Adjusting the Focus

“Baruch, this is what the Lord says:

‘I will destroy this nation that I built.

I will uproot what I planted.

Are you seeking great things for yourself?

Don’t do it!

But don’t be discouraged.

I will bring great disaster upon all these people,

But I will protect you wherever you go.

I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Jeremiah 45:4-5

God has a looong history of orchestrating attitude adjustments to the inhabitants of this old Earth.  He especially seems to focus on the people who have chosen to follow Him through Life.   In this present moment, the whole world is dealing with a “plague” like most have never personally experienced.  Unexpected, life-altering, scary, and destructive.  Our own mortality is in our faces.

But within this global “Disruption” have come changes of attitudes, changes of perspective, and a lot more time to “be.”   It’s been beyond our human control to end it.  Most have experienced a realization that we cannot just “fix” this.

Earth has a long history of world-changing events…and often these have been part of an awakening to God Himself.

In the prophet Jeremiah’s time, his world was also experiencing a serious “shaking.”  There was fear, a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, …all that had been was changing.

God’s perspective is far different from our human perspective.  He does not focus on all the “stuff” of life on this planet.  He is focused on hearts…on values…on how we value Him and the place we give Him in our daily lives.

God spoke to a man named Baruch, whose world was on the brink of devastation.

Baruch had been writing down the things the old Prophet Jeremiah spoke…which was a lot!  He was not very happy about it, either…nor of the compensation for all his work.  (Prophets tend to be “loner’s” and financially living on the kindness of others. And they talk a lot, so we can imagine what his “secretary” lived with.)

The people had taken their world into their own hands, disregarding the God who had made them a nation and had cared for them as His Own.  Prophet Jeremiah likely had a LOT to say about all of that.

Baruch (which means “Blessed”, but AKA “The Secretary”) had God’s attention.  We are given a glimpse into God’s warning to him about one thing:  “Do not seek great things for yourself.”

We, as the people of God, are blessed…if for no other reason than His choosing us to be His Holy Nation…His Family.  The greatest risk to that relationship is turning our focus on “me…myself…and I.” 

In the desert refugee camps, a moment that is stamped on my mind was when I saw a scruffy little girl receive a gift from one of our group.  She quickly opened it and pulled out a doll.  Her shriek of  joy quickly turned into a dash out of the tent, shouting,  “Look what WE got!   Look what WE got!”  as she waved the doll over her head.  Her little friends came from all directions, joyfully gathered around the new doll.  There was no “I…my….mine” in the mix.  The gift was for all of them, in that little girl’s mind. 

The best place for us to be is focusing on God, rather than on ourselves.  The focus of “me” and “mine” can dissolve in a moment.  But keeping our focus centered on God is the safest place to be.

 

 

 

Friend of the Bridegroom – Part 1

 “The Bride belongs to the Bridegroom.  The friend who attends the Bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the Bridegroom’s voice.”  John 3:28-30

[NOTE: John, one of the 12 disciples chosen by Jesus, described well the key people and roles involved in ancient weddings.  It also gives us an insight into the first “wedding”…in God’s Garden.]

God was the first Wedding Planner.   He created the Garden setting (Perfect!), the Groom (Adam…handsome “model man,” I’m sure, although he was missing a rib), and the Bride (Eve…an absolutely divine creation!)   

It was perfect!

At that moment in Time, God Himself stepped into the role of Friend of the Bridegroom.   In ancient times, this role was very important.  The Friend of the Bridegroom acted as the go-between for the Bridegroom and the Bride.  Plans, details, and any other important communications between the Bridegroom and the Bride were carried out through the Friend of the Bridegroom.  The Bridegroom and the Bride did not have any contact before the wedding.  All information was passed between them by the Friend of the Bridegroom.  He had weighty responsibilities to carry out between the Bridegroom and his Bride, and had to be completely trustworthy.   In that first love story, God conducted the wedding ceremony.

