Saturday, August 30, 2014


Good morning!

"I will give thanks to you Lord, with all my heart.
I will tell of all your wonders."  Psalm 9:1

Some of you know that for years I've been involved in the girls ministry at my church.  It's called Pillars.  Through this ministry, to girls in grades 5-12, I learned about a organization that ministers to women and men trapped in the sex trafficking industry.  In the past couple of years, this ministry has partnered with our church's girls ministry, and my Sunday School class has done projects to help them, and so forth.

As one of the service projects of our church's college ministry, 4 college students and 4 leaders went out last night with this organization, into an area of town where Satan has a stronghold.  (One of the ladies we ministered to said of that area, "That place is demon-possessed.")  While riding around, we had an opportunity to pray for and minister to several people.  Their reactions varied.  It was an intense time of worship, prayer and spiritual warfare.

I want to tell you particularly about a young woman I'll call Aurora.  Last night, she made the decision to step into the safe haven this ministry provided for her.  She chose to come in off of the streets, and make the decision to take her life in a different direction.  Her ears were opened to the message that God loves her.  She chose Jesus's way, to step out of the darkness and into His marvelous light.

Y'all, I don't know where she stands with The Lord this morning.   I don't know if she has responded yet to the gospel message by asking Jesus into her heart as her Savior.  But, I am praying for her, and I ask that you pray for her too, as well as for all the women and men who are in varying stages of being set free from sexual enslavement.  The ministry has a protocol that they strictly follow, and they will take excellent care of her in the coming days, doing everything possible to support her in her decision.

God is doing great things through that ministry.  Over the past few months, almost 150 women have been rescued out of The Life, as they often call it. Please realize that many, many of these women did not willingly choose this life.  They were either kidnapped into it, led into it by their relatives, forced into it by their men...  It is a sordid, degrading way to live.  It is bondage, a type of imprisonment, and those on the front lines are fearful of taking the steps to get out of The Life.  What an ironic name!
Jesus said,
"I am the way, the truth and the life!
No one comes to the Father except through me."

Aurora (the name means "dawn") has seen a new day begin, in this new life of hers.  Praise God with me for deliverance, for the marvelous grace and love of our Savior, who has set her free!  In the Bible (John 8:31-36) Jesus also said,
'If you continue in my word, you really are my followers.  
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. '
The people standing around listening to Jesus replied:
We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.
How can you say, 'You will become free'?
Jesus responded,
"I assure you: everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
A slave does not remain in the household forever, 
but a son {or daughter} does remain forever.
Therefore, if the Son {Jesus} sets you free
You are free indeed!"
If you are reading this, these verses are specifically for you today.  Only Jesus can set you free and keep you free.  Let Him wrap His arms of true love around you and make you his own true daughter, forever.  There is no love like Jesus' love, and there is no LIFE like the life He gives.  You are loved, daughter.  Many are praying for you and will continue to pray for you in the coming days.

Dear Jesus, I thank you for Aurora and for the ministry you have raised up for Your service.  Thank you for every one who had a part in Aurora's rescue last night, whether they were on the front lines or whether they had a part in some other way.  Each was obedient to Your call, and because of that, You did a great and mighty work in Aurora's life.  We are so humbled to be used by You, great God!  There is no God like you!  And, only You, Lord Jesus, can satisfy the deepest longings of our souls.  
Lord, as Aurora continues to seek You, please open doors for her.  I pray that you will meet her every need, and that you will let her feel you strongly in these coming days.  I pray that she won't look back and be tempted to return to The Life, as it is no life at all but is instead darkness, darkness all around. Help her to remember the truth, that women who accept Jesus and His Life become Your resplendent daughters, just as the name of this blog says.
We praise You, O Lord, for Your marvelous works!  There is truly NO God, like You!
In Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, August 29, 2014

What's In a Name?

Good morning!

Today, we are in Isaiah 8 and 9.  It was not uncommon for God to command His OT prophets to name their children odd names.  These names were meant to convey His message to His people.  For instance, in Isaiah 8:1-3, we find that Isaiah's wife has borne a son, and that God told Isaiah to name him "Maher-shalal-hash-baz", which means "Spoil-Speeds-Plunder-Hurries" or "Destruction is on the way".  What a name, huh?  God was telling His people that soon, before the baby was very old at all, Samaria and Damascus (its capitol) would be plundered by the Assyrians.

Maybe you have some sort of funky name.  It's not your fault; you parent(s) named you, most likely.  My birth names are from my mother (middle name) and father (first name).  My husband is named after his father and grandfathers.  Each of our sons bears one of his father's names (first or middle), then, of course, the last name.  I do not understand why some people name their children weird names, the most egregious lately being Kim and Kanye West, who named their daughter "North".  Go figure.

As believers, we bear the name of our God and Savior.  This is why we are called Christians.  And, as was common in the OT, with our name comes a message, the gospel.  The apostle Paul declares this in 2 Cor. 3:3 - -
"You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."
This verse echoes what God spoke to Jeremiah about the Israelites in Jeremiah 31:33 - -
"  'This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord.
'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God,
and they will be my people.'  "
See also Hebrews 8:10 for a similar affirmation.

It is humbling and frightening to me, to bear that responsibility, because I realize that my every action reflects on the name of Jesus, whether my actions are wise ones or foolish ones.

In 9:1-7, Isaiah is given two of the most beautiful prophecies about Messiah.  Here is the passage - -

1But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
2The people who walk in darkness
         Will see a great light;
         Those who live in a dark land,
         The light will shine on them.

3You shall multiply the nation,
         You shall increase their gladness;
         They will be glad in Your presence
         As with the gladness of harvest,
         As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

4For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders,
         The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.

5For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult,
         And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.

6For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
         And the government will rest on His shoulders;
         And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
         Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

7There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
         On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
         To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
         From then on and forevermore.
         The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

Oh, there is so much here!  But, just about 4 points - -
1.  This prophecy refers mainly to the first advent of Jesus, His birth, but also His second coming.   His kingdom is established in our hearts through the work of His first coming.  His physical, earthly kingdom will be established when He returns.  He will then physically sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem, and rule from there.  Jerusalem will again be the center of the world.
2.  Just as the zeal of the God of Angel Armies accomplished Jesus' first coming and His finished redemptive work, including Jesus' resurrection, so will that same zeal, fervor, passion accomplish Jesus' second coming.  We have God's word on that.  Listen to what the psalmist, King David, Jesus' ancestor, prophesied about Him in Psalm 24:9-10 - -
"Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of Glory?
The LORD Almighty - - 
HE is the King of Glory!"

3.  Note the other names of our Savior, Isaiah 9:6.  These are the names we bear!  We no longer are in bondage to walk in darkness!  We have seen His great light.  We have peace, because we worship the Prince of Peace!
4.  Jesus Christ's name is above every other name.  Look at these verses and you will see that at His name (which we bear) every person will, either in their earthly life or after their death, bow down before it.
Isaiah 45:22-24
22"Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. 23"I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. 24"They will say of Me, 'Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.' 
Philippians 2:10
9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Do you see the beauty and power of that Name you bear, Christian?  Do you see the responsibility that accompanies that privilege? 

And, Non-believer, Seeker - - -  I tell you in all humility that you will either "bow now, or bow later".  And, I beg you, choose Him today, now, this moment, for you are not promised another.  You are not promised your next breath!  Choose Him and bow now.

