Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Deception's Lullaby

I read a 'missionary joke' years ago that probably had more truth in it than 'joke'.  The story goes like this....
The first year missionaries are on the field and they find bugs in the food on their plate, they throw the food out.
The second year they are there and they find bugs in their food, they pick the bugs out and eat the food.
The third year, they ignore the bugs and just eat them along with the food.
The fourth year, if there are no bugs in the food on their plate, they add them!

I was thinking about that this morning and I thought, while we chuckle at the story, it is an apt picture of how we become so accustomed to sin around us that we are lulled to sleep and no longer recognize the danger of deception.
I am purposely not going to mention any specific sin, but if you think about how much we, even as believers, not only tolerate, but accept and even participate in - be it attitudes, beliefs or actions - that would have a few short decades ago horrified us ...  we have to admit that we very much fit into that missionary scenario.

Adolf Hitler understood this about human nature when he said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
I think of the well-known saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt..."  What becomes familiar, we no longer question, no longer test, no longer are alarmed by it .  If we feel any nudge of conscience at all, we shrug it off as inconsequential.

I think of the verse in I Tim.4:2 ..  "... having their conscience seared ... "  in other words, lulled to sleep, no longer hearing the alarm, warning of danger lurking.

I am reminded as well of the verse in Isa_59:14 , " Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter." 

Is that not an apt description of what we see in our world today?  Ask the question , "What is truth?" and it will be most often answered according to personal interpretation, or the concept of absolute truth will be denied.  'Truth fallen in the streets' - ancient truths that stood the test of time are no longer valued and lie discarded in the streets.

We live in a vulnerable, violent, vexing time in history ... so how are we, as Christ-followers to live? 

So often, God's way is the opposite of what we would humanly choose or think to do - and for a 'time such as this', God's directive seems totally incongruent. 

Jesus spoke of the end time and the trouble defining that time, yet He said in   Luke_21:28,
 "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." 

To 'lift up your heads' means to be encouraged rather than bowed down with dismay, worry, and fear. It means to rejoice .. and to look for our redemption -   The best is yet to come and it is nearly here!

Though the world around me is in darkness, 
I dwell in the Light of the God who is above all Gods, 
the One who is the beginning and the end,
 the One is the Judge of all, 
the One whose Word will stand forever 
and the One who is in control of all things!!  

"Lord, help us today, in a sinful world around us, to stay separate, to cling to your Truth as the standard that will never change ...Open our eyes to see the deception around us, that we will neither stumble, nor sleep.  Thank you, that you have made 'our redemption' sure ... 
Come soon, Lord Jesus!" 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Jehoshebeath - A Woman of Influence

In our fast paced world where nothing stays the same and no one has enough ‘time’ .. it is hard sometimes to focus on the important things of life that do not change.
It is hard to feel that we can make a difference when we see the tsunami of evil invading every aspect of our society.  We see hearts growing cold and life becoming less and less valued.
But God is not diminished, He is not out of control,  He is not frustrated that His plan is not working out – in fact, the opposite is true.  God’s promises are still true, God is still totally in control, His plans for His children as viable and important as ever they were.


 Is that your question ?  Do you sometimes feel there is nothing that God has called you to do that will make a difference, nothing important enough to even be noted or remembered?
God has given us His word, and He declares that in it is written all we need to understand Him and His ways and to find comfort and guidance in every area of our lives.
He oft ‘teaches’ us through the stories of people who have gone before.  Though they may have lived thousands of years before our time, their situations, the difficult circumstances of their life or the evil around them is oft picturing our own  times.  And we can find answers in their stories that apply to our questions.

Have you heard of Jehoshabeath?  Probably not.  Yet she is immortalized in the pages of our scriptures.  Let me take the facts recorded in II Chronicles 21-23, and read between the lines fleshing out the scanty details we are given, so  that we can ‘feel’ Jehoshabeath’s life and recognize the example she is to us.

