synagogue).  (Matt 7:28-29).  Many times, the narrative speaks of people’s amazement at His authority.

Remember multiple times Jesus said, “You have heard it said – But I say to you…”  Especially in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus gave clear instruction, often quoting the Law, yet reaching beyond the interpretative mandates.  Some teachers of the Law would step as close to the “line” of law, assuming to not break it – “You can look and lust, but don’t touch.”  Jesus said, “It all begins in the heart”  (summary).

Those hearing His words had never heard the scriptures explained like He did, with NEW insights, application – with authority.  Jesus spoke of covenant – the NEW covenant – passing legal judgments. Authority indeed.

Jesus commissioned His disciples: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  (Matt 28:18-20, NASB, emphasis mine).

Swinging back to the beginning, regarding Paul’s words in Galatians 5:1 – Paul originally taught those in the region of Galatia the gospel is of grace through faith and not of works – Christ had set them free from Jewish ceremonial laws and regulations, those regulations heaped on its followers.  Metaphorically, he had reached over and took the heavy burdened yoke off – yet they again had reached for the “yoke of slavery.”    (See also Acts 15:10 “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” ESV)  

Fascinating note: When researching the actual yoke and the training of an ox for more understanding, I found that fitting the ox with the yoke: It is BEST that the ox raises its head up into the yoke for the most comfortable and profitable fit. This comes with time and trust, that the animal is willing to voluntarily lift their head to the master. If forced down, the fit could cause irritation, causing the ox to lean, favoring one side, and possibly altering the direction of their steps.  A “harnessed heart” is a true lifting of the head to the Master. 

May we too be mindful of the yoke we raise up into – be it the yoke of Jesus.  Being His disciple; following close, listening, learning, and taking on and emulating His teaching.

The yoke.

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

Resources: “Rabbi and Talmidim” (except from “In the Dust of the Rabbi”) by Ray Vander Laan. “The Yoke” By Archdeacon Allan Paulsen. “The Yoke” The Messianic Prophecy Bible Project (Free.messianicbible.com).  Prof Kristi McMelland, Professor of Biblical Culture, “Jesus & Women: In the First Century & Now“.  The ESV Commentary. Barnes Notes on the NT: Galatians.  Bible Background Commentary (Acts 15:10). And any other geeky place I forgot to jot down.


Revelation vs Resolution

Happy New Year!  As the calendar rolls to a new year, we flip through the photos, whether it be of puppies, sunset images or as I just hung mine, a simple calendar with a pretty marble border. The empty squares indicating days yet to be lived. Those twelve pages can either propel us or paralyze us.

The change of the New Year has traditionally become a re-setting if you will of our life compass. We evaluate the past and plan for the future. For some of us, this means sitting down and writing out our Resolutions. Money to be made, exercise routines, diet plans, buy that new house, get that promotion, clean out those closets, get organized – the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, these are all a good plan of attack.  Yet there is more.  A New Year’s Resolution can be defined as “a firm decision to do or not do something, a course of action designed with the intent to keep a vow.” Statistics claim, one in three Americans makes a New Year’s resolution of some sort, yet only about 75% of these folks stick to their goal for at least … a week.

Have we considered that instead of a resolution to do better, get more, and perhaps try to be something other than we are, that we seek … revelation? As we stand at the door of 2021 (with a hardy “Good-bye” wave to 2020), may we take pause and truly position ourselves to seek a fresh revelation of our God.

Revelation. The act of disclosing or discovering what was before unknown. I would offer; we may have read it, even know it (the story) but let’s reach beyond. Let’s be intentional (is the focus of our church for 2021). As we read through our Bibles, invite Holy Spirit to read with us, pointing out incredible and wondrous things. Showing us unwavering and astounding qualities of His character.  Paul wrote, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2a, NLT). That is my plan, this is my goal. I seek to be transformed. Not only doing/being what is in my finite human power to do – but HIS transforming. Making a firm decision to take action to learn and accept and walk in more of His love, trust His hand and bow more in gratitude of His mercy and grace.

Revelation.

I pray over us as Paul did, “I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Amen) – Ephesians 3:14-20 (NIV)

From our home to yours, a hardy blessed (full of revelation) Happy New Year.

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


YOU Are the Reason for the Season

This holiday season I have been pondering and rolling around in my head, the little seasonal rhyme, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  It fits well as a lapel pin, even hangs proudly as an ornament on our trees.  I like it!  The message is clear and points to Jesus!