Father, I love all your names.  In the Bible, you give us many names for Yourself and for Your Son and Your Holy Spirit.  Each one tells us something marvelous about Your character.  You use them to teach who you are, as much as we are able to understand.  We do know this:  as Christians we bear the beautiful name of Jesus, our Savior, whose unfailing love envelops us always, and enables us to walk this day...resplendent!  Praise You, Almighty Savior!  It is in Your name, that Name Above Every Name, I pray, amen. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Who dat 'baby daddy'?

Good morning!

Jesus is all over the Old Testament, if you know where to look.  We looked at two of His pre-incarnate (before He was born as a baby) appearances (to Daniel and to Isaiah) yesterday.

It is so beautiful to see Old Testament prophecies which tell of Him, as well.  We encounter one of those in Isaiah 7:14.  In this chapter, God is continuing His warning that judgment is coming to The Land (the land of Israel), and that it's coming soon.

Then, in the middle of that we see verse 14, which stands out like a beacon!  With this verse God is telling His people that peace will come, and the sign of that coming peace will be this: a virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son.

Now, let's stop and look at that for a minute.  If you read about family lineage in the Old Testament, the verbiage is most often something like this:
"XXX knew his wife, and she gave birth to YYY."  or
"Mister begat Little Mister (his son) by Mrs."
There is always a "baby daddy" mentioned in there somewhere!

The absence of a male procreator in verse 14 is obvious by it's omission.  I'm sure that Jewish scholars wondered about this verse for centuries and that it made no sense to them.  That's because it does not make earthly sense; it does, however, make "God sense".

It says that a young woman, a virgin, would somehow become pregnant and give birth to a son.  Furthermore, instead of naming the child after a human father (which the baby did not have), she would call the baby Immanuel, which means "God-With-Us".

If we look at the account in Luke 1 and 2, we see this prophecy fulfilled.  Mary's visit by the angel, who told her what would occur, is recorded in Luke 1:26-35.  In verse 34, Mary states very clearly that she has never had sexual relations with a man.  The archangel, Gabriel, goes on to explain how this conception would occur, in verse 35.
"The angel answered, 
'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, 
the power of the Highest hover over you;
Therefore, the child you bring to birth
will be called Holy, Son of God."
The angel references the unbelievable pregnancy of Mary's much older cousin, Elizabeth, who was famous for her barrenness, and ends his announcement with
"Nothing, you see, is impossible with God."
Don't you love that?  No matter what your situation is today, NOTHING is impossible with God.

Let's go back to Isaiah 7 just a minute and look at verses 15-16.  This is how it is translated in The Message:
"By the time the child is twelve years old, able to make moral decisions, the threat of war will be over.  Relax, those two kings that have you so worried will be out of the picture."
Truly, by the time Jesus was a young man of 12 years old, the two kings of Isaiah's day were long gone.  Another underlying key point is that Jesus' coming would bring peace, both a temporary peace to Jerusalem and, more importantly, a peace in the hearts of mankind.  This is why one of His names is Prince of Peace.  Isaiah elsewhere calls Him by this title, and we'll examine that passage later.  (If you want to look ahead, it's Isaiah 9:6.)

True peace on the earth will be ushered in by Jesus Christ when He returns.  In the meantime, the peace He brings is a peace of the heart, a spiritual peace with God - - - "God With Us".  I am so amazed at how, in the Old Testament, God's Holy Spirit rested upon certain people to differing degrees, but we have the awesome privilege of having His Holy Spirit in our hearts continually and forever!  This is perfect peace. (Isaiah 26:3)

In the meantime, until He returns, He himself told us that following Him, being His disciple, would be rocky. Look at Matthew 10:34 - - 
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  
I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."
This means that, while as Christ followers we have the peace of God in our hearts, being reconciled and made right with God through His Son, Jesus, we will also encounter opposition and even persecution because of our identity with Him.  Earthly peace will not arrive until Jesus returns to earth, conquers evil and sets up His kingdom.

How incomparable, the revelation of our God to us!  Praise His name!

Dear God, our Father, nothing is impossible with You!  May we, as Mary did (Luke 1:38) proclaim, "I'm the Lord's maid, ready to serve.  Let it be with me just as you say."  Do Your "impossible" work in us and through us today!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Face to Face

Good morning!

"Face to face with Christ, my Savior!
Face to face, how can it be?
When in rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ, who died for me."

This is a portion of an old gospel song, which expresses the writer's longing to one day, finally, see Jesus face-to-face.

The prophet Isaiah got this opportunity, and he records the experience at the beginning of the sixth chapter of his book.

However, Isaiah was not "enraptured" when he saw the Divine Presence seated on His throne in the heavenly temple, in the Holy of Holies.  No, he was mortified.  Look at verse 5:  (The Message)
"Doom!  It's Doomsday!
I'm as good as dead.
Every word I've ever spoken is tainted - - -
blasphemous even!
And the people I live with talk the same way,
using words that corrupt and desecrate.
And here I've looked God in the face!
The King!  God of the Angel Armies!"

Frankly, I cannot even.

Isaiah tells us that several thoughts ran through his head:
1.  I'm doomed.  In the older versions, he said, "Woe is me, for I am undone."
He was convinced that "This is it.  The end is here."  He did not know how he could possibly survive this experience.
2.  He became acutely aware of his own inadequacy.  This man had already felt the calling of God upon his life and had already been obediently prophesying in Jehovah's name.  Yet, in the presence of The God of Angel Armies (elsewhere translated as "The Lord of Hosts"), he exclaimed, "My lips are filthy."  Or, "every word I've ever spoken is tainted."
3.  He became acutely aware of the sin in the earth, all around him.  Basically, the huge chasm that exists between us and God, between our sinfulness and His perfect holiness, became astonishingly evident.

In Daniel 10, the prophet Daniel has a similar overwhelming vision.  In verses 8 and 9, he declares that the vision caused him to be facedown on the ground, in a trance-like state.

In Acts 9:1-6, when the writer, Luke, was describing Saul's vision on the road to Damascus, Saul was thrown to the ground by a blinding flash of light.  In this case, and also in the case of Daniel's vision (of Daniel 10), there were companions with each of these men.  But, they either ran away or were "struck dumb", able to hear the voice but see nothing.  Apparently, Saul's companions received only a partial revelation, enough to do what God intended for them to do.

The Book of Revelation is an account of a series of visions John received at the end of his life, while exiled on the island of Patmos.  In the first vision, recorded in Revelation 1, John was praying and Jesus, the resurrected Jesus, appeared to him.  Again, John's response was similar to the others - - he fainted dead-away at His feet.  (I've got to stop myself here and rein in the temptation to go off-topic!)

In each of these cases, the men came face-to-face with Jesus.  You may wonder how I "got that" in regards to the Isaiah passage.  In John 1:18, the apostle clearly states that no one has ever actually come face-to-face with God the Father.  The only one who came close was Moses, when God was giving to Him the 10 commandments.  And, even then, Moses had to be hidden in a "cleft of a rock" while the presence of God Almighty the Father passed by.  Otherwise, it would have killed him. (See Exodus 33:20.)  Also, the apostle John, in John 12:41, says that Isaiah saw Jesus, not God the Father, Jesus. Here's the verse:
"Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about Him."

