Saturday, April 30, 2011

Some Angelic Thoughts

“ministering spirits”
Hebrews 1:14

Have you ever seen an angel?  

Not this kind:

No, I mean a servant or messenger of God.

Have you ever seen one, or maybe think you have?  If so, what did he… she… um… what did the angel look like?  I’m guessing there were no wings, no fancy robe, no harp….

Scripture gives us not much in the way of a description of angels.   We might think they are awesome or somewhat fearful, since their first words to men are often, “Do not be afraid.” But is that because they are fearful, or because the person they are visiting is in a situation that frightens them?  And Michael seems like one tough dawg ~ excuse me:  archangel ~ based on the battle in Revelation 12.

Mostly, when we think of angels, we think of something like this:

But Scripture implies that angels are not always obviously spiritual beings.  In Genesis 19, Abraham’s nephew, Lot, invites two angels to spend the night in his home, thinking they were just men.   In Numbers 22, Balaam’s donkey saw an angel that Balaam didn't even know was there.  And Hebrews 13:2 tells us to be sure to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have shown hospitality to angels, without knowing it.

And then recently, I came upon today's highlighted verse, Hebrews 1:14 ~  “Are angels not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” and I found myself focused on the word “ministering”.  What does that mean, “to minister”?  The dictionary says it means to “attend to the needs of; to provide for”.  But that seemed so... meek.  I mean, for an angel.   Angels are either supposed to flit around playing songs of worship, or they are fierce warriors of God.   Or sometimes we hear stories from friends, or from the internet, of guardian angels who have rescued someone, or protected them.  Psalm 91 says "He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways."  But ministering?  That sounds like bringing a casserole, or sitting next to you when you’re crying… patting your shoulder and saying, “there, there” a lot. 

Two years ago, my family went to Washington DC, and as you probably know, seeing all the things there is to see in DC requires a lot of walking.   Additionally, DC requires a lot of hurrying, as there’s always more to see than there is time to see it.  Well, one day we were hurrying from one place to another, walking a couple blocks to get there, and my poor Awesome Girl was getting a terrible blister on her foot.  I think she’d forgotten socks, and her tennis shoes were beginning to get to her.   But we were in a hurry, so I just keep urging her along, promising that as soon as we got to the museum, I’d find some sort of information booth, and get a band-aid.   But until we got there, she was just going to have to tough it out.  Oh, and can ya move a little faster, we’re trying to stay on schedule!  (Poor thing.  I’m a pretty strict cruise director when it comes to vacation itineraries….)  So she’s crying, and I’m getting irritated, because frankly, there is nothing I can do to solve this problem!  I’m sorry that I don’t have a band-aid, but I don’t!  I can’t make one materialize out of thin air!  (Although once, I did create a band-aid for her out of a bit of torn Kleenex, and some stickers from In-n-Out Burger that I found in my purse.  That’s probably why she couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t solve her problem this time.  I’ve set a standard for myself I can’t live up to….)

Finally, in desperation, I pulled her away from the sidewalk and sat down on a curb.  Not in the street, but in the parking lot of the Federal Bureau of Bureaucracy or the National Department of Red Tape.  Or something like that...  Right between two cars, where we could have a little privacy.   And I said to her as clearly as I could, that I was very sorry, but I simply did not have a band-aid, and I knew she was in pain, but all we could do was keep walking until we got to the museum, and then I would do my very best to solve her problem but for now would she please just do the best she could so that we could get there?

And right then, the window rolled down on the car next to us. 

Um.  Hi.  (*feeble smile*)


I was so embarrassed.  Don’t mind me, I’m just Jane Q. Tourist from Suburb, U.S.A., sitting on a curb, having this weird conversation with my daughter.  I, um, didn’t know we had an audience…

But before I could say anything, he smiled, and reached his hand out the window, and said, “Here you go.”  And he handed me a band-aid. 

Now, you can believe that on that June day, in the middle of the morning, we just happened to sit on the curb of the parking lot of the office building that just happened to be the location of the one car that happened to have an occupant that happened to have a band-aid.

Or you can believe that angels are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister. 

I know what I believe.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Best Laid Plans.... Literally!

"the plans I have for you..."
Jeremiah 29:11

For a lot of people I know, Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite, oft-quoted verse.  There is nothing more heart-warming and reassuring than to know that the Creator of the Universe ~ the Lord of lords and King of kings ~ loves us.  In a way, it seems like we should be surprised He even knows our names!  But more than that, He loves us deeply, and He has plans for each of us.  Beautiful plans.  Plans we can hope in and take joy in, even if we don't know what they are.

A week before my 40th birthday, my husband, with the help of my mom and my sister, threw me a spectacular celebration.  Ordered a limousine, flew my two sisters, my brother-in-law and my nephew out to California.  Arranged for the limo to take us to pick them up, along with my parents and eight friends at three different locations, and then to the restaurant, where my in-laws and all the husbands of all my friends were waiting.  Balloons, flowers, goody bags at every place setting…    And of course, the whole thing was a surprise. 

I thought we were going to a friend's house that night, until the doorbell rang, and a man in a suit stood on the porch, and behind him was the biggest limo I’d ever seen.  I said, “I’m sorry, you’ve got the wrong house.”  But he asked for my husband, and when I turned, there was my Sweetie, with a smile on his face.  And all he said was, “Get in the car.”  My kids were as perplexed as I was, and kept saying to me, “Mom, what’s happening?  Where are we going?”  And all I could do was grin, and say, “Beats me.  Let’s get in the car.”  I had absolutely no idea what was planned, but I completely trusted the one who had made the plans.  And it was sweeter and more special than I could have imagined.  

So, too, are God’s plans for your life more spectacular than you can imagine.  Leviticus 26 says, “I will give you rain in its season… the trees of the field shall yield their fruit… you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.  I will give peace in the land… You will chase your enemies and they shall fall by the sword before you… I will look upon you favorably and make you fruitful… confirm My covenant with you… set My tabernacle among you…. I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.”   We need to believe that His plans for us are better than anything we could ever plan for ourselves.

I trust that He has a plan for my life, and I’m planning on trusting Him.  What's your plan?

