Tuesday, December 12, 2023


Our Father , Our Shepherd - Looking at God as our Shepherd through the eyes of  Ezekiel,  David and Jesus

I love how God never says anything just once. David proclaims in Psalm 62:11 “God has spoken once, twice I have heard this…..”
And Hebrews 6:17 is speaks of God confirming His word with an ‘oath’ so that by “two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation.” Meaning that everything God says He will confirm or say more than once.

A Shepherd.  How beloved and familiar is  Psalm 23, and we speak often of Jesus as our Shepherd.  
But maybe we have not followed the theme or thread throughout the Bible showing us again how God does not change.  He truly is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  And in speaking of Himself as a Shepherd there is more to be gleaned than just the familiar, warm analogy! 

The theme of Shepherd and sheep is found throughout our Bibles .  The first reference is found in Gen. 49:24  …. By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel). This is Jacob’s prophecy over Joseph.  It is noteworthy because Joseph is a type of Jesus, and we know the ‘Rock’ of Israel was pointing to Jesus, and here it first refers to Him as the Shepherd.

The second reference is in Num. 27:17 “….that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” 

Also in I Chron. 11:2 Samuel quotes God having said to Saul…” You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over My people Israel. "



My lesson today focuses on three passages, Ezekiel 34, Psalm 23 and John 10 and  how we will see that both David and Jesus’ drew from the words of this Ezekiel chapter.  



David was obviously familiar with the words of the scroll of Ezekiel and sitting alone in a field watching his sheep it must have run through his mind and he penned the beloved words of Psalm 23 as his heart-response to Ezekiel 34. 


I paralleled Ezekiel’s words to David’s response.  


Ezekiel 34:11  “Thus says the Lord God, Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep….I will deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day…”
                                       Psalm 23:1  “The Lord is my Shepherd , I shall not want …. “

Ezekiel 11:14,15 -  “I will feed them in good pasture … there they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pastures….  I will make them lie down. 
                                   Psalm 23:2… He makes me to lie down in [b]green pastures;

Ezekiel 34:18 ..”to have drunk of clear waters … “
                             Psalm 23:4 He leadeth me beside the still waters

Ezekiel 34:16, I will bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick .. 
Psalm 23: 3 He restores my soul

Ezekiel 34:23, And I will establish one shepherd over and the shall feed them .. and be their Shepherd.    
               Psalm 23: 3, He leads me in the paths of righteousness  for His name’s sake.                                                       

Ezekiel 34:28 “And they shall no longer be a prey… nor shall beasts of the land devour them, but they shall dwell safely and no one shall make them afraid. “ 
                       Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
                                                        I will fear no evil;

Ezekiel 34:30 “Thus they shall know that I, the Lord their God am with them …” 

                                     Psalm 23:4 for You are with me ..


Ezekiel 34:17,18  As for you O My flock, thus says the Lord God, Behold I shall judge between sheep and sheep , between rams and goats… …Behold I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep..”

                          Psalm 23:4 Your rod and your staff they comfort me.


Ezekiel 34: 26 And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing and I will cause showers to come down in their season , there shall be showers of blessing..

             Psalm 23:4,5,6  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
                           You anoint my head with oil;   M cup runs over.
                        Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;


Ezekiel 34:30, 31 They , the house of Israel are My people says the Lord God, You are my flock and I am your God …
Psalm 23:6 And I will  dwell in the house of the Lord forever !


Comparing Jesus words in John 10 we also see parallels to Ezekiel 34.

Jesus uses an  illustration in John 10.   In His illustration He uses several ‘pieces’ that fit together in the analogy He is teaching. .

To understand an illustration or parable that is speaking of one thing but meaning another, we need to rightly assign the meaning intended to each piece of the parable.

In Jesus’ illustration we have …

The sheep --  you and me  - “God’s own”
The door – by which the good Shepherd enters
The good shepherd, who loves his sheep  -   Jesus
The wolf – Satan
The hireling shepherd - leaders of God’s people who are false shepherds and do not love the sheep.

 Who kills, steals and Destroys?

There is a phrase in this passage that is often taken out of context  -  “who comes to kill, steal and destroy”  and these words are  applied to Satan.  But that cannot be the intended meaning  because the ‘hireling’  who ‘kills, steals and destroys’ flees from the ‘wolf’ .   The wolf cannot flee from himself, therefore the ‘hireling’ that ‘steals, kills and destroys’ cannot be the wolf - or Satan.

The ‘kill, steal, destroy’ is a strong condemnation directed to ‘false teachers/leaders/shepherds” As I noted above, we cannot establish truth from just one scripture.  We must have confirmation. In this example we need to find confirming scripture that gives the same message as we have defined it here – that the ‘hireling’ is false teachers/leaders’.  

Confirmation in Ezekiel 34

And we find that confirmation in Ezekiel 34.  Here God calls the leaders of His people “false Shepherds” (or hirelings) and He condemns them accusing them,  

1.       of ‘stealing’ -  Ez. 33:1,2 says that instead of feeding the flocks, they ‘steal’ the food to consume on themselves.

2.       of ‘destroying’ the flock in verse 4 when He says that they have not strengthen the weak or healed the sick nor bound up the broken, nor sought that which was lost, but ruled with force and cruelty.

