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The Israelites: A Special Kind of Love

Over the last two years, the love of God has perplexed and overwhelmed me. I mean, like really. How can anyone love me that much and invest so much in me, and continually welcome me back when I fail and miss the mark time after time? How can someone love me past my pain and my insecurities, past my faults and disloyalty, past my wicked heart and my selfish ways? For real. A love so deep that vows to restore and heal. It’s interesting that the Spanish word for ‘deep’ is profundo, which looks a lot like the English word ‘profound.’ The idea of profound is something that goes beyond one’s normal thinking and understanding. Therefore, God’s love is so profound that it goes beyond our finite comprehension. His love is so unique and so pure that nothing can separate us from His love; it is unconditional, specifically to those of us who surrender our lives to Him. In the Bible we see words like everlasting, eternal, true, perfect, and never failing used to describe His love for His children. How insane is it that I can always count on God to love me and hold His arms out no matter what. Granted that does not give me the right to take that love for granted or assume the Lord won’t show tough love when necessary, hence the Israelites.

Throughout the various studies and readings, especially in the Old Testament, the depth of God’s love is demonstrated by His commitment to the Israelites, His chosen people. Reading through the prophets, the lives of their kings, and even when they first came out of Egypt, the Israelites were trippin. Just in a book like Hosea, one of the tribes were accused of having a spirit of prostitution. What?! Furthermore, good kings were few and far between, for most of the kings of Judah and Israel were terrible and got progressively worse from one to the next, and the people tended to follow the leadership. God on so many occasions threatened them in many ways and claimed that He would turn away from them, and He often made good on His word, and as I read His words in Scripture, I imagine His fed up, rolling His eyes and smh face, so much that I wouldn’t be surprised if He cussed them out on multiple occasions (no He didn’t, let me be clear), because the Israelites put their God through so much crap for centuries. My brother wrote a poem some years ago called, “Thank God I’m not God,” or something similar and that poem is ridiculously accurate just looking at the relationship between Yahweh and the Israelites, because I know for a fact that if I was God, I would have walked away and never looked back.

But that’s why I can’t be God.

Even though the Lord disciplined them, sometimes severely – they were wilin’ – they never had to wonder if God loved them, because He was slow to anger and His anger did not last long, and He always reminded them of who they were and of the covenant He made with their fathers. He was quick to restore and to redeem and desired to bestow His awesome favor upon them when they got their lives together. (There were many good years in between the not so good.)

The more I read, the more I study, the less I understand the love of God. It’s so…indescribable. How can a God that big, love little ole’ me that much? I have nothing to offer Him that He needs or could make His living better or more meaningful; He needs to depend on me for absolutely nothing, but I need Him just to write this blog. He has every reason and right to be distant, short-tempered, and arrogant, but in His flawless character, He chooses to be jealous for my love and chose to give His life in order to prove to me how much He desired me and wanted to have a relationship with me. I am on the verge of tears writing this, because I am just considering how great His love really is and how undeserving of it I am, but His love is mercy and grace, just as it was with the Israelites, for as He chose them to be His people, He chose me before time began to be His daughter, just like He chose you to be His child. He loves you and He loves me because He said He would. Be you for a purpose and bask in the big, strong, special kind of love that will carry you through the fires and deep drowning waters of your life, even if you set the fire or jumped in the pool yourself.

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High and Low

It’s always funny how I get overly familiar with a Bible story, then for whatever reason I go back and read it, only to find I missed so much and I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. Prime example, the transfiguration. Previously, I had just thought the story captured in Scripture was Jesus and his special disciples going up a mountain, seeing the glory, then the story closes with a time gap to the next section (depending on translation) and another story begins. Boy was I wrong!! I was encouraged to read this account in Mark 9 after reading a few devotionals from Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest,” and I was intrigued by all I missed.

One of the first things I noticed is the fear of the disciples in the presence of Christ, up and down the mountain. It made me wonder if the fear of the Lord is merely reverence, actual fear, or a mixture of both. When I considered their moments of fear, it was definitely not a matter of reverence, but they were afraid because they didn’t know what to do or say or the response of Jesus to their actions. I think for us, it is necessary that we have a healthy balance of reverence for the Lord along with fear for His immensity. He is far above human understanding and a fear of His judgment and limitless incredible power and what He may do should inspire us to live as close to the cross as we can. Of course, as we learn the character of God that level of fear is balanced out because of His overabundant grace and overwhelming love.

