* Miscellanous Stuff

The Joy of the Lord

heart in bible

“The joy of the LORD is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10   This verse is often quoted as encouragement and rightly so. A few years ago, I read an article written by a Messianic Rabbi, he wrote with a slightly different perspective of this verse. Intrigued, I delved into the story and discovered for myself.

Beautiful.

In the day of Ezra and Nehemiah, after a lengthy captivity in Babylon, they returned with a group of Jewish exiles to their homeland of Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s role was to lead the people in rebuilding the walls of the city. There was great (not so kind) opposition from the neighboring folks, half the men stood guard while the other half worked on the wall, it was an all hands on the wall event, each family working on their assigned section.

Upon the completion of the wall, Ezra brought out the written law of Moses. As he opened it, ALL the people stood up, it had been years seen they had seen it or heard it. As Ezra read and praised the Lord, the people were so overwhelmed; they bowed their faces to the ground weeping as they worshipped. What an agonizing tender moment. They were realizing just how far they had gone from their God – their covenant God. At this moment, in this is realization, it is here Ezra and Nehemiah declare to them, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep…” Nehemiah continues, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:9-10)

A people who were once far off had now come home. Not only geographically, but home to their God. They labored side by side for one cause, their hearts rendered open when hearing God’s word. HERE, God-was-pleased. He found joy in their unity, in their renewed awareness of Him. God in His everlasting love and mercy was no longer to be feared in their disobedience and apathy, He was joyful of and for them. Nehemiah was telling the people, “Oh find strength in knowing God is pleased with you, He finds JOY in YOU!” It is His joy, your strength.

How many of us glance over our shoulder and see the mess behind us, we see our straying, our lack of God. When we do come home, repentant and gaining a fresh awareness of HIM, we want only to bow our head in disgrace. Oh beloved, “Do not grieve!” God is the God of our now! By all means, worship – bow low!  But.  At some point, RAISE YOUR HEAD! Be strengthen, He is pleased, He is overjoyed. Be strengthened that He finds joy in YOU!

Welcome home.

The joy of the LORD is your strength. His joy, your strength.

Beautiful.

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

 


The Boat Ride

The Boat ride

After Jesus sends the disciples out ‘two by two’, sometime later they returned. Returning from teaching, healing and delivering the people.  They must have been extremely worn out and with people all around, Jesus tells them, “Come with Me by
yourself to a quiet place and get some rest
.” (Mark 6:31) This is much different from their last documented boat ride (Mark 4) in which the story includes a monstrous storm, frantic disciples and Jesus standing and commanding. (Read the story Here ). But not today.  There is no storm. There was no hesitation either – not even Peter saying with waved hands, “Um, well, the last time we did this ‘get in the boat thing’ – it wasn’t pretty!”  But both scenarios have one common factor – Jesus.

Notice Jesus was very specific. He didn’t say ‘Go away – take some time off – I’ll see you on the other side.’ He wasn’t offering options. He said, “Come with Me.” The narrative doesn’t say it, but picture with me – THIS boat ride: They, being exhausted, now all settled down, with no joking, no high energy retelling of events.  Quiet. Perhaps just quiet and the lapping of the water on the boat – and Jesus.
Presence.

When first reading this story, it can be interpreted that the destination was the place of rest – BUT, just as quickly as the authors pen lifts and presses down, that destination was flooded with thousands of folks, when the boat landed, the crowd was waiting. Jesus full of passion for His mission and compassion towards the people teaches them and soon hands the broken bread and fish to the disciples to feed them.

Granted, a place of solitude, with served comfort foods would be fabulous, but sometimes it is the boat ride.  Sometimes, it’s the car ride to the store.  Sometimes it’s the brief breather between meetings as we walk around the block to stretch our legs, sometimes it’s the shutting of the bathroom door while our lil tribe awaits just beyond and sometimes it’s standing at the kitchen window remembering to breathe – and Jesus.

Getting ready (for the next thing) means getting rest – in His Presence, (may be brief) and perhaps, on the way – rest.