Yet… I began to think of this in theological terms, the accuracy of it. I know… I KNOW you are rolling your eyes at this point. But bear with me. I am a people watcher. I watch how they walk, how they talk, their mannerisms, their facial expressions.  The other day as I was Christmas shopping, I watched their faces, looked into their eyes, wondering if THEY knew Jesus. Then it dawned on me – “THEY are the reason for the season!”

The season is Christmas. Christmas is JESUS, His birth. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) The best gift ever! Jesus came to earth, the divine embodied in human form. His life message pointing to Kingdom stuff. His death representing us. He resurrected in full power and authority and now sits, enthroned on the right hand of the Father – for US!  He came to fix the man-made mess. WE are the “whosoever.”  WE are the reason for the season! Bring it down – YOU are the reason for the season! (Ok, group cyber-HUG!) Yes, it’s all about Jesus – what He did for YOU!  He came for YOU!  THE best gift giving possible.  

Even with all the self-interest, self-emersion, self, self, self and all the “I” focus today, this Christmas look into the eyes of those around you, up and over your mask and consider THEM!  What a great opening line to the gospel, said with heartfelt humility as you tenderly lean forward “Did you know YOU are the reason for the season…” Then tell them about Jesus and why He came, use their name (read their name badge if they have one) “Bob, He came for YOU!”  Most know about the baby in the manger, now tell them about the baby-grown KING.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Blessed Christmas to you and yours,

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


Myrrh, White Elephant it is Not

Christmas, a time of sharing, loving and gift giving.  We are in the season of hunting for those perfect gifts. Regardless of what makes it home with us from the mall, masked and ready to buy or what arrives from Amazon. All of us have gifts to offer. God-given gifts that He asks that we share with one another. Whether it is the gift of serving or the gift of encouragement, or the gift of a listening ear.  Or perhaps hospitality, providing an extra place at the dinner table. No gift is too small, or seemingly insignificant.

Gifts.

We often read the Christmas story and highlight the most spectacular parts: Singing angels. “Fear Not” statements. The Star of Bethlehem, and yes, the dingy manger. YET, there are some quiet and less compelling items to be had in the excitement.  Gifts.  Consider if you will, (imagine with me) the Magi (Matt 2) as they prepare for their trek out to find the child to whom the shiny Star belongs. (Tradition, not scripture, says there were three wise men, only because the three gifts that were given). They are packing, dividing the supplies list. Then they come to the gift inventory; gold is given to the first, then frankincense handed to another. “Oh yeah” the myrrh is last. How would you like to be handed the myrrh and picture yourself bowing low, head to the floor while you offer to the King of Kings, M-Y-R-R-H (said with an Eeyore deep tone). You may think “Why do I have to carry the white elephant gift?”   White elephant it is not. It is one among the triune gifts that are of great value. 

Have we thought about these gifts? Gold, we have that one down. Frankincense is ground dried up tree sap used as incense, highly fragrant when burned.  And myrrh, what is THAT?

The divine significance of myrrh: It also comes from the sap of a tree, yet it is not just some sticky goo creatively used.  It was:

  1. In the divinely prescribed anointing oil of the Tabernacle and the priests (Exodus 30:22-23). 
  2. In the perfumed oil poured over Jesus’ feet (John 12:3, Matthew 26:12: The ointment is “Myron” which is myrrh-oil). 
  3. Also, as one of the spices to prepare Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:39-40).

Picture now, the Christ child, perhaps two in age or younger. Jesus with curly dark hair, possibly pudgy cheeks. At His feet, the Magi place gold, frankincense, and MYRRH. The same anointing oil used to anoint temple priests, now set before Jesus – our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The same perfumed myrrh now before small feet – would one day be oil poured over a grown mans feet, those feet that would one day hang on a cross and be pierced. Jesus was also offered wine mixed with myrrh, but He didn’t take it. (Mk 15:23; Matt 27:34) Scholars believe Jesus refused to drink the mixture, due to its numbing effect.  He wanted to be fully aware, fully present in the suffering for mankind. Myrrh was the oil added to the spices wrapped around His body following His death. 

Jesus, now a child, will one day, be the man fulfilling this gift. Myrrh, HOW PROPHETIC.

Christmas gift-giving, following the Magi’s example: Regardless of how insignificant it may seem at a quick glance among the noisier aspect of things – we never know the impact and how far-reaching our giving may be. Today it’s not so much the item, but the heart of giving. The giving of self is a gift. An encouraged heart, a feed soul, a person no longer lonely. Gifts given in Jesus’ name – the gift that keeps on giving.   

