What’s Going on Here?

When Jesus entered the Temple courts,
he began to drive out those who were selling.
“It is written,” he said to them,
“‘My house will be ‘a House of Prayer’;
but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.”
Luke 19:45-46

In Jesus’ time, the Temple was the hub of the life of God’s people. Massive. Gleaming white
stones. A sacred space teeming with life. The “Crown Jewel” of the People of God. Animal
sacrifices were happening all the time, as the worshippers came with their gifts.

But the practical parts of that worship and sacrifice meant that there was also “business” going on: Doves and lambs that qualified for sacrifice were bought and sold. The aroma of incense, filled the air. Tables laden with articles needed by the worshippers . . . many of whom had come from great distance, needing practical items as well. Outside the sacred space of the Temple, the courts and surrounding area were filled with the visitors and worshippers, and sellers connected with the “Crown Jewel” of Jerusalem. . . and the biggest celebration.

Jesus had begun going there from nearby Bethlehem as an 8-day-old infant for His dedication to God by his parents. Then every year, they traveled all the way from Nazareth. Friends, neighbors and relatives were usually making the trip together on foot, along with the animals they would sacrifice.

Imagine a public event in a big city when the streets are barricaded due to the teeming crowds of friends and families. And strangers. In our world, these type of scenes are almost solely secular events, and it’s a madhouse of sights, smells, music, eating, drinking, shouting. Adding to the atmosphere was the presence of the military of the Roman Empire in all their power, arrogance, and cruel oppression of the worshippers of God.

Making the trip to the Temple in Jerusalem was something very, very special. Not a fair, not a carnival, not an entertainment event. . . its purpose was to worship and sacrifice to the One True God of the nation of Israel. Yet it’s easy to imagine the atmosphere of multitudes of people together for an event unique to the nation of Israel. Add to that the presence of Roman military, and it’s easy to imagine the “holy” purpose getting lost in the chaos.

Into this scene, comes Jesus. He could see his birthplace of Bethlehem, a few miles from the Temple Mount. The sacrifices and worship was taking place. He could also see the few miles of pastureland between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, where the finest quality of lambs were cared for by the best shepherds. These were the fields of lambs destined for sacrifice, above which Heaven’s angels had sung of the birth of the God’s Son. These were the finest quality lambs that were destined to be led through the Sheep’s Gate, nearest the Temple, and sacrificed for the sins of the people. This crowd of noisy people, buying, selling, keeping track of their children, keeping track of the sacrifice lambs they had brought with them were teeming on the Temple Mount.

Jesus knew that He, born in a sheep’s fold in Bethlehem, within sight of the Temple Mount,
would lay down His life . . . the Perfect Sacrifice . . . for the sins of the world.

Try to imagine the sights and chaos He took in, knowing all that had brought Him to this point in time. He knew what was to unfold very, very soon. He would be the One Perfect Sacrifice, led to the slaughter, to take away the sins of the whole world. The time was short.
In the midst of His own people completely engulfed in the chaos of what was a Sacred Space, a Sacred Moment in Time, when The Sacred Lamb would die a brutal, prolonged death as the One Holy Sacrifice Lamb for the sins of the whole world, is it any wonder that He experienced His Godly Anger for what that Space had become. Turning over the tables of “stuff” in the face of what He was about to do for all the world, . . . is it any wonder?

What would He say if He walked into our churches today? Knowing what His Sacrifice cost Him, what His Sacrifice accomplished for us as our only hope of spending eternity with Him, would He hear thanksgiving from our hearts and lips? Would He see money being exchanged for His Purposes? As acts of Worship for Him? Or for our own benefit? Would He experience a holy sense of awe from us for the privilege of being in His Presence? Would He walk through the clusters of Believers and hear hearts of gratitude . . . or even recognition of His Presence? Would they be there for “the show?” Would He call us by name?

Would we know Him?

In the Courtroom

“That is why He is always able to save those who come to God through Him.
He can do this because he always lives and intercedes for them.”
Hebrews 7:25

Last year I had an experience I’ve never had before. I was called to testify in a trial for a
shooting I had witnessed two years earlier. In the weeks leading up to this trial, I found myself re-living the experience again and again in my mind. Though I witnessed something that had lasted only a few minutes, the seriousness of my testimony weighed heavily on me. I was not to be acting on the side of “interceding” for an action of an innocent person, but rather speaking words that would support a proof of guilt. The experience had been difficult to process, and reliving it in my mind was emotionally and mentally troubling.