Come with Me by yourself to a quiet place and get some rest.”

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


Suspicious Kindness

Act of Kindness

It was the summer of 1983, I was home between semesters of my bible college days, I was standing behind the counter of my father’s fast food restaurant, when a small boy reaching his arm up, releases a fist full of coins onto the counter.  His warm freckle-faced smile could light up a dark-paneled room.  Raising his eyes to mine, he simply stated, “A vanilla cone please.” Looking at the coins still rolling on the counter, I knew he didn’t have enough. Taking my index finger, I began counting the coins. When there was none left to be counted, the boy’s face grew very solemn. He too knew it wasn’t enough. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a couple more coins and placed them alongside his own.

His response shocked me. With a suspicious look, he again reached forward and began to pull his coins back. I sweetly told him, it was okay, he now had enough. With a slight pause as if struggling against his better judgment, his smile returned, and I quickly scooped the coins up and proceeded to make him the LARGEST ‘small’ cone I have ever made complete with a curly-Q top.  That moment impacted me and has never been forgotten.

Suspicious kindness, sad isn’t it.  Much of the time we are not used to receiving kindness; our first reaction is a pause – question the motive, and then oftentimes, refusal. Kindness disorients us, with instant worry there HAS to be something wrong, or “WAIT, what do you want in return?” Our society has become so ‘ME’ focused, to think on behalf of another with goodness takes great concentration, not to mention potential risk. For some, to be kind is a sign of weakness.

The Apostle Paul speaks directly to the qualities that do not (notice the NOT) come naturally to us, “Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12, CSB, emphasis mine) we are not born with them; they are a CHOICE, day-to-day, moment-by-moment ‘putting on‘ choice.

Kindness is the softer side of mankind, the God in us peeking through with love and mercy. It is described by scholars that kindness is the inner heart attitude of gentleness, and then goodness takes over and acts on the heart attitude. I see it in the word picture of one walking by a blind man holding a charitable cup for money. The HEART sees the man, the heart feels the man, the heart responds with God to the man, filling his cup. Love, kindness, and goodness all go together.  Love sees, kindness feels, and goodness does.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, a leading Jewish Theologian had this to say about kindness, “When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people, as I grow old, I admire kind people.” Kindness does not require a return on our investment. It is self-less-ness. We see, we feel, we do (In Jesus’ name).

May we all be challenged to be kind beyond ourselves, remembering that WE have been bathed in God’s kindness and goodness.  We take an extra moment to listen, find more coins in our pocket, open more doors, whatever is needed at the moment, in the moment – nothing is worse than  ‘Should’ve‘ hind-sight.  Like the little boy with the ice cream, he now has ENOUGH! God uses US in the enough equation.

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


Be Still and Know God

Be still

 

Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10) Yet if put alongside the reality of my life, most of the time my life reflects, “Be busy and know that I am tired!” Can I get an “AMEN!”   Psalm 46:10, one of the most quoted and beloved verses of the Bible, but do we really understand its context or meaning? Scholars propose it was written during the tense warfare between Judah and the Ammonites and Moabites. Jehoshaphat and crew were terrified of the reported impending war. In short, Jehoshaphat called the people to pray and fast, God’s response was “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15) The next morning, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing and praise – LONG story short, in their worship, God intervened and Judah victorious, ‘for the LORD had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies.’ (v27)

Psalm 46. The Psalmist writing under the inspiration of God, writes 10 of the 11 verses of the psalm from the 3rd person perspective, talking about God. The wet ink encourages that even in natural disasters and national uproar, “Come and see the works of the LORDHe makes… He breaks…” (v8,9) Then in verse 10, the writing changes. It is now from the 1st person – I. It is as if God caused the writer to pause, whispering in his ear, tell them, “Rapah yada Elohim” (Hebrew) “Be still and know that I am God.” Powerful.

When studying the scriptures, looking at the original language and grammar gives us some great insight and some amazing principles to pull forward and apply for our own pending circumstances. Although originally there were no punctuation marks, but when added to the original usage and read in context – reading from a modern Jewish Bible, our verse reads: “Be still! Know! God.” This phrase holds two imperative verbs, meaning they are both commands, thus, Be still! Know!

