Saturday, July 22, 2017

Lesson of the Hummingbird

My husband and I recently put a hummingbird feeder on our front window.  It is a very simple feeder, shaped like a flower and is bright red. We poured a nectar-like liquid in and just left it alone. It was not too long after that a very small bird appeared at the feeder moving its wings so fast that we could hardly see them. The bird stuck its beak into the feeder and extracted the nectar quickly flew away.


I did a little research and found more about how the hummingbird feeds. It is the sweet nectar of flowers that attracts pollinators to plants. These birds and insects pickup and transport pollen to other plants for reproduction producing more flowers and fruit.

Scientists used to think that these birds got nectar out of flowers through capillary action (liquid rising through a tube), but with recent developments in high speed photography they were able to determine that it is actually the bird's tongue that captures and curls around the nectar and pulls it into the birds mouth through its beak. The hummingbird's beak protects the bird from the tougher parts of the plant and enables the bird to get to the nectar.

Hummingbirds don't stay very long at the feeder; it is hard to get a picture of them. It is difficult to see their wings as the are moving so fast as the hover around the bird feeder. They will keep coming back regularly as long as they can find their treasure.

The hummingbird is a unique bird among birds.  It is beautiful and has an amazingly energetic metabolism. I love the creativity of God and how everything he has created is significantly designed. There can be no question about the creator and his beautiful creation when one observes and studies this bird. It is 'loving geniusness'!

God's word is the nectar of the creator.  We benefit immensely when we dive into its riches. It supplies vitality and life to our whole being.  It is the fuel of our hearts and gives wings to our freedom.
I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil (treasure). Psalm 119:162
 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Judges 12

The news media in our culture today have lost their way and have redefined journalism simply as an exercise of arm-chair quarterbacking. Stirring up strife, contention and ego showmanship, they have changed the horizon of the future to a darkened shadow instead of an enlightened spotlight.

In Judges chapter 12, after Jephthah's victory over the Ammonites, instead of being thankful, the Ephraimites wanted to know why they weren't called to help defeat the Ammonites. The intent behind their demand reflected part of their character .The same thing happened with Gideon earlier. The Ephraimites put themselves at the center of internal strife within the tribes of Israel.

They threatened to burn down Jephthah's house with him in it. Whoa! It seems outrageous doesn't it? Where was their thankfulness? This exposes their exalted ego, devious nature and lack of commitment and integrity. If they had any kind of leadership qualities at all they would have known how to help and acted in good faith and not worry about who got the credit.

Complaining is a human sport. It enlists unthankfulness and a host of other negative qualities to support its message. It vies for leadership and the only action that results is friction action. It wallows in speculation and imaginings that do not foster well-being.

In such an environment, the ability to get things done is limited. So much for teamwork.  It is better to keep clear of the negative environment and stay focused. The distractions to the Hebrews became increasingly distracting.  It was harder for the individuals that God called to stay the course. The struggles got worse and worse as the record in the book of Judges continued.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. I Timothy 6:6
Godliness reflects a rich relationship with God through His son Jesus Christ.  Contentment is being self-sufficient (autarkeia) due to that relationship. For all who are at peace with what God has provided great benefits!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mary

Recently I got to thinking about Mary and her role in God's plan. Mary was an outstanding believer. Just think about all that must have gone through her mind as she carried out God's instructions.  It was not easy.  Just the bare fact that she became pregnant before marriage to Joseph caused no end of gossip and pressure. If she had gotten pregnant after she married Joseph, then Jesus would have been regarded as Joseph's son, not the son of God. Mary had a distinct picture that something miraculous had happened and that probably encouraged her to carry it out with believing.  She simply believed.

Mary had to nurture, raise, discipline, and support God's only begotten son. She is someone to be respected and thankful for. She was never intended to be a savior or a mediator. That was delegated to God's son. It is significantly important to understand who she was and that she is now asleep and, as all dead are, awaiting the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the way to God, he makes intersession (Hebrews 7:25 'ever liveth' to make intercession for) for believers. Mary does not. I'm sure she prayed for people when she was alive just as we can all do, but she can't now in her present situation.

When people need help or answers to prayer, we have access to God through Jesus Christ. That is just simply how the God who made heaven and earth set it up. There is plenty of information about Mary written in God's word, but nothing about an ascension or that she was queen of heaven (that's not even logical - how does that work?: King Jesus and Queen Mary??) nor the mother of God (who was the father of God?).

The reason I am writing about this is not to put Mary down nor to be critical, but because it is the truth that sets people free. In thankfulness to God and in time of need, prayer to Mary is fruitless because, it is Jesus Christ who is Lord and savior.  He shows us the path to God and wholeness. The truth of about God's son is so vital to our well-being and peace that we need to know exactly who he is from God's point of view and not allow anything to detract from what he is meant to be.

No person or thing should take his place in our lives. No human being, aside from Jesus, is elevated to lordship over other men. That includes other humans like Mary, Moses, Isaiah, Peter, John, Paul, martyrs, heads of religious bodies, and even the equipping ministries of Ephesians 4:8,11.(1 Corinthians 1:25-2:5, I Timothy 2:1-5 study 'authority' Strong's #5247 and #5242 ~ a great study)
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; I Timothy 1:5 









Sunday, July 9, 2017

Loving Father -Two Sons

In Luke 15:11-32, there is a popular story about a father who had two sons. Most people have heard it at some point in their lives.  I have read it several times and have understood it's basic lesson about the forgiveness of the father towards the wayward son who went out and spent all his worth in wild, rebellious living. There is a tendency to regard the older son as a  judgmental, self-righteous sort.

In actuality, both sons were loved. The younger son was foolish and self-centered. However, when he indulged his own self-interests, he learned a hard lesson about his fortune and his father. He meekly returned home realizing that his father had provided so much he hadn't recognized in his immature state.