When I consider the role that Jesus has taken in my life concerning my own sin and guilt, it is very sobering. Entering God’s Courtroom in my imagined “trial” is sobering. Not knowing who may be there to give testimony for or against me makes my mind and heart go in many
directions. What might be said? What did I do? What is true? What is false? What might
happen to me, either way? Who might be there, to accuse or defend? Is there anyone who will stand in my defense?

When we take a serious look at our own lives, as if on trial in a courtroom, what do we know will likely be exposed? What do we wish we had done differently? What do we fear may be the repercussions of a “guilty” verdict? What will happen to me? Who can help me?

Jesus is that One . . . the Only One . . . Who chooses to stand between “the guilty” and the
“Judge.” He is not there in a “Role” that can be hired, negotiated, bribed or bought. He is
there as One knowing exactly what we have done…the Eye Witness. He knows our guilt. He
knows The Judge, and His highest of standards and Laws.

He knows all the Truth. And He knows from experience the Penalty and punishment that a “guilty” verdict will bring. Yet He was innocent.

When the Hammer is poised to come down with a “guilty” verdict, fully deserved, Jesus turns to us, looks us in the eye, and asks, “Will you accept the forgiveness I offer you through giving my own life for you? Will you give Me your life, and follow Me from now on?”

What is your answer?

It’s All About Me

“Indeed, the Son of Man has come to seek and to save people who are lost.”
Luke 19:10

As I read Luke’s words, I recalled a little worship chorus that was popular in my earlier adult
years. The words were “It’s all about YOU, Jesus! And all this is for You, for Your glory and
Your fame . . . “ But at the time, there were other things going on in my adult life and church
world that made me substitute some other lyrics that seemed more honest:

“It’s all about ME, Jesus… for my glory and my fame. And all this is for ME . . . “

No, this version was never sung out loud. It was just sung in my own head. But it seemed an accurate description of the faith world in which I was surrounded. Unfortunately, we have a strong propensity to make ourselves the focus, even in our faith life.

Considering all that Jesus – the “Son of Man” – gave up for the sake of our earthly world and our Human destiny, we don’t deserve anything from Him. . . except judgment.

This simple statement by Luke is loaded with insight of what should matter most in how we live.

“…the Son of Man”….He lowered Himself to be one of us…simply as a “son”….a human.
“…has come…” His initiative, His movement toward us.
“….to seek…” Active pursuit of us…actively searching for us, no matter where we are …
No matter what rock we’re living under.
“…and to save….” Active choice on His part to intervene in our fatal path
“…people who are lost.” We face hopelessness, certain doom, unable to do anything to
change our fate. We have no idea where we are, nor how to get “home.”

He took all the actions to save our lives. We had no options nor ability to change our own
reality nor our endings and beyond, in our eternal destiny.

Why would He do that?
Because that is what Love does.
That is Who He Is.


“If someone brings a lamb as their sin offering, they are to bring a female without defect.”
Leviticus 4:32

Our lambs are having babies! It’s the first time that this event was actually intentional on our part. The first sheep we purchased arrived in January a few years ago, and we received a phone call about a week later from the seller that she suspected they may all be carrying lambs, due to her ram escaping his pen every Sunday when she would go to church.

Now, those grown-up “lambs” are carrying their own little lambs, and we are almost daily finding new little ones in their mama’s pens. Their baby-like cries are so heart- touching, calling for their mama’s as they stand on their wobbly little legs, their little eyes looking at these strange creatures with two missing legs.

For our mama’s, it’s their first experience of giving birth. Some are doing fine with the process. But there are a few we have had to closely monitor or remove them from their
mothers for their own lamb’s safety.

One new mother actually killed her twin lambs in the night. The emotional experience
for our family was something we’d never dealt with before. One action taken was to
spray-paint a fluorescent “X” on her wool. She is “marked” to be used for “other
purposes” in the future.

