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Posts Tagged ‘Israel’


Ripe Arkansas Black apples.

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Compare and contrast, we all do this don’t we? And, whether we’d like to admit it or not, we do it a lot.

 It doesn’t matter if we’re believers or not, we look around at other people’s lives, then look at our own and automatically what do we do? We compare and contrast ours to theirs, and theirs to ours, to see what the differences are and who seems to be doing better in our eyes.

 Whether we’re actually born with a little gene with compare and contrast on it, or we’re taught it, it sort of reminds me of the game that some of us played while we were planted in front of the television watching Sesame Street.

The game was played on the television screen when someone held an apple in one hand and another apple in the other hand. You saw the two apples were exactly the same, then a deep, booming voice off camera would say, “same”. Another shot would show one hand holding an apple and the other holding an orange ( or some other fruit) and the booming voice would say “different”. It showed very clearly that some things were the same and other things were different.

 Of course, when we’re children we need to know what is the same, and what is different because we need to know how to differentiate between things. But, as we get older, seeing the differences between things becomes seeing the differences between ourselves, then making value judgments and decisions about another person or ourselves based on those differences.

 Think about it, very rarely do we automatically see the similarities we have with another person. Usually we see the differences first, then the similarities, if we even get that far.

 Unfortunately, we do this in all arenas of life, with our jobs, our houses, our spouses, our children, and our relationships with the LORD. We look at someone and assume that they are so much more spiritual than we are, so much closer to the LORD than we are, or so much less so depending on our perception of them, which drives division between us instead of unity.

 Or, worse yet, we look at what we perceive as blessings ( usually defined as wealth and achievement in the Western World) coming one person’s way and wonder why someone else doesn’t recieve the same blessings from the LORD, then take it one step further and use that as the plumb line to determine how close each of us is to the LORD.

 Think about that. Very often we use physical wealth and success to determine the strength of someone’s spiritual connection with the LORD.

 When I see others do this, and yes, do it myself, I am reminded of Job, who had every physical blessing only to have it all taken away from him. His friends assumed it was because there was something very wrong in his relationship with the LORD that caused it, when in actual fact it was the complete opposite. It was his righteousness and his reverence of the LORD that allowed it.

 The experience reaffirmed to Job, and to us in looking at his story, that no matter what we have, or don’t have, the most important thing is having reverence for, and rightness with the LORD, because He doesn’t view things the way we do.

 “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.””

 1 Samuel 16:7

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Map of Israel, the Palestinian territories (We...

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He will do all His will. Think about that. It doesn’t say some of His will, or the parts of His will that relate directly to you. it says all of His will.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own little world’s that we just push aside the parts of His will that aren’t directly related to us. Well, actually sometimes may be a little weakly stated, when in reality it’s pretty much 99.9% of the time that we push aside what all His will may actually mean in the grand scheme of things.

Just recently I received a prayer request email about two young Israeli men who have been called back into active military duty since the recent attacks on Israel. So? You may ask, doesn’t that happen all the time?

And, the answer would be yes, unfortunatley, attacks on Israel happen more often than not. But, it wasn’t the fact that the young men were being called back into active duty because of these attacks that caught my eye, it was what one of them said about it.

He talked about the honor of serving in the standing army in Israel, and more than that what an honor it was to serve in the only standing army to exist since the time’s of King David.

Since the Time’s of King David? That was more than 2,000 years ago. In looking at what little I know about that part of history. I do know that after the period of the kings in Israel’s history, that even if they lived in the land the LORD had promised them, they had no standing army until they once again were brought back to their land then recognized as a country in 1948.

Over two thousand years is a long time to go without a standing army, yet they remained a people and were brought back to their land where they now have the ability to defend themselves.

Think about that in the context of the LORD doing all His will. I mean, really, just sit and think about the enormity of that. Ask yourself, what other people could be essentially displaced from their homeland and remain a nation, a people, for over 2,000 years then return and regain their land to the point that they now have a standing army? Give up? The answer is no others, only Israel.

Why? Simply put, because when the LORD says He will do something, whether it’s on a national scale that seemingly has little do with our little worlds, or an intensely personal promise that He’s whispered in your ear, He does it. Period.