The older son reacted to his return in self-righteous anger. He couldn't understand why all the hoopla and celebration was focused on his younger brother. This older brother also had a lesson to learn and at the root of it was the love of the father towards him. It wasn't his doing everything right that endeared him to the father; it was his sonship.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. Luke 11:32
Both sons had focused on themselves, both eventually learned how much their father loved them.  All of us, at different times in our lives, have lived out life similar to both sons. All of us can probably relate to both sons. We may swing to one side of the pendulum and then to the other. The point of this story is the incredible love of the father toward his sons.

The father couldn't do much but pray for the younger son while he was out there in crazy land. When that son came to his realize the grass was not greener out in 'lala' land, the father's heart just burst with thanksgiving upon his return home.

The father could do much more for the son that stayed, but that son hadn't realized it and therefore he too had some maturing to do in recognizing the grace in his life.

Sometimes at junctures in our lives we need to ask ourselves, which son looks like me? I can relate to both sons as I look back through the years. The greatest lesson of all about God is to realize and recognize the love that the Father has toward each of us.  The greatest problems involve not seeing the love. Looking at the life of Jesus Christ grounds us in the recognition of God's love and true righteousness.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Freedom

This morning I was awakened very early, maybe by a firecracker, or maybe just the first light of dawn. Some prophetic verses in the Old Testament had been on my mind and one in particular, actually one word in that verse was dangling in my consciousness. It was just like an itch, I just had to itch! 😊 . Watching the Son rise in my mind literally was enlightening and it was one of those occasions where I would have loved to shout what I found on the roof tops. Somehow the word smashes walls and barriers and lifts you up and makes you feel like you can fly.

On this day, we celebrate the 4th of July. It is a celebration of the freedom we have in America thanks to the believing and love of some very wise men that founded this country on a set principles whose original source is the creator. They weren't perfect men but they rested their beliefs humbly in something much bigger than themselves.

God is so much bigger than our minds truly can grasp, but His word can open our hearts to make more space in our narrow minds beyond what we can even describe!

True freedom comes from God and it rests in the knowledge of his Son and what was done for us through him and what he is to us today. Jesus Christ spoke God's word. He was/and/is the son speaking for and showing the Father.

Back in the time that he specifically lived on earth he said to those who followed him:
31 Then said Jesus to those Judeans which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31-32
These are beautiful words! They continue to speak throughout history and continue to speak to us today.

What is real freedom? People talk about it, they define it and they value it! But do we humans settled for our own perceived notion of freedom? Honestly, our own notions of freedom probably limit us. My perceptions of freedom have continued to grow as I continue to seek its real definition. Each stage of growth is another stepping stone to not settling for a worldly mundane existence. Once you have seen another level of freedom, there is no turning backward.

So today as I celebrate the founding of this country, I am thankful to God and to his son, Jesus Christ despite the hoopla going on in the world. I pray for this country, its leaders, our families and friends, that they may understand true freedom and not settle for a narrow, limited vision. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Power Struggles and What's Right

Gilead was the region on the east side of the Jordan River where two and one half tribes (Gad, Reuben and Manasseh) decided to settle when the Israelites were about to cross over into the promised land on the west side of the river.  The Israelites had been careful to go around the regions Moab and Ammon (descendants of Lot) as God had directed. At that time the Amorites attacked them and Israel defeated them and obtained the land which became Gilead.

A couple of hundred years later, these tribes had trouble with Ammonites who attacked them so as to occupy their land. In Judges 11, is a record of Jephthah who arose as a deliverer against the Ammonites.  His life story is interesting.

Jephthah's father had relations with a harlot and Jephthah was the result. His father had other sons and they rejected Jephthah as an illegitimate heir to their father's land. Jephthah left home and became a valiant, mighty warrior. When the Gileadites were attacked by the Ammonites later, they asked Jephthah to come back and lead the cause.

 Jephthah first reasoned with the Ammonites reminding them of the history of their settlement in Gilead:
12 And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land? 13 And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably.
14 And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon: 15 And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:16 But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh; 17 Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not consent: and Israel abode in Kadesh.
18 Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed (went around) the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon was the border of Moab.
Jephthah set the record straight on how it all had happened. He also set the record straight on how the Amorites got defeated:
19 And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place.20 But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel. (Sihon attacked Israel)
21 And the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 22 And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan.
23 So now the Lord God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?
Jephthah, a valiant warrior reasoned with the Amorites,and stood up for Israel, but the king of the Ammonites did not buy it and tried to take what was not their to take:
27 Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: the Lord the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon. 28 Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.
The Ammonites ended up defeated. Jephthah had a right to defend his people against attack and God was with him.

Light dispels darkness.  There is a great benefit for exposing truth in a loving direct manner. Gossip, projection, power plays, lying and false judgements spread darkness. Truth only has the potential, to dispel hurt and misunderstandings and spread love. The Ammonites did not respond positively to Jephthah's logic and thus ended up where darkness always end up - defeated because of their own actions.




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Peaceful Path

This morning was just one of those mornings when I couldn't find some things and started fretting and stewing about where they were at. The first thing was a shoe box that I just had to find.  I ran around everywhere looking and as each moment went by my anxiety elevated. I tried alleviating my angst by asking my husband if he knew where it was and he looked around but it seemed to have vanished in thin air. So I just sat down and got quiet and bingo I knew where it was! The second thing was a folder with cable and computer passwords on it. I went through the same exact routine (you would think I had learned 😉). Again when I settled down it popped into my head where it might be and there it was.