I wonder, are you like me?  Is there a little hint of wistfulness or jealousy as you read about the experiences of these men?  Do you wish that you could get more of a glimpse of Jesus?

In each case, in conjunction with the vision, each man was given a charge, a commission, a big job to do.  In three of the four cases, the men were already serving God obediently, and in a couple of the cases, praying diligently.  (Saul was the exception.  He was zealously threatening to kill every disciple of Jesus he could find.  But, even so, he was a Jew passionate for the Jewish faith.  He was being ardent and faithful to his current revelation.....until He got a NEW one!)

Here is the take-away for this morning.
God reveals Himself to us, based on two factors:
1.  Our faithfulness to past revelation.  The first way He reveals Himself to us is through the Bible and the workings of the Holy Spirit.  Our immediate response should be to react in faith to the revelation(s) we have received.  The first act should be to embrace Jesus (and His Way) as our Savior (as our way of life) when the Holy Spirit calls us to salvation in Christ.  Once we do that He will continue to reveal Himself to us.  It is up to us to obediently embrace the revelation(s) we are given, as we walk as His resplendent children.
2.  His plan for us.  Sometimes, like Saul, we are absolutely headed in the wrong direction.  According to what God wants us to do, He sends a revelation of Himself that is commensurate with that.  In other words, the bigger the task, the greater the revelation.

Is God calling you to something bigger than you see yourself doing?  Are you resisting that call?  Are you walking in faithful obedience to the revelation you have been given?

Loving, Holy Father!  Thank you for showing Your face to us, through Your Son, Jesus.  Please, oh please, forgive us for those times that You reveal Yourself to us, call us out for Your own dedicated, consecrated use, and we resist, refuse, turn and run in the opposite direction.  Please keep calling us, drawing us to Yourself, so that we may serve you "mo' better" and see even more of Your we seek to walk close by Your side....resplendent!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stuffed With Things

Good morning!

I've continued to read in the first 5 chapters of Isaiah this morning, and it has been pretty depressing.

Isaiah lived at a time when the land of Israel was in open rebellion against God.  The people were flagrant about it.  Israel was living in comfort in the Promised Land.  They were "worshipping" in Solomon's temple.  They were enjoying the blessings of God.

However, they were also worshipping idols.  Some of those false gods were the gods of the pagan peoples that surrounded them.  But, in other cases, what they were worshipping were gods of their own creation.  Listen to what the Message translation says in Isaiah 2:6-8:  (Isaiah is speaking to God.)
"GOD, you've walked out on your family Jacob
because their world is full of hokey religion,
Philistine witchcraft, and pagan hocus pocus,
A world rolling in wealth
Stuffed with things,
no end to its machines and gadgets,
And gods - - - gods of all sorts and sizes.
These people make their own gods and worship what they make."
Are we a gadget-driven society today?  You betcha.  Do we sometimes make them "gods" to ourselves, allowing them to pollute our souls and draw us away from God?  Surely do.

This is something all Christians need to be vigilant about, including me.  It is so easy to let ourselves become distracted by "things", whether they are basically good things, bad things, or downright horrible things.  Even the good things can become distractions in our lives.

Some of my friends have realized the hold that material things have taken in their own lives and said, "Wait a minute.  I've got to get hold of myself and rein this thing in.  It is out of control!"  I applaud them for that.  

The opposite reaction is to justify our own idolatry.  One of Satan's biggest tools is to use things, people, events, to distract us from our relationship with God and His calling on our lives.  He can take a good thing and warp it to serve his own nefarious purposes.  He also can take truth and mix error with it, still calling it truth.  What a lie!  God addresses that in these chapters multiple times, but quite poignantly in 5:20 - - 
Doom to you who call evil good and good evil
Who put darkness in place of light
And light in place of darkness
Who substitute bitter for sweet
And sweet for bitter.
God is reminding us that we don't "pull anything over on Him" when we try to convince ourselves that wrong is right.  This is called "rationalization".  We are able to come up with all kinds of ways to justify our bad habits, right?  So easy to do!  So wrong. ( Let's be sure to call Truth truth and Error error in our personal lives and in our interpersonal interactions with others.  No backing off from Truth!)

This is what the nation of Israel was doing in that day.  God kept telling them, in Isaiah's first 5 chapters, that He was going to judge them.  And, He did.  Isaiah was a prophet in the days preceding the Babylonian conquest, where Nebuchadnezzar hauled the greatest majority of the people (especially the young, healthy and able to work) off to Babylon as captives.  God said in 5:5-6 that He would make Jerusalem a wasteland, in His righteous judgment of Israel.  And, He did.

God didn't let Israel get by with this behavior.  He won't let America get by with this behavior.  He won't let His children get by with this behavior.  

These chapters have a double-meaning.  They also refer to the day when Jesus will return, conquer all evil regimes on the earth, and set up His kingdom on earth for 1000 years.  This end-times judgment is described in chapter 2 and His millennial reign is described in the latter part of chapter 4.  What a joyful future we have in Christ!  We will be there - - - His saints, ruling and reigning with Him!

Tomorrow, we will look at Isaiah's vision in chapter 6. That should be interesting!

Good morning, Lord!  Please keep me from idolatry, the sneaky kind that worms its way into my life masquerading or starting out as something good.  When You confront me with my idolatry, I pray for Your strength to face it, not rationalize it, and then take the necessary steps to eradicate it, to tear it down, and return to You.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Church Charades and Dirty Worship

Good morning!

There are times that I really don't want to get up early and write this blog.  Sometimes, it's because I didn't get much sleep the night before and, yes, that was the case last night.  But, other times, it's because I don't want to post about my morning devotional reading.  This morning, having finished in Jude, I cast around in Scripture and innocently landed in Isaiah 1.  "Oh no...Lord, please don't ask me to write about this.  I just really don't want to."

The text is Isaiah 1:11 - 20.

You know, I love going to church on Sundays and worshipping God.  Whether it is through singing praises, praying, studying in Sunday School or hearing great preaching, I just adore gathering with my brothers and sisters to encourage one another and lift up Jesus through worship.  It is the best way to start the week.

Why do you gather together and worship God with other like-minded people?  What is your motivation?

Through Isaiah, God is speaking to His people, who are making a mockery of Him through their worship activities.  I was reading The Message version this morning.  Dr. Peterson translates so vividly! In verse 13, God says, "Quit your worship charades.  I can't stand your trivial religious games!"

That's pretty strong, isn't it?  Why in the world would God say that?

The dictionary defines "charade", a word with French roots, as "an absurd pretense intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance."
It's not that He does not crave and desire our sincere worship.  He does.
But, the reason He is rejecting the worship and church trappings in Isaiah 1 is found in verses 15-17:
"When you spread our your hands in prayer I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers, I'm not listening.
Your hands are full of blood.
Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless.
Plead the case of the widow.
These people were practicing sin in their Monday-Saturday lives, and then coming to lift blood-covered hands in worship on Sunday.

There are people, believers and non-believers alike, who stay away from churches because they know their hearts are filled with sin.  You know what?  They are more honest than believers who go to church to worship, knowing that they are walking around, covered in unconfessed sin.

This passage is a heavy, convicting indictment.  It is very uncomfortable.