God made it clear in His Book that the sacrifices He required in worship from His People were to be done with lambs that had no defect. Any lambs that were not “perfect” would be used for purposes other than as gifts of sacrifice to God.

It’s impossible to find “perfect” lambs.

God Himself could not find a “perfect” Lamb that would be fully acceptable to Him to
become the “perfect” Sacrifice. . . One who was not “marked” by sin. One whose blood
would cover the sins of man.

So He chose to provide His Own. . . for us.

Hey! I’m Talking to You!

“Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Any parent, and any child is probably familiar with the frequent scenario of parent’s voice calling the name of a child, and saying something like, “Hey! Are you listening to me?” or “I’m talking to you, Henry!” or “Have you done what I asked you to do 15 minutes ago?”

God has a lot of problems of this nature with telling His Children something, and then having to repeat the directive because it wasn’t done.

In this passage, God’s amazing leader Moses had died, just on the brink of entering – finally! – the Land He had promised to Moses and all of His People Israel. Joshua was now in his new role of leading this massive nation of desert-travelers into their new Homeland, Israel. Out of Egypt’s bondage, through decades of traveling (in circles at times) together and learning not only who they were as a Nation, but learning Who God Is.

Having now arrived at the brink of their Promised Land, their beloved leader Moses died, and the man who must now fill Moses’ sandals – Joshua – was looking at their Destiny. This was IT. The nation had spent 40 years going in circles in the Desert . . . learning who they were, and Whose they were. It was time to GO IN.

But there were already people there, who had lived in that Promised Land for as long as anyone could remember. They had their own history there. They had their own unique culture and language. They had their own gods.

It’s understandable that there was great hesitation and fear for the former slaves, God’s nation of Israel, to take those first steps into the Land. What awaited them? WHO awaited them? They could see their Destiny, but they did not know what would happen next. Friends or Foes. Most likely foes, as they had been experiencing for centuries as slaves in Egypt.

What were their thoughts as they stood at the brink of their true Homeland?

Fear. Weakness. Discouragement. What awaited the weary nation of former slaves? New leadership. Foreign people who now had lived their own history on those Promised Lands.

What would life be?

Joshua’s first official speech as their new leader was “Be strong and courageous.” Woven through the new leader’s first official address to his Nation were the reminders of God’s plans, how He had led and protected them. They remembered God’s promise to be with them each step of the way. God “has this” and was with them. Promise.

We, the People of God….following His leadership in our lives, need to also be reminded of God’s faithfullness, His Promises, His protection, His Plans for our good as we journey through this life on earth. Look back and remember how He did it before. Look ahead with confidence that He will be in our future. And hold tightly to His Hand as He walks with us through the years He has planned for us here.

Nowhere to Perch

“But the dove could find nowhere to perch
 because there was water over all the surface of the earth; 
so it returned to Noah in the ark. 
He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark.”

Have you ever felt like that dove of Noah’s?    He’d been sent on a mission by Noah to scout out if there was any land beginning to appear after the global flood all the inhabitants on the ark had just gone through.   Being given his freedom to fly, he’d been flapping and soaring, looking for any place to land.  Nothing . . . 

So back to the ark he flaps.  He saw no other option.  Back to the crowded, creaky boat, and all the creatures with whom he’d had to share the space.  His brief opportunity for freedom wasn’t going to happen  . . . at least not now.  There was no other place to land.

When God orchestrates seasons and situations in our lives,  we may begin the adventure with a sense of joy as we take off and begin to soar.  There’s hope in our hearts of a new opportunity. . . a sense of “mission”. . . a sense of being chosen.  And off we go.

But then, slowly, reality begins to sink in.  The soaring becomes more of a “flapping” ….searching the horizon for any sign of where to land and begin a new Page in  life.

Weariness comes, and the practical facts become clear.  This isn’t going to happen . . . at least not now.  Disappointment takes over where Hope had soared.  The change of course and the realities of going back make the struggle even harder.  Back to the place where you’d felt “stuck.”  Back to the creatures from whom you’d looked forward to having some space.  The soaring . . . the struggle . . . the reality of survival  begins to well up in mind and heart.  

Then we realize . . . the One Who sent us on our mission is still there.  Still watching.  Still waiting.  Still hoping for us.  Caring about us.  