Why do we fret over stuff first? I ask myself that question all the time. I guess it is just a bad mind habit that we really need to actively let go of. This is a very real practical application of Matthew 6:33:
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Later on in the day we traveled home from our vacation spot. We unpacked and I went through our phone messages. I came across one that was on the surface pretty alarming. As soon as my fret level started registering in, I stopped and remembered my earlier experiences and decided  to let go, give it to God. I took care of the situation in a peaceful manner and it worked out perfectly!

There's a lot in this world to get our level of frustration elevated, most of it is needless. God's rest, peace and grace are available at a moment's notice when we allow him into the situation. In that moment the simplest solutions appear on the scene and we marvel at the outcome. God is always inviting us into peace, he never stops. We just have to acknowledge it and accept it.

The real enemies in our lives: guilt, frustration, fear, and anxiety cannot co-exist with God's presence unless we give them room by giving in to them. God's presence floods light on any situation when we
focus on him; everything else shrinks and shrivels away into nothingness. The word applies practically in everything we do. It is not just some high idealism  to shoot for, it is supposed to be reality.
11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.Psalm 27:11

Monday, June 12, 2017

Of Mountains and Mustard Seeds

Matthew 17:14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure (therapuo) him.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse (diastrepho - twisting what is right) generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 

Mark 9:23-24 fits in here: 23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief (apistia: littleness of  faith) for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
Mustard seeds are pretty small and mountains are pretty big. Hebrews use hyperbolic (exaggeration) language to make a noteworthy point. The hyperbole is used throughout the Bible! It is a literary (not literal) form to draw your attention to the significance of what is being said. Another well-known example of this is: “And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out," Matthew 5:29. God loves us! Do you really think he'd want us to do this? The scripture used in this kind of a figure is to make us look at what is being said and how serious it is.

Clearly Jesus believed that his disciples should have been able to help this father. Why couldn't they?Their small believing held them back. Perhaps it was the situation, perhaps it was the culture, both religious and social.  The same thing is true of today.

This whole point with the mustard seed is such a loving encouragement from Jesus.We don't have to have faith the size of a watermelon to take care of a molehill either!  God's love is simple and his word is really simple (except when we try and twist it with perfecting our own performance). God's love has been proven over and over. We just need to start with honest prayer and talk any difficulty over with God and then let him answer (I guess that is the hard part).

This record is fascinating and has so much in it. The father of this child was humble and respected Jesus.  His statement "I believe, help thou mine unbelief" is revealing. We may have believing in some areas and not in other areas.  This man was asking for help in his believing. There is nothing wrong with that. In the church (God's people not buildings) of today, the called out  have been given holy spirit to have a connected relationship with the God through the faith of Jesus Christ. We have the right to ask for help in our believing as we continue to get to know how much God loves us. There 'ain't no mountain high enough' to stop God's love from reaching each of us.




Sunday, June 4, 2017

Skip to my 'Luo'

The Greek word 'luo' is an interesting word in the New Testament. Some of the words used to define it are: to break, destroy,  and loose.  The first record of Jesus Christ using 'luo' is in Matthew 5:19:
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:18-20
The context of the use of 'luo' is centered on the importance of the word as revealed in the word 'commandments'. It is important to know the word of God and to do it and then we can teach it. Anyone can just teach something, but with God's word which is full of life, there is an excitement to share it when you see it work in application. God wants the vitality of his word shared and used to help others help themselves.

The "do and teach' theme is brought up right away in the beginning of Acts:
1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Acts 1:1  
Jesus Christ certainly had a lot of things to share because he had a dynamic relationship with God and his word. The ultimate thing he did and taught about is in Act 2:24 where the word 'luo' is used as 'loosed'.
22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. Acts 2:22-24
In I John 3:8b the word 'luo' is translated 'destroy':
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. I John 3:b
In reading through the Book of Judges, the difficulties people faced, but not the force behind it, are revealed. Problems came through people, forces of nature and pagan religion. The devil is behind anything contrary to God's heart. Jesus Christ came to expose all that and how to deal with it.

Jesus Christ"s purpose and life was and is to be our way to God. Ultimately we have eternal life, but in the meantime, our relationship to God and Jesus Christ is key to destroying the works of the adversary in this world in our own lives and in the lives of others. We can peacefully and patiently apply the word to untangle, unwind and untwist the knots, quirks and assaults on life as they arise.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Vowing a Vow

In the book of Judges, the concept of "vows" comes up in the record about Jephthah.  He made a vow to God that if God gave victory to him to defeat the Ammonites, he would offer a burnt offering of the first thing that came out his door upon returning home:
30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, 31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. Judges 11:30-31
As the record goes, his one and only daughter came through the door. He had just fought an enemy whose main god was appeased by child sacrifices. Many scholars believe that Jephthah's vow meant that his daughter would be dedicated to serve in the temple the rest of her life and there are some who believe she was an actual burnt offering. Irregardless, God did help to deliver the enemy into his hands, but I have issues with the 'vow' part. The way this reads sounds like an 'I will do this, if you will do this' proposition. Are we taught in God's word somewhere to pray this way????

Things digress in the book of Judges. Israel went from a God-only culture to a God plus gods of the surrounding culture to then to the stage of forsaking God and worshipping the idols of the culture around them:
6 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the Lord, and served not him. Judges 10:6
Jephthah's 'vow' to God seems off to me. God does not do things because of bribes or manipulation. God delivered them because of his love, compassion and grace when they trusted and listened to him.

Jesus Christ talks about oaths in Matthew 5:33-37:
33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
James 5:12 says essentially the same thing:
12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Unity of the Spirit

There is one God over all. God is a spirit, not a man, who is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). There is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is Lord, appointed by God for that very purpose. The spirit is what God gives us through Jesus Christ when we choose to believe. This is the church! It is what the New Testament is all about!

