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Hungry

Junk piling

Remember the old adage “Don’t go to the grocery store hungry.” Meaning; hunger, and thirst will pile stuff in the cart we do not need. Although that is a good plan for shopping and our budget, yet it does not apply when coming to the Lord. Multiple times, by many authors, using different metaphorical imagery, scripture tells us to come to God hungry and thirsty!

Jesus teaching the crowd says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) This is not only a promise but an invitation. And again, in John 7, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” (v37) King David, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for you...” (Psalm 63:1a)

Have we noticed after dinner, when relaxing and watching TV, when a commercial comes on of a giant juicy burger, since we just ate and fully content – it has no appeal! So, taking that concept, if we are not hungry or thirsty for God – WHAT fills us? What throughout our day are we snacking on? What or who ruins our appetite for God? A good way to gauge when something is wrong or not healthy is when we lose our appetite altogether. It is the same with the presence of God and our lack of interest in His word.

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 – organic matter. 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. God initiated this for mankind, now we by invitation, in turn, seek that breath.

For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)

What are we filling ourselves with? (Point to ponder).

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

Deep

deep

When researching a topic for Bible study, I got squirreled and have no idea how I came upon an article that spoke of deep drilling known as ‘fracking.’ Intrigued. Before I knew it, I was knee deep in engineering terminology, dirt, rocks and water. This information however would soon become quite valuable.

Over the course of the last few months, even a year (or seven) my fire and passion for God has increased and after reading these articles I see God is doing Spiritual fracking in me. Industrially, it is defined (in short) as using large quantities of water under pressure to fracture rock, creating cracks, thus releasing the valuable substance of natural gas or petroleum.

With the emphasis of fracking being under pressure, I feel God has been using large quantities of His Spirit under pressure to pierce, crack and smash through my below the surface, rocky places.

God is not in the business of simply white washing over us, He is in the business of deep work. From the inside out. Paul speaks of this: “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering (God fracking) produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4 Emphasis mine of course) What process, what PURPOSE!

The word Paul uses to mix with this process is fascinating. The word for suffering (other translations: tribulation, trials and problems) literally means pressure, to squeeze. Paul says pressure produces the ability to remain in and under. Liken to holding tight a bandage over a deep wound, so you don’t bleed out. Pressure applied secures and holds the process in place. It is here where grace abounds!  It is here we grow, where His Spirit is released in and through us and here character is built. Paul talks of the consistent struggle between the flesh and God’s Spirit in us and yielding and allowing full access of the Spirit in our lives, matures His qualities in us, expressed as the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:6-26).

How often do we go to any lengths to escape pressure? May we not wiggle out from under it and literally sabotage our own growth process. I may not invite all this, but I am learning to not refuse it, all that I am, all that I do. I am allowing a deep dealing, deep drilling and deep dwelling of the Spirit of God.  You?

Deep.

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

*Please know, in my reading, I am aware of the controversy of fracking to the environment, I am only emphasizing the value of it’s method in the environment of my heart.

Flexible Bending

whats new

One time at Bible Study, as the gals were coming in, I handed them each a colored card with a number on it.   The only instruction given, “Find your number at a table that corresponds and that will be your seat for tonight.” Feeling like a Flight Attendant, I did so with a big smile, (yet refrained from the urge to nod and quote the “B-bye, B-bye”).

To make things just a bit more interesting, I changed the furniture around as well and moved the snacks and drinks to different locations. What they were being told did not match what was familiar. What they were used to, the routine, what was comfortable was indeed different. Yes, that night at bible study was unique for sure.

We were studying the book of Hebrews and I wanted them (if not only in a very small way) to understand what the Jewish Christians may have experienced. They too were being told to do something different, what was routine had now been changed, their comfortable was being challenged.

The Pastor of Hebrews taught that regardless of tradition and what their comfortable religious belief and routine were, (Moses and all) Jesus is much more excellent! His covenant and promises – BETTER. He as High Priest and His blood sacrifice – greater and more perfect than the lifestyle steeped in rituals. THIS ran the Jewish Pastors fingernails across the Torah blackboard; it hit a nerve, contrary to all they had been taught.

