The Eagle that Leads His People

Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 32:11.

As Americans we hold a high esteem for eagles as animals. The Bald Eagle is our national bird for a reason – it is powerful, lightning-fast, an apex predator, and flies free and unrestrained as the wind. But often we tend to focus on the strong nature of the eagle, rather than how Moses describes the eagle in Deuteronomy 32. When speaking one last time to the people of Israel before his death, begging them to submit to God’s council:

“He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.”

Interestingly, Moses demonstrates God’s caring nature by comparing Him to the nurturing, child-raising side of the eagle. As parents, eagles are incredibly watchful: for the first roughly 3 months of their children’s lives, at least one parent is always dutifully watching over their children as the other finds food. Slowly, the parents will begin leaving more and more, moving to nearby trees or circling overhead to closely watch over their young as they attempt to leave the nest and learn to fly, allowing their chicks some self-direction but always ready to protect and provide help (If you’re interested in more eagle nesting facts at all, here’s a neat little fact sheet courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Madison: https://journeynorth.org/tm/eagle/annual/facts_nestlings.html).

As we learn to fly on our own and navigate through this life, we know that God is our protector, as Psalm 121 says: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 3:3 says “you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head”; The Lord is ready to protect us from evil and lift us when we feel weary. Though we may feel lost and stumble when we work on our own volition, the Lord is ready to catch us, to set us upright and on the right path, and to direct us to holiness when we look to Him. Like a baby eagle, we are never alone when we learn to fly; our protector is always there, powerful and mighty and ready to swoop in for our behalf on a moment’s notice.

Do you live like God’s always watching over you, ready to take leaps in your faith under His instruction and with His guardianship? Are you stuck, constrained by your own volition, thinking your sin renders your own efforts meaningless? Or are you ready to soar free, unrestrained by death and sin, how God wants you to live? All this time, all our lives, the Lord has watched over us carefully, provided for us, and brought us up to live freely from death’s clutches. Today, celebrate that the Lord would break your shackles and give us the freedom from sin that life in Him provides. Be thankful that he watches over us so diligently. Above all, today and always, praise God!

 

Dwelling Place

What is your morning routine? How do you start your day? Do you work out? Read the newspaper (yes some still do)? Check social media? Pray? Morning Devotional?

Now that my physical health is back, my weekday routine typically involves working out. It also involves reading Bible Journal to get in the Word, prayer, and writing down at least 3 things I’m grateful for that morning. I also write down my 2-3 most important work activities for the day so that I prioritize them over things that seem urgent.

Today’s word to describe God is “dwelling place” and our verse to go with it is Psalm 90:1.

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

Later, Psalm 90:14 reads..

“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad in all our days.

The last verse of the chapter, Psalm 90:17, says…

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”

My weekday morning routine help establish the Lord as my dwelling place to start my day. He speaks to me through His Word and prayer, and I give him thanks for His blessings through my gratitude list. I started this last piece of after hearing some years back you can’t feel stress and gratitude at the same time. Generally speaking, no matter how busy my day will be and even if I’m running late, my anxiety level is pretty low on weekday mornings. However, anxiety tends to go up as the day goes further along, and I forget to dwell in the Lord through talking to Him in prayer. I forget about what I’m grateful for despite the problems which arise. I forget to ask him again in the fire to “establish the work of my hands.” He no longer is my “dwelling place”…my “dwelling place” is now the troubles the day has brought.

Ironically, some of the days I seem to be worried the most about getting my to do list done or am short tempered are the weekends. Some of the days I tend to be the most anxious about what the future may bring are when I’m on vacation..yes…vacation..which is supposed to be the time to re-charge! Why? I get away from my morning routine on the weekends and vacation which make the Lord my dwelling place. Just yesterday the discussion came up, bringing some stress and anxiety, about when we may change houses and if our kids will change schools. We must remember to pray for wisdom and guidance on these decisions and remember that regardless of the physical location of where we live or where our kids go to school, He is our true dwelling place. Instead of worrying about these things, we should be grateful that we even have a home and a school which many in other countries, and even our own country for that matter, don’t have.