Yesterday, my pastor was preaching about revival.  He made the point that if Christians want revival, then it must start with US getting honest with God and with each other, confessing our sins, seeking earnestly to make sure that our hearts are pure, that our actions are holy.  Revival always starts in the true Church of Jesus Christ!

I confess that this takes a vigilance that I've often ignored when preparing for worship.  I typically spend no time repenting of my own sins before I go to church to pray over the sins of my fellow men.  I am much too concerned with "looking good" at church, signing up for this and that, "serving".

Our "service" is a odious, stinky "sacrifice" if we are living in disobedience to His commands.
God wants our willing obedience before He wants anything else.  We cannot walk resplendent, while slogging through mud holes of sin.  You may have heard this expression:  "A non-Christian leaps into sin and loves it.  A Christian lapses into sin and loathes it."   That is the way it should be.  But, sometimes, as believers, we hold onto our secret grudges, our "pet" sins that lessen our effectiveness for God.

I ask you this day: is there anything that you are holding onto, that stands between you and God?  Is there any practice, any habit, and deep wound that you are bitter about?  Satan will use these things to keep you from the full, abundant blessings of God until you lay those things down at Jesus' feet and walk away and leave them there.  "A broken and contrite heart, O Lord, You will not despise!" (Ps. 51:17)

In J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy, there is a character named Gollum, who is crazed from holding on to a magical ring, to which he is enslaved and claims to be unable to live without.  He calls it his "precious". "We wants it.  We needs it.  Must have the precious!"  Practicing sin does that to people as well.  Habitual sin enslaves.

Don't let anything stand between you and God.  When our hearts have been washed by His forgiveness daily (and most of the time several times daily we need to confess to Him), it is THEN He receives our worship.  It is THEN He lavishes His blessings on us (vs. 19).

O Holy One!  May we fall on our faces before You, in brokenness, confession, repentance, acknowledging our total dependence on You.  Help each of us to see the sins "that so easily entrap us" and to "lay them aside" (Hebrews 12:1), as part of the ongoing spiritual war in which as believers we are engaged.  Remind us that it is only then that we can offer our worship to You and walk in unhindered fellowship with You....resplendent!  In the mighty name of Jesus, amen!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Sit Down and Shut up!"

Good morning!

To reiterate, Jude is writing to a congregation of believers that has been infiltrated with pretenders, those who masquerade as believers, yet whose real purpose is to divide and destroy.  In verse 19, Jude describes these folks as not having the Spirit.  This is a group of people who are not true believers, although sometimes, to gain access, they claim to be.

Remember that not everyone who claims the name of Jesus Christ is truly His.  Some only put on His name as we would put on a costume for a party.  They are deceivers, who disguise themselves as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

What should be our response to these?  The answer is in verse 3.

"Fight with everything you have in you" ... "guard and cherish" that gift {our relationship with Jesus} which has been entrusted to us.  (The Message)  Note that Jude is not recommending that we attack people, but that we earnestly fight for our faith, that we stand up and declare its truth, that we not back down in the face of false teaching or opposition.

As believers, we need to be aware that the world does not want us to speak up about our faith.  We are often criticized for being "haters" when we speak the truth, and to be honest, some people who claim the name of Jesus DO tell the truth with a hateful attitude.  This is not right, nor is it what Jude is advocating in his letter. (Jesus, our supreme example, never spewed hate as He spoke truth.)  However, some of us believers are cowed into submission, intimidated by that criticism so that we hold back from speaking the truth.  This is equally wrong; and, it is just what Satan and those who disagree with us want!  They long for us to just "sit down and shut up"!

We are to show Jesus' love to all people, but that does not mean we have to back down and agree with them, when they are spouting error.  I love how The Message version translates verses 22-23:  
"Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin."
With those who are merely misguided, we should pursue them and try to convince them through prayer and the Word of God, regarding the errors of their belief and practice.  In contrast, with those who are wantonly and willfully pursuing evil (see the description in yesterday's post), we must continue to pray for them, but separate ourselves from them until and unless they repent and turn to Truth.

Jude sums up our prescribed response very succinctly in verses 20-21: (The Message)
"But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith
by praying in the Holy Spirit,
staying right in the center of God's love,
keeping your arms open and outstretched,
ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ.
This is the unending life, the real life!"

When the Spirit gives you opportunities to share His truth, pray about your response (vs. 20).  If you let Him guide you, He will show you the best way to testify to what He has done in your life, and to share His truth with others.  Watch out for the evil spirit of pride, which can not only make you a "stench" to non-believers, but can also lead to your own stumbling.  Micah's precious words come to mind:
"He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you
but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, 
and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8
(Amplified Bible version)

Oh yes!

Dear Father, as we seek to walk before you, resplendent, please never let us be arrogant or "puffed up", swollen with pride, as we share your Truth.  For, the truth is, every one of us was a dirty, rotten sinner before You rescued us in Your mercy.  This message of grace and righteousness is all about You!  We are merely the messengers.  Please convict us of our cowardice, in backing down when your Spirit prompts us to confront error with Your love.  Energize us and empower us with your Holy Spirit at all times, but especially in those times.  Fill our mouths with your words, loving Father.  May we be ambassadors of Your truth, Your love, Your grace.  In the name of our precious Savior I pray, amen.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

On the Way to the Black Hole

Good morning!

The majority of the book of Jude, his letter to an unnamed local church, is devoted to admonition and correction.

The situation he's addressing in that day is this:  the local church has been infiltrated by people who are teaching error.  (Peter, in chapter 2 of his second letter, similarly condemns false teachers.)  According to Jude, here are the errors the false teachers are spreading:
1.  Denying that Jesus Christ is God (vs. 4)
2.  Practicing sexual immorality and perversion (vs. 4, 8)
3.  Advocating an attitude of the individual as god; selfish (vs. 8)
4.  Sowing dissension and division among the brothers and sisters in Christ (vs. 16)
In The Message version, vs. 13, the translator describes these people as "lost stars in outer space, on their way to the black hole".

Friends, this type of error is still around today.  For example, there are religious sects that call themselves Christian.  Yet, they do not preach/teach that Jesus Christ is God.  Instead, they teach that He was created by God, or that He was a highly-exalted human, or some other error.  By His own words, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be "the Alpha and the Omega".  Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and Omega is the last letter.  By saying this, He was proclaiming His eternal existence, in Revelation 22:13.  In Revelation 1:18 and Isaiah 44:6, we see God the Father making the same statement of His deity.  When you hear a religious zealot deny the deity of Jesus Christ, you know you are in the presence of heresy.  Flee it!

Another characteristic of these folks Jude describes is that they practice sexual license:  "Whatever I choose to do sexually is permissible," they say.  Sex outside of biblical marriage is becoming the norm today - - - couples getting pregnant and then deciding to get married, or not getting married at all. People cheating on their spouses.  We also see homosexuality prevalent in our day, as it was in the days of the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, where the men of the town begged to have sexual relations with Lot's male guests.
If all that were not sin enough....combining sexual immorality with religious worship was a characteristic of pagan religions down through the centuries, and this belief too had infiltrated this congregation of the early church of Jesus Christ.  Jude was pointing this out.  While we do not see this type of religious practice as flagrant today within the walls of our Christian churches, we see and hear people who call themselves Christian excusing it in their daily lives.  Jude is telling these Christians "straight" that ALL sexual immorality was to be condemned.