Fast forward in time… God chose a man named Moses to be His Friend.  God had chosen His Bride (the people of God), through whom He would bring the Messiah.  They had been in slavery for 400 years and had lost much as a result.  The generations who had known God were gone.  It was as if God had to press a “re-set” button to prepare His Bride, reminding her of who she was,  Whose she was,  Who God was,  and how to relate to Him as well as to each other.  Their centuries of slavery had changed them.  God had to lay new groundwork for this nation of slaves (His Bride) through whom He would create His Own Nation…a Family.

God chose His “Friend of the Bridegroom”….a man who was of God’s own People, yet had been raised and trained in the most powerful Pharoah’s own home.  His name was Moses.  His leadership and scholastic training was from the best.  Moses had been trained in leadership skills necessary to rule a mighty nation, the mightiest on earth at that time.  Yet Moses had also spent 40 years out in the middle of nowhere “leading” sheep.  It was his time to personally encounter God, and to learn to be a shepherd of “not too bright” sheep.  The drastically different skill sets of an Egyptian Prince and a desert shepherd would all come into play for the mission the Bridegroom (God) had for Moses to carry out for Him.

Once God had His chosen Bride’s full attention, having walked down the aisle of a parted sea,  the Bridegroom was ready to communicate with His Bride about how their life together would work.

Moses (Friend of the Bridegroom) went to meet with Bridegroom, God, on the mountain top, and began writing down what the Groom was laying out as the foundation of their new Family, a chosen nation.  In 400 years of slavery, they had lost much of who they were.

The Friend of  the Groom (Moses) would come down the mountain to relay what the Groom said….how their family would function….how their marriage would work…how they would live together as a Family.  He had written it down….in stone.   The Bridegroom trusted His Friend Moses with this history-making responsibility which was intended to last throughout the entire history of the family/nation  He and His Bride would establish.

The first version did not go so well.   The “document” literally  broke apart.

The Friend of the Groom returned to the mountain top meeting place, and the Groom again dictated to His Friend Moses all the foundational agreements (10 Commandments) that were necessary for this Family to succeed, to last.  No longer slaves, they had to learn how to live in freedom.

They had to learn how to live as a family…and as a nation.

Moses spent a lot of time with The Bridegroom on that mountain top.   He made a lot of trips up and down the mountain on the Groom’s  behalf.   But Moses kept the Bride’s focus on the Groom, not on himself.   He knew that he was in the shadow of the Groom, and his role was to faithfully and truthfully represent the Heart of her Groom, continuing to help her know Him in all of His Truth, Faithfulness and Love.  The Groom had entrusted His Name, His Reputation, and His Heart to His Friend Moses.

Moses remained the faithful Friend of the Groom for the rest of his life.  He represented The Groom well.  Moses led the Bride to the Land that was to be her Home…the Home she would share with her Groom.

At last, Moses stood at the Doorstep of that Home, the Land of Israel, and watched the Bride walk through the Door with her Groom.

Then Moses rested.

 

 

Family Resemblance

 23 “May the God who gives peace make you holy in every way.

May He keep your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—

blameless when our Lord Jesus Christ comes.

24 The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do this.”

Paul is talking to us through a prayer over us.  In a nutshell, he is asking God to make us “holy.”   On this earth, we live far from “holy.”   We don’t even have a human model to show us what that would look like!   It’s not something we can do out of our own heads.  Only God can do that.  To become holy would mean that we would look like Jesus, our only example throughout all of the ages of what a holy human would look like…act like…

Be like.  We would change in ways that would make us look more like Jesus…a family resemblance to Him.

Do we look like Jesus?  Is the family resemblance clear enough to be noticable to the people we’re with?  When we are in a gathering of people who have come into God’s Family, it’s not so obvious.  Most have similar characteristics.  But when we are in a situation where non-believers are the vast majority, does your Family Resemblance show, or do you just blend into the crowd?