God commands us to know Him. That means it is entirely possible, desirable and (wait for it) yes… expected. But not only this, but the 1st verb (be still) POINTS to the 2nd – KNOW! We are still IN ORDER to know God. In the Complete Jewish Bible, it reads: “Desist and learn that I am God.” And the NASB, ‘Cease striving.’ STOP! It isn’t a slowing down, or I’ll get to it when it is convenient. STOP. It is a priority! God is first! God loves full stop – it is here that He had Judah’s frantic ‘WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!’ attention. It is in the STOP He has our attention.

God is not asking us to be quiet (although that DOES help) Location is not a huge factor (however, a quiet place contributes) Nor is our physical posture the ‘make it or break it’ element (Yet, face down, does have “I can’t see the distractions” with my face on the carpet, benefits). But He does tell us, it’s not about our circumstance – it is all about HIM. “The fear of God came upon all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 20:29)

Be still and know that I am God.   “Be still – Know – God.”


Obedience

My Way

Obedience. Obedience can be defined as ‘having a clear understanding of the instructions and acting accordingly.’

God is very serious about His instructions; we see this in 1 Samuel 15. The narrative states, “The Lord of Hosts says…” He proceeds to tell King Saul (through Samuel) to ‘utterly destroy’ everything about the Amalekites – the people and property. A lil further in the story, “But Saul and the people…” Oh, they took care of most of the people and some of the property and livestock* – but most and some is not obedience. Did they have clear instructions? Yes. Did they obey? No.  God said, King Saul “turned away from Me and has not carried out My instructions.” (v11) Saul is told, “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has rejected you as King.” (v23)

God has a purpose for His instruction. Often when given our marching orders we tend to grab the envelope and run off with an “I got this!” and only pause down the road a bit and try to figure out a shortcut. We forget that God is Omniscient (All-knowing) and He is not limited by time or space, so He sees and knows all directions on our timeline. Meaning – what we don’t see NOW, He sees and He knows …ALL.

God had a purpose for the destruction of the Amalekites, COMPLETE – utter destruction. You see, some many-many years later, an ancestor of an Amalekite emerges. The book of Esther. Remember the bad guy Haman (Boo!) the guy who manipulated the King’s decree to annihilate the Jews? He was the ‘son of Hammedatha, the Agagite (Esther 3:1). Scholars believe the ‘Agagites’ are of King Agag – King of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:8). But there’s more: remember Mordecai (YAY!) the cousin of Esther, who raised her, he was of the tribe of Benjamin, a descendant of Kish – Saul was the son of Kish. So, here we are AGAIN, Haman (Amalekite) and Mordecai & Esther (Saul).

The principle stares us in the face – God says take care of it NOW, destroy it or you WILL see it again and seeing it again may destroy – YOU! How many of us have been broken-hearted because we did not obey thoroughly?  God desires complete obedience. Partial obedience is disobedience.  God doesn’t want most or some – He wants it ALL!  Just ask the folks who were taken captive by the Amalekites later in 1 Samuel 30 and the folks praying for Esther as she approaches the king to address the situation concerning their pending annihilation.

Obeying God with a half heart leads to a broken heart.

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

*Side note: Scholars are in agreement, they don’t know exactly where/when/how the Amalekites ancestry carried on – but they did.  We see in the story (1 Samuel 15) that Saul told the Kenites (folks in the region, v6) to leave before he went after the Amalekites, giving them the opportunity to flee the bloodshed. Could some Amalekites have snuck out among them? Also, it is said that Saul attacked the Amalekites within a certain regional parameter (v7). Were there more outside those parameters? We see later in 1 Samuel 27, David raided an Amalekite village (they had a village?) and again chapter 30, David encounters more Amalekites, “David fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day, and none of them got away, except four hundred young men who rode off on camels and fled.” (v17)  THOROUGH obedience is required.