~ "For I know the plans I have for you," 
says the Lord, 
"plans of peace and not of evil, 
to give you a future and a hope." ~
Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's better than being called a worm

"sent into the world"
John 17:18

Okay, now this is either gonna fascinate you or horrify you.   You'll either be inspired, or you'll have the heebie-jeebies.   Or maybe both....

We are compared to many things in Scripture.  We are often called sheep, but we are also compared to a worm, a branch and salt.

Well, today my Awesome Girl (who'd been watching Animal Planet, as you could probably guess...) told me about an intriguing creature that I think is a wonderful illustration of how we are to be, on this earth.  It's called the Diving Bell Spider, and it lives its entire life underwater.  It breathes oxygen, but lives underwater.

How does it do this?  It builds itself a little bubble (its "bell") which contains the oxygen it needs to live.   And it does that by surfacing frequently, and getting oxygen, then bringing it down to add to its bubble, building it little by little.

How does a creature live in an environment that's not meant for it?  In an environment that deprives it of what it needs to live?  Because it's protected.  The spider might be in the water, but it's in oxygen, in the water.

While Jesus was on earth, He prayed to His Father in heaven, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." (John 17:15-16)

We are in the world, but we are not to be of the world.   And how do we do that?  The same way the spider does.  Get what you need from above, and surround yourself with it.   And the secret to that is John 17:17, one of my favorite verses.  Jesus continues His prayer, "Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your Word is truth."

If we surround ourselves with Him, we will not only thrive in this environment, we will be a blessing to others.

~ "As You sent Me into the world, 
    I also have sent them into the world" ~
John 17:18

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sow what?

"the interests of others"
Philippians 2:4

I went to a funeral recently, and one of the hymns we sang was "The Prayer of St Francis."  It's a beautiful prayer, and one of my favorite hymns.   Although it's impossible to trace it accurately back to St Francis of Assisi (who lived in the 13th century), it has a long and impressive history.   It was widely prayed during World Wars 1 and 2; it has been used in speeches by people from Mother Theresa to Nancy Pelosi; it has been sung by various artists; and it was used in the movie "Rambo" and at the funeral for Princess Diana.  How's that for diversity?

The main part of the prayer goes like this:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. 
Where there is hatred, let me sow Your love.
Where there is injury, Your pardon, Lord.
And where there's doubt, true faith in You.

Make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, only light.
And where there's sadness, ever joy.

Wouldn't you like to bring into any situation that which was missing?  To walk into a situation where people are trouble, and bring peace?   To bring hope to someone in despair?  Often we try to do that, when we know it's what's needed, but what about just having that effect and not even knowing it?

I was actually able to do that for my Amazing Boy recently.  He'd been at baseball practice, and I came to pick him up.   He was hot and tired and hungry, and as he was walking towards the car, I smiled at my sweet boy, and then when he got in, I said something like, "Hi, darling!"  That's all.  I didn't go out of my way to bring him what he was missing at that moment.  I didn't even know what he was missing at that moment.  I just shared what I had to offer ~ love and joy at seeing him.   He commented how nice it was to be received that way.  To be greeted by a smiling face, and expressions of sweetness and love.

This should be my desire.  My prayer.  Every day.  That God would use me to love others; to edify them; to make their situation better, even if I have no idea what that situation is.  Because if I'm not sowing things like peace, hope and light, then what am I sowing?

~ "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, 
but also for the interests of others." ~
Philippians 2:4

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Even better than a Klondike Bar....

"the sufferings of this present time..."
Romans 8:18

Do you remember those commercials:  "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?"  People gave answers like: "bark like a dog," or "stand barefoot in a bowl of cold oatmeal" or whatever.   In exchange for chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream.

They're good, though.  Those Klondike bars.  I'm makin' myself hungry for one right now... But that's not hard for me to do where ice cream is concerned....

I'm reading a book about the World War II generation.  And the author is mentioning how his father, who fought in France, rarely talked about what he did in the service.  Partially because there were experiences he didn't want to relive, but also because there was a certain amount of modesty to that generation.  They did what had to be done, because they felt it was their duty.  Talking about it would seem like boasting, and they weren't comfortable with that.

I'm gonna make the Klondike/WWII connection in just a moment.... stick with me.

But the author's father summed up his war experience in this way: "When I look back on it now, it was worth giving up three years of my life rather than be ruled by someone like Hitler."

I stopped reading for awhile, when I read that sentence.  There is so much clarity there.   Wouldn't you; wouldn't I, give up three years of our lives, in dangerous and difficult circumstances, rather than be ruled by someone like Hitler?   Of course we would!  When you put it that way, there are a lot of things that would make that worth it.  It was worth it to the soldiers, sailors and airmen; it was worth it to the factory-workers, building those airplanes and battleships as fast as they could, the best they could.  And it was worth it to the families here at home.   Though they didn't know at the time how bad it might get, or how long it would last, I really think they knew that what they were going through was going to be worth it.  It was a price they were willing to pay, both to stop Hitler, and those like him from advancing farther; and to push him back from the land and lives he'd already stolen.

What does that mean to you?  What, in our lives, is worth what it cost us?   Is a gold medal in the Olympics worth the practice and training?  Yup.  Is a diploma worth the effort and time of classes and homework?  Yup.  Months of pregnancy and hours of labor?  Worth it.

And that can be said of any experience God has us walk through.  Good, bad or ugly, everything we go through has a point.  Nothing is wasted.   And knowing that... is what's called hope.  Colossians 1:27 says, "Christ in you, is the hope of glory".   What a promise that is!

If you're not walking through a difficult time right now, then either you've just finished, or it's right around the corner.  Walk through trials knowing they will be worth it.    There is joy in hope!  And that's way better than ice cream!

~ "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time 
are not worthy to be compared 
to the glory which shall be revealed in us." ~
Romans 8:18

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Day Death Died

"more than conquerors"
Romans 8:37

Do you make New Year's Resolutions?  I will encourage and admire and support those who do, but I'm really not a resolution-maker.   I think we set ourselves up for frustration and failure when we decide that it's the one day to fix everything that's wrong with our lives.

Actually, truth be told, I just don't really have a lot of will-power.  Experience has taught me that I'm really not gonna be able to keep any resolution longer than about two weeks....  But I prefer to tell myself that it's because I am not constrained by the chains of this culture that tells me that January 1st is the day to become the "new" me.  Well just forget it!  No one's gonna tell me how to live my life!  Who's with me!  Yeah!  It's just society trying to tell us what to do!  Right?!  It's just "the man" tryin' to keep us down!  Heck no, we won't go!  U-S-A!!  U-S-A!!