Jehoshabeath  was  the daughter of a King and the granddaughter of a King.  We would imagine that her life would have been the sheltered life  of an adored princess, filled with affluence and luxury and servants. 
 But it  wasn’t.  
She was born into a very dysfunctional home. He father, Jehoram,  was evil, feared/hated by all who knew him.  The kind of father you would wish on no child.  Her mother, Athelia,  was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, brought up to think and do what was evil and wicked.

Jehoshabeath, growing up, would have suffered the attitude, reactions and whispers of people who recognized her as the daughter of the hated king, and having  a mother  even more evil than her husband. 

Jehoshebeath  was a tender-hearted girl who loved the Lord.  We wonder how she was able to stay pure of heart and soul living in a home where evil ruled.
I wonder … was Jehoshebeath named for her grandfather, Jehoshaphat?  Did she have a special relationship with him and learn about God at his knee?

When Jehoshaphat was about to die, he divided his wealth among his sons but left the throne to his oldest son, Jehoram.   Jehosebeath was about 13 years old when her father was established as King in Jerusalem.
The first thing Jehoram did upon taking the throne,  was to secure his position by killing all of his brothers.   I can’t help but feel the shock and horror that must have filled young  Jehoshebeath’s heart to witness her father coldly murdering his own brothers. 
Jehoram was  a wicked king,  not following his father’s godly example,  but rather following the council of his wicked wife, Athelia.   

Jehoshebeath must have feared every day what would happen next …  what violence would invade her fragile world.

God stirred up the Philistines and the Arabians to come against Jehoram because of his wickedness.. They came and ransacked the palace taking his possessions and his sons ,carrying them off. Only the youngest by the name of Ahaziah, Jehoshebeath’s brother, escaped. 

Soon after, the invasion, Jehoram,  came to the end of his eight year reign.  God struck him with a horrible, painful condition of his intestines and he died.  His ephitaph was that “to no one’s sorrow, he departed.”  
Did Jehoshebeath mourn her father’s death?   I don't know,  but I think she would have been afraid of what her brother and his mother would do now.   Jehrom’s only remaining son, Ahaziah, took the throne with his mother beside him.

Sometime either shortly before her father died or shortly after – we are not given the time- something very unusual happened in Jehoshebeath’s life.
God was watching over her and had an ‘escape’ planned for her.  Marriage … That in itself is not unusual but what was very unusual was WHO she married.  She married a priest by the name of Jehoiada, who was about 50 years older than Jehoshebeath.

A princess never married a priest!  It was not done. And a priest marrying the granddaughter of Ahab and Jezebel? Never…  I don’t know how God worked circumstances to make it happen – just this once!  … Maybe He spoke to Jehoiada and told him to marry the beautiful young princess who faithfully came to the temple to pray and to bring her sacrifice.  Maybe Jehoiada reminded Jehoshebeath of her grandfather and she longed to ‘be safe’ with someone who loved God as she did.
What we do know is that God had His eye on this girl…  guarding, guiding her through her life because He had a purpose for her to fulfill.

Her brother when he took the throne followed the example set by his father and did wickedly according to his mother’s advice.  God sent Jehu against those remaining of Ahab’s household and all were killed.  Ahaziah hid himself, but Jehu found him and killed him too.
When Athelia heard that her son was dead, she immediately set about to kill all the royal heirs – which would have included her grandchildren.

Someone quickly informed Jehoshebeath what Athelia was doing – or had ordered someone else to do -  and she reacted quickly.
Jehoshebeath snuck into the palace and snatched up her one year old nephew, Joash,  and his nurse and hid them in a bedchamber in the temple.
She and her husband Jehoiada became the only parents Joash would ever know. They  loved and protected him, treating him with kindness.

For six years Athelia ruled.

Then one day, when Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada gathered together men of the tribe of Levi and armed them.  They surrounded Joash as he was taken out of hiding and brought to the temple where he was publically crowned, given the law, anointed and declared king to the shouts and cheers of the people.
Athelia , hearing the tumult and shouting came to the temple to see what was going on. When she saw the boy Joash standing by the  temple pillar, she shouted “Treason, treason!”  but no one stood with her.  Jehoiada commanded that she not be killed in the temple but that she be taken outside and killed. 
And so Joash reigned for 40 years over Judah, listening to and following the godly counsel of his father Jehoiada.  And the people had peace.  I find it interesting that Jehoiada lived to be 130 years old ... so that he could advise Joash for his 40 year reign ..  and maybe to be a husband for Jehoahebeath as long as she needed him?   Even Moses only lived to 120. 