3.       Of ‘killing’ -  the sheep  ‘become prey, and are killed by the beast of the field’   because of the false shepherds

So in both Ezekiel 34 and John 10 it is the ‘false leaders/shepherds’ that are the ones accused of ‘stealing, killing and destroying’.  Just like in the Old Testament we have God’s words condemning the leaders who did not Shepherd His people, but destroyed them in leading them into worshipping false gods.

Jesus  first condemns the ‘hirelings’ or false Shepherds,  and then compares Himself to a Good Shepherd.  

Just like David, Jesus repeats ore rephrases  the thoughts in Ezekiel 34 about what a good shepherd is and does  and applies it to Himself.

1.       He says He is  the ONLY Good Shepherd.  ( John 10: 14, Ezekiel 34:23)

2.        He speaks of being the very ‘door’ of the sheepfold – He keeps them safe.  (John 10:9,  Ezekiel 34:25, 27,28)

3.       He will not flee like the ‘hireling’.  (John 10: 13, 14  Ezekiel 34:30)

4.       He will care for His sheep.  He gives His very life to them, and they know Him and trust Him and hear His voice. (John 10:9, 15 , Ezekiel 34:13, 14, 15, 26, 29)

5.       He gives them a secure home -  ‘eternal life’. (John 10:28,   Ezekiel 34:22, 30, 31)

Why is it so important to see God/Jesus as our Shepherd? 

God created ‘sheep’ so that we could clearly understand the relationship God wants to have with His people – the Sheep of His pasture. (Psalm 100:3 “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture”)  

What does the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep teach us ?

1.       A sheep is the most dependant of all animals.  It cannot care for itself.  It cannot even clean itself, the Shepherd has to do it.  So we also  – only our Shepherd can cleanse us of our sins.

2.       The sheep needs the shepherd to lead it to water, to the lush pastures, it doesn’t know the way by itself.   And so we too,  need our Shepherd to lead us and guide us and “direct our paths”.

3.       We tend to want to be independent – do things our own way.  We so quickly hear the insistent words of a toddler .. “Me do it!!”   Occasionally a sheep will wander from the shepherd,  and fall over.  If he does he cannot get up by himself, he needs the Shepherd to help him. 
So with us --  when we wander from the Lord, do we not ‘fall’ into diverse sins and situations and can’t get up on our own?   
Or the sheep gets caught in the bramble bushes …  so like us going our own way get ‘caught’ in habits, relationships and consequences of our actions and can’t free ourselves.

4.       A sheep will quickly get himself lost on his own and can’t find his way back. The shepherd has to go find him and bring him home.   Does our Shepherd not continually ‘find us’ even as he went out to look for Adam and Eve, or Elijah saying, “What are you doing here”   And He lovingly invites us to come back to the safety of His fold.

5.       A sheep wandering away from the Shepherd is vulnerable and easy prey for the enemy. 
As are we. Our enemy is ever on the watch to see if he can catch us in a weak moment and tempt us to ‘sin’ in whatever way he can… in our deeds, our words, or our choices or decisions. 

Isn’t it amazing how God has made it so clear and simple in His word, confirming His truth over and over so  that we need never fear or wonder who He is.  We can rest in the assurance of who He is as our Good and Faithful Shepherd!

I was wondering ….  Do you think that much of our ‘trouble’ comes into our life because we want to do things our way?  We try to solve our own problems, find our own answers and then when things go sideways, we  wonder how we got there ! We even ask, “where are you God?”  All along, He has followed us, calling for us ,  to bring us back to the ‘good pastures’ and the safety in His presence.

Should we not  ‘surrender’ our self-will, our desire to self-rule and just completely trust our needs and cares and , yes,  our very life into the hands of our Good Shepherd who is the PERFECT Shepherd?   There is a saying that many believe is in the Bible – of course it isn’t – but the saying goes… “God helps those who help themselves.”   That is not how a Shepherd relates to His sheep.   If we ‘insist’ on helping ourselves, God LETS US.  He is watching to help those who totally trust in Him !!! It is not weakness to implore the Lord for help BEFORE we try our own way, it is a strength.   Even Jesus said that He said nothing He did not first hear the Father say, did nothing He did not see the Father do !” Jesus  did nothing in His own authority. (John 8:28, John 5:19)  He set the example, we as the ‘sheep of His pasture’ need to follow !! 

Friday, November 3, 2023

 I was reading Psalm 27 the other day, and was caught by the first line in which David declares .. "The Lord is my light" 
 We take light for granted, don't we? If the sun goes down we simply flick a switch and carry on.

 I think for most of us 'fear of the dark' is one of our first experienced fears. I remember as a child, one of my chores was to carry the day's left-over food scraps to the barn for the cats or pigs to enjoy. The barn was far enough away from the house that the yard-light attached to the house did not reach all the way to the barn, leaving a stretch of inky darkness. I was fine in the light but my heart always pounded in fear when I stopped to gather my courage to dash through that black corridor of 'no light'. 

Why are we so afraid of the dark? This week  Tuesday was Halloween, when 'black' is the colour of choice. -- witches, black magic, dungeons, evil. Why is the colour black chosen to symbolize evil? Because in I John 1:5 it says, "God is light and in Him is NO DARKNESS AT ALL!" Black shuts out all light and therefore aptly symbolizes everything outside of God - everything outside of His goodness. (and I love the word 'good' - it is God (Goooood) stretched out and is that not what God does ... stretch out His hand to bestow goodness upon His people?) 

