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Peace or Pit?

 

Life. Life happens. Have you ever come out of a foggy situation, tattered and a little bruised, (metaphorically speaking) your heart aches with disappointment in someone’s behavior?

Recently I was looking at the life of Joseph, the events that groomed him, the people who mocked and forgot him, and the God who delivered him. One particular verse danced off the page; “When the brothers saw that their father loved him (Joseph) more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” – Genesis 37:4

This story brings mental images of a colorful jacket, jealous brothers and a pit. “They … could not speak a kind word to him” seems to get lost in many of our Bible translations. In the Hebrew, the word is ‘shalom.’ The brothers, due to their jealousy and hatred could not speak peace to Joseph. In Hebrew thought peace is more than just the absence of war, it is health, prosperity, blessing and it can be rendered as safe. 

Fascinating, the lack of peace in this story.  The brothers turn tormentors, see Joseph from afar, and their deceitful plan is forever etched in history. First, they plan to kill him. Nope to harsh, (don’t we ALL rationalize) then they find what was convenient, a deep well. When in haste convenience seems to always trump wisdom! They strip him of his robe, the very thing that triggered all this emotional rage. They attempted to remove the evidence of his favored relationship, the gift from their father. It doesn’t say it in the narrative, but I imagine there was a lot of taunting going on, rude comments, jesting, a jab here and shove there, then the final shove leading to pit dwelling. After this, young Joseph was then sold to traveling merchants; a life of slavery overshadowed him.

Jealousy, bitterness and hatred withhold peace. Are we speaking peace to and over others, are we allowing them a safe place in our life? Are we doing our part to help them prosper, stay healthy and out of bondage… or not?  Perhaps we are overshadowing them with unforgiveness?  Is there someone who has what we want? Oh, it may not be the enduring love of a father, but perhaps our jealousy stems elsewhere. Are we acting out in pain hurting another due to our upset NEED for something?  Need to be proven right, the need to appear superior, or is it just plain bitterness. Are we giving them the gift of peace or throwing them into a pit.

Peace or a pit? Our choice.

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

Further study: See Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 12:14; Romans 12:18-21, 14:19; Galatians5:22,23; James 3:13-18; Colossian 3:12-15.

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Reason for Thanksgiving

Turkey, cranberries, dinner rolls, butter, mash potatoes, gravy, green beans, and salad.  (Breathe)  Dinner plates, napkins, silverware, glasses and a centerpiece.  THANKSGIVING!  I love this holiday, food – family – fun and football. A set time to pause, consider and ponder what we are thankful for.

Thanksgiving.  There are seasons that may be difficult to pull forward on the shelf of our life, something – anything to be thankful for. We may have lost a job or a loved one.  Or our bank account matches our emotional bucket of strength, empty.  Yet there IS something to be thankful for. You have a reason for thanksgiving.  The great Psalm of thanks opens with,  “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good…” (Psalm 136)  That alone is enough.

“Give thanks to the LORD for He is good. His love endures forever…”  The author found it needful to repeat ‘His love endures forever’ 26 times  throughout the rest of the Psalm.  This Hebrew word love is ‘hesed’ (heh-said).  It is used 248 times in the Old Testament.  Let’s take a look at each one (just kidding).   We know it biblically as mercy, goodness, loyalty and steadfast love,  even grace.  What a pivotal word, pivotal attribute.  Scholars find it extremely difficult to translate into English, because there really is not a precise equivalent word(s). In 1535 Myles Coverdale published the first complete modern English translation, in it he often used  ‘lovingkindness’ in place of hesed for the very first time.

This merciful (undeserved) love is enveloped in personal involvement and commitment to relationship.  God.  Basically it IS relationship.   With this, the Psalms poetically describe His lovingkindness is precious (36:7)  marvelous (17:7)undeserving (103) abounding (86:5)reviving (119:159)  satisfying (90:14) and everlasting (103:17).  God is the God of great attributes and God cannot change – He will ALWAYS be a God of love filled with mercy.  (Thankful yet?)