The One Who sent us extends His Arm. . . holds out His Hand to us.  No condemnation.  No shame.  Just Rest. Safety. The Hope and Purpose still alive in His Heart . . . The Mission will be accomplished.  Not today, but the day’s experience will help as we head out the next time.  And He will still be there, quietly waiting and watching from our safe place.

Whispers in the Darkness

“What  I   tell  you  in  darkness, 
Speak that  in light;
And what you hear in the ear,
Preach that upon the housetops.”
Matthew 10:27

As a child, I didn’t enjoy being in darkness.  My imagination would start “hearing”and “seeing” things that were scary, and I’d run to any light I could find.  

As adults, literal darkness isn’t quite as frightening to us as when we were children.  But we still experience “darkness” that brings fear to our hearts and souls.  There is a spiritual darkness that seeks to permeate our minds, our beliefs, our understanding, and sense of safety and peace.  Darkness is the substance of evil.  It fights the light.  

When we experience darkness in our lives, it goes beyond a literal absence of “light.”  Darkness seeps into our minds. . . into our thoughts. . . into our relationships . . . into our very beliefs and knowledge of Truth.  It works hand-in-hand with fear, and can become a powerful force – a bondage – in our lives.  

But it probably began as a whisper.

Jesus talked with His closest followers about the reality of being in darkness.  He is not afraid of the darkness, and purposefully steps into our darkness as The Light of the World.  He speaks to us in our darkness.  His words bring Light.  Whether our darkness is in our minds, or our beliefs, our relationships, our life choices, or our very souls, He Himself brings Light.  

What is your darkness?  “Speak that in light.”  Especially to Him.  Don’t hide.  Don’t fear that it’s too dark for Him to handle . . . to change . . . to dispel.  There is Good News.  He speaks in that darkness.  He doesn’t wait for us to change the “lightbulb” or “flip the switch” of our darkness to accommodate His Light.  We cannot do it.  

What has He spoken to you in your darkness?  He is not afraid of the darkness in your life.  The darkness that He deals with in your heart, mind, and life is not only Good News for you, but it is Good News for those in your life.  Live out… and tell of the Light that has dispelled the darkness in you.  Our dark world longs for Light.  It longs for the Good News that you carry and now live.  The secrets you held in your life have, in Jesus’ Hands,  become your Light, worthy of shouting with abandon from your rooftop.  It is Good News!  The Best News!

This is love… 

...not that we loved God, 
but that he loved us and sent his Son 
as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
                                                              1 John 4:10

Think of the one person in your life that you love the most.  That’s a hard one, I think, for most of us.  There may be several . . . but I’m guessing that the “one” at the top is someone who has been in your life for a long time.  You’ve  probably invested immeasurable time and heart into the “one” you cannot imagine being without.  You may feel you have given that one all you have to give.

God understands that in the deepest way.  It is so far beyond my imagination to think of the Love of God for His Son, and the Love of God for us . . . so much so that He would sacrifice His perfect, sinless, absolutely selfless Son because of His Love for us, His chosen sons and daughters, all of whom would break His Heart.  He knew we would ALL fail Him, disobey Him, walk away from Him, and replace Him in our own hearts with “the foolish things of this world.”

We don’t deserve His Love.  We cannot earn it.  We cannot measure up to qualify for His Love, no matter what we could ever do.  We cannot take any credit for how much He has loved us.  

God’s Love involves sacrifice . . . on His part.   His sacrifice is necessary for me to be one of His own, not mine.  His daughter.  His son.   His Beloved.  His chosen ones.

That is Love.  That is Love beyond our own human understanding, earning, worthiness, experience or making.  His Love for us cost HIM. . . the Father for His Children.

Anything we perceive it costs us to return that Love is not really worth mentioning.  

Besides, He knows, and that’s all that matters.

Believer:  101

“Listen, Israel: [People of God]
The Lord is our God.
The Lord is our only God.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
With all your soul,
And with all your strength.’”
Deuteronomy 6:4-5

We love to complicate things, don’t we?   That’s nothing new.   You can taste it in this ancient verse within the first five Books of the Bible.  I can almost hear that ancient voice leaning in, enunciating each word with perhaps a touch of frustration.  Making simple things become terribly complicated is nothing new.  It’s an unending human struggle, and it’s been the struggle of every Believer since the Beginning.  

