Monday, January 22, 2018

Battling with the Strength of the Lord in the Elah Valley

As the rain poured down outside, we sat in the bus and looked out over the Elah Valley.  To the left, the hill that was occupied by the Philistines. 

Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah.  Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines.  The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them. 1 SAMUEL 17:1-3

To the right, the place where Saul and the Israelites would have assembled. And though now dry, the remains of a riverbed with smooth stones.

David, the youngest son of Jesse from Bethlehem,  a shepherd boy, had been anointed to be king of Israel by Samuel,

and from that day the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul and a harmful Spirit of the Lord tormented him.  1 SAMUEL 16:13-14

For Saul to be leading this battle knowing that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him must have been particularly difficult. 

For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand. 1 SAMUEL 17:16

Trying to lead in our own strength can be so defeating, feeling like we are battling a Giant Philistine, but not getting anywhere. In contrast, the young shepherd, David, who was engaging this giant Philistine with the Spirit of the Lord, and all the experience of protecting his flock, was able to easily defeat the Giant. 

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.  1 SAMUEL 17:45; 47-50

This image of the Giant taking his stand for forty days is powerful! When we're trying and trying, expending a lot of effort with no movement or results, could it be that we're operating without the power of the Lord? 

In these days, the Lord has already poured out his Spirit - the wisdom and strength of the Lord is accessible. Paul writes:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  EPHESIANS 6:12-18

My prayer is that, like David, you and I have a similar display of humble confidence in these times.  And, that we pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers ad requests SO THAT we will fearlessly make know the mystery of the Gospel. 

What battle are your fighting for which we can pray with you? 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The LORD Bless You

The LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
 the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you:
 the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace." 
 NUMBERS 6:22-27

The LORD bless you and keep you - the LORD is saying I adore you and will guard and protect you. Moses had seen years of the LORD's faithfulness and protection, so these words were familiar, however the next set of words brought about a new way of relating to the LORD! 

But then, the LORD said he would
make his face shine on you 

and be gracious to you... 

to turn his face toward you 

and give you peace...
I have to imagine that Moses' mind hearkened back the interaction he had with the Lord years earlier on Mount Sinai when the Lord put him in the cleft of the rock until his presence passed by... because no one may see the Lord and live.  While conversing with the Lord, Moses needed assurance that the Lord's presence would be with him, so Moses said to the Lord:
"Show me your glory."

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” EXODUS 33:18-23

This nation of Israel was being prepared to interact with the LORD in a new way, one where they would see the LORD face to face - - and LIVE!  In the same way that the LORD adored and protected Moses as he tucked Moses into the cleft of the rock while his glory passed by, the LORD will adore and protect his people, only this time the LORD is saying to Moses, they will see him face to face.
The LORD is pointing Moses and the Israelites to Jesus!

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.  JOHN 1:14-18

The Lord had called the Israelites a stiff-necked people, and yet he continued to show mercy upon them. In this blessing, the Lord is speaking words of love, not condemnation. 

No matter what you've done, or how unworthy you may feel, the Lord offers forgiveness... all we need to do is receive. When someone speaks words of blessing to you, hear them as the LORD's adoration of you and his promise to guard and protect you in the midst of whatever may be happening. 

Hear Jesus saying to you:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. JOHN 14:27

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Reflection on The Priestly Blessing

Photo Credit: Peter Meier
The LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
 the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you:
 the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace." 
NUMBERS 6:22-27

While visiting the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, one exhibit contains two small silver scrolls with this verse written in Hebrew. It is believed to come from the 7th century BC and is the earliest occurrence of a Biblical text in an extra-Biblical document found to date. 

It is the oldest extra-Biblical reference to YHWH, 

the God of Israel. 
I am imagining Moses speaking these words to Aaron and his sons for the first time as the Tabernacle is ready to be dedicated...  and my mind is recalling the words that YHWH spoke to Abraham so many years before: 

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth

    will be blessed through you.”  GENESIS 12:1-3

Abram was 75 years old and childless when the Lord spoke these words to him. Abram's response of faith resulted in the birth of Isaac and the nation of Israelites to whom this blessing would be spoken. 

I wonder if, in that moment, Moses would have experienced the magnitude of YHWH's faithfulness... to Abram... to Isaac...  to Jacob... that resulted in the first people to receive this blessing, spoken from the LORD?

Imagine your family, and their families, and their families... The Lord's love extends for eternity. 

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands. PSALM 78:1-7

In what ways has YHWH, the LORD, been speaking to you?  

What steps of faithfulness may YHWH be inviting you to take today, in this season of your life?

What faithful response might you offer today, that may result in many people generations from now knowing the LORD and also being able to receive this blessing?  

Even when I am old and gray,
    do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
    your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
    you who have done great things.
    Who is like you, God?  PSALM 71:18-19

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Spiritual Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

I'm inviting you to join me on a journey through the land of Israel... 

Standing at the edge of the Sea of Galilee in Ginosar Israel as the sun set on December 31, 2017, I was experiencing the close of the year in the land where recorded history began and Jesus lived. These seven days in Israel, walking where Jesus walked and hearing the stories from a Hebrew perspective, made the words of Scripture come even more alive and transformed the Bible into a 3-D experience!

Then early the next the morning (January 1, 2018) as the new year began, there we were... 

standing on the beach along the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus fed his disciples AFTER the resurrection.  There are hardly adequate words to describe the experience!

With a heart full of gratitude, there I stood on the shore on January 1, 2018 hearing Jesus say, Tina, do you love me?  To which I replied, Yes Lord, you know that I love you!" In my heart, I sensed the same words Jesus spoke to Peter, "Feed my lambs... Take care of my sheep... Feed my sheep."  