Yes, different. They (and our women) had to believe that this ‘NEW’ was a good thing. They were learning to be flexible, to bend to the God stuff, embrace and have a change of heart – trusting Jesus over ancient law and tradition.

Perhaps on a smaller scale, we are being challenged, God is calling us to something new, a lil unfamiliar and unknown, taking us beyond our routine and having us embrace His stuff – and it is good.

Flexible bending.

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)

Christmas Peace

Peace Ornament

Christmas. Just the word alone brings a soft glow to the soul. Warm crackling fires, hot chocolate and watching Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey yelling “Mary!” as he runs through the old drafty house. A peaceful experience.  Peace.

Christmas peace, Luke 2:14, when the angels appear to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men...”  Peace had come to earth.

Biblical peace (in the Greek) is ‘to set at one again’ – think about the picture it paints. Something that has once been erected has toppled over. Chaos, strife, irritation, unrest even war are the results. Once it is set back, PEACE is the result; all is in its rightful place. Remember Adam and Eve sinning in the garden?  (Thanks guys!) The original design, ‘God and man’ had been ‘toppled over.’ Gone were the daily walks together in the garden. Now Jesus came, setting things back in the right place, God and man in right relationship.  It may not be the Garden,  but God again walking with us. Emmanuel, oh the ‘with us’ of God!  Jesus, peace on earth. Peace is a Person. (Side note: Ever consider, it was in a garden, God’s will was addressed – Adam & Eve messed it up – Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane chose & walked out fulfilling God’s will).

Peace is not only a Person, but a position. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace …for through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:13,14) We are now back where we were originally designed to be, full access to God, able to come into His presence.  Paul declares this point, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)    Peace is position

Because of our sinful nature and our perpetual continuing to do so, John strongly declares “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Interestingly, this was written to CHRISTIANS, yup, you and me. As we confess, we are saying the same thing about our situation that God does.  We are now in full agreement; we realign with what God says.   In this process, we are taking what was ‘toppled over’ returning to the original design and bringing Jesus back to His rightful peaceful place. We mess up, we get cleaned up. Peace restored. Peace is a process.

Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders…” Now consider Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ RULE in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Does Christ take the rightful place on the throne of our life? Here’s a dandy thought: We will know peace to the degree that we bow to Jesus’ authority. It is NOT about peaceful circumstances, it’s about Jesus being the center of our life. Peace is a posture, a bowed, get OFF the throne, allow Jesus prime seating – posture. Ours is a guarded posture. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

This Christmas as we sing and sway with the Hoo’s in Hooville, rip open the gifts under the tree, and read PEACE across our Christmas cards, may we pause and consider whole heartedly, the Person, position, process and posture of peace.  Yes, Peace had indeed come to earth, and He-is-KING.

Can I get an AMEN!

bowling

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

* For Jeff, who stepped into God’s loving arms this week, after his struggle with cancer, he is at peace.

 

Gifted Myrrh – NOT the White Elephant

The 3 Magi.jpg

Christmas, a time of sharing, loving and gift-giving.  We are in the season of gift-hunting, we may not have anything in mind, but there is hope of something jumping off the shelf and literally wrap itself with a glorious bow and going headlong in our cart.  (Ok, perhaps that’s MY form of hopeful shopping).

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 seem less significant items to be had in the excitement.  Gifts.  Consider if you will, (imagine with me) the Magi as they prepare for their trek out to find the child to whom the shiny Star belongs. 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 “Dude, 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? Gold, we have that one down. Frankincense is ground dried up tree sap used as incense.  And myrrh, what is THAT?