Jehoshebeath’s name means “Jehovah is my oath” .  A very significant meaning.  It was through Jeshoshebeath that God was able to keep His oath/promise to King David , that there would always be a descendant to sit on his throne, until the Messiah came.  If Jeshoshebeath had not rescued Joash, all of David’s descendants would have been killed. And in rescuing him, she brought him under the godly influence of herself and Jehoiada. 

I admire this woman we seldom look at. I love how she stayed true to God, kept her faith in Him, turned her back on the luxury of the palace for a simpler life in the temple.  She rather married a godly man than a prince or man of wealth. She also proves to us that we do not have to be bound by our circumstances or the sin of our parents. 
I also hear her speak  that if God had a purpose for her … He has a purpose for everyone of His children …  Not a one of us is unnecessary in His kingdom, not one life is without meaning.  No matter how dark it looks around us, how hopeless – as it must have for young Jehoshebeath – we know that God is watching over us, guiding us according to His good purposes and covering us with His love and grace.

 "(God), who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began ...  
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. .....  
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. " 
- II Timothy 1:9, II Corinthians 9:8 , Romans 8:28 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Misplaced Anger

I love my hummingbirds and make sure their feeders are kept full of sweet nectar. 
But I often feel hurt, because they don't seem to appreciate me at all even though I am providing them with a constant reliable source of food - as much as they can drink !!  
Again, today I took the feeder down to refill it and I could hear one of the hummingbirds clicking behind me, scolding , angry that the feeder was GONE !!  It was less than a minute before it was once again hanging in its place and he was again at the 'flower' enjoying its sweetness. 
I thought .. "Silly bird, why can't you trust me? 
Why can't you recognize that I am the one taking care of you. " 

But then, I wondered ... "God is that what your children are like too?  Do we hurt your feelings too because we do not trust you?"
As long as we are enjoying the fullness of life and  eat of its sweetness, all's right with our world and we are happy and thankful. Our praise to God flows easily from our lips.
But then come the times where suddenly the sweetness is gone and a vacuum gapes in dark caverns where before we enjoyed life. The things we took for granted are suddenly gone, and we don't know where we will find another fountain to drink from. The unthinkable happens -  that unexpected curve in the road, that experience that cuts to the quick, that shock that leaves us adrift.
And then, though God speaks softly to us,  we ignore His voice and blame Him instead.
We cry out ,
 "How could you let this happen to me? 
 How could you let me suffer?  
Why did you not prevent this disaster, this tragedy, this difficulty, this pain?" 

Just like my hummingbird, we never consider that maybe God is 'refilling' our bottle.  Maybe the 'break' in our life is needful for the 'best' that God has planned for us. Maybe God is wanting us to refocus  on Him, because He notices that we are being distracted by things that would take us from Him.
Just as I was perfectly aware of what my hummingbird needed and was providing it, so also God is perfectly aware of what I need and is in process of providing it.

Could I not be a little more trusting and patient, knowing that He does all things well? Knowing that His eye is always upon me, even when I don't 'feel' it.  Knowing that His thoughts are always for my good?"

"Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience ...  but let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, wanting nothing."  James 1:3-4 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

I can easily guess your response looking at my above photo .. "what in the world is that!!"

But if anyone dares to describe the little ornaments as ugly or worthless or anything 'less-than', my emotions will rise in defense,  resenting any criticism.

Why ?   Because to me the above little ornaments are beautiful with treasured value.
When my two  granddaughters were  toddlers, both under 3,  my daughter asked them if they wanted to make  something for me for my birthday.  Oh yes, they did.
She gave them a box of paint and brushes and  two little figurines to paint.
My daughter told me they sat for over an hour painstakingly, patiently painting brush stroke after brushstroke, intent on making their work perfect for their Nanna.  I will never forget the eager little faces when they so proudly gave me their gifts.
My heart melted - how I still treasure the little ornaments, and in 'my eyes'  the beauty is unsurpassed!