You see, at the root of the heresy described by Jude is the belief that "I am my own god."  It is spiritual rebellion against the one true God.  The selfishness, the immorality, the dissension - - - all of these were and are manifestations of this rejection of the spiritual authority of God and His laws for living.

Jude points out in verse 6 that a great many of the angels God created fell into this same trap.  We are told elsewhere, in Genesis 6, that the fallen "sons of God" (angels) made the willful decision to rebel against God by mating with human women, defiling both themselves and polluting the human race as well. Jude uses this example to the early Christians as a horrible warning of the trap they were walking into.  Jude then quotes from the pseudepigraphal Book of Enoch (1 Enoch 1:9), where Enoch prophesied that these fallen angels will be severely judged by God Himself.

Sobering.  So, what should be our response to false teachers and false doctrine?  We will look at Jude's admonitions regarding that, in tomorrow's post.

Great God our Father!  You provide for us many cautionary examples in Your Holy Word.  It is sobering to read how rebellion touched even Your created angels.  It is even more frightening to see error penetrating Your holy Church in our world today.  Evil is at work around us.  May we never let our guard down.  Deliver us from evil, O Lord!  Open our eyes to recognize it and to take the proper steps when we inevitably encounter it.  In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I Am a "Kept" Woman

Good morning!

I am writing to you after reading the book of Jude this morning.  Yesterday, I quoted the last verses of this short book, the benediction/blessing at the end.  This prompted me to just "stay there" in this morning's reading.

Jude states in verse 1 of his book that he is a brother of James, who also wrote a letter of the New Testament.  In Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56, we read that Jesus had several half-brothers and half-sisters, offspring of Joseph and Mary.  I do not subscribe to the doctrine of "perpetual virginity", which asserts that Mary and Joseph never had any biological children together; but, I'm not going to argue over that either.

Jude also states in verse 1 that he is  "slave to Jesus Christ" (Message version).  He mentions this even before asserting his claim as Jesus' half-brother.  At the time Jude wrote his letter to this early community of Christians, Jesus had already ascended to Heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34, Acts 7:56).  So, it seems that he is saying here that he is a slave to his faith in Jesus as God, as Messiah.  He is clearly identifying himself, not only as one who knew Jesus very well, but who also has whole-heartedly embraced The Way that Jesus preached.  (In verse 4 he refers to Jesus as his "one and only Master".)  Jude was convinced, Y'all.  He believed.

The letter is to an unnamed group of believers.  Jude states that he and they have been "called and kept safe by Jesus Christ."  In the King James version, the words used are "called", "sanctified" and "preserved" by Jesus Christ.  Jude begins his letter with this assurance, and he also ends it with the same: "Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling...." (KJV)

Jesus Christ knows those of us who are "his", those of us who made the decision to accept Him as our Lord and Savior.  He knew exactly which ones of us would choose Him, before the foundations of this world were even laid.   He has also promised to hold on to those of us whose hearts have been re-born, whose souls have been irrevocably transformed, whose bodies now house His Holy Spirit.  With His blood He bought us, and He will keep us, forever.   (Read John 17 for Jesus' affirmation of these truths.)

There is another way in which Jesus keeps His Bride, us believers, "from falling".  It is through His power that we are able to resist temptation, not through our own.  The apostle Paul, in Romans 16:25-27 emphasizes this point in a benediction of his own, where he says that Jesus' power "establishes" us, grounds us in our faith.

Our own efforts to do this, to "keep ourselves" are futile, that is, when we attempt it in our own strength.  Think about your own personal weaknesses.  How often are you able to triumph over them in your own power?  If you are like me, well, never.  We are designed, as "new creatures in Christ" (2 Cor. 5:17), to run to Him when we are about to stumble, to pray to Him when we see a roadblock ahead, actually, to pray continually!  (I Thess. 5:16)  We are designed to draw our power from Him, and from none other.  No other being should get the glory that rightfully belongs to our Savior.  None other.

Isn't the Word of God so very beautiful?

Dear Father, thank you for your Son, and for leaving your Spirit here until your work on earth is done! I am so GLAD that, because You live in me, I do not have to hold on to my eternal salvation.  You hold on to me.  I am a "kept" woman.  Hallelujah!  It is because You hold on to me that I am free to walk in Your way and to offer my life to You daily as an act of worship.  I do that today, and walk ... resplendent!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Good morning!

Yesterday morning's post was just too full for me to get to the end of chapter 6 of Numbers.  At the very end of that chapter we see that God gave a commandment to the Levitical priests to bless the people on a regular basis.

Have you ever thought about what that means?

I've realized that the more commonly a word is used, the more generalized the meaning becomes.  For example, here in the South, we say, "Bless Your Heart!" to folks when we are just so appalled or bewildered at their behavior or their life circumstances, we just don't know what else to say.  It is our way of saying, "We don't know how you got into this mess, but we pray that God will help you out of it."  That's what we mean if we are Christian.  For non-Christians, I guess it just means the sayer is pure, plain 'ole appalled, and .... "good luck with that, Buddy!"

At any rate, the words "bless" and "blessed" are tremendously used in Christian circles, and without trying to explain all those circumstances, I thought it might be a good idea for us believers to take a look at the usage of the word here in Numbers.  Later on, I may try to broaden the application to situations in the Bible where, for instance, fathers on their deathbeds blessed their sons.

According to Scripture, a blessing is a very powerful thing.

One of the misunderstandings surrounding "blessing" is that it means that God will give us more "stuff."  Here's an example:  "God has blessed me with a ________".  Sometimes, God has met a need, and other times, we have just used the resources He has given us to obtain something we did not really need but wanted.  I'm not condemning that, per se.  I'm just saying that it is not the original meaning of the blessing.

If you'll recall, in this section of Numbers, God is setting up the Levitical priesthood.  He has been giving the sons of Aaron and other members of the Levi branch of Israelites specific duties regarding the temple worship and care.  One of the duties of Aaron's sons, as seen here in Numbers 6:22-27 is to bless the people.  In fact, God gives Aaron the very words to use.  Here they are, verses 24-26, from the NIV:
"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."
So, why?
Why did God command Aaron and his sons and their sons and all the Levitical priests after them to do this?
Look at verse 27: (Message version)
"In so doing, they {the Levitical priests}  will place my name on the People of Israel - - - I will confirm it by blessing them."

God is saying that, somehow, supernaturally, when this blessing is delivered over the people of God, they are marked with His name.  It is an act of "setting apart" for God, an act of sanctification.  
And, then, God confirms this labeling by blessing His people, by giving them more of Himself.  
The blessing is a reaffirmation of God's commitment to His people, a reaffirmation of His promise that we are His, and a promise of His steadfast love.  A blessing is like a love note from God to His Bride!

In my local church, at the end of each Sunday morning worship service, our pastor lifts his hands over the congregation and delivers this blessing from Numbers 6 over us.  And, then he says, "I love you!" From the beginning of this practice, I recognized the words, as they are commonly seen on religious plaques and so forth, but had forgotten from where in the Old Testament the words came.  I ran across them, reading Numbers 6 these past couple of days.