Okay... it's out of my system....

But obviously, regardless of my feelings about New Year's resolutions, I'm not the same person I was ten years ago... or twenty.... or five....  I give the credit for that to God, but it was not without effort on my part.   Sometimes, when God sees some way in which we need to be "pruned," He gives us the experience or the trial we need for Him to accomplish that.   Other times, however, he shows us something that we need to work on, and it's up to us to make it happen.  He'll help, if we ask, but if we want to stop smoking, or start riding our bicycle to work twice a week, we have to take the necessary steps.

So with that in mind, I try to be aware on a fairly constant basis ~ with highs and lows, of course ~ of things I need to be changing.  More praying, less anxiety... more serving, less television... more dark chocolate, less green peppers...  And then once I've identified something I want to work on, I have lots of choices as to when to begin working on it.  New Year's Day is not the only day that's a good time to start a new routine or make a new effort.  How about the first day of the week?  How about the first day of a new season?  How about a full moon?

Well, as I sat in church on Easter, it occurred to me what a wonderful new beginning that day represents.  Easter Sunday has been called "The Day Death Died".  Doesn't that seem like the perfect day to "put to death" any issue that's had a hold on you?  Maybe you're finding yourself too often anxious about the world today, and the future it promises.  Maybe you're more dependent on your paycheck for security, than you are on Him.   Maybe you're not treating your body as the temple of Holy Spirit that it is.  Well, there's no better day than to celebrate new life.   Death has been conquered, and with it, any power the enemy had in our lives.   What better way to celebrate Jesus' resurrection than to revitalize our love for Him, and our desire to grow closer to Him?  Ask Him what in your life is distancing you from Him, and then put it to death.

~ "Yet in all these things, we are more than conquerors 
through Him who loved us." ~
Romans 8:37

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Just as He said

When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand.  And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him.  ~ Matthew 27:14

And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." ~ Luke 23:34

Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. ~ Mark 15:25

And there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. ~ John 19:26-27

But the other criminal said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom."  And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise." ~ Luke 23:42-43

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!" ~ John 19:28

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. ~ Matthew 27:45

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" ~ Mark 25:34

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His Spirit. ~ Matthew 27:50

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.
~ Mark 15:37

And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, "Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit."  Having said this, He breathed His last." ~ Luke 23:46

He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His Spirit. 
~ John 19:30

Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
~ Mark 15:38

And the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. ~ Matthew 27:52

So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, "Truly this Man was the Son of God!" ~ Luke 23:47

And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons. ~ Matthew 27:53

Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. ~ John 19:40

And they laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. ~ Mark 15:46

Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. ~ Luke 24:1

And behold there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door... His countenance was like lightning and his clothing as white as snow. ~ Matthew 27:53

"You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He is risen!  He is not here." ~ Mark 16:6

"Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here; 
He is risen!" ~ Luke 24:5

"Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for He is risen, as He said." ~ Matthew 28:6

He is Risen;
He is Risen indeed!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Blood, Sweat and Tears

"His sweat was like drops of blood"
Luke 22:44

I re-read, recently, the gospel accounts of Jesus' crucifixion, and what went beforehand, and something struck me in a  new way.  I was focused on this verse in Luke:  "Being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."  This is a detail mentioned only in Luke's gospel.  Why?  Luke was a physician, and his goal, as stated in the first chapter of his gospel, was to carefully investigate everything from the beginning, and write an orderly account, as only a physician could.

Sweating blood is a phenomenon that has been well-studied.  There is a rare condition called hemato-hydrosis, in which blood can come from the sweat glands during times of great stress or anxiety.  I'm guessing this is the scientific explanation for what happened to Jesus, but it makes it sound like it was an uncontrolled response on the part of His body, and I really don't think that was the case.

If you look through the Bible, in the places where blood is mentioned, you'll invariably find it has to do with one of three things:  sacrifices, battles, or water being turned to blood.  Jesus' agony, in the garden and on the cross, touches on all three.

Throughout Scripture, we see blood shed in battles, and Jesus' blood connects to these battles, because His death on the cross was the ultimate victory, though blood is still being shed, and will be shed in battles yet to come.  But the victory was won, and death was conquered by Jesus giving His life for our sins.

In Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, the priests are instructed to either sprinkle the blood of a sacrifice on the people, on the top and sides of the altar; and/or pour the blood on the ground at the base of the altar.  Jesus bled when He was scourged; He bled from the nails pounded into His flesh, and from the thorns driven into His head.  And in the garden, His blood fell to the ground with His sweat.

Exodus 12:21-23 "Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go at once and select the animals for your families, and slaughter the Passover lamb.  Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and both sides of the doorframe."  The sacrificial Lamb.  And did you know that hyssop was also used by the soldiers to quench Jesus' thirst as He hung on the cross?

The other context in which we see blood mentioned in Scripture, is of blood and water.  In both the Old and New Testaments, we see occasions of water being turned to blood, but do you remember when they came together at Jesus' crucifixion?   John 19:34 ~ "... one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water."

Jesus gave His own life, as it says in the gospels.  He called out in a loud voice, "Father, into Your hands, I commit My Spirit," and He breathed His last.  We know that He could have brought down angels to protect Himself.  He could have made His skin impenetrable.  He could have anesthetized His own pain.  But Isaiah prophesied, "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth."  And it came to pass.

But today's verse, in Luke, emphasized to me not Jesus' voluntary death, but His bleeding.  Because even though He bled from what the soldiers did to Him, first He gave up His blood.  The blood of the Sacrifice was sprinkled on the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane before the soldiers laid a hand on Him.  Theologian Charles Spurgeon wrote, "if one's cheeks pale, the blood has gone inward as if to nourish the inner man... but Jesus was so utterly oblivious of Himself that instead of His agony driving His blood to the heart to nourish Himself, it drove it outward."  That, too, was His choice.

1 John 5:6 says, "This is the One who came by water and blood ~ Jesus Christ.  He did not come by water only, but by water and blood."

Jesus said, "This cup is the new covenant, in My blood; do this whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me."  I pray that He will cause us to remember that His sacrifice was more than just death, it was a painful death, as was the agony that went before it.  It was the blood in the Garden, and the blood on the cross, all willingly shed, for us.