“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”

Isaiah 46:10

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Rock Concert

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Today I read a blog that really got me thinking. It was a blog titled  Loaves and Fishes and really focused on what an individual person would think if they were actually around when Jesus made those few loaves and couple of fish  stretch so far that they fed thousands.

Think about it, you’re there to listen to a really good teacher who seems to be speaking the truth, but you’re thinking he’s just another really good teacher from a tradition of many. Sure, he performed miracles and healings which were probably just as rare then as they are today. Yet,  it’s worth thinking about what you would think if you were in the crowd and why you were there in the first place.

Would you be there just to see this teacher who you’d heard a lot about?

Would you be there because there was an outside chance that he was the much prophesied about Messiah who would deliver the Jewish people?

Would you be there because your friends were there?

Would you be there because you wanted to see a miracle?

If you were there to see a miracle – and let’s face it we’d all like to see a miracle until we actually see one – would you accept it for what it was?

Jesus fed huge crowds each time He did this, five thousand primarily Jewish men the first time and four thousand primarily gentile men the second. And, that’s not even including the women and children who were undoubtedly fed too, which means you could easily double the numbers and the crowd you’d get would look like one at a decent size rock concert  today.

And, like a concert crowd, it’s the ones that are the closest to the stage that get to see the band and what they’re doing on that stage. The further out you get from the stage the less you can see, until at the edge of the crowd you basically can see nothing at all. So, I imagine the ones closest to Jesus could see the real miracle taking place, while those at the edges of the crowd just saw the loaves and the fish and didn’t really see what had happened which gave them a larger opportunity to either believe that a miracle had taken place or disbelieve it.

Many people today are in that place,  they wonder about who He really is because they’re too far back in the crowd to make any sort of real decision to believe Him or not.

To really see Him today, just like all those years ago, you have to decide you want to see this Jesus enough to show up in the first place, then make your way through the crowd to get up as close to Him as you can. This takes effort and a decision to find out what the truth about Him is, but it’s also the only way that you can be in the position where He can show you the miracle that He is, a miracle that includes seeing you at the edge of the crowd.

“Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.'”

John 1:48

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The first chapter of B'reshit, or Genesis, wri...

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A couple of years ago I was in Bible study that posed an interesting question.

At some point during the study, we went back into Genesis and looked at the 12 sons of Israel, who was at one point Jacob before God gave him a new name. Be that as it may, the question actually had to do with the sons and their temperaments and asked us if we were to belong to any tribe of the 12, which tribe would it be and why.

Every once in a while I think about that question and, depending on what we answer, what it reveals about each one of us.

Then, and now, I would want to be in the tribe of Benjamin because he was the one who  stayed with his father, and, not only that, he was the beloved youngest son. I like the fact that he didn’t go with the others to Egypt because his father wanted to keep him at his side. I also like the fact that it doesn’t seem like Benjamin argued which leads me to believe he was perfectly content to stay behind with Israel.

Each of the brothers was known for something and was blessed in a certain way pertaining to their future when Israel was about to die. Each of them had certain attributes that would serve the nation of Israel as a whole.

In thinking about the 12 sons and what they brought to the nation, it’s worth thinking about in the larger picture of the body of believers and what each one of us contributes to the whole that allows it to function effectively. What our traits are, our preferences and how God has put them into us to fulfill a certain role in His Kingdom.

Not one of us has the same role, not one of us has the same gifts (even though they may be similar), not one of us has the same relationship with the Lord even though all of us are called to follow Him and stay as close to Him as we can because that’s the only way we can fulfill the role He has for us.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;”

Jeremiah 1:5a

 

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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

“The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Not too long ago I found myself challenged by a video I saw on -where else?- YouTube. In it a bible teacher, whose name escapes me, challenged the group of people he was leading through the ancient Roman ruins on a biblical tour through Israel, to spend at least 15 minutes in scripture everyday. Not only that, but to read one chapter in a gospel every day for the rest of their lives.