You can’t create your own “family resemblance”….it’s just there.  So, when you’re simply hanging out in your daily world, do other people see anything that resembles the characteristics of Jesus?  A “family resemblance” is a natural part of being in your family.  It’s not something you can create.

The first time I visited the desert, I was truly afraid of being identified as a “Christian.”  It was a very unwelcome identity in that part of the world.  So on practical levels, I seriously tried to blend into their world.

The first day, I met a beautiful young woman who spoke English.  As we were becoming acquainted, she unexpectedly leaned in, and asked in a hushed voice, “Are you Christian?”   I hesitantly nodded.   She whispered, “Tell me!”

I had been careful to give no outward evidence of my faith.  No cards, tags, symbols, etc.  But the family resemblance had been noted…by someone who had never even been exposed to my Family.   It was nothing visible nor verbally identifiable.  It was simply part of my Family identityof the Spirit inside.  No person can make that happen.  We can try to make it apparent on the outside, but that will soon fail.  When Christ comes into our lives, the Family Resemblance becomes part of who we are, as a result of Whose we are.

The Spirit within us …the Holy Spirit…has one key evident Characteristic that shows up for others to identify:   A strong family likeness to Jesus Christ. 

 

 

Where’s MY  tent?

“He moved on to the hills east of Bethel,

and he put up his tent

—with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.

He also built an altar to the Lord there and worshiped the Lord.”     

Genesis 12:8

 Abraham was on the move.  That’s just part of living in a tent!  There’s a whole culture tied to tent-living:  Moving often, a sense of “temporary” to life, a sense of vulnerability to elements of nature as well as to the people who may cross your path.  It’s the typical housing of shepherds, herdsmen, and people who enjoy “camping” in the heart of nature.

But as Abraham journeyed into the new world of following God, he had to continually make adjustments….he was perpetually in a learning mode.

This time, he was settling into a region where he’d not been before,  among a people and culture that was not his own.

The details of places named in Bible stories are significant, though we in 2020 rarely catch the significance of those details.  Yet the details are there for a reason:

Bethel:  One side of where Abraham set up his tent-home.  Bet= house  El= of God

Ai:    On the other side of him, representing things of the world, but apart from God

Abraham set up his tent between the two places.  Then he built an altar, where he would worship the One God he followed.  He would make sacrifices on that altar as a regular act of worship.

Isn’t it similar to the place in this world where we live?   We live out our ‘tent’ lives between the God Who has come to us and drawn us to Himself, but always in sight of this earthly world which demands that our attention be drawn away from God.  Both are in our sights, and we daily have to determine which we will be drawn to….belong to.  Our ‘tent’ is to be held loosely…tents are not permanent.

Altars are built of rocks.  They are meant to last.  They’re not disposable nor dispensable.  Altars stand as reminders of Who we worship…Whose we are.  And long after we’re gone, the altar of our worship stands, a testament of the One Who called us and made us His Own in this world.

So….. where is your tent?

The Battle Continues

Part 2 

“For this reason, take up all the armor that God supplies.

 Then you will be able to take a stand during these evil days.

 Once you have overcome all obstacles, you will be able to stand your ground.”

Epheasians 6:13-17

Note of Warning:   The following is from a deeply female, mom perspective.   But I’ve peeked through my fingers at many movie battle scenes with knights, etc.   It is also acknowledging that half of the battle is in our own heads….

The Battle in this passage has moved from a 1-on-1 of “wrestling” to a full out armed battle.

Our Hope…our Light in the midst of the darkness, is God Himself, and all that He has  provided.  He wants us to be safe….to feel safe!   He has even provided armor to protect us and help us feel secure enough to fight.  He wants us to win….not to be victims to the dangers,  the evil of this world.   His Armor is offered.  Our part is to take it…and to put it on.  With His Armor,  we will be able to stand strong, without fear of what is happpening around us or what is to come.  He doesn’t throw us out on the battlefield of this life with a “Good luck.”