The only way to keep unity in the church is through the spirit which has its ultimate source in God:
Ephesians 4:3-4 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body (not 24,000, God recognizes one body), and one spirit (it is genitive so it is the unity that proceeds from the spirit {spirit of God in Christ in a person}) 
Unity doesn't come from a particular denomination or non-denomination, unity comes from the spirit.There is so much disagreement in the world today. It is everywhere. In the religious culture, it is rampant. I run across blogs and podcasts and even though I may disagree on one point or another, I enjoy reading or listening to someone who discusses God's word. I know that there is no one that gets it all right.

In the Word of God, it is true there is a lot of doctrine, but there also is so much in its pages about practice of the doctrine.  The book of Acts is an example (The book of 'Praxis'). The first half of Romans is certainly doctrine, the second half is practice.  The first three chapters of Ephesians is about doctrine, chapters 4-6 is about practice. Practice is important without which life is nothing but lifelessness and error. God's word is exciting and vibrant. The word in conjunction with the holy spirit's in-working lights up the word and its energy motivates the practical walk.

God wants us all to know his heart. Listening to others often stimulates my interest spiritually in areas of the Word that I may have questions about. With God's assistance I enjoy digging into the Bible and over and over my expectations are rewarded with great treasure.

The Word of God is more than just words on a page. It is not a dust-covered lifeless book.   The Word of God can lift the heavy veil of darkness off of a person's heart. It is access to comfort, inspiration, excitement, joy, genuine peace and undeniable heart and life healing.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

My Father is King - Abimelech

In the last post, I wrote about Abimelech, one of Gideon's sons by a concubine that lived in Shechem. Gideon turned down the draft to be king after his great victories. The name 'Abimelech' means my 'father is king' and 'father of a king'. Somebody didn't get the memo! (Judges 8:23)
3 And his mother's brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother.
4 And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him.
5 And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself. Judges 9:3-5
Enter politics, follow the money! Abimelech was named king. 70 pieces of silver came from the house of Baalberith to support him. The house of Baalberith, the house the god of the covenant between the Hebrews and Canaanites, was something the true God warned against.

Three years into his reign, the Shechemites got tired of Abimelech and enlisted Gaal to go up against them. Zebul a ruler in Shechem helped Abimelech and Gaal was run out of town. Abimelech attacked the city and killed his opponent and even burned (remember the bramble bush?) down the tower that was their protection (Judges 9:49). As Abimelech went on and attacked the city of Thebez, he went after its tower and tried to burn it down, but a woman dropped a rock on his head from the tower. Oops!

The story of Gideon's son, Abimelech, has a lot to say about self-appointed leaders or even man-appointed leadership. It is God who chooses to enlist men and women to do his work. He does not call them to titles, grandiose posing, and crowns. True leadership is easily recognizable. The end result of God's work brings fruitful peace and not a miasma of ambition, dissatisfaction and unrest.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Polygamy and Such ~ Abimelech

Gideon's family was huge. From what was recorded in the book of Judges, it seems that he had 72 sons (Judges 8:30, 9:24). Obviously Gideon had more than one wife. He had many. Abimelech was one of his sons from a maidservant concubine. He was very ambitious and when Gideon died, he was determined in his mind to become king.  Gideon had refused the kingship because he believed that it was God that was their ultimate authority. Abimelech killed all of Gideon's sons except Jotham (Gideon's youngest) who escaped, in order to claim the title of king.

Raising 2 or 3 kids is a challenge. I can imagine 72+ (I'm sure there were some girls born too) children with several wives incurred tremendous pressure and problems.  Polygamous marriages started with Lamech, one of Cain's sons. (Genesis 4:19). It became common. Even some great men like Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon had multiple wives which became problematic for all of them.

I read somewhere that God looked past polygamy in the Old Testament so that the world would be populated.  The definition of marriage was set from the beginning! God heart for marriage is recorded in Genesis 2:24:
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Genesis 2:24 
It is pretty clear and simple.  God is love and there is no dark side to him at all. He wants the best for his people and he designed life in the richest and fullest way so that problems would be minimal. He also gave mankind free-will choice. Man can accept or reject God's abundance. It is a choice.

When man goes his own way, it is not God's fault; it is man's problem. When things don't work out well, no one can blame God.  He has provided. It is man that walks away from abundance when he thumbs his nose at the gifts and blessings of God.

God is not some old crank control-freak. If somehow that idea has creeped into your thinking it is important to get to know God the way he really is. You can't love and trust someone that you don't know. The Word of God is the best way to do that.  It is great to just read through the various records and ask God to show you what you need to know to build a relationship with the Father and his son. We can get robbed of the relationship privilege, if we constantly lean on others to keep us in the loop.

The book of Judges is full of human drama and the Hebrews were constantly going through up and down cycles between belief and unbelief. Human nature is in full view in it's records. It is much like human nature today. It is a daily, hourly, minute by minute walk. God responded when they came back to him. He helped them get out of the situations they got into when they honestly humbled themselves and asked for help. God still does the same today!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Resurrection Every Morning

The sun is rising and starting to spread its rays, through the trees, bouncing off the water and back up into the incredibly blue sky.  It is a majestic morning full of expectation. God created the dawn and it is a beautiful imagery of his faithfulness and love.



I was reading this morning about the trek of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary made to the grave where they put Jesus after his crucifixion. Unbeknownst to her at the time, it was the scene of the resurrection. What a magnificent dawn that was for her!
28 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen,... Matthew 28:1-6a
Mary Magdalene and the women went to tell the others that he was gone from the grave and they all ran back to the grave to see for themselves. After they left, Mary stayed behind weeping that he was gone.  As she was leaving, she saw someone whom she assumed was a gardener until he said: "Mary". It was Jesus!

Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Jesus. Jesus had delivered her from a whole lot of darkness when he first met her. Now he was presenting her with a new dawn. He told her to relay a message to the others;
..... go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. John 20:17b
That day was a dawning for each of us as well. As Isaiah said long ago about God: "he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned."(Isaiah 50:4) The resurrection of God's son paved the way to open the door for us to have an intimate relationship with God every morning. The beauty of the rising sun reminds us of that every day.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Allegory in Judges 9:7-15

In Judges 9:7-15, there is a beautiful tree allegory. It is a story told by Jotham, Gideon's son. Gideon had 70 children, 69 who were killed by Abimelech after Gideon died. Abimelech was a son of Gideon by a concubine in Shechem. Abimelech wanted to be king.  In the previous chapter we read that Gideon had declined to become a king insisting that God was their ruler. Jotham was the lone survivor of Abimelech's malicious devilish ambition.
7 And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. 
8 The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. 9 But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
10 And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.
11 But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? 
12 Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.
13 And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
14 Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
15 And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. Judges 9:7-15

Each plant is a comparison (by implication and representation) and illustrates God's blessing on his people. The olive tree was a valued tree in that area. It had many uses such as oil for lamps, cooking, medical uses, food and cosmetic.  The wood was used in furniture.  It was a symbol of peace and plenty to the Hebrews.

The fig tree was the most fruitful tree. It's fruit was sweet. It was a symbol of fruitfulness.  Jesus Christ used the fig tree in Mark 11:112,13,20,21 to teach.

The third reference is to the vine which produced grapes. It was also considered a valuable plant. Jesus Christ is the true vine in John 15:1. God is the farmer. The vine represents spiritual blessings.

All three of these plants turned down the request to rule over the other trees because they were more useful functioning as they were meant to function. They delighted in serving in their own unique ways.

The fourth plant, the bramble was a dangerous plant due to thorns and its ability to burn. It wasn't very useful but readily delighted in the opportunity to be over the other trees. It was low to the ground so the promise of being able to trust in its shadow was vain.

Leaders like Abimelech are dangerous, thorny and cruel. They always grow over boundaries they have no right to mess with. They are not ministering and not to be trusted.
Proverbs 25:19: Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.
Jesus Christ was a wonderful example of a 'Lord'. He was and is a representative of God's love. It is through his life people can utilize their usefulness to others to the fullest. He is the true vine and the one who is alive today and he building God's church.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Love

God is an 'equal opportunity' giver. God loves everybody, it is backed up in his word:
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
God has made so much available to us and yet he has never, never forced anything upon us. It is important to understand this point. God established the Lordship of Jesus Christ as head of his church. 'Church' does not refer to a pile of bricks on the corner, but the spiritual DNA building blocks in each of our hearts. The body of Christ refers to all those people who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ and believe he took on the totality of the forces of evil only to be raised victoriously from the dead. That is huge. In doing so we have been translated into the kingdom of God's dear son (Colossians 1:13).

We have a concrete example of love in Jesus Christ. His leadership, the things he said, the things he did and everything associated with him show us so much about God. Combined with simply reading God's word and the 'nudgings' of the gift of holy spirit in our innermost being, we are fully equipped to enjoy all the benefits of God.

If someone wants to thumb their nose at God and do their own thing, have at it. It is a choice. It is sad, but loving God is a choice.  God's love never fails (I Corinthians 13).  However, some people define 'love' in such a way that it blows up on a moments notice because it is founded on the popular world view of things. The world is full of evil and pseudo philosophies and ideologies. The profound so-called wisdom of man is often tied into that evil.

God's hands are tied when people walk away from him.  He still loves them but really can't do much for them since they have turned away from him and are not listening. There are boundaries. God is not the author or promulgator of evil, he is good always and wants the best for every single person on this earth who ever was and ever will be.

Each of us can love in the same way. The world seems to be full of opines and worldly definitions of what it is to love these days. Love doesn't turn on and off like a light switch. Love is always on the "on"position. There is no darkness when someone truly loves God. If people don't want to be loved, that is their choice, the love is still there but they don't get the benefits because they don't want them.

Monday, March 20, 2017

'Projection' and Mis-'Judging'

This morning, I got to thinking about a wonderful verse in Ephesians:
1I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)
It had popped into my head when I was pondering a phone conversation I recently had with someone when she called me back after I left a message to have her call me. When she called back, she immediately started talking to me about something I had no idea about. All I could figure out was that she was worried about what I was thinking in regards to something that she was handling. It was not what I was thinking about at all!  When I realized what was going on and a significant pause opened up, I stopped her and explained what  I wanted and assured her that my brain had not gone that way. In the end each of us was blessed. It is great for relationships to work things out like this when there is misinterpretation.

'Projection' is an image in our mind that we 'project' on a situation when dealing with others based on our own thoughts within ourselves.  It happens a lot since we humans have busy minds. We can do it in both a positive and a negative sense based on the way we are feeling at the time. It is a form of mis-"judging". It is very prevalent in our news cycles, and all over political and religious circles. You can find examples of projection everywhere. 

This is a great reason to listen carefully to what people are saying and help free them from misconceptions about what they might be thinking if you get the opportunity. Sometimes people are so busy thinking thoughts they don't really have time to listen. What a great thing to pray for!

People often project their thoughts on God too! It is something to watch out for. It is possible to think God is mad at us, when he isn't. It is possible to think God doesn't even think about us or that we have no place in his heart. All you have to do is look at the beautiful spring gifts he has made to remind us of all the loving touches he put in this world to bless our lives.