Often when I look at the little figurines, I wonder if God doesn't feel the same as I do.
When He looks at you and me, does He see us as worthless?  Does He see the flawed, imperfect brush strokes with which we have painted our lives?
Does He look at the 'gifts' of service we give Him and see them as so much 'less' than what He could so easily do better without us?
Or, do His emotions quickly rise up against anyone who would speak against us?   Does He see us as beautiful beyond description and are our humble offerings to Him precious because we are clothed with our faith/trust in Him?  Does He value what we offer Him as 'beautiful' , even when in human eyes it looks worthless, just because we are so loved and treasured in His sight?

" ....  the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes" I Peter 1:7

 "Rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."  I Peter 3:4

"So shall the King greatly desire your beauty, for He is the Lord, worship him !" Psalm 45:11

The ultimate, unfathomable truth is expressed by Jesus Himself -- that the Father loves you and me as much as He loves Jesus !
John 17:20,23

Next time you look into the mirror,  or look into your heart, and feel despondent or discouraged at the 'little' you have offered to God, remind yourself of how God sees you and how He values what you give Him in response to His love for you.
If God delights in you and values your 'gifts' to Him,  does it matter so much what others think?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What's Wrong With This Picture

We recently stopped for lunch at a very popular Bistro called Bliss in Peachland.  They  have excellent  "made from scratch" soup, bread, desserts so I  recommend them as a good place to have lunch in you are in the area.

I ordered a bowl of soup - gluten free -  and a cup of coffee.  When my husband, with a smirk on his face, carried the tray with our order to our table and placed my soup and coffee in front of me,  I had to burst out laughing !
Something was wrong with the picture!!
The cup and the bowel were just NOT in proper balance regarding relative size!

I thought about this.  I thought about how we all adhere to a certain standard.  We expect things to be in balance. We are far more reluctant to move from what has been established as the rightful  'norm' than we would think.  We don't really think about it, until something jars our senses and alerts us to note that something is out of balance.

Regarding the size imbalance of my soup bowl and coffee cup, it was something that tickled my sense of humor, but it did no harm - it caused no inconvenience.

But sometimes things out of balance do hurt.
When  monthly expenses exceed  income.
When time runs out before I can meet a deadline or keep an appointment.
When there are more people than food to feed them.
When my fatigue is greater than strength needed to complete a task.
When I have miles to go and no gas in the tank.

But then my thoughts lifted to a higher realm.
Does God look down on me and see an imbalance in the cup and bowl of my life?

Does my bowl of God-time look much smaller than my cup of me-time?
Does my bowl of faith shrink in size when compared to my cup of anxious worry?
Is my bowl of forgiveness much smaller than my cup of harbored grudges?
Is my bowl of unselfishness out sized by my cup of selfish me-focus?
Is my bowl of love overshadowed by my cup of fear?
Is my bowl of generosity much smaller than my cup of greed?
Is my bowl of trust in God's truth insignificant in relation to the size of my cup filled with the world's  standards of right and wrong?

my prayer - "Dear Father, forgive me for where I have allowed  my cup and bowl to be out of balance, where I am more filled up with myself than with you.  Forgive me where I have not been careful to make the things of the Kingdom bigger than the things of this world.  Jar my senses, Lord .. show me the imbalances in my life and teach me to be pleasing in  your sight. I turn my eyes up to you, desiring that as I look I will reflect your love in my life. In Jesus' precious name, amen."

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Something Good in Something Bad

I have rheumatoid arthritis ... the crippling kind. I was diagnosed about twenty years ago. It changed my life as I had  known it.  I had been very active, healthy and always able to add one more thing to an already busy day.  But then suddenly, my body rebelled, painful swollen joints refusing to allow movement and actions I had taken for granted.
But, over the years, my rheumatologist prescribed the drugs that controlled the pain and limited the crippling that used to be unavoidable.  I began to find a more tolerable level of function, although I had to give up many things I had enjoyed doing ... like hiking ... tennis ...sewing ... knitting. I had to find new ways to do common every day tasks.