So when David says "The Lord is my Light!" what is he saying? 
The first thing he says is he is not afraid. Just as I was not afraid where the yard light shone, so also David was not afraid when he was in God's LIGHT. He mentions the enemy stumbling. By inference we can deduce that his enemies were NOT walking in God's light and therefore stumbled. It is so easy to stumble in the dark, is it not? 

 David makes another comment in verse 4 when he speaks of "beholding the beauty of the Lord". Do you know that 'colour' is ONLY in LIGHT itself and not in any object we see? The beauty of colour is in the light rays and when they touch an object some rays are absorbed and others are reflected. We see only the colour of the reflected rays. You know how after a notable dimming of lights .. all colour disappears. The ocean bottom, as we have all observed watching underwater films, is incredibly beautiful, but without the light of the camera, it lies in darkness devoid of any perceivable colour. The creatures who dwell there never see any colour, unless they happen to be in the range of a diver's light.

 I love the symbolism of this fact. Without God, there is no beauty to behold. Only by Him and through Him , when He shines on our life are we able to see and appreciate His beauty all around us. We say ... "I have to see it to believe it !!" It is hard to see in the dark, and very hard to know what to believe. How often as children did you tell scary stories -- and remember how much more effective they were to inspire racing hearts if the stories were told in the dark! If you are in the dark, you are easily led to believe anything you are told is lurking in the corners. But If God is our 'light', we are 'enlightened', we can 'see' clearly the things of God. We can see His face, and we believe because we see and understand!
 David's 27th Psalm is a beautiful declaration of faith, but he adds one clearly identifiable characteristic of faith in the last verse - 14. The quiet confidence of 'waiting' on God! Waiting -  Have you ever grown tired of waiting on God? Waiting for an answer? Waiting for His direction? Waiting for Him to smooth the wrinkles in your life? Of course... we all have. BUT .. as we continue to live and walk in the 'light' of who God is, we will notice how much easier it becomes 'to wait' because our confidence is sure -- God does hear, God does have an answer, and God will deliver in His good time! While I am waiting I am hidden in His secret place, in His tabernacle - high on a solid rock!

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

"Nothing new under the sun"
 We are having a sermon series from Ecclesiastes on Sunday morning and in Ecclesiastes there is the recurring phrase ... "under the sun" ...Solomon uses this phrase 27 times in the book. In observing the things 'under the sun', he concludes that there is nothing new under the sun. What once was, is and what is, will be again.

 I listened to a very insightful conversation between Jonathan Cahn and Gary Hamrick. (link below) 
We all look around us in horror at what is happening in our world on so many levels we are moving away from a godly society. Morally our world is falling apart and we shake our heads in confusion wondering what went wrong. How did things change so quickly from what was the 'norm' not that long ago!! 

Jonathan Cohn is very insightful and gifted to lift the scripture off the ancient Bible page and paste it into our modern world. Because we are visually oriented, we judge by what we see and too often do not give enough attention to the unseen spiritual world which is very very real. Not only is it real but has a greater impact in our society than we might think. 

 Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our earthly battles are not against 'flesh and blood' , literally other people, but our battle is against "principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, .. against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." 

 How literally do we recognize the truth of that, knowing that it is not ungodly people we need to protest against, and argue with, but we need to stand against the very 'rulers of darkness' , real beings - entities - that are the ruling influence here ! 
 Note that these demonic entities are rulers over the DARKNESS .. they cannot overpower us who live in the LIGHT ... Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:5) and gave us the authority, in His name, to stand against what the enemy is orchestrating in our society today ! 

 Jonathan explains it so well, I will give you the link and encourage you to listen to it ...
 I know you will find it most insightful !

 On another note, I know we are all watching the war in the Middle East ... and there are many who have much to say about it ... but the best sermon I heard about it was by Gary Hamrick - so concise and to the point ... Here is the link if you wish to listen to it .. I encourage you to do so! You won't be sorry ! https://www.youtube.com/live/upeQUaVwRSY?si=rudpBn7CZWJs9c1x

Psalm 81:13-16 
"Oh, that My people would listen to Me, 
That Israel would walk in My ways! 
I would soon subdue their enemies 
And turn My hand against their adversaries. 
The haters of the Lord would pretend submission to Him, 
But their fate would endure forever. 
He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat, 
And with honey from the rock 
I would have satisfied you !" 

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The Chicory Plant


On our way to church on Sunday, I admired  the lovely blue Chicory flowers blooming beside the road.  I have noticed that they seem to really like the sides of the roads -  i have not seen them growing elsewhere !  

And I thought ....   hmmmm.... there has to be a lesson here !  

I googled the Chicory plant to see if it was true that they preferred to bloom beside the road.  Apparently, they do !  For two reasons.  
One - not many plants/flowers grow beside the road, so they have chosen to bloom there because there is little competition for space!  
 Two -  they rather like rocky, dry, clay soil conditions, as provided roadside.
I did not make that up... you can google it for yourself. 

I realized the Chicory paralleled our life as believer's. 