Let us pray..

Lord, please help us to remember that you have been, and will always be, our true dwelling place in all generations. Help us remember this throughout each day in the little decisions and in the big ones which affect our long-term plans. We know that when we truly dwell in you and you dwell in our hearts and minds, you will establish the work of our hands and we will rejoice and be glad in our days!

A Royal Diadem

 

 

Is. 28:5-“Then at last the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will himself be Israel’s glorious crown. He will be the pride and joy of the remnant of his people.”

Is. 62:3- “The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see-a splendid crown in the hand of God.”

Webster defines “royal diadem” as a crown that is worn especially by a king as a symbol of royalty. The difference between a royal diadem and a crown is that a crown is a reward of victory or a mark of honor while a diadem is an ornamental headband worn as a badge of royalty. So if we apply this meaning to Is 28:5 we see that God himself is our king, royalty for us, our pride and joy! While He has done everything to earn victory and honor, this phrase, royal diadem, means that He is royalty because of who He is, not because of what He has done. He is inherently royal. “King of kings” royalty is what defines Him. So who are we to be given the Creator of the universe, the Beginning and the End as our personal king? What have we done to deserve Perfection as our royalty? Why do we get to have the Almighty as our very own pride and joy? The answer is that He loves us so much that He wants us to have this. We don’t deserve any of it. We cannot earn our way into His kingdom, we are not good enough to be chosen by Him and we cannot buy our spot in His kingdom. We only have to accept His gift. We need to recognize that we cannot be in His presence because of our sin. Our sin separates us from Him because he is perfect and holy. We have to be washed clean to be in His kingdom. He was the only blameless option to pay the price for our sin. He willingly completed the only plan that would pay the price for us, removing our sin from our record so we could be with Him. This is amazing love that takes our place in death so we can have life with Him! Is this not extravagant enough?

Our Father’s love so greatly exceeds what is reasonable that He goes on in Is. 62:3 to say that He holds us in his hand for all to see. He has named us His splendid crown, His royal diadem. When He gifts us eternal life, He makes us His. His kingdom is given His name and heritage. We are so precious to Him that He gives us His royalty.

This morning, are we remembering Who’s we are? Before starting the day, can we think about Who’s hand we are held in because we are so precious to Him? Think about the “family” you have been adopted into. Are our fears valid based on our heritage in God? You are a splendid crown in the hand of God!

Despised By Men

Sin is rooted inside each of us. Humanity naturally runs toward sin because of the sinful nature that is in each of us. We despise what is good. It is hard to imagine, but many of us run away from Jesus and reject his teachings. Jesus came to the Earth to fulfill all righteousness and create a deep relationship with each of us, yet we still despise and reject Him.

 

Our theme for today comes from Isiah 53: 3 (ESV), “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not”. Isaiah starts off the beginning of this chapter with giving prophetic context that these verses reflect the coming Christ and the servant that He will be for us. Isaiah describes the coming Christ as one with “no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” in verse 2. The coming servant, Jesus, will be despised by the ones that He came to save. Luke 23:20-21 (ESV) states, “Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!’”. Our true comforter and redeemer was despised by those that He came to save.

 

Jesus wasn’t just surrounded by the physical Jewish residents at that time asking for Him to be crucified, but he was surrounded by us. Jesus experienced a death that nobody could ever imagine. He took on all of sin, hatred, and rejection by everyone. However, Jesus did this because He was the only one that could save us from our sin. Looking back toward Isaiah 53, verse 12 states, “yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors”. Jesus took on all of our sins and pardoned us at the moment he was put to death. He took away all of our guilt and shame and became the only servant that could redeem us. Jesus was only able to be our sacrifice because he was the Son of God.

 

When we enter into a relationship with Jesus and believe in all that He did for us, we are made new. There is redemption through Jesus Christ. Our past sin and rejection have been forgiven and we are made new. Jesus has served us by sacrificially giving His life to make you a part of His plan.

Are We Quick to Judge? I Know I Am

My Testimony

Here’s my story. I was invited to write for this Bible Journal, and I was nervous. Self doubt took over. I was scared that I did not know enough about the Bible, nervous that I might look silly, and afraid that I would not know what to write.