The synovium is the primary site of the inflammatory process, which if untreated leads to irreversible damage to the adjacent cartilage and bone. My right wrist responded less than my other joints to treatment, and now the synovium layer has thickened and affected the wrist joint to the point that I have virtually no movement left in it. 

A bad thing?  yes.. of course ..  God created our flexible wrists because they make many things easier to do.  
But ... for me, it has been a blessing in disguise.  With the wrist no longer being able to move I am spared the jarring pain that resulted from any hand movement. 
And ...  then I discovered that with my wrist fused I was able to quite comfortably knit. The weight of holding the needles no longer aggravated the pain in my wrists , so to my delight I was able to once again indulge in something I enjoy.   The above photo is a baby blanket  I recently made for a friend's first grandchild. 

Bad things do happen ...  trials, troubles, pain , suffering are all the 'norm' in our earthly life. But, God in His loving kindness can take the 'bad' things and bring something good out of them. 

It is not natural for us to look for the good in something bad, but when we trust in God's love for His children and His promise to 'work all things together for good' , we can develop the good habit of looking for His fingerprint in the midst of something we would so gladly eliminate from our life.   
The apostle Paul repeatedly begged God to remove from him the disability that plagued him and God said 'no'.   Why? Because without it Paul would not have fulfilled the calling God put upon him. Pride would have been his downfall. 
 And in the acceptance of his 'thorn',  he  experienced how God's strength was perfected in his weakness and he learned to live in the all-sufficiency of God, leaning on Him instead of trusting in his own strength and ability. 
Had God said 'yes' to Paul's plea, would we today be missing much of the New Testament in our bibles?   

What God allows to come into our life, He also provides the grace we need to rise above it, and we need never face it alone.  He is there with us, comforting us in it, and taking us through it. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Recognizing the Enemy

Every human being is created in 'the image of God'.  No matter how vile a man becomes, buried within him remains that 'image' of who he was created to be like.
It seems that we so easily fall  short of being transformed from the 'earthly image' into the 'godly image'  that we lose sight of how valuable we really are.

Why is it so difficult?
Simple answer ...  everything that has worth or value is fought over.  And we are all caught in a battle for our soul.
Jesus, in His ultimate sacrifice and resurrection, won the right to receive every man to Himself - every man that desires to be His follower is lovingly 'born again' into the family and Kingdom of God.
But ... as soon as we declare our allegiance to the Lord, the enemy - Satan and his demons - screams in anger at his loss and plots to lure us back within his grasp.

Someone once wisely said ... "He who best understands his enemy wins the war."
How true !   Do we as believers understand our enemy?  Do we recognize him when he throws his darts?   Do we know how to defeat him?  How to live in the victory that is declared ours by the mouth of God?

There is a very insightful story in the Old Testament that pictures for us the tactics of the enemy and his limitations, as well as the authority and strength of the one whose trust is in God.  We learn best by pictures or stories  and the lesson learned goes deep into our understanding.

The book of Nehemiah tells his story.  Nehemiah was a godly man, dedicated to love, worship and serve his God.
His heart was toward his people and when he heard of their distress because the 'walls of Jerusalem  were broken down', he cried out to God on their behalf.  (Neh. 1:3,4,5)  Responding to Nehemiah's cry  God sent him out to repair the house of God and the walls of protection around it.
What higher calling does the believer have but to build and repair in the Kingdom of God, to encourage the saints and to restore what has been destroyed.

No sooner had Nehemiah set himself to the work of God, but the enemy immediately heard of it and was 'deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel'.  (Neh.2:10)

The name of Nehemiah's enemy was Sanballet.   This name is interesting when you look for its meaning.  The Jewish Encyclopedia gives the Assyrian meaning as 'sin is vivified' (or, sin has given life)  Another meaning I found was 'enemy in secret'.   So it seems that the enemy in our story was aptly named, and it isn't much of a stretch to link him with Satan.