Remembering that Jesus first met Andrew and Simon Peter along the shores of this same body of water when he invited them to follow him, Jesus is calling each one of us to know and follow him. For Andrew and Peter, their encounter with Jesus began a 3-year journey of traveling with him and beginning to understand the wisdom he was imparting.

Imagine this with me...

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus Reinstates Peter
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.   JOHN 21:1-17

This land of Israel, and the people Jesus was speaking to directly, would have understood the nuances of what he was communicating.  I began following Jesus in my 20's, learning to appreciate his way of using temporal illustrations, real life examples, to teach spiritual, and more importantly, eternal truths.  Journeying these seven days through Israel brought all of Scripture into a high definition, 3-D experience!  

The LORD who created you and loves you dearly is inviting you to hear what he's saying. Will you journey with me throughout this land of Israel as I attempt to share the experiences of each location?  

Come along and let your heart listen in such a way 
that you can hear the Lord speaking his love over you. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

From Timidity to Worship

Moses... a name we equate with a man who did mighty things for God, but it didn't begin this way. 

While Moses was tending his father-in-law's flocks, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames from fire within a bush. EXODUS 3:1-2

The Lord said: “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” EXODUS 3:12

Then timidity set in... 

And questions of doubt seemed to fill Moses' mind. I can just imagine his demeanor as he asked God these questions: 

  • Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me,"What is his name?" Then what shall I say to them? EXODUS 3:13
  • What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The LORD did not appear to you?'  EXODUS 4:1

And excuses set in...

  • Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue. EXODUS 4:10
  • Please send someone else.  EXODUS 4:13

By the time we get to chapter 14, the LORD had cleared every obstacle for his people to be set free and Moses was transformed from one full of fear to one who was full of faith with a heart of worship.  When the people were grumbling out of fear, Moses said: 

Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.  EXODUS 14:13-14

As the nation of Israel crossed through the Red Sea, the LORD held back the waters. Once they were on the other side, with the Egyptian army in the middle of the riverbed, the LORD released the waters and swept the army into the sea. 

The response...WORSHIP!

Moses and Miriam led the Israelites in their first act of worship as a free nation: 

“I will sing to the Lord,
    for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
    he has hurled into the sea.
“The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior;
    the Lord is his name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
    he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
    are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters have covered them;
    they sank to the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, Lord,
    was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
    shattered the enemy.
“In the greatness of your majesty
    you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
    it consumed them like stubble.
By the blast of your nostrils
    the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up like a wall;
    the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy boasted,
    ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide the spoils;
    I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword
    and my hand will destroy them.’
But you blew with your breath,
    and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
    in the mighty waters.
Who among the gods
    is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
    majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
    working wonders?
“You stretch out your right hand,
    and the earth swallows your enemies.
In your unfailing love you will lead
    the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
    to your holy dwelling.
The nations will hear and tremble;
    anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
The chiefs of Edom will be terrified,
    the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,
the people of Canaan will melt away;
    terror and dread will fall on them.
By the power of your arm
    they will be as still as a stone—
until your people pass by, Lord,
    until the people you bought pass by.
You will bring them in and plant them
    on the mountain of your inheritance—
the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling,
    the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.
“The Lord reigns

    for ever and ever.”  EXODUS 15:1-18

Where might you need to trust the LORD today?  What doubts and fears are holding you back from taking a step of faith forward?

The LORD desires your heart to be filled with worship, not timidity and fear!

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Two Sides of a Coin

A coin only has value when it is intact. A coin cut in half doesn't have half the value, it has no value for its intended purpose. So it seems with Faith and Obedience. 

Jesus said: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? LUKE 6:46

Faith calls us into a different way of being. 

Jesus went on to say: "As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”  LUKE 6:47-49

Of course faith gives peace and the confident hope in eternity, knowing that our sins have been paid for. Faith also calls us to obedience, not to earn salvation, rather in joyful response to it. Paul talks about it as "the obedience of faith." They are intricately connected. 

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, ROMANS 1:1-6 

Through Jesus we received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith. When asked “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  

Love God AND Love your neighbor as yourself

When we love another, we desire the best for them. I think of parents raising a child, providing all that is needed for the child to thrive, provisions of food, clothing, shelter, nurture through interaction, education and accountability. All of this comes in the context of relationship.  

It is impossible to love another if we are not in relationship with them, and so BEING the neighbor is at the heart of obedience. 

In what way is the Lord challenging you to BE a neighbor today? 

Monday, November 27, 2017

He is Kind to the Ungrateful and Wicked

For the last many months I've been thinking about the postures of Jesus. I deliberately began paying attention to the ways in which he is present in different situations, with the hope that I will be shaped to approach people with the same posture. 

In my reading of Luke 6 this morning, as I read on blessings and woes, and love for enemies, Jesus says of the Most High (God): 
"...he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." LUKE 6:35-56

OK... OUCH! 

Once again God's mercy challenges me! God does not pour out what the ungrateful and wicked deserve; rather he is kind and merciful. God furnishes what is needed, exercising compassion.  

I see Jesus on the cross, saying "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they are doing. And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching and the rulers even sneered at him.LUKE 23:34-35

How does this affect my daily posture? 
  • Instead of responding with resentment when people are ungrateful; exercise compassion
  • Instead of responding with judgment and condemnation towards those whose conduct is outright wicked, exercise compassion and seek to understand. 
The words of Paul come to mind as he write about love in action" 

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  ROMANS 12:9-21

Lord, when my gut reaction is towards resentment, when I'm inclined to be cynical, snarky, or sarcastic; when my inclination is towards judgement and condemnation... I pray for your Holy Spirit to remind me of YOUR MERCY!  While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me... for the ungodly.  

We're all a work in progress!  I'd love to hear how this speaks to you today?