King David’s well known and beloved Psalm 23 (verse 6) “Surely goodness and MERCY will follow me all the days of my life.” Mercy – hesed.  This ‘follow’ is not a mere tag along behind, but pursuit.  David knows the concept of pursuit.  This Psalm is known to be written at the end of David’s life,  he once the shepherd, has now and is being Shepherded.  God’s unending – steadfast love full of mercy pursued David. That same mercy,  that same goodness pursues US!  He is unrelenting.  The divine love of God  is steady – sure – persistent and FULL of refusal to let go.  Aren’t you glad He does not let go!   Reason for thanksgiving indeed!  “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His love endures forever.”

As we share around the table amongst the laughter and love, the blessings of health and family,  may we  ‘give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting!’ 

Thanksgiving.

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

Suspicious 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.  Raising his eyes to mine, with a cherub like smile, 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 to count 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 away. I told him, it was ok, he now had enough, and I tried to match the tone in my voice with that of the kind gesture. 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 refusal. With instant worry there HAS to be something wrong, or WAIT, what do you want in return? Our society has become so ‘ME’ oriented, 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 heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…” (Colossians 3:12) we are not born with them; they are a CHOICE, a day-to-day, moment by moment ‘put on’ choice.

Kindness is the softer side of creation, the God in us peaking through with love and mercy. It is described by scholars that kindness is the inner heart attitude of tenderness, 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.” Godly kindness does not require a return on our investment. It is self-less-ness. We see, we feel, we do.  With so many differences among us, I fully applaud the words of Mark Twain, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

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 in the moment. Like the little boy with ice cream at the counter, 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)

A Simple “Thank you”

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Recently in Bible study, I had the gals play a game to help emphasize servanthood. Asking for volunteers, four women came up.  Two were asked to sit in chairs while the other two stood behind them.  I gave the seated gals each a gift-wrapped box (A VERY well, thoroughly wrapped box! And YES, I had fun tapping the boxes.) Also handing each gal a pair of thick oversized gloves. Giving them all the same instructions, we started with a hardy “Open …Go!”  Running those gloves over corners, across the top, turning over and down the sides, they prevailed.  While doing this, those standing behind gave encouraging cheers, “You got this!”  After a couple of minutes of attempting of what seemed the impossible, the gals were asked to trade places.  They too gave great attempt, working the tape, the paper, listening to their encourager’s advice, they acted.

Soon I bent over and gently handed the gift holder gals each a pair of scissors. With gloved hands, they began to cut, now with a little more headway.  Then stepping behind each gal, I whispered, “Take off the gloves.”  Doing so, those gifts were devoured. One gal got her box opened; its content was chocolate truffles, a great reward for all their hard work.  The second box was finally opened, in their box, taped to the bottom was a yellow sticky note that simply read, “Thank You.”  Servanthood.

So it is with us. We are all given the same God instructions – to sum it all up: “Serve Me, as you serve one another.”  (See Heb. 13:16, Ja. 2:14-17, 1 Jn 3:18, Matt. 5:16, Ro. 12:9-13, Deut. 15:11, Gal. 6:2)  The word serve conveys the apparent, ‘to do, to make.’  Yet it can be broken down to the simplest, caring for someone’s needs. Multiple times in the bible, folks gave volunteer titles of a servant.  Young Samuel, “Speak for Your servant is listening…” Paul, not only an Apostle, the great leader and trainer of the church, declares: “A bondservant of Christ…”  James, Jesus’ brother, the one who at first couldn’t quite get his head and heart around his older brother as the Son of God, said, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…”  Servanthood.

Our game taught us that at times as a servant, a God servant – we are given a task that at first attempt seems impossible. We hold it in our hands, rolling it around, looking for the best game plan.  All the while, others nearby cheer us on, spurring us on, their encouragement pouring into us.  Working as a team at times is invaluable. One pours, the other receives.  At times it is switched. (Team; Together – Everyone – Achieves – More.)

Servanthood may require we leave our comfort zone, stepping out, stepping up. The instructions may seem easier said than done, and there may be a few hindrances. (Thus the gloves) There will be times God whispers for us to shed hindrances, so we can thoroughly grasp His tool for the task. May we be so very careful not to be envious of others gifts and tools.  Motive checking is also a must (NOT easy) is our serving, following the instructions ONLY for the reward?  The reward may not be what we are expecting; we may get a simple “Thank you.”  A “Well done good and faithful servant.”  God gives us all gifts, these gifts (tools) are given FOR the body of Christ, not to be put in our back pocket for safe keeping, they are for use, creative use for one another.