Separated and set apart .  
When we chose the Lord, and are born-again, we are separated and set apart for His glory! 
We  chose to withdraw from the crowded places of the world,  so we can 'grow' beside the roads less traveled where we do not have to compete for space or position..   
The chicory could have chosen to bloom in lush fields or shaded forests, but it chose to sacrifice the world's best for its higher calling and purpose. 
So we, as believers, have rejected the lure of what the world offers - the glitz, the glory, the fame or fortune, the comfort.   Instead, we have chosen the higher calling and purpose we have in Jesus, even though it is a life of sacrifice and separation. ( John 17:15,16)

Set on a hill 
If the chicory had chosen to bloom in fields or forest glades, it would have only been noticed by those who sought out those places.  But growing beside the roadway, it is seen by every passerby.   
We too, like the chicory, are positioned so that we are seen by those who pass us by and notice we have something to offer .  We are the light to the world, we are the city set on a hill, we are  God's love extended to the world,  
(Matt. 5:14) 

Called to serve 
The Chicory is an edible and medicinal plant and the leaves, flowers and roots are all useful!   
Isn't that the purpose of every believer?   That we are 'food' for those who are hungry - physically and spiritually.  That we bring 'healing' to those who are sick or suffering, comfort and hope to those who are mourning or in despair.  And just like the Chicory offers its very life so that its roots can be ground into coffee -  so we too are called to lay down our lives for the brethren.  (I John 3:16)

Difficult or dry places
When all goes well,  when looks life we have it all together,  the passers-by look and think , well, sure .. why wouldn't they be happy?  everything goes their way!  
But when things go sideways, when difficulty and hardship and persecution comes our way, and we 'keep blooming' THEN  the world takes notice and wonders what we have that can make us keep our joy in the midst of a difficult situation or life.   
Just as the Chicory is noticed and admired because it can grow and thrive where other plants quickly die, so we too have a visible witness to those who pass us by.  (Acts 1:8, I Peter 4:19))

Look up! 
I love the colour  of the chicory, is it looking up to reflect the blue sky above?
Are we not called to 'look up' into the face of Jesus and reflect His image in our life?
(II Cor. 3:18)  

Called into His rest! 
There is one more thing the Chicory pictures for us.   Have you noticed it only blooms in the morning and 'rests' for most of the day?  
Isn't that what we are called to do as well?   Enjoy the 'rest' Jesus promised us?  He does not burden us with tasks that weary us, He does not ask more of us than what we can give.  He asks of us only what He has already enabled us to do. 

 "Come to Me, all you who are heavy labor and are heavy laden 
and I will give you REST .. 
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am
 gentle and lowly in heart 
and you will find REST for your souls.
 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."...
Matt. 11:28-30

"Thank you, Chicory, for your faithfulness in reminding us every time we look at you of who we are in Christ and how we should live in the world ! "  

Friday, July 7, 2023



Monday morning I took my Bible to spend some quiet time with  the Lord. It was a beautiful morning and the patio was so inviting! 
My first question to Him was .. "What can I share in this week's devotional?"  Immediately the answer came ... "Go to the book of James."  I did and started reading the first chapter. My eyes and attention stopped at the word 'fall' and I knew here lay my lesson.  
In context this verse (James 1:2) is talking about trials of life.  Interesting that it uses the word 'fall' to describe how we meet the trials of our life.  I looked up the Greek word translated 'fall' and the meaning is ... " to fall into something that is all around, i.e. light among or upon, be surrounded with:--fall among (into)."
Have you fallen lately? 
In this short lesson,  I want to point out the parallels between a physical fall and how applicable the use of this word  'fall' is  in relation to our trials. 

We never fall 'on purpose', do we?   If we were told one morning we were going to fall,that day, I think we would seriously consider just staying in bed and avoiding the experience, wouldn't we?  
We don't want it, we don't plan it, we don't anticipate it,  it happens unexpectedly - suddenly we find ourselves on the ground.  
Could we not describe the trials of our life the same way?  A trial is not a welcome event in our life, it is not something we plan for.  It happens , often suddenly, and there is nothing we can do to stop it.  Whether our trials involve failing health, financial trouble, broken or troubled relationships, loss of loved ones, a missed appointment, stuck in traffic, a broken dish or burnt toast, we all have days that just go wrong!  We could each write our own list of things that  upset our life or cause us stress or worry. 

The James verse begins with the words .. "count it all joy!"  I have never seen someone fall, or tell of a fall  where joy was the expressed emotion!  When we physically fall, the closest to feeling  'joy'  is the feeling of relief if we are not seriously hurt !  Could it be that that is where the 'joy' lies in our trials, knowing we won't be seriously hurt when the trial is over?  

When we fall, being 'surrounded' with the fall is an apt description, isn't it?  Suddenly, in the blink of an eye you are totally 'encompassed' by the experience.  All else leaves your mind,   Nothing else is important. You are focused on one thing - you have fallen!!  
So also with the trials of life. When we 'fall' into them, we are encompassed by the trial.  Everything else in our life  slips down the list of our priorities. The trial captures  our thoughts, our emotions, our focus. We desperately look for an escape. .

When we fall, after we have determined that we are not dead, or seriously injured, our focus immediately shifts to how we are going to get up !  No one just stays down if  they are able to get up or have help in getting up !  
So also in a life-trial,   our mind races to find a solution or escape. But we can make the mistake of wallowing in our misery and giving in to the debilitating emotion. .  We are so overcome or discouraged we don't think of 'getting up' - it seems impossible, we are weighed down and blinded by our distress. 

"Count it all joy, my friend!"   No?  not there yet?  