His basic premise was that the Jewish people were required to learn the Word of God, memorize it, by the time they were young teenagers, and by learning the Word of God, you learned about your God.

In other words, how can we claim to know who our God is if we don’t even know what He says in His Word?

So, I took up the challenge and since that time have read a chapter in the gospels every day. I go through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and when I’m done I start all over again. It’s not easy, in fact there are days that I feel like I’m just reading, then there are other days when something just jumps out at me.

By reading it in this way it certainly has given me a chance to see who Jesus was, and is, which is a little different from who many people think He is. I have always liked the saying that when you really read the gospels, and what Jesus had to say, you either decided that He is who He claimed to be, God, or you have to come to the conclusion that He was a madman. If you take Him in his totality in scripture and don’t carve Him up into what you want Him to be, He is either one or the other, there is no viable third option as to who He is.

He is God, He is the Word come in the flesh in order to do what we cannot, make a pathway that we can walk along with Him, so, we have a relationship with Him.

God’s Word is God’s Word, it is Him wrapped in words, it’s His breath caught on paper. How are we supposed to have a relationship with Him if we don’t even know His Word?

“‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'”

Jeremiah 31:33

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View from an ancient prison

Image by Natasha Lloyd via Flickr

Sometimes you just need to believe God.

We’ve all been there, hit that wall where it looks like nothing will ever come around to what it seems like God has said it will be.

I’m thinking of Moses. He, a prince of Egypt, ended up tending sheep in Midian for what must have seemed like forever to him. From Egypt, the super power of the ancient world, to the backside of nowhere in what must have seemed like a split second. Then staying on the backside of nowhere for over 40 years.

And, basically what was he doing? Waiting, learning and maybe even sometimes trying to believe this God of his people.

Just like Joseph in prison. Joseph who despite some youthful arrogance, that we all can claim quite frankly, did everything right, and still found himself in prison after he had been promised in his dreams that would be a leader.

Even though Joseph was in prison, taking care of the other prisoners and rising to prominence within the prison system, it must have seemed like he was on the backside of nowhere.

And, like Moses, basically what was he doing? Waiting, learning and sometimes even trying to believe this God who had sent him dreams.

Sometimes there is a close relationship between being put on the backside of nowhere, learning skills that seem meaningless at the time, and trying to still believe God. The wall of unbelief is sometimes so high, so wide and so long, that there is no way we can see our way around it, and I’m sure that both Moses and Joseph felt the same way.

The funny thing is that in their waiting they received the training that they needed to do what God wanted them to do. Moses, a shepard, had to lead God’s people out of Egypt and then take care of them for 40 years in the wilderness, while Joseph learned administrative skills both in Potiphers house and in prison that would help him to take the reins as overseer in Egypt.

These are the more obvious things they learned that played directly into God’s plans for them all along, but the less obvious lesson was that God was bigger than their doubts, their fears and, yes, their unbelief when everything looked dark and despair must have certainly set in.

They learned that although their unbelief must have seemed insurmountable, that didn’t have any affect on the God they served and His faithfulness.

Sometimes it is in our Midian’s when we find ourselves on the backside of nowhere,  that we learn who He truly is.

“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!””

Mark 9:24

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Do you ever feel like everything’s just gone sideways? One minute you’re happily heading in a direction that God seems to have led you in going right down the middle of the road, when the next thing you know, you’re listing to the right or the left wondering what’s going on?

Our natural tendency is to fix things, right them, because if we’re listing to one side or another then something must surely be wrong, shouldn’t it? It’s not like our direction has changed, but because of the tilt or sidestep that takes us in another track on the same path, our perspective changes making everything look weird.

This perspective change can be subtle, or all-encompassing, but you will know when it happens to you, followed by the inevitability of your trying to take over and make things right.

Every once in a while God either causes the siutation or allows it, either way the end result is the same, a deep core level change that throws us off-balance. It not only throws us off-balance but it confuses us, and although we are on the same path as before, we start to question God, ourselves and whether we’re actually doing what we’re supposed to be doing at all.

Because if things are a little off doesn’t that mean something’s wrong? Even if God has assured us that everything’s okay and He has things well in hand? And not only that, but to continue to rely on His promises and what He has for us even if things look like they’re out of sync, out of timing and well, off kilter.