“Open … Go!” Serve.

Servanthood.

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

 

Teach Me

Psalm 119 is one of the most poetic and beautifully written portions of scripture. Although offering no signature of authorship, many commentators are in agreement it was written by King David.  He being in the highest renowned position, the military leader speaks in reverent regard to God’s word. In these 176 verses, there is a repeated theme, Teach me.   “Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes.” (v12) “I recounted my ways and You answered me; teach me Your decrees.” (v26)  “Teach me, O LORD to follow Your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.” (v33)  Just to name a few.  If David inquired of the Lord to rule a nation, how can we not do the same to manage our everyday?  Teach me.

Having learned of God and His word has very little to do with IQ, (I’m a prime example) it has to do with teachableness.   Those who cry out for help, who seek, and those who ask. It takes posturing, positioning, attention, and preparedness.  Before I crack open my Bible, I always whisper, “Show me, teach me.” He never fails.

In a class room setting those who tend to be most eager for learning plant themselves in the front row, they position themselves to receive; they don’t want to miss ANYTHING.  Do we position ourselves?  Or are we back row folks, fully entertained by the distraction in front of us. (Which seriously CAN be entertaining, but that’s beside the point)  Solomon wrote, “A wise man will hear and will increase learning…” (Pro. 1:5) And “Give instruction to a wise man and we will be still wiser…” (Pro. 9:9)  Positioned to learn.

A wise professor stated the definition of learning as ‘Acquiring through training, new information or skill.’ (Lanny Hubbard) Learning new info and new skills causes us to think differently, we can do things differently.  We are now different people.  Learning means change.  When I come to God and ask “Teach me,” I am saying I want to change. I want to be a different person when You are done with me. Speak Holy Spirit! Teach me.

One of the most important elements of learning is listening. James says, “Be quick to hear and slow to speak…” (1:19) Do we contemplate what is being said, before we take off running with our mouth? Is there something I need to learn here?  Solomon, the wisest guy behind pen and ink wrote: “When you go into the house of the Lord, go in to listen…” (Ecc. 5:1) We go to church and ‘get our worship on’ which is great, BUT do we listen?  Are we so busy singing away at how we feel, that we fall short to listen? What might God want to say in that environment?  We are positioned, attentive… listen.

Most of our learning (if we are paying attention) comes in everyday life experiences. Jesus was a great example of this. Matthew 19, the story of the rich young ruler – Jesus tells him to go and sell all his possessions and give it to the poor.  As the young man walks away sad, Jesus IMMEDIATELY turns to the disciples.  Did you see that?  How hard it is for the rich to get into the kingdom of God.  He uses the moment, to teach them about the kingdom. Learning moments.    Mark 12, Jesus and the 12 are in the temple, watching the rich folks throwing their coins in the offering, up steps a poor widow gal; she drops her two coins in. Jesus tells the disciples, she just gave more than anyone in here. He used the situation to teach them. Notice He taught immediately.  He didn’t wait; He didn’t want the moment to pass to lessen the impact.  Help me Lord to see Your teaching moments.

Blind Bartimaeus got it right. (Mark 10) As Jesus and the guys, and the crowd come through town, he hears them and began to yell, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” He was told to be quiet – he yelled all the more.  (Go Dude!) Jesus took notice and asked him “What do you want Me to do for you?” He boldly said, “I want to see!”   Do WE ask, do we cry out to God.  Be bold!

As we go through this journey with Jesus, may we have a learning mind-set, and an open heart. A willingness to hear, heed and discover as He points and speaks.  May we position ourselves from distractions, keeping our focus on God and His word despite the loud world around us.  Let’s keep our learning grid large, not so small as to limit our expansion of knowing, knowing Him.  One of the most important keys to our learning is NOT to learn only for ourselves. (Read that again)  Learn today what a family member may need next week or a friend a year from now.  Be taught of God today, allowing Him to change us, that we become agents of change for others.  Today’s lesson may change someone else forever.

“Blessed are You, O LORD!  Teach me.”  Grant me the opportunity and the discipline to see, hear, learn and change.

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

 

* Thoughts and excerpts above is what I learned in a chapel sermon by Lanny Hubbard.