The funny thing about this story is that in their fear, we see how started saying dumb stuff, for God the Father straightened Him out real quick so he couldn’t act his out, as did Jesus when he handled the dispute of the disciples who were totally missing the point of the ministry they had just been apart of and knew that they were wrong, which is why they didn’t respond to Jesus when he asked them. Without exhausting it, in our fear, we shouldn’t react, but we should instead consider Jesus and his glory so that we don’t mistake what God wants to say to us, show us, or do for us.

There really is so much in this account that I could present here, but a blog is not a book so I will refrain or just do a part two. Nevertheless, the major point that I gathered from the transfiguration story is the highs and lows of life; we can’t have one without the other. What struck me about the story is not their incredible experience on the mountain, but their immediate journey back down the mountain and into regular life.

As Chambers reflected, when we experience the high mountain-top experiences, we naturally want to stay there, but the mountain was created to prepare us for the valleys of life; we can’t stay there forever. As soon as they saw Elijah and Moses and were scolded by the Father, the experience was over, and back down the mountain they went; Jesus actually went ahead of them. If we are supposed to follow Christ, we must recognize the purpose and time necessary for the mountain.

Furthermore, there is a misconception that we leave the presence of God on the mountain, but just as Jesus went before them and walked with them down the mountain and back to reality, he will walk with us; His presence will never leave us. Just as we see when Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days fasting, right after his in depth encounter with God it was time to put what he learned to practice. For after his fast, the Devil tempted him, and immediately after their return from the high mountain, Jesus had to face problems in ministry with the other disciples.

There will be more lows in life than highs, and low doesn’t necessarily mean bad, but rather the normal every day things of life. The highs are those intense encounters we have in the presence of God, and I must admit that I couldn’t handle it if it happened every day, which is why those mountain highs last for just a weekend or a short time, as we see in Mark 9, where the majority of this chapter is not concerning the transfiguration, but what happened when they came back down. Likewise, if Jesus had stayed or if they had returned later, then that boy would not have been delivered and the disciples would have missed critical teachings and experience of the work of the Son if they would have lingered on the mountain.

As we live a life a purpose, it has to be guided and influenced by the times we spend with God on the mountain, but we can’t be stingy with what we gain there, rather, we must take those blessings and lessons and share it with others, otherwise it becomes a waste and the beauty of God can’t be share with others, encouraging them to seek the presence of God. We have a responsibility be ourselves for a purpose in lows, prepared in the highs of His presence.

A Command that Doesn’t Make Sense

I am doing character studies in Scripture again and one common figure that has fascinated me is Elijah. He is known to be the one of two persons never to die, and reading his story and how the Lord used him, it is clear as to why he was graced as such. Nevertheless, he was a real person with real emotions that at one point made him suicidal. Within the stories centered around this man of God, we are introduced to a widow, whose name was not provided and all we know is that she had a son.

Reading this story, which I have read or heard preached several times, I was struck when God told Elijah that He had already commanded the woman to feed him. First of all, the fact that we get this piece of the character of God, we see how He truly does value women. Often times, people consider Judaism or stigmatize the place of women in the Old Testament and the corresponding culture, but this excerpt is one of many where we see God’s consideration of and revelation to women. So awesome. Still, the focus is on the command itself.

God had called this woman to minister to His prophet, Elijah, by giving him food. Fair enough, but the only problem was that she had none to give. So now what??

Being a widow in that time, it is no surprise that she was struggling, and the pressure on her was much greater considering that she had a son to take care of as well, so the last thing that she needed was God to tell her to give away what she really didn’t have to give. Yet, she did have something to give. Yes, it was barely enough just for her and her son and starvation was looking like a sure thing; she didn’t see the value in what she had, but made the commitment to obey God, though she didn’t know how. Isn’t that just like us??