The verse above in Ephesians came to mind and is very apropos to the spring cleaning that needs to go on in our minds periodically. (It's the first day of spring! Yea!). It is actually a prayer and it is a good one.  In fact it is beautiful! It is an effective prayer to pray and believe. Let in the light, open the windows, breathe and clear the cobwebs of our minds out!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Good intentions and Idolatry

In Judges 8:22-27 the record of Gideon continues:
22 Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. 23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.
24 And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)25 And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks.
27 And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.Judges 8:22-27
The Israelites wanted a king to rule over them. Notice in verse 22 who they said had delivered Israel. 300 men had accomplished so much, but it was God who brought the deliverance.  You would think they would would have been amazed and excited to have seen God work so mightily through so few. Gideon rightfully declined the kingship and told them that the Lord would rule over them.

The next thing he asked probably had good intentions behind it. Maybe Gideon wanted to have something to remind him of the victory. It does not say God told him to make the ephod, but as the old saying goes: "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". Eventually it became an idol and a snare because Israel went 'a whoring after it' (it became their object of worship) .

Back in Exodus, God had Moses fashion a brazen serpent to be lifted up to heal his people from the poisonous snakes that had they had encountered. People were healed when they looked at it. The incident is even recorded in John 3:14-16 as a type for Jesus Christ. The Israelites held on to this brazen serpent for several hundreds of years afterward and eventually Hezekiah had to destroy it because idolatry had developed around it. People worshiped it.

When a form, tradition, ritual, person or place stands in between our relationship with God, nothing good comes from it. When something we have trouble with or something comes at us we don't understand, often we run to someone else and unload and complain to them. Wow! we do ourselves such a disservice when we don't take things to God who is our sufficiency especially in this day and time when we have access to God through the work of Jesus Christ.  It is so tempting to call someone and dump it on them, or dumping a quote on Facebook or Twitter ~ anything but take it to the One who is ready, willing and able to help us out 'exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think'! (Ephesians 3:20)  It is certainly nice to know our thinking is the low bar and we actually have a right to the high bar. God goes beyond what we ask or think. Wow isn't that comforting?!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

God's Deliverance

After Gideon moved on from assuaging the Ephraimites in Judges 8:1-4, he dealt with the kinsmen of Succoth.  Gideon's 300 men were hungry and Gideon asked for bread as he passed through Succoth. As the men of Ephraim complained for a piece of the glory, the princes of Succoth likewise had their own issues and threw unbelief and fear in Gideon's face:
6 And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army? Judges 8:6
Did they believe he was going to win with 300 men? Did they support him? It was time to cancel Gideon's subscription to their issues! And this time he did!

God had spoken earlier to Gideon that he would take care of the of the battle, that they would be victorious with only 300 men. (7:2) The four princes, Oreb, Zeeb, Zebah, Zalmunna were, indeed enemies.  In Psalm 83, Asaph includes these names in a list of the aggressive enemies of the Hebrews:
11 Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna:12 Who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession. Psalm 83:11-12
Gideon and his 300 men got the job done.  When it was all said and done, Israel asked him to become king over them and to establish a kingly dynasty in his family. 
22 Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.
23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you. Judges 8:22-23
The ancient Hebrews had a theocracy and they still wanted to appoint a King. Gideon continued to adhere to a theocratic government in which God was king. Gideon continued as a judge which was what God had called him to, and he reminded them of God's sovereignty.

Today, we don't live in a theocracy. God is not the elected President or the recognized King. We are subject to the human nature of those we elevate. This happens not only in politics, but also in education, entertainment, sports and in religion and other areas of culture. When people elevate a person, there is more often than not a big temptation to succumb to difficulties:
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. I John 2:15-16
This is all the more reason to pray for our country and listen to God in each of our own lives.

Saturday, March 4, 2017


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Comparisons

The last thing the enemy of God wanted was for Gideon to realize his calling from God.
15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” Judges 6:15-16
It is the same for each of us today.  We all have different callings and different things to tend to for God. God is the one who calls people. It is not the job of men to appoint others or even themselves to specific callings. In Matthew 6:33, God exhorts all believers to seek first the kingdom of God and it will all fall into place.  The last thing the enemy of God wants you to do is realize how God works with you. There always is pressure to not believe what God has set before you.

The older I get, in retrospect I see how God has guided my steps. There are times that I let myself backdown because someone or something stepped in the way. Often God moved in and said, 'Not so fast!"! Those are very exciting times.

In Judges 8:1-3 there is a beautiful record of Gideon responding to some rather critical thoughts of the men of Ephraim who thought they should have been a part of the original battle (God's 300 men) against the Midiamites. There was unrest within between the tribes of the Hebrews.
8:1 And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.
2 And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? 3 God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that. Judges 8:1-3
The gleaning of grapes refers to the picking of grapes left on the vine after the vintage is in. (See Leviticus 19:10 and Deuteronomy 24:21).  Gideon humbly turns their indignation around by showing what an important part they played in picking off the princes Oreb and Zeeb. The men of Ephraim's anger was assuaged in Gideon's response.

All that had happened was due to God instructions and Gideon carrying them out. God had a plan for them to get them out of the mud in which they were stalled. Glory always comes from God. God wants his people to get the very best and that is his supply. The glory of the Lord is our strength!
15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.16 In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted. 17 For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted. 18 For the Lord is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king. Psalm 89:15-18









Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gideon's Dad

Evidently, Gideon's father had an altar of Baal and a grove to go along with it. As a Hebrew, he knew
the God of Israel. It seems like he had everything covered. Having both belief systems covered is not without problems especially since the Midianites were attacking and destroying crops and their way of life.

Gideon had asked God why all the problems were happening to them. They were hiding from the Midianites that had invaded their land. Times were tough, they were not living freely.