I prayed about it and relented. I agreed to be a contributor. I received my first assigned verse and it was Haggai 2:7. Ok. This is a book in the Bible I had never read, could barely find, and honestly, had never heard of.

Fast forward three days later and my family goes to worship at Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, VA led by Senior Pastor Gary Hamrick. (Cornerstonechapel.net). The sermon and Bible study for the day…Haggai. What are the chances? There are 66 books in the Bible and 52 Sunday’s to attend church, and today’s lesson was Haggai. God dispelled my worry and provided Pastor Gary’s teaching on a book I had never read, and candidly, was unsure what I should write. God’s got this.

Why Did God Want the Temple Rebuilt?

In 538 BC, God freed the Jews after 70 years of slavery in Babylon. In 536 BC, the Jews began to reconstruct the Temple, which has not existed since the days of Solomon. Two years after starting construction, the Jewish people stopped building the Temple. The book of Haggai talks about when God came to Haggai and encouraged him to preach to the Jewish people about beginning again to rebuild the Temple.

God told the Jews in first chapter of Haggai, verse 9, “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” Says the Lord of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.”

God was calling his people to rebuild the Temple to sacrifice their time, resources, and lives to commit to worshipping Him. God was trying to get their attention. He had freed the Jews from years of slavery but they were focused on their own well-being and not praising and thanking God for his grace and mercy to them. I learned today from Pastor Gary that the Jews started building the foundation for the new Temple and then stopped. In fact, the Temple sat unconstructed for sixteen years before God spoke to Haggai to encourage the Jews to rebuild.

I began writing this journal focused on how the Jewish people should have made sacrifices and praised God for His mercy. They should have wanted to rebuild the Temple. My writing was going to be judgmental about the Jewish people and their lack of willingness to follow God’s wishes and rebuild the Temple, especially after he delivered them from their bondage. Why should they be focused on their own well-being and not praising God to fulfill His wishes? There are some lessons for my life in that question for sure.

Here is where today’s lesson from Pastor Gary became awesome. I learned that the book of Ezra provides context and understanding to the book of Haggai as to why the Jewish people stopped building the Temple. Ezra 4:23-24 tells us that King Artaxerxes, ruler of Persia, wrote a cease and desist to the Jews regarding the reconstruction of the Temple. King Artaxerxes did not want the Jews worshipping and loving God more than him. The Jews were intimated and directed to stop construction of the Temple. They were threatened. So they stopped. They were afraid for their well-being, especially after coming out of 70 years of slavery. They likely did not want to cause a problem with the king and risk being returned to slavery. I would not have learned this without learning about the explanation in the book of Ezra.

What‘s the Lesson?

I was judging the Jews for not following God’s wishes. My message was going to be about honoring and glorifying God with our time, resources, and sacrifices. Certainly a lesson I need to follow as well. There was much more to the story that I did not know.

Pastor Gary led my heart to the best part of this lesson. It’s not just about following God’s wishes. It is about judgement and having an opinion about others. I am guilty to rush to judgement or have an opinion about someone, and many times, I fail to ask more about their story. What I did not know was why the Jews stopped building the Temple and the threats by King Artaxerxes. I rushed to judge.

So, it could be the terribly negative co-worker, the annoying neighbor who always turns everyone into the HOA, or maybe your own family member who constantly creates drama. We might resent people in our lives for the issues they create and judge them for the problems they cause. The simple question is, what is their story? Why are they so unhappy? Why do they cause problems? I was reminded today, I need to ask why. Try to understand. Seek more information. There is always more to someone’s story.

I know this, of course, that there is always more to someone’s story. But, in a fast-paced world of fly by news, and sometimes brutal social media, we can quickly skewer someone with a harsh comment, negative judgement, or squash a person because they are a irritant in our lives. The message today was simple. Do not rush to judge anyone until you learn more about them.

My prayer is that we stop, seek understanding, and treat others like Jesus did. Invite the nasty neighbor to church. Get that negative co-worker a gift for their birthday. Or, make sure to get your difficult family member something for the holidays. No, this is not easy. But, without knowing someone’s story, let’s not rush to judge them. This is certainly a goal of mine this year.