We see Sanballet's heart motives.  In Nehemiah 2:19 we are told that Sanballet despised Nehemiah and his people and laughed them to scorn !
We know that Satan despises God's people and mocks them in his anger. He "seeks whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8)

Before we examine the tactics of Sanballet, we have a very revealing statement by Nehemiah. He declares to Sanballet ..  "The God of heaven Himself will prosper us, therefore we, His servants, will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem."  (Neh. 2:20)

That is such an insightful truth we need to tuck into our hearts. Satan has no heritage or rights  in God's Kingdom. He shares nothing with God's people!

As we look at the intent of Sanballet to come against Nehemiah and to stop his work, we see that Sanballet was limited in the ways he could attempt this.

The first darts Sanballet threw at Nehemiah were 'lies'.  He accused Nehemiah of working without the king's permission and was in fact in rebellion to the king. (Neh. 2:19)

Satan's first attempt to harm us is always with lies.  We  remember his first lie in the garden of Eden... "Did God really say.....?"
Satan's lies always aim to plant doubt in our minds - taunting us to doubt God's word, to doubt His promises, to doubt His love for us.  He has endless variations on the theme ... "Did God REALLY say....  did He really mean ....?"
He plants the questions in our minds - "Maybe God's promises aren't for me, maybe I did something to incur God's disfavor,  His disappointment, maybe even His anger. Maybe I am not worthy of His love,  maybe God has turned away from me and will not hear my prayers  ...."

Any voice that plants doubt in our mind  is not of God but is the voice of the enemy.

Another tactic Sanballet employed was the mocking, belittling - the destroying of confidence. He cried out that Nehemiah and his people were 'feeble' , unable to accomplish what they set out to do. Whatever they did would fail, and fall down around them.  (Neh. 4:2)

Satan would have us look upon our own weaknesses instead the power of the Spirit within us.  He would have us falter,  like Peter, looking down at the water and sinking instead of keeping our eyes on Jesus.
Jesus speaks words of encouragement ... Satan's words always belittle and discourage.

Sanballet plotted to create confusion, and in the confusion he would be able to  enter and destroy before Nehemiah saw him coming. He sent word to the Jews that no matter where they turned they would be ambushed.
In Neh. 4:10  it speaks of the results of confusion - failing strength to work, and so much rubbish that it kept them from building the wall.

We easily see the truth of that in our own lives , don't we?  In the confusion of all the voices around us, we grow weary and are overwhelmed with the 'rubbish' that we see and hear all around us.
I think of the song lyrics that  refer to the confusion of 'the things of earth'  that grow dim when we keep our eyes on Jesus, believing His voice. (Turn your eyes upon Jesus)

Sanballet sought to strike fear in Nehemiah's heart. (Neh. 6:9) Fear that would cause him to be paralyzed, unable to continue the work. Sanballet tried to distract Nehemiah by threatening him and making him afraid of what the enemy could do to him.  

Fear - Satan knows that fear is man's most crippling emotion.  Fear is never from God .. because God is love and there is no fear in love.  When there is fear in our heart, we see the footprints of the enemy.  Fear lurks in the dark.   In fear there is torment. (I am not talking here about the 'good' kind of fear - the fear that is profound respect, for fire, water, gravity, and God Himself ) 
God never tries to motivate us with fear ..  He motivates us with love.   

When fear threatens our peace, we can with Nehemiah speak to the enemy .. "No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart."  (Neh. 6:8) 

If we stand against the enemy, refusing to allow him to fill our hearts with fear but rather drawing near to God , he will flee !  (James 4:7) 

Sanballet had one more trick up his sleeve.  Unable to distract Nehemiah openly, he sought to find his vulnerability, to deceive him.  So he found someone who was a 'secret informer' - one who Nehemiah thought was his friend.  Sanballet sent this 'friend' to Nehemiah pretending to have his best interests at heart. He came with an invitation for Nehemiah to come meet him in the house of God. There they would be safe from the enemy who were plotting to kill him that night. 
Nehemiah was almost taken in ... but then recognized that God had not sent this man at all but that he had been 'hired' by Sanballet. (Neh.6:13)

We too need to be on guard that we are not taken in by 'friends'  that bring false messages.  If the message is contrary to God's word, it is not from Him and we need not fear the message or the messenger.    

