Keep on keeping on

Or, God’s timetable isn’t like ours…

Luke Chapter 1 tells the story of an old man named Zecharias. He was married to an old woman named Elizabeth who was a relative of the Virgin Mary. They lived in the hill country of Judah, exact location unknown.

Both were of the priestly line. They had no children – Elizabeth was barren, and in their culture barrenness was considered a punishment for sin. Yet both were righteous in God’s eyes, and to the best of their ability they continued to worship Him, keeping the law.

Zecharias (and no doubt Elizabeth) had long prayed for a son. But, he was old and she was barren, so it was now impossible. So, was he still praying? He was still faithful to do his job, in any case.

One supposedly ordinary day Zecharias was going about his business, doing his ordinary priestly job. This soon became an other than ordinary day for him, however…

“Now it came about, while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” (Luke 1:8, 9)

It was his turn to minister before the golden altar of incense in the Holy Place, possibly for the first time in his priestly service. With so many priests serving in the Temple, entering the Holy Place and kindling the incense upon the golden altar was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias, standing to the right of the altar of incense. The angel gave him an extraordinary message, on this extraordinary day. His prayers had been answered; he and Elizabeth would have a child. And not just an ordinary child, an extraordinary son. He was to give him the name John. Read the chapter for yourself.

Some thoughts about Zecharias:

  • He was old. So was his wife.
  • He was childless, thought by the culture to be a punishment for sin.
  • He was considered by God to be righteous, however. Blameless.
  • He had prayed for a son, starting in the days when having a child was still possible, biologically speaking.
  • He was faithful to his job, his calling, despite that disappointment.
  • He was granted favor, mercy, compassion; an answer to his prayer.
  • His prayer wasn’t answered in an ordinary way, in an ordinary location – an angel came to his job site, while he was doing his job; being faithful to do his job.
  • He was human; he doubted the angel’s message. Considering his age and the length of time he had been praying, that was a quite understandable response.
  • He was corrected but not condemned for his doubt.
  • He wasn’t removed from his ordinary job, or replaced in his extraordinary new job: being a parent. A very old parent!
  • He was granted a device to help him assuage his doubt: silence until the baby was born.

How long have we prayed the same prayer, over, and over, and over? How often have we decided to give up, quit doing this job, quit worshiping, quit praying, quit believing? Until it will take a supernatural, extraordinary miracle for it to happen?

But those do still happen. Zecharias and Elizabeth were just two of many people who received miraculous answers to prayer.

Never quit being faithful to your current assignment. Never quit praying. Never quit believing.

Advertisements

How to heal the sick

Esther's Petition

HowToHealTheSickJesus healed the sick. He commanded the disciples to heal the sick, and to teach  future disciples (us) to do the same.

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38 NIV)

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” (Matthew 4:23-24; it does not say how, it just says he healed them all. Every sickness and every disease.)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in…

View original post 1,946 more words

Gideon’s do-nothings

“They also serve… ”

The soldiers were gathered, 32,000 of them! Why did they come?

Gideon was a nobody. Why follow him? Why come when he called?

Read Judges 6-8. Fascinating story. Israel was surrounded and hounded, ridiculed and harassed by her enemies. Things had gotten bad, really bad. Midian, a pagan country to the far southeast of Israel, had overrun everything and everyone. Stealing herds and crops, they were reducing the population to a life of abject poverty and constant fear.

Why? Well, Israel had been warned about idol worship but they had ignored the warnings. They were reaping what they had sowed.

And then God sent an angel to a nobody, the youngest of his family and least of his tribe. Hiding in a winepress, Gideon was trying to thresh enough grain to keep his family from starving, when the angel showed up.

A series of strange events followed, first to convince Gideon that he was indeed God’s choice to rescue his people, and then to convince those people that Gideon wasn’t crazy, that he had indeed heard from God.

Well, he did a good enough job to round up 32,000 fighters! And then God sent 22,700 of those fighters back home. How weird is that?

But the point of my thoughts today is this: those who went home were following God’s will, too. Those 10,000 who were afraid. Those 700 who didn’t do things exactly right. They were willing to fight, but they didn’t have to. Others fought and some of those died, but the battle was won. It was a huge victory! God got the glory.

And those back at home… what did they do?

They probably prayed, we’re not told. They didn’t get any thanks, any awards for valor, any recognition for a job well done. But they obeyed Gideon and God, and their return home was just as necessary as Gideon’s 300-man army.

They were obeying God’s will, too.