My Deliverer

David spent seven years running from Saul. He was literally hiding in caves and trying to elude his enemies night after night. He had lost his wife and best friend, and yet he continued to have faith in the Lord. Even when he had opportunities to end the discord with Saul and could have stopped all the fighting, he didn’t. He showed grace and restraint, knowing that God would deliver him, in his time and in his way.

Do you have relationships that are adversarial? Maybe you know you need rescued from the chaos, and delivered from the strain? How does David’s example of patience and grace sit with you? It’s pretty humbling and leaves me wondering… if I were in David’s shoes and had the opportunity to “have the last word” and end the back and forth in difficult relationships, would I take it? Or would I follow David’s example and let God work how and when he will?

We can learn so much from David’s long suffering in his relationship with Saul, starting at the very beginning. 1 Samuel 18 outlines the jealousy that grew in Saul: David being praised by the people as a stronger warrior than Saul, and also David’s relationship with Jonathon. Saul got caught in the comparison trap that so many do, and his jealousy spiraled out of control. Jealousy turned to scheming and plotting, trying to get David killed and not able to threaten Saul’s position as king.

I’m sure there were many cold nights on the run where David didn’t know how it would end. He was afraid and wasn’t sure what to do next. Psalm 57 describes on of these nights, where he is equally pleading with the Lord for mercy, and also declaring God’s faithfulness, love and glory. What a testimony to the faith of David!

2 Samuel begins the reign of David after Saul’s death. David worships his Deliverer, and his words are perfect:

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge,
my savior; you save me from violence.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.  2 Samuel 22

I love both of these passages, to pray through when I’m in the middle of a storm and need delivering. He IS faithful, He loves us so.  And then praising God for his deliverance. His ways and timing are perfect!

Today’s focus challenged me to make a list of my own rescue stories of deliverance. Long list. And it got me thinking, what’s NOT on my list? What rescue missions did He deliver me from that I’m not even aware of? Maybe something that I consider a closed door, or a failure, He used as a deliverance. Or situations I am oblivious to, He orchestrated a rescue mission. He’s so so good to us.

Defender

Rumors, gossip, unmet expectations, failures, rage, threats, crime, violence, theft, loss, stress, fear, pain.

Each of those words relates to various events in my life this week. There were some dark days and nights to say the least. At my weakest point of bewilderment, there was God, comforting me and keeping his promises. From all of these troubles, alone I have no defense and could easily be swallowed up by the pain and darkness, but then there is God…

He is our defender.

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling. (Psalm 68:5 NIV)

It will be a sign and witness to the Lord Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. (Isaiah 19:20)

In this life we are assured of physical and emotional harm, and no matter our own strength, we cannot defend ourselves alone.

As situations this week declined, my faith grew stronger because I trusted God had it all in control. We likely won’t find the items stolen from us nor will everyone know the whole truth in some of the twisted stories, but no one will take away the peace that came through prayer.

When we prayed as a family we claimed victory in God’s name, even before the earthly battle was over. God, we know you are in this, we know you love us, we know you are above all things and we claim victory in your name alone. Jesus already won through his death, burial and resurrection, so no matter the current or future battle, we can claim victory today and every day. Amen.

Glorious Crown

A crown is a form of headwear worn by a monarch or by a deity. Traditionally, crowns have represented power, legitimacy, victory, triumph, honor, and glory, as well as immortality, righteousness, and resurrection. Based on this description, it is no surprise that the prophet Isaiah describes Jesus as a glorious crown in the following passage.

In that day the Lord Almighty
will be a glorious crown,
a beautiful wreath
for the remnant of his people.
He will be a spirit of justice
to the one who sits in judgment,
a source of strength
to those who turn back the battle at the gate
(Isaiah 28:5-6)

Throughout the Bible, Jesus physically and figuratively wore several different crowns. Consider the significance of the following:

Crown of thorns

The crown of thorns placed upon Jesus’ head before his crucifixion symbolized Israel’s rejection of her King. To the Roman soldiers, the crown of thorns was meant to mock Jesus’ as the King of the Jews. In reality, it was truly a symbol of power. Only Jesus had the ability to ultimately conquer sin and death through his death, burial and resurrection.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:5-6).