 

Do We Have the Best?

My devotional time is mostly spent reading word studies (I know, GEEK!) But I cannot tell you the understanding I receive after the original intent is explained, the language translated and the cultural setting painted.  Isaiah breaks out in praise…

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)

LOVE this verse. It gives direction; keep my mind focused on God. (see 2 Corinth. 10:5) It offers effect; my trust in God causes Him to keep me in His perfect peace.

Perfect peace. Interesting, perfect is not found in the Hebrew in this verse. Isaiah simply repeats shalom (peace) “You will keep him in shalom shalom…”  Hebrew grammar does not have comparative or superlative adjectives like good, better – best, to show degrees, often times the word is just repeated. An example would be if I were to say, “I love love chocolate than caramel.” Meaning, I love chocolate best. (Which I do)  So this peace, (meaning rest, healing, safety and security, even wholeness) is MORE.  God is our peace; He is our rest, healing, safety and security. He is. He is BEST.  His stuff is superior. Remember Jesus saying: Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27, emphasis mine) Jesus stuff is best.

Trust. This ancient word (batach) conveys the idea of glue, or as we would say today, weld. Welding is the melting of two pieces into each other, where the two pipes (if you will) intermingle. The idea is firmness and solidity. A journeyman welder would testify if the pipe were to break, the break would indeed be elsewhere than the connecting welding spot. THIS is what trust is, the melting of myself, mixed with God. Solid.

My challenge: As I keep my mind set and fixed on Him, allowing myself to be welded into God, then I receive the BEST. The best rest, healing, safety and so stinkin secure! Isaiah continues in the very next verse: Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” (v 4) THAT is some pretty solid God stuff.

How is our welding? To whom and to what are we welded?  What holds our attention, our imaginations and where might our break be?  Do we have the best?  Point to ponder.

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

* Geeky resources: Biblical Hebrew Studies, Chaim Benorah, Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, Complete Word Study Dictionary of Hebrew, Theological Word Study of the Old Testament, Vines Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, New American Standard Bible Dictionary of the Old Testament. Translations referenced: Hebrew Interlinear, NIV, NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV, NET, NLT and MSG for visual.

A Sifted Heart

 

It seems to be a creative movement, journaling. I’ve been asked if I do – nope, not really, I blog.  I write about what God is taking me to, through and about.  I spend many hours sitting in front of my computer studying, studying for upcoming ladies studies, researching for others and mostly going to the places God puts His finger on.  Recently in my quiet time, I felt compelled to go to 1 Peter.  It is always my goal to read the whole book in one setting, (granted if it is a small book.)  As I read through Peter’s writing, I had his image in my mind, the one displayed in the Gospels. Peter, the zealous jump out of the boat, speaks without thinking and swings without good aim.

But these writings are a mature Peter, a man not only zealous, but one of transformation and passion. He speaks of holiness, self-control and love. In chapter 3, verse 15, I stopped.  Being one who sees word pictures in my mind, this verse became 3D – in full Technicolor imagery. (Move over George Lucas, you’ve got nothing on the Holy Spirit!)

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”

Everything needs to be sifted through the reigning power of Jesus Christ, moving pass an intellectual understanding of God, to one of heart revelation. Let’s face it, in all reality if we KNOW it in our heart, THERE is where behavior, moral conduct, and righteous living happen.

Of the 1800s, Theologian Albert Barnes wrote: “In your hearts, or in the affections of the soul, regard the Lord God as holy, and act towards Him with that confidence which a proper respect for One so great and so holy demands.”

Do I have a sifted heart? Do I allow Jesus to RULE in my heart, to rule my heart?  Does my life behavior reflect my heart condition (or my words) declaring Him as Holy, as Lord? Does He take the rightful place on the throne of my life? Do I place HIM in the very center of my circumstances, where everything, everyone fall in line through …HIM?

God wants ALL of us, all of our heart, so much that He said: “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put My Spirit in you so that you will follow My decrees and be careful to obey My regulations.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

I am reminded of Thomas’ confession, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28) May we too see Him for Who He is, revere Him as holy.  Live for Him as holy.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”

I leave us with the song, ‘You Won’t Relent’ sung by Jesus Culture (Written by Misty Edwards)

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