God gave Gideon a solution which was to destroy his father's altar of Baal and cut down the grove. He did what God said to do and quickly the men of the city arose against Gideon.  They went to his father and wanted him to give them Gideon so they could kill him.
30 Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it.
31 And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar. 
32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar. Judges 6:30-32
The Hebrews were having problems because they had one foot in paganism and one foot their own religion.  It sounds like a good way to get along, but it isn't really. God wanted His people to live freely and abundantly enjoy the plans He had for them. If someone else tried to remove this freedom and abundance, there was pressure and a fight. The enemy cultures in that time were aggressive and violent. Tolerance of the invaders was not healthy.

Joash, Gideon's father, had an interesting comeback about Baal.  If Gideon was Baal's enemy, then Baal, being a so-called god, should be able to take care of the situation if he is truly a god.

From that time on Gideon was called Jerubbaal or 'enemy of Baal'. God had chosen Gideon to save Israel. God's battle plan was very unusual.  It had a strong underlying theme of believing God as I wrote about in the previous blog. It is a fantastic story of power and reliance on God. Once Gideon believed and was reassured about the job God wanted him to do, he could get it done because God empowered him and showed him how.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Gideon's Time and Our Time ~ What is Different?

Gideon lived in a day when the Hebrews relied on strong leaders to deliver them.  As we have seen over and over in the Old Testament, the spirit of God rested on certain ones in order to save the rest. Gideon lived in a time when those around him became entrenched in the culture that surrounded them and they adopted pagan thinking and mixed it with their own beliefs. Problems plagued them as a result. That still happens today.

What is different today is that the spirit as a gift from God is available to everyone that accepts the good news of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us. It is a gift, not a  something we can strive for by our works. The only works we have to do is to believe and accept the gift. Because of the pride of man, this may be tough for some. Pride in accomplishments, power and control can be serious impediments.

I love reading about the heart of Gideon.  He seems pretty humble.  I know some theologians have described him a weak in believing God, because he asked for assurance that God was reaching out and empowering him. It is pretty clear that he respected God when others around him were not. It was his calling from God to do a specific task that he wanted assurance on.
22 And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face. 23 And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. 24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. Judges 6:22-24
It seems to me that most men are weak in some way or another. It is pretty evident throughout the Old Testament. God challenges people in stunning ways. In the Gideon record, a nice size army accumulated to take care of the enemy.  God had other plans:
2 And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
3 Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
4 And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go. Judges 7:2-4
The army was whittled down to 300 from 32,000! Actually, when you think about it, that is pretty exciting. It is even more exciting today in light of the power that God has given to each one of us. We have access to God anytime we want. We should not be afraid to lay whatever is confronting us out before him with an honest heart and rest in that! The Lord 'does not forsake us' (Judges 6:13) when we approach him for even the smallest detail of our lives. The answer that comes may not involve a huge, showy explosion of might, but rather a sure peaceful perfect resolution that is so awesomely right!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Why Does This Stuff Keep Happening?


The Hebrews, as recorded in the sixth chapter of the book of Judges, had 40 great years during the time of Deborah, but then  got into trouble again:
6 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.
3 And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; 4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.
6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord. Judges 6:1-6
God sent a prophet to explain why:
7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites, 8 That the Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; 9 And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land;10 And I said unto you, I am the Lord your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.
The phrase "fear not the gods of the Amorites" caught my attention. It can't mean be afraid of them. The word 'fear' in this case refers to worshipping or serving them.

We all live in a mixed culture and it is easy to see from experience how subtly this can happen. People just get caught up in the times. Recently I marveled when someone said to me that I needed to get with the times as they were a changin'.  In actuality, the issue that we were talking about was an issue that has occurred throughout recorded history and without fail has reaped the same results in a culture. It is not about being out of touch, but rather about not being ignorant of truth as it really is. I guess as one gets older and older, that claim might be laid more and more so it is wise to get used to it. 😜  Just don't call them a 'young whippersnapper'! 😉 They might not get it!

There is so much around us that tries to pull us in one direction or another. How often we are 'gaslighted' (oppressing and twisting someone else's thinking) these days? It is everywhere. Conformity is a tempting solution.

In Judges 6, God raised up another deliverer, whose name was Gideon, when the Israelites finally asked for help from God.
12 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.14 And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
How come this stuff keeps happening? People get sucked into conformity as the right measure of worth. Gideon posed a great question. He wanted answers and he got them from the right source.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Unity ≠ Groupthink

The women's march that recently occurred in conjunction with the inauguration, caused a lot of stir. Sound bites from the event are disturbing. 'Victimization' is defining the women's movement and it is not very pretty.

Try matching our culture with that of the culture in which Deborah lived! Despite that culture's view of women, Deborah rose up and became a great leader for God. Her type of leadership was not the same as what most people today think of when then think "leadership". It was not "my way or the highway" for her. Nor did she did not stick her head in the sand to avoid the uncomfortable. Her power base was God and she led with a courageous heart walking outside the nine dots of the culture.

I was amazed recently when I heard a leader say that one of the people he had hired thought differently about something than he did. He added that he respected the other's thoughts, experience, and judgment and that guy was the one he wanted in that job. Oh my, what happened to 'groupthink'? What about unity?

I think I finally now understand what people are referring to when they talk about "the establishment". Both parties in this country have an "establishment" wing that dominates the party. Ideology is groupthink! "Groupthink" is a dangerous human endeavor and it is seducing in that it captures people in a web of thinking and action that renders them fruitless. Sometimes we defer to groupthink for the sake of unity. We can't have true unity unless the focus is on what is right. People need to talk about what is is right openly, honestly, and not hide or smother it. People also need to listen at the same time. Sensitivity, emotions, politicization, victim mentality and insecurity should not be allowed to dominate this process.