Crown of glory and honor

Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. He has been crowned with glory and honor as he sits the Father’s right hand.

The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool (Matthew 22:44).

Crowned of triumph

The final chapters of Revelation record Jesus’ return to earth and his final triumph over sin and death. Immortality.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16).

Jesus Christ – glorious crown, King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s.

“Crown Him with many crowns, The Lamb upon His throne. Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns, All music but its own! Awake, my soul and sing, Of Him who died for thee, And hail Him as thy matchless King, Thro’ all eternity.”

Matthew Bridges (1851)

Creator of all the Earth

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Isaiah 40:28 “Have you never heard or understood? Don’t you know that the Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of all the Earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

Today’s name of Jesus is “Creator of all the Earth”.

This was great encouragement for me today! We are heading to Chicago on Friday for my husband to have a hip replacement. It’s hard to believe its finally here after months of pain and discomfort for him. We are SO ready to get this show on the road! Unfortunately one of our children was diagnosed with the flu today. Only one down so far but my mind jumps to 100 different scenarios all at varying degrees of probability. We have NO time for the flu! But do we ever have time for the negative things life has to bring? We can make all the plans we want and “God willing” they happen, but only God knows the twists and turns that will take us to our destination.  The above verse gave me peace as I remembered that I get to be in communication with the Creator of all the Earth. That means there is power in the one I pray to. He has seen ALL and created ALL. He knows more than I do.  Today I feel myself growing faint and weary with all of the what if’s but I’m taking them to God and asking Him to carry them because He will not grow faint or weary.

Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; He offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted and young men will give up. But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint”.

I will wait on the Lord and be renewed each moment. This week I am praying for miraculous healing for my husbands hip and for the flu to go away! Whatever you are facing this week that was not expected remember that you have a direct line to the “Creator of all the Earth”. Lean that direction.

Shelly

Covenant for the people

“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations, Isaiah 42:6

A covenant is a formal alliance or agreement made by God with His people. This covenant would be for all nations, all people. But there was only one person that could fill it. Jesus. As the prophet Isaiah stood about a hundred years before the birth of Jesus he prophesized about the coming of this covenant, a coming of light for all who came after.  This includes you and me.  There was no other who could do this. Earlier in the book of Isaiah, God had provided Isaiah with wisdom about the coming judgment of all people, still with godliness in their minds, it wasn’t capturing their hearts. They knew what would happen, what to do, how to do it, and what to say, still, in their hearts, the true relationship with God wasn’t there.

How does that still show up today? We have been given a warning about what will happen. Just this last week we talked about it in church.  We know –

  • The King will sit on His throne.
  • Everyone will stand before the throne.
  • Those who failed to  show compassion not by works but by a relationship with God on the throne
  • Eternal punishment will be real. Eternally separated from God.
  • Entering into the Kingdom is inherited, not earned.

Israel and all the nations (this includes us) have been given God’s words to know and to live by, still, we needed the covenant for the people, Jesus, to come and show us the Suffering Servant and sovereign Lord. Based on what our covenant for the people did, Jesus, we all can be forgiven and turn to Him in faith.  Knowing that when that day comes when we stand at the throne we will too enter into the Kingdom not by anything we have done,  but by our relationship with Him.

Have you had an encounter with God? A time where He grabbed a hold of your heart and shows you that it’s not about what we are doing but who He is to us? I can recall a few moments where God was tugging on my heart to let go of my earthly desires. The more we invest in an honest, open-hearted relationship with God, the more we will realize how much we need Him.  There has been, and still are many times where I think, “I got this” and truthfully, I don’t.  He does.  What I need is a closer relationship and honestly more sincere trust that my faith can’t be on myself or anything in this earthly world.  But in our covenant for the people.  My trust needs to be in Jesus!

Psalm 105:8 He remembers His covenant forever, the promises He made, for a thousand generations,