The divine significance of myrrh: It too comes from the sap of a tree and used in the divinely prescribed anointing oil of the Tabernacle and the priests (Exodus 30:22-23).  It was the perfumed oil poured over Jesus’ feet (John 12:3, Matthew 26:12: The ointment or costly perfume is ‘myron’ which is myrrh-oil).  It was used 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 (took the Magi some time to get there – no GPS), Jesus and 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, Jesus our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The same perfumed oil poured on His feet as a grown man, those feet that would one day hang on a cross and be pierced. The oil added to the spices wrapped around His body following His death.  He 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, 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 learned principle, a person no longer lonely – gifts given in Jesus name – the gift that keeps on giving.

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

Photo credit Jan Pashley http://www.janpashley.co.uk/ (Love her work)

 

Immanuel

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Immanuel.  This time of year, we sing with a resounding ‘O come, O come Immanuel…” and it is written in beautiful font lettering across our Christmas cards. 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 Immanuel.  Whether it is walking in the Garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8) the pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:22) or sandaled feet in Galilee (Matthew 4:18) or gloriously residing within us (1 Corinthians 3:16) The God who dwells with us, among us and in us – God is Immanuel.

Immanuel is first mentioned in Isaiah (chapter 7) within a strong warning to King Ahaz to get his act together in the midst of political uprising and trust that God is with them – but the guy chose poorly. Isaiah prophecies: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will be called Immanuel.” (v14)   As we know, God’s people were quite fickle in their love, trust, and obedience, causing them to do what was right AND evil in God’s eyes, they STILL didn’t fully comprehend God’s presence.  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 gives narrative: “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 Emmanuel – 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!  This holiday season, as you consider Immanuel, step up, lean in, look to the far left, back to the beginning and then follow the timeline all the way to where YOU now stand and then continue to the right, following the thread into eternity as declared from the heavenly throne, 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 isGod with us.’ So beautiful, so comforting – Immanuel.

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 ultimately are because of 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.

 

Giving Presence in the Present

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Christmas and gift-giving, standing among all the stuff, the noise and the chaos.  Christmas has become somewhat of a plummeting oneself into the art of either grab and go at the store or park yourself in front of the computer and let your fingers do the shopping, ‘Click‘.

Swirling inattentive, not really there, moments.

How often are we somewhere else when we are with people or in circumstances or perhaps even in church?  Our bodies may be present but by golly, our minds are full of grocery list writing or a prior situation or while someone is talking to us, we are busy formulating our response.  WHAT did we miss?

Be in the moment.

In Exodus (the theology of Exodus is Presence) Exodus 24, God called Moses up the mountain, “The LORD said to Moses, “”Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” (v12, emphasis mine, NKJV). For 40 days Moses was there, on the mountain, in God’s presence.  Eight chapters worth of divine instruction was given.  Moses was there.  Many translators interpret God telling Moses to ‘stay there’ or ‘wait there.’  Yet a 19th-century Rabbi wrote from a different perspective which I adore.  He explains that ‘there are times we go to a place and not actually being there, simply saying: we can exert ourselves getting to a destination, yet when we arrive, our thoughts remain at the original point of departure.  The Rabbi imagined God was telling Moses not only come up the mountain but – be fully there, with complete attention, concentration – leaving all behind.’* Can you imagine how the story would have played out if Moses was distracted, thinking he forgot to blow out the candle in his tent or was busy taking in the view from ‘way up here, OH WOW, Aaron and all are so small’ all the while God’s talking and has to say, “Moses, over here, eyes HERE, pay attention, you’re going to want to hear this, know this!”

May we too be there, this holiday season and every day – be in the moment. Giving folks or our situation complete attention and concentration.  It is a gift we give to others and ourselves when we are giving presence in the present, full-on presence.  And may we pay close attention and not allow our mind to wander (even when we read God’s word) we don’t want to miss anythingwe may need to hear this, know this!

Let’s look the bell-ringer in the eye, tell the cashier “Merry Christmas” while using their name and reciprocate a firm handshake or hug and pay close attention to the details of what others are telling us.

Presence.

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

*Lois Tverberg, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus –  I had the privilege of being on the original launch team for this book, I highly recommend it.

Image credit: scottberglan.org