~ "When the centurion saw what had happened, 
he glorified God, saying, 
"Surely this was a righteous Man!" ~
Luke 23:47

Friday, April 22, 2011

David: king, shepherd and prophet

"All this was done that it might be fulfilled 
which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet"
Matthew 1:22

It's interesting to me that sometimes what gets me thinking, when I read the Bible, is something small, like a word or a verse.  I pause at a word or phrase that intrigues me, and maybe look it up in another translation, maybe even a dictionary, to give me a little more insight.

Other times, I can read a few chapters, and feel an overall sense of "hmmm...." about the whole reading.   Sometimes it's about studying a leaf.  Sometimes, it's a tree.  Today, I feel like I'm learning something from the whole cluster of trees...

My reading today in my "Yes-You-Can-Read-The-Whole-Bible-In-A-Year-If-You'll-Only-Stick-To-This-Schedule" Schedule had me in Psalms.  More than any other book, the Book of Psalms can give us that feeling of "I've read this dozens of times; why have I never noticed this before?"  They are so familiar, and yet there's so much more to them than meets the eye.

I read Psalm 22 today, and was struck by how many of the verses were prophetic.  It starts off with, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  They are David's words, but of course, they were also spoken by Jesus, as He hung on the cross.  As I read this Psalm today, many of the verses prophesied what Jesus went through, and how He felt.

Verse 2 ~ O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
     and in the night season, I am not silent.

Jesus cried out to His Father "in the ninth hour" which is 3 o'clock; the daytime.  But the previous night, He had prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and begged His Father, being in agony and praying earnestly, "If it is Your will, take this cup away from Me."  As David had, Jesus cried to His Father in the daytime, and in the nighttime.

V 3-5 ~ But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.  
Our fathers trusted in You, and You delivered them.  
They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

David's words in the previous verse had been about the pain of God's silence.  These verses are about trusting in Him even when He's silent, based on His past faithfulness.   Jesus trusted in His Father, and knew He would be delivered.

V 7-8 ~ "All those who see Me ridicule Me... 
"He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him!  
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!"

David said these words because he himself had been mocked.  As Jesus hung on the cross, the chief priests, scribes and elders fulfilled the prophecy in Matthew 27, saying, "He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'"

V 9-10 ~ You are He who took Me out of the womb; 
You made me trust while on My mother's breasts. 
 From My mother's womb, You have been My God.  

All of us can say that we have been His since before we were born; but we cannot say that He was ours.  None of us had the intelligence to claim trust of God right out of the womb.  For David, these words are symbolic of how long he had trusted God.  But Jesus and His Father are One.  That has never not been so.  

V 14 ~ I am poured out like water

For David, this was figurative speech.  For Jesus, it was literal, as John 19 tells us:  "one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out."

V 16-17 ~ They pierced My hands and My feet... 
They look and stare at Me.

I wonder if David was just writing as the Spirit led, and not understanding what it meant, and the ultimate purpose of the words?  Or was he really feeling these things, and choosing illustrative words as a poet would?

V 18 ~ They divide My garments among them, 
And for My clothing they cast lots

For David, again, this was figurative.  Imagine the callous, uncaring attitude of someone taking your clothes, when you are helpless and hurting, as David was when he wrote this Psalm.  Now picturing it actually happening to Jesus, as He died for the sins of these very soldiers...  John 19:23-24 ~ "Then the soldiers... took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic.  Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.  They said therefore, 'Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be.'  They said this that the Scripture might be fulfilled.  Therefore the soldiers did these things."  It is one thing for Jesus to fulfill prophecy.  It is entirely another for unbelieving, nameless participants to do so.  

The rest of the Psalm is praises to God, such as "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.  For the kingdom is the Lord's, and He rules over the nations."  It is David writing, but as I read this Psalm through the filter of Jesus, I can hear Him praising His Father in heaven.   And the words are prophetic not only because they are true, but because they have lasted ~ as His Word does ~ and they wait for us to speak them, too.  They are there for us to praise Him, acknowledge His sovereignty and mercy, because the words are the writing of the Holy Spirit, for David... for Jesus... and for us. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's your decision

"You have made me miserable... 
because I have made a vow...."
Judges 11:35

I saw an interesting story on the news today, which just happened to coincide with something I read in Scripture recently.  Amazing how often that happens... that something we've read or seen, coincides with what we've just read in the Bible.  So amazing, in fact, that I felt compelled to start a blog on the subject... as you probably know...   :)

The news story was about state governments trying to fix their budget problems, by increasing their fines for traffic violations.  Several states have raised them lately, the economy being what it is.  The reporter was in Los Angeles, interviewing people who had committed such infractions.  These were folks who were opting to do community service, because they couldn't afford the fines.  They, and even the reporter, seemed to be of the opinion that it was unfair of states to be hiking the fees.

But you know what?  It just didn't seem all that ridiculous to me.  I mean, they weren't charging thousands of dollars for these crimes.  It was something like, $200 for speeding.  In one case, the charge was $40 for a parking violation.  But because the fine used to be $20, they are incensed.   Yet all I kept thinking was, "You shouldn't have done it in the first place!"   They might be right; the fees might be unfair ~ it's a matter of opinion ~ but they had a choice in the matter.  Being fined was preventable.  Being fined was the consequence of their decision.

In chapter 11 of Judges, we read of Jephthah the Gileadite.  He was a mighty warrior, verse 1 tells us, and as he advanced against the Ammonites, he made a vow to the Lord.  Verse 30:  "If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph, will be the Lord's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."

Oh, man..... what are you thinking?  I appreciate how much you want this, and that you want to honor the Lord afterwards, but you are setting yourself up for disaster!

And sure enough, when he returned to his home, who should come out to meet him, but his daughter!  His only child.  When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh!  My daughter!   You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break."

Now, this man has just given his daughter a death sentence, because of his hasty and irrational vow, and his response is:  "Woe is me!"?  Woe is you?!  Where does he get the nerve to complain about the terrible consequences of his words?

The decisions we make have consequences.  If you decide to speed, even if you have a "good" reason, you risk getting caught, and paying a fine; and you risk getting in an accident, which could result in someone else's death.   Jephthah wanted to defeat his enemy, and he wanted it enough to risk whatever, so he decided to make a vow to ensure it.