My favorite Bible character is Joseph.  We all love his story.  We love him being given authority, the position of a ruler,  second only to Pharaoh himself.  We love how he provided food for so many, including his own family.  We love how he treated his brothers, tested them and forgave them.  It is such a great story !!  
BUT ...  do we read the 'before' and see how in  Joseph we see our James scripture played out as an example to follow? 
Didn't Joseph 'fall' into trials?   First, he 'fell' into his brothers' evil intentions.  He 'fell' into being sold.  He 'fell' into becoming a slave' ... He 'fell' into being falsely accused and 'fell'  into prison. He even 'fell' into being forgotten by someone who promised to help him.  
None of the trials he 'fell' into were anticipated nor could he have done anything to avoid them.  Did Joseph count them all joy?  I don't think so.  It must have been terrifying for a teen-ager to be 'sold' and dragged away from his father and his home.
We know he suffered - which is a given,  otherwise it wouldn't be a trial, right? 
 We read in Psalm 105:17,18 "He sent a man before them - Joseph - who was sold as a slave, they hurt his feet with fetters, He was laid in irons.."   The passage goes on to say "the Lord tested him" until the right time for the Lord's word to be fulfilled.  
Is that where Joseph found his 'joy' ? In remembering, knowing, believing  the dreams in which God had spoken to him about what was to come - what God's plan for his life was.    God's word to Joseph was never in jeopardy - it was never threatened. 
Joseph could have 'fallen'  into his trials and given up, staying down, giving up.  Who would have blamed him?  Yet he didn't. While his 'trials' surely encompassed him, and there was little joy in the midst of them, he didn't stay down.  In every trial, he got up and walked through it, knowing God was with him. In the end his declaration was that while his trials were 'meant for evil',  God used them for good !!  

That is joy, isn't it?  To never lose hope?  To never forget that our trials are for a good purpose leading to God's goodness poured out into our life and into eternity?  That our trials can work out for good in His kingdom?

We see the perfect example in Jesus Himself.  When He faced the trial of His life - a trial more horrific than any of can imagine - we are told where the 'joy' was.  
Hebrews 12:2 tells us that because of the 'joy set before Him",  He endured the cross. It was not the trial itself that was 'joy' , it was what it would produce.
Having the hope and assurance of what a trial will produce gives us the strength and perseverance to endure the trial.  We think of a woman facing the pain of childbirth which she endures for the 'joy set before her', the hope of the child soon to fill her arms and heart. 
So also our James passage 'sets the joy before us'.  If we endure the trials that come our way - be they big or small - then we will enjoy the 'fruit' of the trials. Patience, and Romans 5:3-4 adds character and hope.  And we read in verse 5,  hope never disappoints because God's love has been poured out in our hearts. 

If you find yourself 'encompassed' by a trial you would dearly have avoided, take comfort and be encouraged, there is a secure 'hope' anchored in the promises of God.  When the right time comes, God's word to you WILL come to pass. And then you will echo Joseph's words, "It was meant for evil but God meant it for good !!  
"Count it all joy...." my friend.    

Thursday, June 29, 2023

 Nothing For Naught !  

If we could truly -- from our heart -- pray that prayer with child-like faith would we ever feel anxious and afraid?  Do our times of anxiety and fear not come when we have doubt that God is REALLY is in control of the details?   And if He really is, then what do we have to worry about??  
Our God is a God of details -- in His creation , in His plan, but also in His Word !  If there was one detail that escaped God's attention, He would no longer be perfect !  And perfect we know He is. 
We all acknowledge that God's word - our scripture -  is God-breathed and inspired but have we not all at times let our eyes skim over some obscure reference or some minor character or unpronounceable name and wondered why these details take up space in our Bible's pages?
Yet, we know in God's creation there is no unnecessary detail. Sometimes it is a very small detail by which some 'big' thing is held together !   Everything has a purpose!
Should we not expect God to be consistent in all of His work -  whether it be created acts or words?
I believe every word in the Bible is there for a purpose and reason, whether or not we see it.   But .. sometimes it just takes a little extra focused reflection and thought to see what the purpose is. 
 I want to look at a few of the 'obscure' characters in the Bible that I think have something to teach us. 

1. Two Thieves
Two characters that are familiar to us are the two thieves crucified with Jesus.   Interesting, isn't it that the crucifiers put Jesus in the middle.  Maybe so He could converse intimately with both.  Two thieves who had lived a life-style of crime serious enough to be condemned to the cruel death of crucifixtion.They obviously knew each other judging from their conversation with each other.  Yet, how different they were.  One held onto his hard heart and felt no remorse for his 'sinful' life.  The other, guilty of the same, looked at Jesus and his heart melted. He dared to ask !
 "Remember me ... !"  
Yes, Jesus remembered him!  He knew all the details of his life, and saw the honest acknowledgement of his sin. Without any hesitation Jesus simply welcomed him into the Kingdom  
Do you ... or someone you know...  feel that they are not worthy, that they dare not come to Jesus fearing He will justly turn them away? Point them to this thief on the cross.  For two thousand years he has been the witness to Jesus' freely  forgiving  ANYONE who asks.  No one will be turned away. (John 6:37)

2. Ehud - Used Because He was Different
Our second character centers in a rather gruesome story that is not pleasant to envision.  But it sits on our Bible page in Judges 3.  There is an insightful detail that is easily overlooked.  The character is Ehud.  You may not be familiar with him, so here is the back story.  Israel had been under enemy oppression for eight long years  - finally in their desperation they cried out to the Lord to rescue them.  And the Lord heard and answered by providing a deliverer, a man by the name of Ehud.  
Ehud was 'different' and maybe suffered ridicule because of it.  We so want to be the same as everyone else - we want to fit in , not stand out.   But the God of details gave us that characteristic that makes us different - because He has need of it, as we see in Ehud's life story..   
What was 'different' about him?  He was left-handed.  Different, awkward , when the world caters to 'right-handedness'. 
Ehud loved God - he was faithful, dependable and fearless!  
The enemy Israel feared was Eglon, king of Moab - the enemy God raised up against Israel because of their evil ways, , but he had served his purpose and now God needed to save his people from his cruel oppression of them.  