God designed the original man and woman and he thought it was very good. So why are there problems with gender issues? Not with God! Deborah is a great example of empowerment! Her leadership qualities originated from a love for and from God. Her style was not in calling the shots, but in rejoicing in God and carrying out his will. She knew a lot of people were involved in carrying out God's will. God wanted people to flourish, Deborah imparted and facilitated that desire. She encouraged others to rise up and praised with great humility. Nowhere, whatsoever, did she lead from a victimization stance.  She pulled people up to their rightful position.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Differences in Worldview

The increasing political polarity that has been occurring in our country today is so perplexing. For a land that has enjoyed great freedoms, this is inevitable. How each of us views life can be a source of conflict.

In the song of Deborah and Barak in the book of Judges, there are three different women mentioned: Deborah, Jael, and the mother of Sisera (the mother of the military commander of the army that fought against the Israelites). Two of these women are called mothers, Deborah and the mother of Sisera. These two have very different views of the world they live in.

Deborah, as a judge and prophetess, held court under the date palm tree which has been described as 'flourishing', 'upright' and as a symbol of victory. As a prophetess, Deborah's view of the world in settling disputes was from God. She valued her people to the point of going to war over the oppression in which the Hebrews found themselves. She encouraged and planned and did not guess about the outcome.

The other mother mentioned, Sisera's mother, was of a different 'worldview'. We don't know her name, but she is described as standing at the window looking for and bewailing the fact that her son had not returned from war. Her attendants discussed it but she said:
29 Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself, 30 Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil? Judges 5:29-30
Dividing prey? To every man a damsel or two? A prey of diverse colors, diverse colors of needlework? Spoil? She had uncertainty and see what was in her thinking.

Jael was not a Hebrew and the record says that she and her husband were at peace with Jabin, the oppressive enemy. The tent Sisera entered into was Jael's tent. A man caught in a woman's tent fell under the death penalty. Part of the oppression to the Hebrews as pointed out in verse 29 above, was was the exploitation of women. Certainly, Jael had a different point of view but she was a part of the deliverance and Deborah called her "blessed above women" twice in Judges 5:24. (Interesting- Cp Luke 1:28,41-42).

No human being has a right to oppress another for their own gain. Women are to be treated with respect and dignity as exemplified in Deborah. This is God's heart. This is God's will.
Women were treated very poorly in the Canaanite culture and in other cultures (even the Hebrew culture at times), but when people have the right vision from God, all lives matter.

Oppression occurs when things go awry. Gain, power, and control become focal points. If it is allowed to continue, it grows. Oppression does not go away on its own. If we find ourselves in such situations, the only true way out of it is God's path and God's revelation.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13


Thursday, January 12, 2017

What Is A Prophet?

There used to be a time when it was quite frequent to see a bearded man on a street corner holding a sign that said something similar to 'Sinners repent'! I haven't seen too much of it lately but maybe it still happens in some places. I never remember seeing a woman do it. I suppose this was the idea of a prophet that I had back then. I think I've always thought that a prophet or, as the case with Deborah, a prophetess, speaks for God; but my image of the office has changed quite a bit.

I remember hearing someone teach about the five ministries in the body of Christ and a statement about the prophet changed my perception forever. He said that the prophet was known for the love with which he/she spoke. The prophet calls people back to God.  If when we think of God, we are reminded of sin, guilt, our performance, consequences, we will think of the 'sinner repent' idea. Prophets are called to speak God's word in love. Check out the first use of prophet in the Bible in Genesis 20; it is interesting. It is a record full of forgiveness, love, restoration, healing and prayer for people.

God is love. He is encouraging and has provided abundantly. If we define sin as missing out on the greatest thing there ever was, we might not condemn ourselves and others so much. We would openly, honestly truly love God because he first loves us.

In the life of Deborah, we see her encouragement, challenging people to rise up and be more than conquerors and believe God. She stated it plainly and simply and without condemnation. The song she and Barak sang, was and is, uplifting and victorious. The last line in the song is:
31 So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years. Judges 5
People perish because of a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6), not because God wills it. God has provided his word to free people, not cause them to cower and cringe. God's desire for us is to stand up boldly, honestly, truthfully and in love and to share the greatness of his desire for us. What Moses said to Joshua  in Numbers 11, truly is a great thought:
...would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! Numbers 11:29b
How different our world would be!

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Story Within A Song - Jael


Within the song of Deborah and Barak, there is another story of a woman named Jael. She lived near Kadesh. She was married to Heber the Kenite (related to the father-in-law of Moses). They had separated from the Kenites (maybe because of Philistine aggression) and moved north to the Napthali area.
11 Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh. Judges 4:11
Deborah had told Barak, the military leader of Israel, to go up Mt Tabor with 10,000 men to get ready to fight the Canaanites (Jabin was their ruler) and deliver them from Jabin's oppression (4:3) This was accomplished with God's help: good strategy and timely weather conditions. The Canaanite military leader, Sisera, escaped back to the Kadesh area and sought safety from  Heber's wife, Jael:
17 Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. Judges 4:17
However, Sisera was not safe with Jael as he had thought:
24 Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. 
25 He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish. 26 She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. Judges 5:25-26
Sisera was killed by Jael. Deborah had told (4:9) Barak earlier that a woman would end Sisera's life. Verse 27 is interesting from a figure of speech view. A figure of speech gives added emphasis to the situation.
27 At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead. Judges 5:27
There are two figures in this verse: asyndeton (no-ands)  and epibole (overlaid repetition). The asyndeton involves a series of phrases with no conjunctions. It speeds up the tempo of the sentence ending with a climax statement 'he fell down dead'.

The Israelites were delivered from the devilish oppression of 20 years by Deborah, Barak, the leaders and people of certain tribes of Israel and finally by Jael the Kenite. It is interesting how many were involved and who was involved in doing his/her part. God certainly operated in a variety of hearts to bring deliverance. The land had rest for 40 years after this victory.