Every day requires choices.  We make dozens of decisions ~ some good; some bad.   But all of them should require some thought and some prayer before we make them.  I'll bet if Jephthah had talked to God before making that vow, God would have advised him against it.   The more prayer goes into a decision, the less inclined we'll be to blame someone else for the consequences.

There are plenty of difficulties in life that are unavoidable, why set ourselves up for negative consequences we can avoid?  God doesn't want us to greet Him when we get out of bed, then ignore Him until we say "good-night".  He wants to be a part of our daily lives.  He wants to offer us His wisdom in our decisions.  Accepting that wisdom is the best decision we can make.

~ "Happy are these Your servants, 
who stand continually before You
and hear Your wisdom." ~
1 Kings 10:8

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A mystery explained

"Be on your guard!"
Acts 20:31

"Gideon, oh Gideon, oh have you met Gideon...."

Sorry.  That's really "Lydia".  From "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady".  Which is not even remotely Biblical, and has nothing to do with anything, except that any mention of Gideon puts that song in my head.  I don't even know why I know that song.  I think maybe the Muppets sang it...  What's the difference between a digression and rambling?

I was just wondering.

So I'm thinking about Gideon today.  His is one of the most remarkable stories in the Bible.  Many people who don't even know the Bible all that well, know the story of Gideon.

Gideon was assembling an army to fight the Midianites.  The army he was facing was much larger.  Scripture doesn't explicitly say, but scholars believe it was over 100,000.  Gideon's army was 32,000.  But God wanted to be sure that the glory went to Himself, so He decided to whittle down Gideon's army.

First, He had Gideon release "any man who wants to go home".  22,000 of them left, leaving 10,000.

But that was still too many.  So God had Gideon take the remaining men down to the water, and instruct them to drink.  The method by which they drank would determine who would stay, and who would go.  9,700 of the men knelt down, with their faces to water, and drank that way.  Only 300 men cupped the water in their hands, and brought the water to their faces, lapping up the water like a dog.  These were the men God wanted.  And for centuries, theologists have asked the question:

"What in the world was that about??"

Seriously, what kind of test is that?  Why didn't Gideon just send home everyone who can't tap dance?   Or keep just the ones who like dark chocolate?  And did God want exactly 300 men in Gideon's army, or just give-or-take?

At any rate, for years I have wondered about this seemingly arbitrary test on God's part.  Why this test?  What difference does it make how a soldier drinks?

Well, a few weeks ago, I got my answer.  I don't know if the reasoning was what God had in mind, but made so much sense to me.  And more importantly, it taught me a lesson.  And the fun part was that it was something I read, not in Judges, where the story of Gideon is (chapter 7), but in Acts of the Apostles.  They say that the best commentary on Scripture is Scripture, and there is nothing more fun for me than when one part of the Bible illuminates another part.

I was studying Acts chapter 20.  Paul was leaving the Ephesian church, and he had some words of wisdom for them.  In these words, he makes two points:  first ~ be on alert for yourself, and those you shepherd; second ~ build yourself up in His Word and through His grace.  And all of a sudden a light went on for me.  This was exactly what was happening with Gideon's men.  Soldiers need water.  It's critical to their health.  This is the "building themselves up".  But doing it by bringing the water to your face, instead of your face to the water, enables a soldier to be alert.  Head up, able to listen and look around.

Spiritually speaking, this is what is expected of us.  We are soldiers for Him.  And even in rest we are to be alert.  satan is looking for us to let our guard down.  So, yes, drink of the Living Water.  Refresh yourself in Him.  But keep your head up and remain alert.   And just as with Gideon's army, He will bring the victory, and He will get the glory.

~ "By the three hundred men, I will save you,
and deliver the Midianites into your hand." ~
Judges 7:7

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not even waiting for the "amen"....

"before he had finished praying"
Genesis 24:15

Man, I love those words... I'm not sure there are any better words in Scripture to illustrate God's love for us.  But before we celebrate that, let's go over the story.

I'm in Chapter 24 of Genesis (as you might have noticed from the verse location) and it's time for Isaac to be married.  So Abraham sends his trusted servant (probably Eliezer) to the land of Abraham's family, to bring back a wife for Isaac.  And we soon see that not only is Eliezer a believer in God, he is also devoted to his master, Abraham.  In verse 12, he prays a beautiful prayer that God will enable him to do what his master has asked:  "Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham."  I love that his idea of success is kindness to Abraham.  That's loyalty.

So he prays that God will show him who is to be Isaac's wife, and asks for a sign:  if he sits by the well, the woman that God intends will offer to give him a drink, and provide for his camels, too.  And before he was even finished praying, Rebekah appeared, with her empty water jar on her shoulder.

There's only one other place where I know of this happening.  In Daniel chapter 9, Daniel sees a vision, and he then prays to receive understanding of what he has just seen.  In response, the angel Gabriel appears before him, saying, "Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.  At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved."  I just love that line, "at the beginning of your supplications, the command went out."  It's the same concept as we see with Eliezer, and it's a good reminder to us of how effective prayer is.

Now, I know there are plenty of times when we pray, and the only response we get from God is chirping crickets.   And for days, or weeks, or months or even years after our prayer, we are still waiting for a response from God.  I know that happens.  But I think it happens a lot that God answers before we even finish praying, and we just don't realize it was Him.   There's a joke about a man driving down the street, frustrated because he couldn't find a parking place.  Looking up to heaven, he said, "Lord, take pity on me.  If you find me a parking place, I promise I'll go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life, and give up swearing."  Miraculously, a spot opened up right in front of the building.  The man looked up and said, "Never mind.  I found one."  It's funny, but there's something disconcerting about it, too.

Our prayers are precious to Him.  Revelation tells us our prayers are held in golden bowls.  So even when it seems that He is silent, you can know that the answer is on the way, before we're even done praying.

~ "the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders 
fell down before the Lamb, 
each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, 
which are the prayers of the saints." ~
Revelation 5:8

Monday, April 18, 2011

A slave serving her Master

"Be ready in season and out of season."
2 Timothy 4:2

Catherine Williams (later Ferguson) was a slave, living in New York City in the late 1700s.  She is famous for having begun a Sunday School for orphans and enslaved children, while she was yet a slave herself. 