There are other places in Scripture where the writers closed their books with a blessing.  One example is at the end of the book of Jude, and it is probably my favorite blessing of all.  Here it is in the King James Version:
"Now, unto Him that is able to keep you from falling,
And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To the only wise God our Savior
Be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever.
(Jude 1:24-25)

I'd like to dig deeper into that passage later...maybe tomorrow.  Such beauty!  Such promise!

Dear Loving Lord, thank you for turning Your face toward your people so that Your glory shines on us who are marked by Your name.  Thank you for being gracious to us, the redeemed, the Bride of Christ! Thank you for the peace that being marked with Your name, Father, Savior, gives us...peace which the world cannot understand, peace that enables Your children to do supernatural miracles, in Your name. Thank you for this peace that also allows us to find our rest and put our trust in You, our King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Mark us again, today, so that we may glorify You, so that we may walk ... resplendent!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Cheatin' Heart

Good morning!

We are back in the book of Numbers, chapters 5.  The focus of chapter 5 is on the rules of the camp, that is, rules for how the People of Israel are to behave in order to keep the encampment (one for 1.5 million people) clean and pure.  Most of this is common sense.  Basically, if a member of the community had a bodily discharge or or an infectious skin disease, or if they had physical contact with a dead body, they had to temporarily reside outside the main camp, until their days of purification were past.

The next section of Scripture, though, veers off into the seemingly wacky.  The passage is verses 11-31.   The procedure describes how to deal with a jealous husband and his wife who might or might not be cheating on him.  Yes, God actually did address these matters with the Hebrew people.  You ladies reading this are about to get very offended, but before you go there, hold on.  God does deal with the menfolk in other passages of Scripture.

At any rate, this passage in Numbers is a help for the wife who is laboring under her husband's constant suspicion and jealousy.  It is not a pleasant place to be, always accused and never able to be vindicated. The ritual is also a help for a man who legitimately suspects his wife is cheating.  It's quite an elaborate procedure, to be sure, and its accuracy rate appears to depend mostly on the "psychology of suggestion".  Thank God we are not "under the law" anymore.  However, although we are under grace, this passage, and others like it, serve to illustrate how serious God is about marital fidelity.

Here are some other similar passages, which also pertain to men who cheat:
Leviticus 18:20  "'Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor's wife and defile yourself with her.
Leviticus 20:10  "'If a man commits adultery with another man's wife--with the wife of his neighbor--both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death."
Deuteronomy 22:22  "If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel."
Deuteronomy 5:18  "You shall not commit adultery."

So, the point is that God hates adultery, the biblical definition of which is: sexual relations outside the bonds of biblical marriage, marriage between one man and one woman.

The episode of King David and Bathsheba may have occurred to you, and you may be wondering why they both did not die.  Well, first of all, Bathsheba had little choice in the matter.  In those days, the King of Israel was not trifled with.  Had she refused, he could have had her put to death.  And, though God did not require David's life, He did require the life of the toddler child who was born from that sexual union.

God will always forgive our sin, if we ask Him to forgive, cleanse and restore us, (as David did, in Psalm 51:3 "my sin is ever before me").  He wrote this Psalm after being confronted by the prophet, Nathan, about his sin with Bathsheba.  He wrote it from a broken heart.  I really believe that, at this point, he had lost his will to live.  In verse 12:  
"Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."

Although He forgives our sin, God does not negate the consequences of our sin, nor does He explain away our sin, whether it be adultery (also called in the Bible "fornication"), murder, lying, stealing, dishonoring our parents, or breaking any of the other laws He has laid down in his Word for us to follow, in order to live holy lives for His glory.

He takes our sin so seriously, hates it so much, that He as Father God "put on a human body", was born to a virgin, lived among us for 33 years, laid down His life in the most horrible of deaths, and by His own magnificent power raised His Son from the dead....all to buy us back from the enslavement of sin and our own everlasting damnation in Hell.

Our world wants to make light of cheating on your spouse as well as other sins.  In our world, crooners sing songs like, "Your cheatin' heart....will tell on you."  And, we twitter and bleat and giggle and croon right along.

Don't you believe it! God is deadly serious about sin.  He stated through the prophet, Ezekiel, (Ezek. 18:20) "The soul that sins, it shall die."  He is so serious about it, is so intolerant of it, that He will allow us to spend eternity in Hell if we choose to reject His one way to salvation, that way made through His Son, Jesus.

Eternity in Hell - - - that's about the most serious thing I can contemplate.

Dear Righteous Father, we are somber when we read the examples You provide in your Holy Word about Your response to sin.  Help us to see it as you see it.  Help us to hate sin as much as You hate it, but to love people - - - all of us sinners - - - as much as You love us.  What a holy juxtaposition!  Thank you, Lord, that "if we confess our sin, You are faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  (1 John 1:9).  Thank you for cleansing and restoration!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mystery of the Firstborn

Good morning!

I am continuing on in the book of Numbers this morning, chapters 3 and 4, and learned something I had never known.  Did you know why God chose the Levites to be his priests and ministers of His Tent of Meeting and later His temple?

Well, it began with God's selection of Moses to lead the people.  Moses was a member of Levi's family. In Exodus 6:16-20, we read that Moses' mother, Jochebed, was Levi's actual daughter.  Levi also had three sons, and the duties of tending the temple were divided between the three sons and their descendants.  WHEN the Jewish temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem, and I have no doubt it will be because prophecies in Scripture declare this, I have no doubt that descendants of Levi will once again tend the temple.

If you are familiar with the Bible, you know that being the firstborn son was a big deal to the Jews. There was that whole squabble and mess between Jacob and Esau, for instance.  It turns out that God set the precedent for this.  We read in Numbers 3:11-13 that God consecrated the family and descendants of Levi "from among the people of Israel as a stand-in for every Israelite mother's firstborn son." {The Message version}  God goes on to say, "All the firstborn are mine - - when I killed all the firstborn in Egypt, I consecrated for my own use every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal.  They belong to me.  I am God."

If you ever wondered why God chose Aaron's descendants to be the priestly line, instead of Moses' descendants, there's your answer!  Aaron was Moses' older brother (Ex. 16:20), by three years according to Jewish tradition.  (  And, their father was the firstborn of his father, who was the second-born son of Levi.  (That is curious, isn't it?  Gershon was Levi's firstborn son, but Kohath was the father of Amram, who was the father of Aaron and Moses.)

Levi had three sons and at least one daughter, Jochebed.  She gave birth to both Aaron and Moses. (Yes, Amram married his aunt!)  It was from Aaron's line that the priests descended.  Numbers 18:5-7  Only they were allowed to enter the Holy of Holies (the Tent of Testimony), the place where the Ark of the Covenant (The Testimony) was kept.  Only they were to tend the altar and make sacrifices.  The descendants of Aaron's uncles, also Levites, had duties associated with the Tent of Meeting (which housed the Tent of Testimony) as well.  Those duties are very clearly delineated in Numbers 3 and 4, and elsewhere.

So, there's your partial answer as to why God chose the Levites to be His priestly line.  It had to do with consecration of the firstborn son as being dedicated to God.  Why Levi's family was selected instead of Reuben's or Dan's or Simeon's or one of the other of Jacob's 12 sons....I don't know.  God does not choose to reveal that.