I’m reminded of King Saul who has a really bad reputation because of how he ended up and his single-minded obsession with killing David. But, before all that he was a pretty decent king, one who fought his battles hard, looked like he was following God and was blessed by God.

Yet, it was in one of those listing times that we get a glimpse into where his heart truly lay and his ability to really trust God when it looked like everything was sideways and God wasn’t anywhere nearby taking care of anything.

In those days it was very important to make an offering to God before battle, and according to the Law only priests could do that. It didn’t matter one wit  if you were king and needed to go into battle. God had spoken and you were expected to follow what He said.

In 1 Samuel 13 Saul was set to lead his troops into a battle against the Philistines. The Israelites were in a bad spot a ‘sticky wicket’, as my Nann used to say. The Philistine’s numbers were huge compared to the Israelites and Saul needed to have the ritual  offering performed so he could rally the troops and start the battle. Yet, the High Priest Samuel who told Saul he would be at Gilgal to perform the offering at a certain time didn’t show up when he said he would.

Saul was desperate, his troops were deserting him and the Philistines were waiting. It looked like everything was going sideways, unraveling so he decided that the things that God had said just didn’t apply in the situation. He performed the offering himself.

We are told it was just as he finished that Samuel walked up. Think about that for a moment, just as Saul was finishing up the ritual the only person who was supposed to perform it showed up, which means God was providing, Samuel was on his way, but Saul couldn’t see it. With just a little more patience on Saul’s part, a little more trust in God and not what his own perspective on the situation was, would have averted what ended up being one of the worst decisions of his life.

It turned out to be the pivotal moment in his life. His whole kingdom rode on that decision, literally. Samuel laid it out on the line for Saul when he saw what Saul had been “forced” to do according to Saul himself.

“Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have been foolish. You have not kept the command which the LORD your God gave you. It was at this time that the LORD would have permanently established your reign over Israel, but now your reign will not endure.'” 1 Samuel 13:13-14a

If he had just trusted God to provide, if he had just been a little more patient, God would have given him the kingdom. As it was, by getting ahead of God and doing what he knew was wrong in the sight of God, even though his reasons looked valid, he literally lost the kingdom.

Saul panicked, he was afraid and he gave into that fear forgetting who the God of Israel truly was.

Saul’s decision reveals something far deeper than someone who took matters into his own hands. It shows that he was much more concerned with the rituals of his faith than a heart faith in the God who had given him everything, put him on the right path and although everything looked like it was going sideways was going to take care of it in His own way and timing, not Saul’s.

Ultimately Saul was replaced, by David, a man who made possibly far worse worldly mistakes than Saul ever did – sending the husband of a woman that he got pregnant to the front lines to ensure his death and cover up his own culpability doesn’t rank very highly in the ‘you’re doing things right’ category – yet it was David who was called a man after God’s own heart.

Why? Because when things went sideways David went to God. Generally he didn’t take matters into his own hands, he asked God what he was supposed to do, then waited on God for an answer. Sometimes he did what we all do, he panicked, got anxious, didn’t ask God about anything and just charged ahead. But when he realized what he had done, he didn’t make excuses for his behavior, or list out all the reasons why he was justified to do what he did, he went right back to God and made things right.

David knew God well enough, had spent enough time with Him that he knew the God he served, and because of that he knew that God would come through even if everything looked crazy.

We all make these kinds of decisions, don’t we? We think we know how God is.  We know we’re supposed to trust Him. We know that He’s taking care of things on a large-scale far past what we can see.  But when things go a little sideways, if we’re knocked to one side of the path or the other and it makes our perspective different, we get a little crazy.

Our actions speak louder in those times than at any other time in our lives. Do we run ahead of God, taking matters into our own hands even when we’re not convinced we should do so, and in some cases are flat-out know we’re not supposed to, because it looks like God isn’t going to deliver? Or, do we rest in the knowledge of who God is?

When life goes sideways, does it reveal that you are a Saul or a David?

“Do not fear, for I am with you: Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

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