Note: For those of you who work Crossword Puzzles: 5 letters down: “Anointing oil of the Tabernacle, the priests and Jesus?”  The answer: “Myrrh” (YAY! You’re welcome).

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


Mary Pondered

This is a bit long, but I encourage you to keep reading to the end.

There is a story of four young Jewish Yeshiva students, (Jewish seminary). One afternoon in a study session, one student gave a book to one of the men asking him to take a look and “Tell us what you think.”

Later that night, curious of the book, in eagerness, he sat down and opened to Genesis 1:1. He started to read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Pause). “What?” he thought. He read it again “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Excited, he stood up, exclaiming, “NO!” And continues, “God’s not finished!” And closed the book!

You see, in the ancient writings, originally there were no chapters – no verses and no punctuation. According to Hebrew thought (and method) they never paused until the complete thought was finished, they read to the edge of the story. The book handed to this young man was the English version of the bible, The King James.

The very first verse is just part of a story. That story is part of a bigger story – the historical story of God. We often read, pause, or stop before the whole of a particular story is in sight. Or we come to a famous or familiar portion of scripture, so familiar that with a “Oh I know this part” we run our finger down and turn the page.

I want to offer; in our familiarity we may be missing some very key elements to the story.

One example is 1 Samuel 17, David and Goliath. We all know the story, we’ve heard it, we’ve seen it played out on the flannelgraph board. Younger brother comes into camp. He hears the noise out front. He is told the battle line has been drawn. The Philistines’ biggest warrior awaits one of the Israelites to come fight him. David volunteers. The king offers his armor. Young David tries it on. Too awkward. Taking it off, he goes with what he knows best. Gathering stones, carrying his staff and sling. He and Goliath have words – he runs at the giant of a man. Swirling and releasing his sling, the stone struck Goliath in the forehead and down he went. YAY! Great story! Turn the page. But.

The story isn’t over. Keep reading. It says David ran over, taking Goliath’s sword and cut off his head. It was here, the narrative says the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they turned and ran (v51). From their perspective they may have only seen the lil guy throw something at Goliath but taking his head off – he was dead – bad dead. He was not getting up from THAT!

Another example of reading beyond the familiar. We fast forward to the NT – Mark chapter 4. Jesus and the disciples are on the shore of Galilee. Jesus tells the guys, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” They load up and head out. At some point Jesus lays down and falls asleep. A huge storm hits the lake. The disciples wake Jesus up rather excitedly. Jesus rebukes the wind and says to the waves. “Peace! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. YAY! Great story! Turn the page. But. The story isn’t over. It reads that the guys were filled with great fear. The narrative says the disciples weren’t afraid of the storm – they were overwhelmed with great reverence and respect for – Jesus. Asking each other “WHO IS THIS?” The wind and waves obey Him (v41). They had underestimated Him. Jesus had their attention.

We read the story of Christmas. Found in both Matthew and Luke. We know this story as well – very well. Both Mary and Joseph are told great things, divine things through angelic visits. In short (but not belittled) – Mary, although never being with a man, would become pregnant, conceived of the Holy Spirit. This baby boy would “save the people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21) At one point, Joseph, and Mary head to Bethlehem for the national census. There are some housing issues. Once settled, the baby, who is to be called Jesus, is born.

Luke chapter 2 tells of the shepherds living in the fields taking care of the sheep. They too get angelic declarations. An angel appears declaring good news, for “Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (2:11) The shepherds are told what to look for, the wrapped baby laying in a manger. Then the backup singers appear, angels singing God’s praises, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…” (v14) When the angels exit, so do the shepherds, excited, they go and find Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. As they do, they tell any and all who will listen what they were told. YAY! Great story! Turn the page.

We tend to stop here. We close the book and head to Christmas dinner or begin ripping the presents open. But the story isn’t over. Keep reading. All who heard what the Shepherds reported hearing were amazed. Then v19, this verse is challenging, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” This young gal took all that has been said to her, Joseph and now the shepherds and treasured them. What do you do with a treasure? A truly valuable treasure? You guard it!

The Jewish people were (are) a storytelling culture. From a noticeably young age, they are told the story of God and of their people. From the very beginning when Adam and Eve were in the Garden – where mankind broke relationship with their God. Throughout many, many generations God used prophets, law and the lives of people to tell His story – the story of restoring relationship. May I point out, the excitement of the shepherds sharing with the people wasn’t what they saw, although spectacular – it was what they heard! When the angel declared to the shepherds “Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2:11) there were keywords used, these Jewish shepherds didn’t miss it! What they heard, slipped into the ongoing story line, and fit perfectly.