But What I Do Have

hand offered

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he told him ‘all scripture is God-breathed’ – divinely inspired to teach, rebuke, correct and train. (2 Timothy 3:16) So when we read it – learn from it. In Acts 3, it tells the story: One day, Peter and John were walking on their way to the Temple for afternoon prayer. They come across a crippled man, who sat daily at the gate to beg for money (the narrative offers no name, we’ll call him Burt, Burt the beggar). As Burt asked them for money, Peter says something very profound, “Look at us.” Look us in the eye, not over there, or there, don’t be distracted – but here.   Knowing the context of the story, you can almost sense ‘you don’t want to miss this!’ Burt gave them his full attention, (expecting to get a few coins). Peter continues, “Silver and gold I don’t have, BUT what I do have, I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.” (v6)

Peter took Burt by the hand and helped him up. You have to love the detail of Doctor Luke (who’s writing this), ‘immediately his ankles and feet became strong.’ Burt jumped to his feet, began walking and praising God. This caused such a commotion, folks saw and recognized him – Burt the beggar was up and leaping and having a great time of worship. As the amazement grew, so did the crowd. Verse 12, “When Peter saw this…” the opportunity was to keep talking about Jesus, (and he did).

Amazing story.  What can we learn from this? I would offer some principles and applications. First, ‘One day Peter and John were on their way to the Temple…’ One day, YOU are on your way to work, in your routine, you are in the line at the grocery store, picking your kids up from school, having coffee with a friend. Every day – daily routine. Second, Peter and John, do NOT just walk on by (ouch!) they face Burt, make eye contact, engage him. Burt asks for something he wants, but the guys give him what he NEEDS – “In the name of Jesus Christ…” Whenever we speak or walk in the name of Jesus, we invoke the manifest Presence and the power of God! We are in a God moment! Third, follow-through! Peter took Burt by the hand (personally engaged) and helped him up (the ‘right hand’ specifically is noted. The right hand symbolizes strength). Peter is part of the process, a hand offered – help given. ‘YOU can do this Burt!  With the POWER of Jesus and me, I’m with you!’ Fourth and last, Peter saw and TOOK the opportunity to keep speaking Jesus!  Please note, when we help someone in the power of God, it’s not for them alone – it spreads… ‘all the people were astonished and came running…’ (v11)

As we stand only 11 days into 2020, may we commit to seeing those around us, aware of them, face them, make eye contact, engage them – and not just pass on by. Granted, we cannot stop at each and every person (we’ll be late for work, cause a traffic jam and our poor kids sitting and waiting for us). BUT we can be sensitive to Holy Spirit … who is HE emphasizing? Then act. We may not have what they are asking for, BUT like Peter and John, we can give what they need – Jesus! Invoking the Presence and power of God. May we be part of the process and see and SEIZE opportunities. Nothing is worse than within 2 minutes or less of a situation as we walk away, “O I should have__________!” we may have just missed an opportunity to help heal or free someone.

Silver or gold I do not have, BUT what I do have, I give you – in the name of Jesus Christ…”

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 teaching this at our Women’s Breakfast at church.


Revelation vs Resolution

Happy New Year 2019

Happy New Year! As the calendar takes on a new year, we flip through the pages, the empty pages indicating days yet to be lived. Those 12 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 and the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, these are all a good plan of attack for a new season in life. 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 make 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 be something other than we are, that we seek … revelation? As we stand at the door of 2020, may we truly position ourselves to seek a fresh revelation of our God. PRIORITIZING God and His word (we seem to neglect what we don’t prioritize). And as we read through our bible, may we see new qualities of God that cause us to take pause and be in awe of Him – see areas He wants growth in our lives …yield and surrender. May we seek 20/20 vision in clarity and sharpness in our view of God – with this revelation, making a firm decision to take action to learn and accept more of His love, trust His hand and bow more in gratitude of His mercy and grace.

We ask, INVITE You, Lord, show us.

I pray over us as Paul did, “For this reason, 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.” – Ephesians 3:14-21

Revelation.

A hardy blessed Happy New Year to you!

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