The opponents listed are daunting:

  • rulers, authorities and powers of darkness, and
  • spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world.

The armor that God supplies for us to take and use includes:

The Sword of the Spirit :    God’s Word, which cuts and separates Truth  from lies                                                The Breastplate of Righteousness:   Protection for our hearts by all that is Right by God’s Design

The Belt of Truth:  Belts go around waists….pretty vulnerable part of our bodies.  Ever have a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach just thinking about something?   God offers to wrap His Truth around that queasy, emotionally affected part of us.  His Truth can protect our vulnerable worries and upsets that make us feel “sick” inside.

Shoes of the Gospel of Peace:  His Good News has been handed to us to carry it to others.  He’s given us Shoes that are meant to “go”….not sit under the bed.  We have Good News…the BEST News…to bring to a hopeless world.  Peace.  Peace of heart….peace of spirit….peace of mind….peace with others.   Where can you find that in this world?

Shield of Faith:   Faith is not physically visible.  But it is as real as anything tangible.  It is a force that can be present in the scariest of circumstances.  It is stronger than anything tangible.  Faith resides within us….takes the brunt of the blows of this world….regardless of what appears to be real.  It is an invisible, solid-as-iron link between me and Him that protects my heart and soul from all the Enemy throws at me;

Helmet of Salvation:  My brain….my “Thinker”….the core of WHO I AM….God puts His Helmet over that part of me, to protect my thoughts, my understanding, my beliefs.  It saves me from

Who I am if not for His intervention in my life.  That Helmet protects me from the troubled thoughts and wrong beliefs that would wreak havoc with me if not for His Truth penetrating that old Thinker.

Sword of the Spirit:   God’s Word, which He has given to us….we are privileged to hold it in our hands, read it with our eyes, put it into our minds, and allow it to sink into our deepest parts.  A SWORD is no small object.  It’s nothing to play with.   A sword is heavy. . .its weight has to be used with a strength that has built up. It’s as much a weapon of defense as it is offense.  A sword extends far beyond a hand’s reach.  It’s meant to cut….cut through all the lies and harm that comes at us  pointed at our minds, hearts, and body. Its use has to be up close to the Enemy…eye to eye…not at a distance. God’s Sword can cut through it all.  It is Truth.  But unless we hold it tightly in our hands and have learned how to use it, it is of no help to us.  God’s SWORD is not meant to simply be on display in a glass case or on a wall.

I had a friend who, in her own frustration with the life struggles that seemed to always be at her door said to me, “I see everyone else putting on all their pieces of God’s Armor, but I’m still struggling in my closet to even open the box!”

It’s worth the struggle!   No armor is “easy” to put on.  No armor feels good…it might hurt…it  may inhibit our sense of “freedom” to move.   Putting on armor takes time.  It takes time and practice to learn how to move about with it on….how to effectively…wisely… use it.

But when the battle comes, you will be deeply grateful you had it on.  It will save your life.

And we KNOW…. HIS SIDE WINS!

Wrestling?  ME?

Part 1

“This is not a wrestling match against a human opponent.

We are wrestling with rulers, authorities, the powers who govern this world of darkness,

and spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world.

Ephesians 6:12

For me, anything to do with “wrestling” is about appealing  as cleaning a fish.   When my eldest son took up the sport in high school, I spent most of the time covering my face and looking in the opposite direction, praying that he wouldn’t die.  It looked like one body with 4 arms, 4 legs, and 2 heads, one being my son’s.  And his head should not have been in the place  nor position it was poking out of. UGH!!

However, I have since come to appreciate the raw, human struggle that wrestling embodies.  My desert nation has the sport of wrestling in their ancient history, and I have come to understand the human struggle it demonstrates.   There is no distance  between the two wrestlers.   It is one of the most ancient and raw human means of physically struggling with another person.  Face to face, hand to hand, skin to skin.  Wrestlers do not have heavy armor for their matches.  They wear very little, actually.  Their defense and offense is purely physical.