It is interesting to note that in our story Sanballet never 'touched' Nehemiah, never attacked physically, though his army stood ready.  Nehemiah - with God's word in his mouth was protected from the enemy.  He stood in victory because he never faltered in  keeping his focus on God and standing on His truth.  
Nehemiah knew he did not have to fight the enemy, God fought for him and his people, and it was God Himself who discredited the enemy and brought "their counsel to nothing".  (Neh. 4:14,15,20)

Nehemiah finished his work, and "when all the enemies heard of it ... they were very disheartened and perceived that this work was done by God." (Neh. 6:16)
So we too, with the sword of God's word in our mouth, can stand in victory,  not fearing what the enemy could do to us ... because "greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world."  (I John 4:4) 

And as we do the 'work' God has called us to, the enemy watching will be disheartened, knowing it is God who is working in and through us. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Amazing Details by Design

Goats, Stone, Billy Goat, Nature

Sometimes I am amazed at how detailed God's word is ... and how no matter how much we study it, no matter how much we learn - the bottom line is there is so  much more to discover !
The treasure of God's word, buried in the pages of scripture - what a gift God has given us.

I learned something new this week ..  something I find fascinating.

Before I share my new knowledge ... I'll give you some background information.

In ancient Israel  there were  two goats that played an important role in a yearly ceremony.
We read about them in Leviticus 16.

This is their story.

The Day of Atonement was a very special day on Israel's calendar.  It came once a year, and it was the day the High Priest went into the Holy place to make atonement for the people.
On that day Aaron, the High Priest, was commanded to select two goats . By lot, Aaron, then choose which one would be 'for the Lord'  and which one would be 'the scapegoat'.

The goat 'for the Lord' was sacrificed as the sin offering for the people, and it's blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat in the Holy place.  Atonement was thus made for the people.
Then Aaron went out of the holy place and placing his hands on the scapegoat confessed over it all the iniquity of the people.   This goat was then sent away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. We read in verse 22, "The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities ... "   Doesn't that sound familiarly like Isa_53:6  which reads.... "All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. "

We have all heard how the two goats together give us a picture  of Jesus' death and Resurrection.  Though He died, yet He was alive!

When the man who took the goat away came back he needed to "wash his clothes and bathe his body".  When Jesus spoke to Mary outside the tomb, He warned her not to touch Him because He had not yet ascended to His Father. (Luke 20:17)  Could it have been that He had not yet been 'cleansed' of the iniquity He carried?  We  have a glimpse of what happened what Jesus did go to the Father in Zechariah 3:4,5, where we see a foreshadowing of Jesus standing, with the iniquity garments upon Him ... and then they are removed and he is given 'rich robes' ...

The goats are such a great  foreshadowing, pointing to what the coming Messiah would do.

But then it gets even more fascinating ...

The two goats represented the 'atonement' that happened between God and His people ...
 In Hebrew the word for sacrifice is stronger than what our English word suggests. In Hebrew the word for sacrifice is also the 'sin' ... So the sacrifice becomes the sin or sinner ...  the 'sin' is atoned for .. and then the atoned one becomes one with the one who did the atoning and he is free.

Flash forward to the trial of Jesus...  we have two who stand condemned to die.
Barabbas, a sinner,  and Jesus, the Righteous One ...   A lot is about to be cast - which one will live, which one will die.
All of creation should have been holding its breath.  If Barabbas had been chosen, then all mankind would have died with him, condemned sinners ... forever.
But if Jesus was chosen , then He was the Perfect Sacrifice to die for the sinner ... and the sinner atoned for could become one with Him ... taking on His righteousness.

The two goats chosen for the Day of Atonement had to be 'the same' .
Did you know that Barabbas and Jesus were also the same?
Bar means 'son' ... 'abba' means father ... Barabbas' first name was Jesus (check the margin notes of your bible)  
so Barabbas was      Jesus, son of the father ...
and we all know ...  Jesus, Son of the Father.
Co-incidence??  hardly!
Are you not thankful the lot fell to the One who could set us free?  The One that could cover us with His righteousness in exchange for our sin?