She had had the idea for a long time, and when the time came for it to become a reality, she went to her pastor and asked for his help in making it happen.  But as the two of them planned the steps necessary ~ finding a building, obtaining the supplies, etc. ~ she paused, wondering how she would ever get her master to agree to allow her to do this.    He had owned her for her entire life, and had not been happy when she became a Christian, or when she expressed a desire to learn to read, that she might read the Bible for herself.   He felt these efforts were presumptuous, not knowing “her place”.

As I read of her concern over whether he’d give his permission, I immediately wondered why God didn’t orchestrate it so that her master granted her freedom?  Wouldn’t that make a great story?  A slave who becomes a Christian, despite her master’s reluctance, vows to open a school to teach slave children about Jesus, and miraculously, her master softens his crusty, self-righteous heart, and frees her to make her dream a reality??

Yeah... no.

Catherine Ferguson began her school despite being a slave.  With her master’s reluctant permission.    And I suppose that even though he didn’t free her, it was a miracle that he allowed her to teach.  But it would have been so easy for God to say the word, and free her

And while I pondered for the umpteenth time why God does what He does, it occurred to me how often He expects us to act, when we have a good reason not to.  Catherine Ferguson had a good reason to wait.  To say that God was calling her to open a school ~ sometime in the future.  I’ve done it.  You’ve done it.  And sometimes it’s true.  Sometimes He plants an idea in our heads, or gives us a calling long before it's time to make it happen.  

That's how it was for Moses.  In Exodus chapter two, Moses saw and Egyptian beating a Hebrew, and killed the Egyptian for it.  The call was right ~ deliver the Israelites from the Egyptians ~ but the timing was too soon. 

That's how it was for Joseph, too.  He correctly interpreted the dream that predicted that his brothers would bow down to him, but he was years ~ and six chapters ~ too soon.

We, on the other hand, sometimes have a tendency to wait.  To not do what we can do for Him and His people until we feel "readier".  Until we graduate.  Until our kids are in school.  Until we're through this trial.  But today's verse is about being ready.  The time is now.  If He's calling you to do something, you have no business interposing your timetable in the discussion.  It might be sooner.  It might be later.  But it will be in His perfect timing.  So be ready. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

God is not repetitively redundant.

"He sent and signified it"
Revelation 1:1

My Amazing Boy came into my room the other day, and I was reading the Bible, and he realized it wasn't my "regular" Bible, that I take to church and Bible Study.  This one I got from a pile of used books that a friend was giving away, and I took it so I could have a Bible in my bedroom.  Nice to just be able to grab one, if my other one is in the family room.  Anyhow, he all of a sudden realized I had more than one.  *Gasp!*  "You've got another Bible?!" I grinned and pointed out that while I have my "regular" one, which is New King James, I also have a New International Version in the family room.  Plus I have my French Bible, cuz Awesome Girl and I are taking French this year, so I thought it would be fun to learn some verses in French.  And I have a "Hawaiian Pidgin" New Testament, called "Da Jesus Book," ("God wen get so plenny love an aloha fo da peopo inside da world, dat He wen send Me, His one an ony Boy...") and then of course, there's the travel size Bible in my car...

The thing is, there can be fascinating variations in different versions.  Sometimes the differences are interesting, sometimes they are educational, or intriguing.  Such is the case with this verse today.

In the New International Version, Revelation begins with these words:  "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants what must soon take place.  He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John..."  But the New King James Version, instead of saying:  "He made it known," says: "He sent and signified it".   The wording seemed redundant upon first reading, but I try to question unusual things in the Word, not gloss over them. The word "sent" means "to communicate" and the word "signify" means "to communicate through a sign."   The dichotomy of this phrase reminds me of how God speaks to us ~ both with words and illustrations.   God's message to John was twofold ~ both verbal and visual, and anyone who reads Revelation realizes we are not just dealing with words, but stunning illustrations as well... golden lampstands and colored horses; emerald rainbows, and creatures that make you realize that the imagination of Dr Seuss is nothing compared to that of our Lord.

And I'm tempted to say, although I cannot prove it, that for every word in Scripture, He has also provided a situation to illustrate it.

~ Moses said, "Do not be afraid.  Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today."  And the children of Israel went on dry ground, through the midst of the sea.

~ Jesus said, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe, you would see the glory of God?"  And Lazarus, who had died, came out of his tomb.

~ My favorite example is John 1:14 "The Word became Flesh... and dwelt among us."  Jesus Himself is The Word ~ spoken, written, and read; and Flesh ~ living, breathing, speaking, laughing.

~ In verse 12 of the first chapter of Revelation, after John hears "a loud voice like a trumpet", it says:  "he turned to see the voice that was speaking".  This fascinates me.  You can't see a voice!  And I know some would say it's just a figure of speech, but I believe the wording is just as purposeful as "He sent and signified".  John had been present for the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain, and He heard God's voice that day.  And I believe that on this day, when John heard a loud voice like a trumpet, he turned, fully expecting he would see something glorious.  And when he did, when he fell at his Lord's feet, terrified, Jesus not only comforted him by speaking to him, but by touching him, as well.

James 2:22 says that faith works together with works, and by works, faith is made perfect.  That does not mean that our works prove our faith, but that our works are a natural result of our faith.  With works, faith is made perfect.  And so it is with God.  His "good works" ~ His miracles ~ are a natural result of who He is.  His words and His deeds, are His perfection.

So I need to ask myself, when I read, and pray, or sit in church or Bible study... when I strive to hear what He has for me, am I seeing what He has for me?  If I'm going to believe that He is Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides, do I then recognize that the unexpected check comes from Him?  As I cling to the promise that I can do all things through Christ, do I acknowledge that the gifts or skills that enable me, are from Him?  We need to hear His promises, His messages to us... but we also need to feel His touch, and see His works, and His manifestations of His glory.

In Matthew's version of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus says, "blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.  For I tell you the truth:  many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it."  May we, too, have ears to hear, and eyes to see.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Down, Dooby-Doo, Down Down...

"'I will bring you down,' declares the Lord."
Obadiah v4

Okay, I know that sounds depressing.  It sounds like a threat.  But I know God loves me, so when I read it today, it didn't sound like a threat, it sounded somehow.... compassionate.