Remember that, when it seems like God hasn’t called you to do anything spectacular. “They also serve who only stand and wait.” *

* John Milton, 1655. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_I_Consider_How_My_Light_is_Spent

Here are a few more posts about Gideon:

https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/gideon-man-of-valor/
https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/gideon-and-the-angel/
https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/gideons-army/

 

“The devil’s in the details”

The other night I flipped open the Bible I keep by my bed and rather than just taking up where I had left off in the Gospel of Mark, I asked, “Lord, what would you like us to read tonight?”

I opened the pages, saw I was in I Chronicles 28, and so began reading. When I read verses 11-19, I slowed down, went back and re-read those verses…

Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the Lord and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things.

He gave him instructions for the divisions of the priests and Levites, and for all the work of serving in the temple of the Lord, as well as for all the articles to be used in its service.

He designated the weight of gold for all the gold articles to be used in various kinds of service, and the weight of silver for all the silver articles to be used in various kinds of service: the weight of gold for the gold lampstands and their lamps, with the weight for each lampstand and its lamps; and the weight of silver for each silver lampstand and its lamps, according to the use of each lampstand;

the weight of gold for each table for consecrated bread; the weight of silver for the silver tables; the weight of pure gold for the forks, sprinkling bowls and pitchers; the weight of gold for each gold dish; the weight of silver for each silver dish; and the weight of the refined gold for the altar of incense.

He also gave him the plan for the chariot, that is, the cherubim of gold that spread their wings and overshadow the ark of the covenant of the Lord.

“All this,” David said, “I have in writing as a result of the Lord’s hand on me, and he enabled me to understand all the details of the plan.”  (Emphasis added.)

“The devil is in the details,” I was thinking. The Holy Spirit said to me, “So is God.” Wow. “God is in the details.” And what details!

He reminded me that the patterns for the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were given to Moses in great detail, and every bit of material they needed to build them was on hand, provided by way of the Egyptians. (See Exodus 12:35-36, Exodus 25 ff.)

Here in I Chronicles, David is recounting that God had given him detailed directions for the Temple that would be built by Solomon. And he had enabled David and the people to gather all the materials they would need. Read through those lists of materials sometime. It is impressive!

Details matter to the Lord, I remind myself. Sometimes we don’t see the forest for the trees, but the reverse is also true. We don’t always take time to see the individual “trees,” the little moments, the little happenings, those small building blocks that go into the big picture.

While the big picture certainly matters, the little picture also matters. That means, whatever I do during the day, wherever I go, whatever I read, or meditate on, or write – even down to the day and time I do it, matters to the Lord.

Like the time of day I went to the grocery store yesterday. The new-to-me cashier was grumpy and unfriendly, but I smiled, said a few friendly sentences to her, and most importantly – I prayed for her. Perhaps she was my only reason for being there on that day, at that time. Because she matters to the Lord. Her life matters. The details of her life matter to the Lord.

 

Intercession, one definition

Esther's Petition

This week as I was thinking about intercession and how it’s different from other types of prayer, the Holy Spirit spoke clearly and distinctly to me.

“Interceding is My interfering with the schemes of the enemy.”

It’s God’s method to scotch the devil’s activities on earth. Prevention, intervention, substitution, whatever is needed for the situation. God’s way of throwing monkey wrenches into the devil’s designs.

It is not just praying what God says to pray, although it includes that. It is speaking what God says to speak – to the enemy, to circumstances, to your own spirit / soul / body, to other people (their spirit / soul / body), to whatever.

It’s different from petitions, which may be our own desires and needs for ourselves, our family or friends. That’s certainly not prohibited, it’s encouraged. It’s just not all there is to prayer.

Relax, be watchful, be mindful, be…

View original post 16 more words

Mother’s Day Memories

This is reposted from SC Family Memories. I thought many folks would like this memory of my Mama. I still miss her.

SC Family Memories

A while back I wrote that everything I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten. That’s not completely true. I also learned a great many things from my mother and grandmother, my aunts, from Sunday School teachers, public school teachers, the mothers of friends, and a lot of other women. The main one, though, was mama.

Mama always worked outside the home. Before I was born she did clerical work on the military bases where Daddy was stationed. After I was born she worked in an office downtown. Bad parenting? No, economics. My brother and I didn’t consider it being “deprived;” it was just the way things were.