Ehud  had a plan. 
Fearlessly, he walked into the enemy's camp, accompanying those who were carrying the tribute demanded by Eglan.The tribute was delivered, but Ehud's plan required a private meeting with the king. so he shouted, "I need to see you alone, O King, I have a secret message from God for you."  The king, obviously curious what this message could be,  dismissed those with him.  Before they left, I'm sure they patted Ehud's left side to make sure he had no weapon.  
Because Ehud was left-handed, his weapon was not hung under his clothes on his left side but on his right !  The guards did not expect he would have a weapon on his right side ! That made it too difficult to access for a right-handed man.   
Therefore, because he was 'different', he had the advantage of surprise when his 'left-hand' reached over to his right side to pull out his dagger.  Before Eglon could react, it was too late. His life was over!  
Are you 'different' in some way?   Did the God of details not give it to you for a good purpose?  Have you asked Him how you can serve Him with the special gift He 'detailed' you with? 

3. Elishama who?
I'm sure you could not tell me who Elishama was if I asked.  
We know every little about him.  He is briefly mentioned in passing in Jeremiah 36:12. He lived in the time when Jehoiakim, King of Judah ruled and God sent Jeremiah with a warning  message to the king.  Elishama, we read, was a scribe, in whose chamber Jeremiah's scroll was hidden.   Jehudi by order of the king went to get it,  and he read it to the king, who seized it and threw it into the fire.  
Why was it important for God to record that Elishama was a scribe in the service of the king?  
Many, many years passed - millenia, in fact. Then, in 1986 in an excavation in Jerusalem a clay seal was uncovered.  What was important about it is what was written on it... "Elishama, servant of the king."  
The world is always eager to prove God doesn't exist, that the Bible is a collection of fables and full of errors.   But God is in the details -  Elishama's name was needful to be recorded so that he stands as 'proof' that God's word is true -- EVERY WORD !!!  

4. Ittai the Gittite
Another character whom you may not be familiar with is Ittai the Gittite. (II Samuel 15).The Gittites lived in Gath but you may be more familiar with Goliath than with Ittai -- both Gittites. (II Sam. 21:19 says .. Goliath, the Gittite)   Obviously, the Gittites were Philistines, hardly the friends of Israel, yet here we have in our Bible reference to Ittai.  He has a message for us. 
Background -- King David was being betrayed by his own son Absolum. Absolom had won over   to himself many fellow Iraelites. He beguiled them with lies about how King David was a thoughtless judge, not caring about the peoples' complaints. If only he - Absolom- were king  he would certainly care for them with more empathy and support!   
David had to flee for his life and his supporters went with him.  Ittai and all the Gittites also went with David and when Daved noticed them he encouraged Ittai to go back and stay with Absolom, even referring to him as king.  I believe he was 'testing' Ittai's loyalty since David did not know why Ittai and his men had joined him.  They had only been with him for a day.   
But look at the words of Ittai in response to David telling him to go back home.  His words echo Ruth's words to Naomi -- that where David goes he will go , in life or death!  
His sincerity was obviously proven because king David subsequently put Attai in charge of a third of his army. (II Sam. 18:2)  
What is Ittai's message?  Don't judge someone by their family or their history or their ancestry or ethnic background.  Though Ittai was from a godless nation that prided itself on its giants - Goliath being one of them -  he chose to live contrary to his upbringing.  
God leads and judges everyone on their own merits and does not judge anyone for the sins of their father's. (Ez. 18:20)  
King David reflected God's heart in his attitude and actions toward Ittai.  He believed him and rewarded his loyalty, putting him in a position of trust.  

5. Dear Shiphrah and Puah ! 
 Then we have Shiphrah and Puah whose names are recorded in Ex. 1:16.  We know that because of their 'lie' , God's plan for the deliverance of Israel through Moses  unfolded.   These two midwives boldly stood before Pharaoh who could have with one wave of his hand, order their death but they declared that the Israel women were different from the Egyptian women in that they gave birth very fast , before the midwives even got there !   The obvious should have struck Pharoah.  If the midwives statement was true why did they have midwives??    God was pleased with the midwives and rewarded them with families of their own.  Why was that unusual?  I read one article that stated that midwives were not generally allowed to marry.  If that is true or not, we know God blessed them in a way that was very meaningful to them !  
The lesson they teach?  That it is okay to lie to save our skin or life?  No, I don't think so, although I know we all take pleasure in the picture of these two women standing so brazenly before the king with their cover story!  
I think the lesson they teach is that when we are brave enough to do the right thing even though we are disobeying authorities and our life may be in danger because of it, God will protect us, cover us, and reward our faithfulness.   

I hope the above glimpses into some of the lesser known passages of our Bible encourage and enrich your own Bible study.  And may you be encouraged to know how important you are in God's thoughts.  You may see yourself as a small detail ... but God sees you as an important piece in His unfolding eternal plan !  You are necessary and needful and  BLESSED in God's love for YOU !  