Savior is referenced as one who rescues, a Rescuer. Christ is the Anointed One, the Messiah, the One they had been waiting for – the answer! And Lord, (Kurios) was the word the Greek-speaking Hebrews used for God. In essence, the angel’s addition to the story was saying; You’ve been told all your life, the Jewish people were waiting to be rescued, the Messiah, the Answer – is God Himself. And it’s happened!

The angelic choir too adds to the story, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…” Peace. Biblical peace isn’t just the lack of conflict; it is the presence of the rightness of God. It literally means (Eirene in Greek) “to set at one again.” Conveying that once something was upright, but has toppled over (chaos, strife is the result) but when righted and set at one again – peace. Mankind broke relationship with God through sin – God has just sent the answer – His Son Jesus (more historical story to come). Peace isn’t a concept or a feeling, peace is a person.

Mary took ALL this and she pondered it. Her pondering isn’t mere tucking it away and thinking on it now and then. The word Luke uses conveys “putting together.” She connected all the dots. She lined it all up. When all strung together – all the pieces (so far*) fit. Each piece has beauty in itself. But what a glorious bigger story. There is evidence we see later of her pondering. Jesus is a grown man. He, Mary and the disciples are at a wedding. Remember when Jesus turns the water into wine? Mary tells the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (Jn 2:5). These are the last recorded words of Mary.

Such confidence in the fitted pieces of God. Jesus.

This is an excerpt of the message I recently shared with the women of our church. I challenged us, first, when reading our bibles, don’t stop or skim over the famous or familiar parts, keep reading beyond to the edge of the story. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the writers, inspires we the readers – invite Him to read with us. And second, as we are in this Christmas season, may we truly treasure the bigger story, ponder, keep putting together the great God stuff – be in awe of Him – God’s gracious, loving restoring of relationship, “Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” May our mindset and our last recorded words be the same as pondering Mary – “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

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

*I say “so far” because we know, Jesus had yet to die and resurrect from the dead – a HUGE element yet to be added to the bigger story.


Emmanuel

Emmanuel.  At Christmas time we sing with a resounding “O come, O come Emmanuel…” and it is written in beautiful font lettering across our Christmas cards. Emmanuel (Immanuel*) meaning “God with us.”

Many who attempt to say God is uninterested and doesn’t turn His divine head our way do not understand Emmanuel.  The Creator God didn’t just create and wave Himself off, wishing us good luck.   He is Emmanuel. He has been, He is – with us. He was with Adam and Eve while walking in the Garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8).  He was with Moses and the Israelites in the desert as the pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:22). He was the fourth man with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, as the three were in the fire (Daniel 3:24-25).  He was with mankind as Jesus’ sandaled feet walked in Galilee (Matthew 4:18). He is with us, gloriously residing within us (1 Corinthians 3:16).  He is the God who dwells with us, among us and in us – God is Emmanuel.

Fast forward to the New Testament, tucked in the story of the birth of Jesus – Matthew chapter 1:  Joseph is about to take Mary as his wife, (according to cultural tradition, the engagement was a done-deal).  BUT she is pregnant (Hm…) he, a good man, plans to dissolve the marriage quietly as to not disgrace her.  Queue angelic messenger:  Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife.  The baby she carries is of the Holy Spirit. She will have a Son and His name will be Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.  Matthew’s narrative continues: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and   they will call him Immanuel   – which means, “God with us.” (vv 22-23)

God was and is with His people throughout history, but sending His Son, slipping Him into human flesh, all He was, all He did, could not be more unmistakably striking evidence of God’s presence. A sign indeed!  God keeps His promises.  The All-Powerful, All-Sufficient, Sovereign Creator of the universe does not NEED to be with us – He wants to! 

Jesus reveals to John, “the dwelling place of God is with man…”  (Revelation 21:3). Unhindered fellowship with God Himself, the thread of God’s reigning government is “God with us.” 

So beautiful, so comforting – Emmanuel.

Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel… (sing with me).

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

*Why do we often see two spellings for Immanuel?  The different spellings are due to different vowels used in Hebrew (O.T. “Immanuel”) and Greek (N.T. “Emmanuel”) yet they are indeed the same God presence, just two different languages.


If You Say So

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).