God often commands us to do the impossible, for when we look around and consider what we have at our immediate disposal, we often think we misheard God or just fall into disobedience. I heard at a conference, “whatever the need, you have the seed to produce it,” and oh how this widow’s obedience reflects this principle. As we read the rest of the story, we see first that she was willing to obey, but she was just unsure how, and that is completely fine, since it will often lead us into unknown and scary situations, which is why Elijah told her not to be afraid and to do first what God commanded her to do before doing what she thought was necessary, like feeding her son. Now do I think that she was immediately assured to the fact of no fear or apprehension? Maybe not, but Elijah encouraged her that by sowing that seed, the Lord would bless her for the years to come during the famine. Her seed would meet her need. She was desperate, struggling, and preparing to die, but God met her where she was, giving her the opportunity to trust God with literally all that she had. And when you really think about it, she really had nothing to lose if she was going to die anyway.

In our moments of desperation, God still calls us to bless others in various ways, we must never forget that, because the earth and its fullness belongs to Him. As we see, the blessing of obedience far outweighs the cost of obedience.

As we continue to be ourselves and live our lives on purpose, we must never get so consumed with what we have that we hoard the little bit. God is a God of multiplication and whenever we sow those seeds and live in even the smallest acts of obedience, following the commands that don’t make sense or appear to magnify the struggle we are in, rather than rescue us, He promises to prove Himself, His power, His provision, and His faithfulness.  All of this is the beauty of the journey, because the biggest moves of God in our lives are in those random situations that can’t be logically processed as possible or effective; every mandate has a purpose, whether you recognize it immediately or not. So I have one question, do you trust Him?

Bank Roll

So wbank rollithin the church there are several differing doctrines, some of the more prominent deal with money, such as the prosperity doctrine and the poverty doctrine. The prosperity, health and wealth, doctrine assumes that every Christian is supposed to be wealthy and rich and all that comes with it, while the poverty doctrine says that Christians should be poor or live the simple life. The problem is that such absolutes have discrepancies, neither of which is solely supported by scripture, meaning that there are passages for both to some degree or another. Furthermore, without understanding what God’s specific will is for your life (Proverbs 22:2; Matthew 5:45; Romans 9:14-18), it’s easy to get caught up and truly miss what God has for you and begin to lose focus, in the same way it can create tension or anger when things don’t go your way.

Now please don’t get me wrong, having wealth and riches in and of itself is not wrong in God’s eyes, because just looking at Biblical characters we see the truth in that God has no problem blessing His people, Abraham, Solomon, Job, etc. However, over and over scriptures warn us of the consequences of wealth and how hearts can easily turn from God. On the flip side, to say all of God’s people should be poor is just as wrong, because we need people to give to the kingdom to continue and further the cause of Christ around the world. But still, there will always be poor or those with little money, and yes, some of which will be Christians. Just think of those in the scriptures that Jesus ministered to, many weren’t and never became rich, or like that poor man at the gate of the rich man, but it was him who went to Heaven and not the rich man. Not all the Israelites, prophets, or even disciples (whom Jesus actually told to walk away from all they had, whatever it was) lived a life of luxury, but not all were poor, but God gave what He felt necessary for them to live their lives and accomplish the will of God. Even David found himself poor. Likewise, though they were God followers, in both Testaments, many did in fact get sick and some died, those who belonged to the God of he Bible. All in all, it’s safe to say many scriptures have been misused and taken out of context (3 John 2 (it was John speaking, not God, to the people); John 10:10, 14:14; 2 Cor 8:9; Gal 3:14; James 4:2). money

Bottom line, I think the biggest thing is that people are swayed by what culture glorifies and far too many spiritual leaders falsely teach, and fail to seek God for guidance on what He desire for them and to be content whatever He decides for that season, and often end up more miserable and unsatisfied because of a bad attitude or walking outside the will of God. God has people living poor to reach certain people, like missionaries or those living in the lower-class of their communities to be able to serve and connect with the people and are doing awesome work for the kingdom; others God has enabled to make a whole lot of money to help others who are doing great things too. I have met both kinds of people both who understand where God has placed them and operates accordingly and effectively.

God hasn’t called everyone to be poor, nor has He called everyone to be rich. Find out what God wants to do in your life to best fulfill His purpose in your life so that He can get the glory. In the mean time do what you can and make the most you can with what you have and let the Lord do what He desires (1 Samuel 2:7), and He just may surprise you. Let His desires become yours and He will meet your every need (Proverbs 30:8; Philippians 4:19) as He promised. Continually seek His face and not His hand, for being in tune with Christ, the Creator is the greatest wealth there is because He owns the universe (Matthew 6:33); He walks on streets of gold, and precious stones and gems we hold so valuable on earth is what the ground in Heaven is made of. So even if your don’t live the life of luxury here, Heaven is so worth the wait.