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

"My Name Is Naomi" 

"Hello, my name is Naomi.  You have found me  in the pages of your Bible, though I am not the main character in the story - my daughter-in-law Ruth is. But I have some thoughts I so desire to share with you, if you have the heart and time to hear them. 
 Hindsight is very wise, but it comes a little late - we have already reaped the 'fruit' of our choices, actions and decisions.  They say the best way to learn is through others' mistakes, so you don't have to make them yourself !  So let me share what I learned and I pray that my experiences might be of help to you. 
I, like every other young woman, had my dreams and expectations..  I would marry and have children and live my life, happy and content to run my happy household.  My name , Naomi ,means 'pleasant' and that is how I expected my life to be. 
And that is how ,at first, it began to unfold.  I married and was excited to find I was soon pregnant with my first child.  It was a son - but he was not strong.  I feared for his well-being and afraid I was going to lose him so I named him "Mahlon"  (meaning sickly) maybe to remind myself that he might not live to adulthood.  Shortly after, I became pregnant again - another son, but to my sorrow he too was born sickly, so I named him Chilion (meaning pining or wasting away) 
But, I was so thankful that as I cared lovingly for my boys they did become stronger and to my relief and joy grew to be  men. 
But then a famine swept our land and it became difficult to get enough food.  Not that anyone was starving 'yet' , but we did not know for how long this famine would go on. We knew God had always cared for His people, and I believed that He would see us through this famine.  
Then one day, my husband, Elimelech came to me and said he had decided that we would move to Moab, where there was plenty of food .  I couldn't believe my ears!  Moab was cursed by God because the Moabites refused to give food to the Israelites, and these were the very people Elimelech was choosing to trust?   The very thought of leaving my home, my family, my friends - everything I had ever known was heart wrenching and filled me with anxiety.  But what could I do ?  My husband was determined and I had no choice but to obey him. 

Lesson  1 --  Sometimes life throws the unexpected in our life-path, upsetting our security, our comfort, wrecking havoc with the very things we thought were solid in our life. 
Or someone makes a major decision that affects us, yet we are not considered or given any voice or control.  Because we feel the rug is pulled out from under us,  we  cry out to God  but feel left adrift,  because surely He could have prevented this life-changing, devastating circumstance.  
  But God does not abandon us in the wilderness or when we are forced to go to Moab . He  quietly guides and watches over us, even when we do not see Him, and are unaware of His Presence!  He is never troubled or at a loss, He knows the way we will go, knows what we will encounter, and all He asks is that we trust Him to guide us through, because He knows the way! 
So we moved to Moab where everything was new and strange. Yes, we had food, but at what price ?   
And then, my husband died, leaving me grief-stricken!   Now, I was really alone, responsible for my two sons.  And I worried about them.  They were young enough that they embraced their new country and felt quite at home.  My heart plummeted when I realized that they were interested in the Moab girls, thinking of taking them as wives.  I had never considered that I would have pagan grandchildren !   I had already lost everything. Was I to lose my family line of descendants  as well?
 But when my sons brought the girls home  that they had chosen to marry, I had to admit that they had chosen well.  I grew to love both girls, Ruth especially bonded to me and was eager to hear about my God, so different from the gods of Moab.  Orpha clung to her own gods, but we did have a good relationship and loved each other. 
It was another sorrow and hardship when we realized that my sons could not father children .  Ten years went by but I have to credit my daughters-in-law for their faithfulness.  They could have left but they didn't, and I did not experience any blame or resentment from them. 

Lesson 2 -  Sometimes what seems to be a 'blessing withheld' is really God withholding what would hinder Him from giving us His best!  And in hindsight, I am grateful that my sons were not able to father children, because the beautiful story you all know would not have happened !  
But again,  my life was shattered  - this time completely , when both of my sons died.  I was overcome  with grief and anxiety and also a very real fear!   Now what was I going to do?   My daughters-in-law were still young - they would surely remarry and join their husbands' families - leaving me completely alone with no one to care for me, and certainly no means of support.   
Where was God?  
How could He have dealt so harshly with me?  It was not my fault that we moved to Moab.  It was not my fault my husband died and it was not my fault that my sons were born sickly, never strong even as men, and it was not my fault they were unable to have children.  My bitterness overshadowed even my grief , and life became unbearable.  The pleasure in life was gone, 'Naomi' was no more - henceforth I would be called "Mara" , meaning bitter, and how bitter I was!  

Lesson 3 -  Nothing is so dark as when there is no light.  I could not see any possible way out of the deep pit I found myself in. There was nothing I could cling to, no possible way to rebuild my life.  But oh... how wrong I was.   God always has a way.  There is no night so dark that God cannot bring light in the morning.  Our despair comes when we no longer believe that 'light' will come and the night seems endless.  Ohh..  dear friend, the night will pass, because God is waiting in the morning light and will reveal what He could see all along, even when you felt only despair. 
Then one day I heard the famine back home was over and I made a decision. I would return  to Bethlehem - at least then I would be with my own people, even though I dreaded facing them. How would they react when they heard my story? When they heard how harshly God had dwelt with me.  Would they blame me for having left to dwell in Moab?  Would they say, I deserved all of God's punishment? I wouldn't blame them, since I knew God so clearly had turned against me and punished me severely.  If they looked at me with scorn and disgust, it was nothing new. It was what I accused myself of every day. 
So, you know the story - how I encouraged Ruth and Orpha to return to their homes, their mothers, and their gods, and how Orpah reluctantly returned, but Ruth insisted on coming with me.  She had more faith than I had, the dear girl !  What a God-gift she was to me, but I didn't even realize that at the time !   All I could focus on was myself and the reasons for my bitterness. 