The Levites were a very exclusionary bunch.  If a member of any other Jewish family tried to insert himself into the role of a Levite, he was ordered to be put to death, or God took his life directly. (Numbers 3:10 and 2 Samuel 6:7)  Our God is a God of order!  When He set up Israelite society, He wanted things done a certain way.

It is a mystery why God chooses whom He chooses.  All we can say is that He is God and He does what He pleases.  (Isaiah 46:10)  In our current day, the firstborn typically gets no more pre-eminence that do the rest of the children.  I'm glad that, no matter your birth order, you can receive God's call into the ministry.   I'm also glad that, no matter how or where God calls you, His calling upon your life is sacred.

Good morning, Lord.  Thank you for the peaceful rain and the quiet of the morning.  We bow before You in praise and reverence, reflecting on how You established the Levitical priesthood for Your people.  Thank you for Your calling on the life of each of Your children.  Please fill us with your Holy Spirit today that we might fulfill Your holy calling on our lives, so that we may walk....resplendent!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Moving Philadelphia

Good morning!

I was reading this morning in the first two chapters of Numbers.  (I can hear you chortling ... Numbers?!)

Have you ever thought about how the People of Israel, right after their deliverance from Egypt, "got their act together"?  I had never really given it much thought.  The book of Numbers is in the Bible to help us understand.

God is a master organizer, among His many, other talents.  (How do you number the abilities of the One who can literally "do anything and everything"?)  The children of Israel were a nomadic people after they left Egypt, and they were "led and fed" by the hand of God.  He caused nourishment to fall from the skies at the same time every morning.  Exodus 16:4 - - "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from Heaven for you.' "  Wow, I could really digress here, but will save that for another blog post.

Have you ever wondered how well over 1.5 million people moved around from place to place?  The answer is:  God gave them their camping and "marching orders";  and, those are recorded in the early chapters of the book of Numbers.

I marvel at the continuity of the Chosen People, over the centuries, whether all together in one country, or dispersed, as they are today.  Do you ever hear anyone say, "I am an Assyrian?" Although that empire endured for over 1900 years, it is now gone.  How about "I am a Babylonian?"  Babylon is no more, neither is that people group, with its distinct customs and religious laws.

God has supernaturally preserved the Jew and the Jewish religion, as well as Jewish writings (including the New Testament), down through the centuries.  Praise Him!

A census was taken by tribe, at the beginning of the second year in the Sinai desert. In chapter 1, verses 5-16, we read that one man was chosen from each of the 12 tribes, to count his own tribe of people.  The total number of 11 tribes was 603,550 men (vs. 32 of chapter 2).  Wait a minute! There were 12 tribes, right?  Yes, but for some mysterious reason, God chose not to count the Levites.  Why?  I don't know.  That's another question for another day.  But, He didn't "number" them in the total.

The Levites, as you will recall from previous blog posts, were the priests and the caretakers of the "temple".  In those early days, there was no actual temple building.  The whole group of Israelites lived in tents, which they set up, packed up, toted around and then set up again.  There was a special tent for the housing of the Ark of the Covenant and religious artifacts.  This was the center of the camp and the place they gathered for worship.  The Levites camped around the special worship tent, to control the people's access.  In vs. 53 of ch. 1, we see the God specified the Levites do this "so that wrath will not fall on the community of Israel" (Message version).  In the Message version, this tent was called, "The Dwelling of the Testimony".

One big, continuous camping trip....for years, and years and years.  Not my thing, frankly, but it was God's plan for them.

So, how did they get from place to place, and what's all this about "Moving Philadelphia" in the title?  God specified for the people a particular campsite arrangement and marching order.  They always moved in this order.  The tribe of Dan always "brought up the rear", for instance.  The tribe of Judah, which was camped to the east toward the sunrise, always led the march.  Do you remember that Jesus's mother was from the tribe of Judah?  He is called by many names, one of which is "The Lion of the Tribe of Judah".

This census ONLY counted the fighting men, men over the age of 20 and able to fight.  So, there were 603,550 soldiers in the count.  This does not include wives or children, widows or the elderly, OR the Levites.  It is entirely possible that there were over 1.5 million Israelites at this time.

It helps me, with big numbers, to find a frame of reference.  The whole group of Israelites at this time would be about the same number of people as are in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Is it any wonder that God had to intervene to organize this massive people?  They had only the mouth-to-mouth and written communications, you know.  No cellphones.

Our family has a big day today: 3 of us will return to the campus of a local college, either as a student or a professor.  I am trying to trust in God and not be anxious.  But, He who can move mountains and move a massive people group from place to place successfully can certainly hold in His hand our little threesome, as we embark on our new academic year.  He is a big, big God!

Good morning, Lord!  I thank you that, literally, You "have the whole world in Your hands", as the song goes.  I can have supernatural peace which banishes my anxieties, remembering that fact. You have given us, Your children, Your strength and Your courage, to face the tasks prescribed for us today, to walk . . . resplendent.  And, we trust in You, to lead us wherever You would have us go today. I praise You, Almighty King Eternal!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

That's Not Exactly What I...

Good morning!

2 Samuel chapter 10 is a story of many unintended consequences.  There are several lessons we can draw from it.

David is on the throne of Israel when a neighboring king dies.  David, being the big-hearted guy he was, sent a delegation to the neighboring kingdom with condolences for the dead king's family, including the new king, who was the dead king's son.

Lesson #1 is;  be careful whom you listen to.  (Yes, mother, I know you are not supposed to end a sentence in "to".)  "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding."  (Prov. 2:6)  The new king's leaders advised him to treat the delegation badly, because their paranoid assumption was that the delegation was not one whose purpose was to console, but rather to spy.  So, they apprehended the men, roughed them up in a disgraceful way, and sent them packing.

"When it dawned on the Ammonites (those were the neighbors)  that, as far as David was concerned, they stunk to high heaven..." (2 Samual 10:6 The Message version)  they hired 33,000 mercenaries from nearby {the Arameans}to defend their city.  It seems to me that it would have been much simpler to just apologize, but maybe that is a woman's perspective...
Lesson #2:  when you mess up, try apologizing, and be sincere about it.
Proverbs 15:1 {CJB version)  "A gentle response deflects fury, but harsh words make tempers rise."

So, David gathered up his soldiers and sent them out to settle the score.  His delegation had been humiliated, and he was not going to stand for that.  The ruling principle of that day was "eat or be eaten", and he had to avenge this great insult.

Lesson #3:  be careful whom you align yourself with (again, Mama, sorry...dangling participle).
When the battle started, the "hired guns" tucked tails and ran off!  And, the Ammonites did too, right back to the city.  I guess they had cowardice in common.  Proverbs 13:20 says, "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." 

David's group returned to Jerusalem to see what David wanted them to do about these yahoos, who had decided to re-group and mount another aggressive attack.  {Seriously?!}
Lesson #4:  Don't beat a dead horse.  When you find yourself astride a dead horse, DISMOUNT!  It is important to know when to quit...or at the very least, change tactics.

David put on his battle gear and led his troops back to the land of Ammon, where the Ammonites and Arameans were decisively defeated.  When the other kings who were allies of the Aramean king heard what had happened, they made peace with David and became his vassals.  {wise decision!}

In our lives, we are never going to escape unintended consequences.  However, God promises to give His wisdom to those who ask Him for it.  James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him."  (ESV)
If we will seek to follow God and His way, He will teach us; we will gain His wisdom and avoid many pitfalls.