The Book of Obadiah is only one chapter long ~ the shortest book in the Old Testament ~ and the message of it, in a "nutshell," is that God will judge unbelievers who persecute His chosen nation, Israel; and that God in His grace will deliver believing Israel.  For those of you who are allergic to nuts, that's the message "in a few words".

So in this book, God's threats to unbelieving Gentiles are.... well, threatening.  "I will make you small among nations; you will be utterly despised... Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever... As you have done, it will be done to you..."

But since I'm not an unbeliever, the words in verse 4, while prophetic, have something else for me.

Let's look at the whole verse:  "'Though you soar like the eagle, and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,' declares the Lord."  God never promised a lifetime of happiness and ease for His children.  "In this world, you will have trouble," He said.  And we know that trouble waits for us in many places ~ health, finances, difficult people in our lives, etc.  But I think sometimes the trouble comes from Him.  There are trials that have a point for us, so He does more than just allow them, He orchestrates them.

The last time my Awesome Girl had a volleyball tournament, she went on an amazing point streak.  She served several times in a row, and every time, they were great serves, and her team scored a point on them.  But after about a dozen or so of these, when she glanced over at her coach, he pulled her out, and subbed in someone else.  Amazing Boy was incensed for his sister, but I understood.  And when I asked her afterwards, so did she.  She knew that sooner or later, she was going to miss with a serve, and that streak was going to come to an end anyway, so she was fine with it.

I don't know what the coach's thinking was.  Maybe he wanted to take her out while she was doing well, and her confidence was high.  Maybe he was worried about what too many serves in a row would do to her shoulder.  Maybe he just wanted to give all the girls an equal chance to perform.   Maybe all of those.

When things are going well in our lives, we don't know why God "brings us down".  Maybe He wants us to take our minds off of what we are accomplishing, and put them back on Him.   Maybe He feels we need to "be still," and rest in Him, that we might not grow weary.  Maybe He feels we are getting prideful, and we need to be taken down a notch.  Maybe He just knows that difficult times grow our character, to be more like Him.

I know this, though:  it won't last.  His plans for me don't involve being permanently "down".  I will once again soar like an eagle, and make my nest among the stars.  In Him I hope, and it gives me strength.

~ "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, 
they will walk and not be faint." ~
Isaiah 40:31

Friday, April 15, 2011


Ooh.... you know you want to answer back....   "Polo!"

"seek Me and find Me"
Jeremiah 29:13

Did you ever play "Blind Man's Bluff"?  It's the dry-clothes version of "Marco Polo".  You wander around, blindfolded, trying to catch a moving target.... hopefully without looking too silly, or hurting yourself...  It's a game though, so for the escapees, there's the challenge of staying close enough to be caught, without actually getting caught.  And maybe while you're trying to move away from the outstretched hand, your voice, or the sound of your giggles are giving you away, until finally, the pursuer lunges, and you're tagged.

For the "blind man," however, the game is about focus. With the sense of sight gone, the "blind man" focuses on listening.   In "Marco Polo," you're allowed to call out and expect a response to help you.  But even without that, you can generally tell, maybe even just from the sound of breathing, that you are close to your prey.  And then, relying on instinct, good ears, and a little luck, you flail madly, and hopefully, come in contact with your quarry.

But are ya like me?  Do ya sometimes get the sense that obedience to God is a spiritual game of Blind Man's Bluff?  I know He's within reach, but I can't seem to come in contact with Him, and I don't know if I'm even close to what He wants from me.  It can be frustrating when I don't feel I know what God wants, or what He's doing.  Now, I know I probably rarely know what He's doing, but I certainly feel better when I think I know.  And I know that His Word speaks to life's most important decisions ~ faith in God, salvation through belief in Jesus as my Lord.... but it doesn't seem to help with questions like, "should I take this job?" or "which car should I buy?" or "what college should I go to?"  For these, we pray, we talk to people we respect, we find out all we can about the situation, and then, relying on whatever wisdom we've accumulated, and a little luck, we strike out.

But you know what?  Though the Bible never uses the word "college", it will lead you to the answer on where to go.  Same with other stuff, too.  Because it's the home of wisdom.  The more time you spend in Scripture, the more prepared you will be to make a Godly decision on the important stuff.

Jesus is the Word (John 1:14) so if you want to know what is on the mind of God, you need look to Jesus ~ in His Word.  Do you want to know the will of God?  Look at Jesus.  Do you want to know what is in the heart of God?  Look at Jesus!  Though we cannot see Him, He promises we will hear Him.

The One who called Abraham out of Ur, promising to fully bless him if he would follow Him in a life of faith, is the same One who today calls us out of the world, and promises to bless us, if we follow Him in a life of faith.

~ "You will seek Me and find Me
when you seek Me with all your heart." ~
Jeremiah 29:13

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Be Blessed... and Be a Blessing!

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens"
Ecclesiastes 3:1

I recently had a chance to spend some time with a class of young children were learning about the Bible.  They were pre-schoolers, ranging in age from 2-5, and it was so much fun to watch them interacting with each other.  One of the older children had her arm around one of the younger children, giving love as she'd seen her parents, and her teachers give it.

I spent five years teaching the Bible to children, and we often had classes that were made up of children that spanned a wide age range.  Sometimes mothers would complain, though, if their children were in a class with younger children.  They felt their child might be slowed in their learning if the pace was aimed at children younger than theirs.  Of course, those same mothers would be fine if their child was in a class of older kids, cuz that would stimulate and challenge them.  But someone's older child is going to have to be with your younger child, if your younger child is going to benefit from being with older children, ya know?

I've heard it said that everyone should have a Barnabas and a Timothy.  A "Barnabas" to encourage you (Acts 4:36) and a "Timothy" for you to encourage (1 Corinthians 4:17).  In the same way, everyone should have a mentor and a protege.  Someone from whom you are learning, and someone for you to teach.

Sometimes our seasons of teaching and learning are separated by time.  Other times, they are going on concurrently.  But if you spend too long doing just one or the other, you'll start to walk funny.  Well, not really, but you'll be unbalanced in your walk with God.  Are you fulfilling both roles?

Be a sheep... and a shepherd.  
Be a student... and a teacher. 
Be a leader... and a follower.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lion? Feh.... that's nothing....