It’s funny because this post was supposed to go in a different direction, but sometimes that happens, so I guess the Lord had something different in mind. Nevertheless, it is very clear what Scriptures say about becoming prosperous especially in the book of Proverbs, and many times it’s all about giving, being faithful, and good stewards of what God has given you whether a little or lot (Mark 4:1-20). Can God trust you with the “blessing” or wealth you are asking for? Do you even tithe faithfully? So if you question why you haven’t received, you must then question what have you given with what you have (Mark 12:44; Luke 6:38). It’s a matter of your heart; what is your idol, your focus, your motivation? Because if it is not for the cause of Christ your bank roll is worthless and your life will be empty, rather the abundant life is one saturated in and by God and His word, being as fruitful as possible and being effective in the work of our Lord (read Ecclesiastes), trusting Him to provide for the completion of His mission, remembering that every good thing comes from and belongs to Him (James 1:17). Oh! It’s also a matter of patience, which is not for the weak, waiting on God when asking for things in His name, not your own, and believing Him to see it through when and how He deems fit.

I really hope this all made sense, if not, at least read and study the scriptures listed. The point of which is to get you in touch with the voice and will of God in your life to understand the type of bank roll needed for you to be what He called you to be, for you to be you for a purpose, whether taking a life of poverty, of wealth, or somewhere in between.

200 Feet

So if you havIMG_0350e watched TV anytime recently you may have seen a the Toyota Corolla commercial with the car driving around a winding mountain while dark, and the only light coming from the car. During the dramatic scene the narrator makes this statement, “Wherever it is you want to go, all you need to see is the next 200 feet.” Now I have seen this commercial several times, but that particular line always sticks out to me, because though it is based on the worthiness of the car, it is very relevant to how we live life.

Like the blackness of the mountain, there is the fear and anxiousness of what we can’t see, the unknown, and the uncertainty of the next move, yet all that we really need is that short span of light to take the next stride. Our focus should be on that light so that we can stay focused on what is in front of us at all times and not get distracted by what we can’t see, because yes there are dangers on the road like bad weather, other drivers, and bears as shown, and at times we are privy to actually experience them. Anyway, focusing on those 200 feet also allows us not to dwell on what it behind us. The past is the past, and though it does have its role, there is far less light to give attention to what is behind us. Well that’s nice, huh? I just answered all of life’s hardest questions…hardly.

To be serious, this commercial reminds me of a verse in the book of Psalm, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”    The obvious truth here is that life is full of dark mountains, otherwise there is no need for a light, but draw attention to where the light is, at tlamp 2he feet. As I heard it explained before, it’s like whlampen we use a flashlight walking through the house at night especially when there are stairs involved. We don’t usually shine the light straight ahead of us, but rather down at our feet, just enough so we can see the very next step, maybe two. Even a light on a path is not that bright, just enough light to guide you to the next, like a lantern or street light even.

As the Lord has shown me, we can’t handle the big picture all at once of where the Lord is taking us, because as mentioned before, we get distracted, try to rush, get too excited and try to skip steps that are crucial to reaching our destination in tact, or get discouraged by where we are at the moment, and or what all we will have to go through to reach out destiny. This whole journey is about faith, trusting an unknown future to a God who is all-knowing. It’s a matter of going through the process trusting that the light we have been given to lead and guide us has a fire or bulb that will never burn out.

And yeah, if you are like me, you desire that piece of control that wants the whole map and the lights ogods plann the road to shine as far as the ending destination, but in the Lord’s wisdom, He does things otherwise. Now many times we do have a vision, that is knowing where we anticipate arriving, but I think I can safely say that we never know what is really in between the start and end point. But it’s around those winding roads and mountains we learn to trust God, develop courage, perseverance and patience, wisdom and understanding; we learn to love and care for others on the journey and those that may be in the car with us; we begin to appreciate the beauty of the simplest things we wouldn’t normally give notice; we are kept from veering off in the wrong direction. It’s the dark “in between” we learn to be ourselves for a purpose, ensuring that we are all we need to be once we reach our destiny. So whether you only see 200 feet or 2 feet in front of you, remember that you are being lead by the One who created even the most treacherous of mountains and terrains, and the next step is all you need to see.