But when mama was home in the evenings and on weekends, we were learning things. Like chores. Chores were divvied up like pieces of a pie. Our house, no matter where we lived, had white woodwork. Today a lot of houses…

View original post 887 more words

It’s tempting…

  • That lovely slice of pecan pie, the last one left in the pan, the one you’re supposed to be saving for somebody else.
  • That gorgeous outfit on sale “One Day Only,” so absolutely right for you but not for your budget, sale or no sale. Or those cute earrings, nobody’s watching, the store can afford it, it’s not all that bad to shoplift those cheap little things, is it?
  • That temper tantrum against your children or your spouse, the one you’ve been resisting but now feel absolutely justified in throwing, “I’ve had it, they’re really going to get it!”
  • Those ugly, fuming thoughts and words, turning into ugly, fuming deeds because after all you’re right and they’re wrong, people who had the audacity to question your – (fill in the blank, your truthfulness, your honesty, your integrity, your motives, your actions. Even your faith.)

We’ve all been tempted to think, say and act in ways (minor and major) we’ll be ashamed of later. Haven’t we? “You know better than that!” my mother would say. “You weren’t raised like that!”

Did you think such temptations would miraculously fade away and vanish as you grew older, more mature, more “Christ-like?” They don’t. They still come, more serious and sometimes more frequent.

Why? What is the purpose of temptations / trials? Think of it like strength training. Spiritual resistance training. Exercising our faith muscles, our trust muscles. Our prayer muscles.

Remember John 10:10? The enemy comes. His goal is to steal, kill and destroy, and one of his primary targets is our faith; to ruin it, nullify our testimony; hinder our prayers.

The enemy uses trials and temptations (same word in the original language, by the way) to discourage and distract us, to prevent us from living by faith or from praying in faith.

But God can and does use them to prove that our faith is real, strong, and supernatural, since it originates with Him. He uses them to make us stronger, more effective.

Matthew 4 and Luke 4 describe the temptation of Jesus in the Judean desert. Most of my life I had a mental image of that desert as being mostly sand dunes, rocks and lizards. One day, out of curiosity I decided to check out that wilderness, where it was, what was in it, what it was like at that time.

I wondered, what was there out there that could tempt Jesus? During the 40 days before Satan showed up, that is. Here’s some of what I learned:

East and south of Jerusalem, it’s one of the smallest deserts in the world, much of it lying adjacent and west of the Dead Sea. Craggy and rough, it’s hilly and mountainous with steep cliffs and deep ravines. It was difficult but not impossible to traverse on the well-used paths and trails that criss-crossed the area.

 

There are streams and many wadis, some containing pools of water in shaded areas; and also beautiful oases. The most famous oasis in the Judean Desert is in Ein Gedi near the northern part of the Dead Sea, called David’s Waterfall.

There are also many fruit trees and other vegetation (see the section on trees below).

Sparsely inhabited but not empty, the desert contained several small villages on its edges. Bethlehem was one, a place where many of Jesus’ relatives lived.

Bedouin encampments the size of small towns (the Bedouin were and still are very hospitable people to visitors) plus camels, sheep, goats, and donkeys.

Leopards and other wild animals also inhabited the area, although leopards are scarce today.

 

Herodium today seen from the side.

The spectacular Herod’s Palace (Herodium) south of Jerusalem may contain his burial site (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herodium and http://allaboutjerusalem.com/attraction/herodion-national-park).

This palace complex was atop an artificial hill built by Herod the Great, the site of several archeological digs through recent years. After his death this opulent summer “resort” was used by many Roman officials.

Also in the desert is the fortress of Masada which overlooks the Dead Sea, captured and built up by Herod the Great as a military base. Both Herodium and Masada were occupied by Roman officials and solders who regularly traveled to and from those sites. Both are Israeli National Parks and popular tourist attractions today.

Many fruit or nut trees occupy wadis and oases, including date palms, pistachios, wild figs, carob and acacia:

Carob / Locust trees bear fruit that is edible green or dried; the dried fruit is used in candy and other foods as a substitute for chocolate. The sweet, soft flesh of the green fruit is called “honey.”

Carob and acacia (below) are legumes, members of the pea and bean family.

Acacia is a “rain tree,” so-called because its leaves fold together in rain or high humidity. Edible and primarily used as animal fodder, it provides helpful gum and has many medical applications also. The Tabernacle and Ark were made of acacia wood.

Considering everything there was for him to see and do in that wilderness, what was Jesus tempted with?

Food, people, animals, a magnificent natural environment and impressive man-made structures — a better question might be, what wasn’t Jesus tempted with?

Anything and everything that human beings today are tempted with, including distractions, tempted Jesus in that desert. Think he doesn’t understand your situation? He does.

I Cor. 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (NIV)

And Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”