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Ice Storm and Storms of Life

We had an unusually cold winter this year, lots of snow and one very severe ice storm.
Covered with a coat of ice  our world was transformed into a jewel studded wonderland.
Beautiful as it was to see, when the ice melted we saw the incredible power it had to leave damage in its wake.
Trees everywhere  were split down the middle, branches and limbs broken off, some trees dead on the ground.
I was sad to see how many trees  were lost or suffered extensive damage but then I noticed something that caught my attention.   Not EVERY tree suffered damage - two trees could be standing side by side - one damaged , the other standing strong, having come through the storm untouched.

I saw the spiritual lesson pictured in the drama of the storm.

Before the ice storm all the trees looked healthy and strong. It would have been impossible to tell which would be vulnerable to the onslaught coming against them.

So also, as believers, we can all look strong and full of faith on the outside, but a storm of life will show how strong our faith really is.
It is when the difficult times come, those unexpected seasons of life that hit us in our most vulnerable places - that is when it is revealed what we are really made of.
Is our faith only lip-surface?  Are we only strong in the sunshine of life? Do we stand only as long as we are surrounded by the securities we love and lean on?

When suddenly our faith is tested, are we completely shattered?  Do hard times break our limbs of faith and cause us to doubt?  Are we so distraught that we lose all spiritual life?

There was one tree that taught me the best lesson.
It was one of our own trees that stands in our back yard. A tall white birch tree, maybe thirty feet tall.  Looking out of our kitchen window the morning after the storm,  my husband called me to come look.  This birch tree was bent over double with the weight of ice clinging to it. My husband commented, "I guess we lost that tree, there is no way it can recover."
But, lo and behold, when the ice melted, the birch tree stood back up, as straight and tall as it was before!  It is pictured below, the tallest tree in the middle of the photo. (I'm sorry I don't have a photo of it doubled over)

I smiled when I saw the tree standing up once again, and thought, I want to be like that tree !
A verse came to mind, the words of Paul from II Corinthians 4:8,9.
"We are hard pressed on every side ---   yet are not crushed; 
we are perplexed  ----- but not in despair.
persecuted ---- but not forsaken 
struck down --  BUT NOT DESTROYED!"

When we are tempted, when we are tested, when we are tried, may we all be like my birch tree. 
May we  courageously say with Paul...  'we may be struck down, but not destroyed'. 
In Christ , though we are weak, we are strong.
"Let us put on the whole armor of God, and so be able to stand against anything that comes against us."
(my paraphrase Eph. 6:11) 

The storm WILL pass , the Lord WILL take us through ... will we then be standing upright, strong in our faith?

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Great Artist

Yesterday we spent some very enjoyable hours with our grand girls at the 
Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver. 
I am posting some of our photos to give glory to our God who filled our earth with so many reasons to be awed at the beauty created by a Mind so infinitely greater than ours. 
Scroll through these photos as an act of worship to our God of Wonder. 
"Oh that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 
Let them exalt Him.... !" 
 Psalm 107:31,32a

Hmmmm..... wonder if that would work for my nest ! 

      Worth a try ...

Its hard to see but there is a bird inside the nest trying to pull the plant into his nest !

 Every spring this bird loses his long tail, and then grows it again.

 "Just sayin' ......"

"It was just Christmas, wasn't it ?"

"Green with envy ... nah ... just like the color."

"Thought I'd dress up for the photo-op."

"Ain't I the brightest bird out on a limb !"

"Do you like my new eye liner?|"

Latest designer colors....  wouldn't these colors make the prettiest room decor?

"All these feathers make me itchy ... uggg"

"There .. that feels a little better .... "

"Ok.... I'm all feathered down again !!"
This bird is apparently the 'naughty' boy ....  and he speaks 40 phrases.
I was sorry he refused to converse with us! 

Perhaps the black-headed is the male? the red-headed the female?

 Like my new fascinator?

And a few of the lovely plants creating a Paradise for the birds