"The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power"
Judges 14:6

This verse is referring to the legendary strongman, Samson, and is followed by a demonstration of this power.   Samson was come upon by a young lion, and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands.  (um... ew!)  It says it was as easy for him as tearing apart a young goat (um.... ew!) which also sounds pretty difficult to me, but then, the harshness of living in those times eludes me completely...

The Bible tells us many times that the Spirit of the Lord came upon someone, but I was struck by this phrase:  "the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power," and I began to wonder: in what other ways does the Spirit of the Lord come upon people?

For Solomon, the Spirit of Lord came in wisdom.  In 1 Kings 3, God came to Solomon in a dream, and encouraged him to ask for whatever he wanted.  Solomon's request was not for long life, or wealth, but for wisdom to govern with discernment.  This request pleased the Lord.  But truly, Solomon showed he had already been blessed with wisdom enough to know he needed wisdom!  Surely the Spirit of the Lord came upon this man in wisdom and in humility.

The Spirit of the Lord comes in gentleness.  I think of Mary, holding the tiny Baby; her Son and her King.  Every mother holds her first baby, with a certain amount of trepidation, and this could only been magnified by her circumstances.  Both the circumstances physically, of being in a lonely, barren stable, without a mother or a sister to aid her, but also, the spiritual circumstances.  This birth had been prophesied by the angel Gabriel, and now she held the Messiah in her arms.  The King of kings.  Yes, I am sure that Mary was a quiet, humble woman in whom the Spirit of the Lord came in sweet gentleness.

How does the Spirit of the Lord come upon you?  Upon me?  In wisdom?  In gentleness?  In power?

Many times I have prayed for wisdom, and as He promised, it has been given to me.

I have prayed for gentleness ~ as a mother, as a wife, as a teacher ~ and He has given me a vision of the Good Shepherd.

And power?  Well, I've never encountered a goat or a lion, by whom I felt threatened, but He has promised me that I have the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions, and to overcome all the power of enemy!  Nothing shall ever harm me!

Rejoice in the wisdom of God; the gentleness of the Good Shepherd; and the power of the Creator; and praise Him that His Spirit comes upon you!

~ "The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; 
His word was on my tongue." ~
2 Samuel 23:2

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chariots of Fire

"he saw"
2 Kings 6:17

When's the last time you read the Book of Kings?  There are some great stories in there.  In 1 Kings 18 is the story of Elijah taunting the prophets of Baal.  These poor misguided souls spent hours calling on Baal to bring down fire on their sacrifice, but of course, nothing happened.  So Elijah mocks them a little more, and then prays to God to bring down fire on his sacrifice, which, of course, He did.   There isn't a lot of sarcasm in Scripture, which makes it all the more entertaining when there is.

2 Kings 6 also has the story of Elisha retrieving a sunken axhead.  It had fallen into the water, and the man responsible was distraught, as he had borrowed it.  Elisha cut a stick and threw it over the place where the ax had sunk, and up it came.

And 2 Kings 13 is where we find the story of a dead man being buried in the same grave as Elisha.  Just by virtue of coming in contact with Elisha's bones, the dead man came back to life.  Amazing.

But this story is one of my favorites.  It's so applicable to life.  It challenges me.  And I like a challenge.  But I especially like a challenge that challenges me to do something I'm already doing.  Or I think I'm doing.  Or I am doing, but I'm doing it in an earthly way, and I'm challenged to do it in Him.  Or through Him.  Or with Him.  BYOP.  (Bring your own preposition.)

This is a story of battle.  Been in a battle lately?  Know anyone in a battle?  The King of Aram had sent horses and chariots and "a strong force" to capture Elisha.  They came at night and surrounded the city of Dothan, where Elisha was.  And when Elisha's servant got up the next morning, he saw the army, the horses and chariots, that had surrounded the city.  "What shall we do?" he asked of Elisha.

Elisha's servant was frightened, because of what he saw.  What do you see?  Headlines?  Gas prices? Your savings account balance?  Scary stuff indeed.  But Elisha saw what his servant didn't.  "Don't be afraid," he answered his servant, "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

"Those who are with us"?  There was no one with them!  It was just Elisha and his servant!

Verse 17:  "Elisha prayed, 'Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see."

Think the servant was looking with closed eyes?  I think not.  But God enables us to see more than we can see on our own.

"The Lord opened the servant's eyes...

... and he looked...

... and he saw...

... and the hills were full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."

So pray, and then look, and then see, what the Lord is doing all around you.

Or simply know that He is.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Up, Up and Away...

"Your heart will throb and swell with joy"
Isaiah 60:5

I got a lift today.  And I didn't even know I was down.  I woke up with a bit of a complaint.  You know how it is.  We all have something that's our chronic, or recurring whatever.  Maybe your back, or stiff joints, or headaches or something.... Anyhow, I woke up with mine, and it got me to thinking about "the thorn in the flesh".  Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 12 about his "thorn in the flesh".  It tormented him, and three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away from him.  But God's reply was, "My grace is sufficient for you; My power is made perfect in weakness."  So Paul learned to live with his thorn.

So I was thinking today about living with our thorns.  We all have something that weakens us, which is good, as it makes us dependent on Him.  And I wasn't feeling depressed or down or anything.  I was thinking about perseverance and getting my strength from Him.

But then I got a lift.  I mean to tell you, I was lifted.  Don't get me wrong ~ perseverance is a great thing.  God expects it of us.  And when the road is rocky ~ ooh!  Am I the only one who wants ice cream now??

Sorry.  Focus.  When the road that we're on is rocky, we have to concentrate very hard on taking the next step.  Very basic things require more prayer than they normally would.  And prayer is a good thing.  Being in His Word, just trying to please Him as we go from day to day.  Or even moment to moment.

The problem is, that when we're watching our footing, our heads are down.   When I am weak, I'm very aware of my weakness, which means I'm very aware of me.  I had a sweet experience today that reminded me ~ right down to my soul ~ how wonderful He is.

He is forgiveness, grace and mercy... and He loves me.

He is the Creator of the Universe, all-powerful, invincible.... and He's got my back.

The seas lift up their voice, the rivers clap their hands, the mountains sing with joy, the stones cry out their praise.... and I'm looking intently down at my feet??  Not today.  My soul is in the clouds, with Him, encircled by the rainbow around His throne.  Which is right where I should be!

~ I breathe, therefore I praise. ~