But in its simplest terms, it boils down to acknowledging God’s very existence. 

Out of that ancient admission of God’s existence, comes the fact that He is the only God.  No other True God exists.  We may hold onto other fake gods in our lives, those things we don’t think we can live without.  But they’re not real.  Not true.   Certainly not worthy of owning our hearts.

What does God want us to do with our hearts?   Love Him. . . with my own heart. . . with ALL of my heart.  Not just a little piece of my heart.  Not a piece that is sad…. or needing love, …. or hurting . . . or having a moment of happiness.  All of it needs to love and embrace Him into our hearts. . . into the core of who you are.   

My soul will live on as my earthly body returns to dust.  The experience of God’s Spirit … His Essence, will carry me as my soul rises to be in His Presence…look into His Eyes….know, at last, the One Who first  . . . and always . . .loved me.

That sense . . . that taste . . . that hope provides the strength needed to walk through each day,  walk with each person, and walk through each situation that Life here presents.  Strength of mind, strength of hands, strength of backbone, strength of spirit . . . strength of heart and soul flows out of our knowledge and love for our God.  Believing Him as His People, who have all come out of the slavery of whatever “Egypt” we’ve been in.  And  we then step into God’s Promises, Love, and Freedom,  carrying His Living Presence to a world that waits . . . 

On the Heights of Zion

“They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
 they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord – 
the grain, the new wine and the olive oil,
 the young of the flocks and herds. 
They will be like a well-watered garden, 
and they will sorrow no more.”  
Jeremiah 31:12

It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to spend quite a lot of time in Israel.  Many favorite memories have been in the context of the Old City of Jerusalem, and on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city. It is “ on the heights of Zion” that the present day Jerusalem sits.  Across from the heights of Zion, separated by a deep valley, is the Mount of Olives, a “well-watered garden” . . . an ancient olive grove.  Visitors flock to the garden, which is commemorated and may well be the place where Jesus spent time praying just before his arrest.  Tourists  make it a regular site to visit.

On one of my visits to the Mount of Olives, walking through the traditional garden of ancient olive trees, an old man approached me.  He was a stranger to me,  and said no word.  But he held a large ring of keys, and motioned for me to follow him.  With hesitation, and curiosity, I followed him across the narrow little road that wound from the top of the Mount of Olives, alongside the walls of the Garden of Gethsemane, and down to the base of the Kidron Valley, where tourists return to their  buses.  

The old man led me across the narrow, walled road to an old  wooden door that I had never seen opened.  He unlocked the door, and motioned for me to go inside.  It was a garden.  Far more humble than the tourist gardens, it had very old olive trees, simple  flower beds, and a worn path through the flowers.  He pointed to a small bench, invited me to sit down, and with a sparkle in his eye, walked back out through the old door, locking it behind him.  

I was doing exactly the things I would always caution our Israel trip groups NOT to do.  But there was a sweet peace in my heart, and I sat down on the bench and simply whispered a prayer that God had my full attention, and I was longing to hear Him speak to my heart whatever He wanted to tell me.  I was listening.  

Looking at the garden surrounding me, my gaze came to rest where it had begun. . . between my own two feet.  A simple little blue violet caught my eye, and I gently plucked it.  Having my focus, I noted the intricate details of this simple blossom. . . a little flower that would  easily go unnoticed  in the humble old garden.  As I held the fragile  blossom, God whispered.  He was there.  He had drawn me away from the crowd, reminding me through a  little flower of His  creation, that He was as aware of me as I was of the sweet  blossom  in my hand.  Simple words from His Heart to mine.  It was a precious Moment in time.  

I needed nothing more.

As His Presence, His simple Words, lingered in my mind . . .heart . . . soul, I looked at the little blossom in my hand, focusing on this Moment in Time.  A humble  garden.  A simple gardener.  A worn old door opened to remind me of His Presence . . . His Love . . . His Truth.  

The sound of the key in the old lock drew my Moment to a close.  The crowd was headed on its way to the next site.  

But the tiny blossom I held between my fingers, and the old gardener with the key would always be a treasured memory . . . a reminder of a sweet  Moment between my dearest Love  and me.