Dear God, give us your wisdom today and every day, so that we can avoid as many pitfalls of life and their unintended consequences as possible.  We want to walk in the light, as you are in the light.  Please teach us Your wisdom, that we may "shine like the brightness of the sky above and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." (Dan. 12:3).  Then, we will walk....resplendent!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Doing the Difficult

Good morning!

Division and multiplication, subtraction and addition.....math.  I'm not very good at it.  As the adult in my household who writes out the bills and manages the assets, I do a competent job of that task, but there my expertise ends.  I've never wanted to have responsibility for other people's money and yet, here I find myself the treasurer of a local organization, the esteemed education sorority to which I belong.  This is one of those invitations I may should have not have said "yes" to, although that ship has sailed.

This morning (early!) I must "sail" off to Macon, for training.  I need it.   I am not confident in my own abilities. My pastor said recently, and it keeps coming back to me, that if a task you are given is not a God-sized task, if you can accomplish the task in your own strength, then it probably is not from Him.  God intends for us to rely on Him and through all of our tasks to give Him the glory.  This assignment of treasurer of the organization certainly qualifies.

I was reading in the Scriptures this morning about folks who are in charge of money, and there aren't many good role models for this task.  The Levites, in the Old Testament hierarchy, were in charge of the ecclesiastical funds.  Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus to the Jewish religious leaders and to the Romans is the other.  Not a happy ending, for sure.

I am encouraged, though, by Proverbs 9:10 - -
"The fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom; knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment."  I'm depending on that, and a lot of prayer, to see me through.  
And, I pray that my end in this matter does not resemble Proverbs 17:16 - - 
"It is senseless to pay tuition to educate a fool, since (s)he has no heart for learning"!!
Or, Proverbs 20:25 - - 
"An impulsive vow is a trap; later you'll wish you could get out of it."   !!

The Lord desires that we call on Him and lean on Him in all things.  Amen to that!

Lord, you KNOW that today's task is way outside my comfort zone.  Fill me with your Holy Spirit and enlighten my mind to understand what You have for me to learn today, about being a good and faithful steward of this organization's money.  Lord, just typing those words makes me cringe.  I am depending on You to see me through.  Please give me a clear head and listening ears, to learn what I must today, so that in this, as in all things, You will receive the glory.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, August 15, 2014

"Chew on" this.

Good morning!

Psalm 19 is so beautiful.  I wish I knew the original language because I'll bet the words just roll musically off the tongue.  In the English, still, it is glorious.

The first six verses show the psalmist rejoicing in God's creation.  I'm not going to get into an evolution/creation battle in this post, but it is inconceivable to me how anyone can deny the existence of Creator God - - Father, Son, Holy Spirit (Genesis 1; Colossians 1:17).  The psalmist clearly testifies to the fact of God's creation.  Plus, as scientists learn more about the incredible complexity and perfection of God's design, it is amazing to me how some of them try so hard to explain it away, God's revelation of His omnipotence and omniscience, in our physical world.

I'm not an expert in the debate, but I will point out that the discovery of DNA dealt the theory of evolution (and that's all it ever was, a theory) a death blow, because DNA flies in the face of evolutionary theory.  DNA shows the remarkable individuality of each species; it is the fingerprint of God upon every species God created.  I believe that evolution will continue to fall out of favor, as more truth is discovered to disprove its tenets.  But, that does not mean that some new manmade heresy won't arise to take its place.

There is a school of thought - - - that anyone who believe in creationism is simple and ignorant, that more modern and educated people would never believe such a thing.  This is as erroneous as the belief that all ancient peoples were less advanced than is our civilization today, when tremendous archeological evidence exists to the contrary.  If you want to read about some of it, I recommend to you Jonathan Gray's book, Dead Men's Bones.

A similar dismissiveness and derision exist in regard to the beauty of Scripture.  In an effort to excuse his own sin, man has for centuries dismissed the Law of Moses, the writings of the Old Testament prophets, the New Testament as "just a book".  It is so interesting to me that the psalmist "got this" and demonstrated his understanding of worldly dismissiveness by juxtaposing both topics in this magnificent psalm.

As Christians, we should defer always to the incomparable Word of God on any "knowledge" that seems to fly in the face of what God has revealed in Scripture.  The second part of the psalm goes on to extol the beauty of the "Law" of God.  The Old Testament followers of Jehovah God had only a few books of the Old Testament, and in the earliest days, not even that.  But, the point is that, what they had, they revered.  Look at the adjectives David uses to describe the magnificence of God's written revelation:  (NIV)
perfect  (vs. 6)
trustworthy  (vs. 7)
right  (vs. 8)
radiant  (vs. 8)
pure  (vs. 9)
firm  (vs. 9)
A beautiful, old hymn was written about verse 9:  "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith, in His excellent Word.  What more can He say, than to you He hath said, to you who for refuge to Jesus hath fled?"
Also in verses 7-9, the psalmist, who has obviously spent much time studying God's revealed, written Word of that day, proclaims that God's written revelation "refreshes the soul", "makes wise the simple", "gives joy to the soul", "gives light to the eyes" and "endures forever".

If you only have a passing familiarity with the Savior and/or the Bible, you may be thinking, "That's a little much."  (And, I have not even mentioned the New Testament passage that describes Scripture as being a "living thing"!)  There is so much non-Biblical evidence about the supernatural nature of the Bible.   If you are a skeptic, I invite you to read it.  The best extra-biblical book of "proofs" for the Bible was written by a former atheist, who became a Christian after he did an honest intellectual study of the veracity of the Bible.  He became convinced, and then converted!  Praise God for His amazing power and grace!  The book is called, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and it was written by Josh McDowell.

I woke up this morning so tired!  Last night, I was blessed with a full night of sleep; however,  I'd been totally "done" when I went to bed.  Yet ... getting up this morning and diving into God's Word, I feel washed, refreshed, rejuvenated....resplendent.  Such is the incomparable beauty of the Word of God.

David points out, in verses 11-13, that we are incapable of seeing our own faults and transgressions, when left to our own devices.  It is just too easy to excuse our sin!  But, the Bible reveals our incredible, inescapable need for a Savior, and for daily cleansing/restoration.  David reminds us that, as we apply the Bible to our lives, (vs. 11) there is "great reward".  The Message version calls it "hidden treasure".

Sweeter than honey straight from the comb!
More precious than the purest gold!  (vs.10)

The psalmist, David, the man after God's own heart, closes his meditation by praying this: (vs. 14)
"May these words of my mouth, and this meditation of my heart, be pleasing in Your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer!"  (Such humility!)
The Message translates "meditation" as truth you "chew on" and pray about.  "Give us this day our daily bread..."

Are you ready to start this day "Son-washed"?  Scrubbed clean of the grime of sin?  Let's meditate on God's truth as we begin this day, this beautiful day God has given.

Dear Lord, we cannot, cannot make it on our own.  Our attempts to do so result in emptiness in the depths of our being, regardless of the pretty, outer trappings of our existence.  Thank you for revealing Yourself so stunningly in your magnificent creation and even more so in your written Word.  True understanding lies there.  "Teach us to apply our hearts to wisdom" (Ps. 90:12).  In Jesus' name, amen.