Lesson 4 - No matter how dark and hopeless a place we find ourselves in, no matter how alone we believe we are, if we are willing to open our eyes to see beyond our own pain, we will see the  hand of God reaching out to give us hope. Whether it is through another person, or some written word, or an unexpected blessing, God will find a way to encourage us, to stir up our  trust in Him and cling to the hope that we have in Him.  And even when there is no relief in sight, no answers, no way of escape,  God has a way. 
Why do we lose our trust in Him so quickly?  Why do we judge by what we see rather than in what we know God has promised?   There is nothing that can upset God's gentle and wise planning of our life -- ALL things working out for good  because He is Good! 
On that long journey home, I indulged my bitterness,  falling deeper and deeper into despair.  My life was over , and now not only was I coming home with empty hands and a bitter heart, but I had with me, a heathen daughter-in-law. - a cursed Moabite.   I could not think of any way I was going to provide for myself, let alone a young woman who would surely not be accepted by my people!   
With each step I felt the pain of despair, of hopelessness, of fear and worry. The darkness of my soul made every breath an exercise in futility.  Why was I even alive? Just so God could watch me suffer? 
Ohhh ... if only I had known what God had planned !  I thought my life was over, full of dark despair, but God was planning the most beautiful story about to unfold. 
Lesson 5 - Ohh.. my friends, NEVER despair, NEVER give up !  When it is darkest, God's light is about to shine on His unfolding story!  God will never take you along a lonely path or bring you into a desperate situation to leave you there !  No, no, He is planning to take you through because sometimes the only way to get to the 'joy' is to go through the 'sorrow'.  
I praised God for the rest of my life - how He so gloriously provided for me in ways beyond my comprehension. Even doing what I thought was impossible - laying a grandson into my arms.  A grandson that would be the grandfather of Israel's beloved King David.  Oh... my ...  my heart could hardly hold my joy  and my face wore a 24/7 smile!  
  If you are going through a dark season of life, please know that as God did for me, He will do for you !  The best is yet to come - wait for it !! " 
"Ascribe greatness to our God, He is the Rock, 
His work is perfect for all His ways are justice, 
A God of truth and without injustice, 
Righteous and upright is He !!":  
Deut. 32:3b,4

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

                                          Our God-Space 

Recently, I discovered something interesting  that  I did not know before. 
Did you know that you have a body part called  Reinke's Space?
My mother's maiden name is Reinke, which is not a common surname.  My grandfather once had a letter sent from Europe that was delivered to his door with no address on the envelope other than his name and British Columbia. 

 The Reinke's Space is close to the vocal cords.  There is a condition called Reinke's Edema, which mostly affects smokers.  When Reinke's Space is inflamed it presses on the vocal cords and causes a hoarseness in the voice.  
It was discovered by a man in Germany named Fredrich Reinke in 1895 and hence the body part was named after him.  My great great grandfather moved from Germany to the Ukraine so ... I'm thinking we could well be related !!  . My claim to fame!  😊
I find it strange that we have a body part that most people are unaware of. There is another 'space' in our bodies that people are not 'naturally' aware of, and that is the God-space that God placed in every human being. 
Just like he gave us 'hunger' so we would know that we need to eat, so also He gave us an urge to find Him. Even though people may not be aware of their God-space they are aware of an emptiness that needs to be filled. 
Just as only food will satisfy our 'stomachs', so also only God will satisfy the longing of our God's space. 

Wealth, love, success, status, possessions, fame,  - whatever people choose as their pursuit in life to fill their 'God-Space'   will not satisfy, and the longing drives them to strive even more after the things that promise to give them what they desire.  Or, they create a God-space  -  as in the photo above -  outside of themselves - a futile effort to create a 'space' that will please or satisfy God. 
It is interesting that the Reinke Space is close to the vocal cords and when it becomes inflamed it affects the vocal cords, changing the voice. 
When you listen to people talk, you soon find out what they have filled their God-space with. The 'voice' of people who have filled their God-space with the fruit of the Spirit, will speak words that are loving and encouraging.  If they have filled it with 'things' other than God , their words will be angry, accusing, complaining, or prideful and selfish. What we fill the God-space with will be revealed in our 'voice'. 
Even as Christians , if we don't guard what we put into our God-space,  we will be guilty of an angry word we wish we could take back, or that unloving response to someone who annoyed us, or that unforgiving thought. 
This last week I had a troubling conversation with a friend, who calls herself a Christian but her words were so accusing against  God, because He had not done what she wanted Him to do, and because He 'failed' her, she angerly declared that He did not exist.  That is a bit extreme , I know, but it made me think about how when I focus on something - even something small like being annoyed at something (like being stuck in traffic, or waiting for someone who is late) it does not take long for it to be revealed in my 'voice'.   

Pastor Matt encouraged us last Sunday,  to give out 'invitations' to people who do not yet know God and I think there are many ways we  do that, perhaps even BEFORE we invite them to church.  
Our 'voice' speaks our heart, and if our God-space is filled with the thoughts and words  of God,  then our 'voice' will 'invite' people to be willing to listen when we share our faith with them.

Colossians 1 is a wonderful chapter - read it today -   I will quote one verse .
Verse 10 - "that you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."
God desires that we show good fruit in our life - and we can only do that if we fill our God-space with thoughts of Him.