In this passage, wrestling is used to exemplify the very real human struggle in which we are engaged during our time on earth.  It is not as tangible as a wrestling match with a human enemy.  Our opponent is not a physical, visible being.  It is much more sinister and evil.   But it is as real as anything physical…and always takes place in our own minds.  Our Wrestling match is against the Enemy of our Souls….the dark, deadly Ruler of this earthly world.

In the sport of Wrestling, there is no armor nor weapon.  It is hand to hand, face to face, and skin to skin combat.  Wrestling is one of the most ancient sports of combat that exists.  God describes our time on this earth as being a wrestling match between us as humans, and the spiritual powers of evil that cover our world.

In our “wrestling match” on earth, we are in a battle against the Evil One who dominates this planet.  God knows that we are not strong nor powerful enough to battle the evil forces on earth.

Evil has covered the earth, and had its way for far too long.  God is drawing us into this Battle, but not as a wrestler who has no weapons.  This Wrestling Match is not one of human to human.  This one is against evil itself.

Our Hope….our Light in the midst of the Darkness is God Himself, and all that He has provided.

….To be continued….

 

ALONE

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane,

 and he said to them,

‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him,

and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

Then he said to them,

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.

Stay here and keep watch with me.”

  Matthew 26:36-37

I have read this story every year for as long as I can remember.  But this year, perhaps because of the global fear that has covered this old earth, I read it differently than ever before.  I had always looked on the horrific death that Jesus suffered as the very worst point of  His earthly experience.  But this time, something else is standing out for me . . .

I hear in His words in that olive garden the deepest battle that Jesus was going through.  There was a battle taking place in His very soul.

He said His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  He didn’t want to be alone.  He was in a battle that would be the deciding moment for all of Eternity….for all the people who would ever walk this earth.  His Battle was with Satan himself.  It became so intense that He repeatedly went to his closest friends, asking them to be with Him….to engage in what was happening in His Mind…His Heart…His Soul.  His horrific inner battle came out of His very pores… sweating blood.  He described His sorrow as overwhelming “to the point of death.”

This was where the Battle of all battles was being fought.  I imagine all the voices of Hell, led by Satan Himself, screaming…screeching in Jesus’ ears…  “DON’T DO THIS!!!”   “DON’T DO THIS!!!”  “THERE ARE OTHER WAYS!  YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS!!!”  Here was Jesus’ deepest Battleground.  It was the Battle of making the final choice.  His final decision…to die as the Perfect, Sinless Lamb of God.  Everything for the rest of eternity hinged on this battle.  It would spell the final outcome for all of humanity for the rest of history.

Jesus showed no resistance when it came to His arrest later that night….His “trial”…. His beatings….His public humiliation….His torture….His horrific crucifixion….His final breath….His death.   He had made His Decision in the garden.  Alone.  Sweating blood.

All of the powers of hell itself could not stop Him from His choice to give His life as the Final Sacrifice for the people of this earth.

His response to the deafening screams of hell,   “DON’T DO THIS!!!”   ???

“It is finished.”

………

What is your toughest battle ground?  What pain can push you to the point of feeling like you’re on the brink of being destroyed?  I have had pain in my life that I did not think I could survive.  This included decisions of others that would impact the rest of my life….watching them move on without me, watching…bloody and barely able to think.

When Jesus needed His Friends most, they literally went into hiding.  He had to face “the worst” without them.  He was abandoned by those with whom He had walked side by side every day.  Yet, there were others who had been less close to Him, simply “being there” out of love.

In my own darkest moments, Jesus was there.  His Spirit…His Presence came so near.  Not with a sermon, or a book, or instructions.  No words were needed. . . He was there, and that was what I needed most.  He didn’t “fix” it…He didn’t change it.

He was simply there.