The Builder and Architect

 

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 11:10 

 

A couple days ago, while running errands with my children, I received a phone call that was answered into the car speakers. On the other line there was a gentleman who was trying to solicit something from me and my son asks “ Dad was that Martin Luther King you were talking to?”  This made me laugh but it also prompted him to ask about the different speeches that Dr. King delivered while he was still alive. We Googled a particular speech which is titled “What’s Your Life’ s Blueprint?” This speech outlined some amazing and very important parts in the lives of middle school and high school students.  Highlights from Dr. King’s speech: 1.) Everyone has to a have a deep belief in their own dignity, worth, and “somebodiness” 2.) You must have a determination to achieve excellence 3.) Commitment to the eternal principle of beauty, love, and justice.     And as we listen to the speech I was inspired and had it for a renewing of what is the blueprint of my life.

In Hebrews 11: 10 (MSG) we see that God is the builder and the architect of our life.

8-10 By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.

But what does having God as your builder and architect really mean? To understand it fully we have to look at three different distinct Phases of a builder and an architect.  1.) The blueprint, 2.) The supplies  3.) The finished product: the building.

As God as our architect and builder, he has a blueprint for each of our lives. Jeremiah 29: 11 (ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[b] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 

Before the foundation of the earth and before the foundation of our body God has already designed us to for fill a certain purpose in his grand design.

Psalms 139: 1-6, 13-14

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Daily we reminisce in the past, worry about the present and question the future.  In doing so, we are trying to figure out how to better meet others needs but not inquiring what God has already determined in his plan. Sometimes our brief view cannot incorporate all of what God has in store for us because his view is so vast. The blueprints he has designed are not for our complete benefit, but to bring him glory.

The next item is Supplies. In the construction of the temple of God, David is prepared everything for God’s house.  David had the designs, the supplies, the people, the ornaments.   Because of some of the choices that David committed, he was not able to complete the temple.  Solomon, David’s son, was granted the chance to build the temple.  The father provided in advance the necessary supplies for the son.

I Kings 5: 3-6

“You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune. And so I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to David my father, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.’ Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. And my servants will join your servants, and I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set, for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.”

Sometimes the supplies that God uses are not the ones that we can see physically. Sometimes the ones that have gone before us prepare the supplies for us. This could be from our parents, grandparents, pastors, friends, or neighbors. The supplies that He is using to build us are specific to each person. The supplies can be tangible, but a lot of the supplies are spiritual and we have to be mature enough to be able to understand how to use these at how God is using the supplies in our life.

Finally, the end product is the Building. Many times the builder and architect can see the finished product. But most the time the finished product for that builder is another project and once completed they go to the next project. Many times the builder does not revisit the building. But with God the end product which is us, we cannot see the full effects of the finished product. This past week, I had many dear friends and love ones started their eternal journey.  The buildings I’ve witnessed by their lives are beautiful cathedrals of faith, love, and hope.  These buildings of beauty are so evident by the legacy of that person is reflected in the loved ones.

Heavenly Father,

Allow us to be patient with you as you are building us for your Glory.  Allow us to understand that the finished product is where we are with you. Amen

Encouragement

As we contemplate the coming week and New Year, my mind has a recurring theme that I would like to share: encouragement.  Over this past year many of my friends and family have stated, “2019 has been one of the worst years that I have had”.  In retrospect, 2019 has been a year of growth in overcoming some hard obstacles and allowing God to work in us.  I have personally experienced sickness of children, death of close friends and family (expected and unexpected), challenges in relationships, and sickness and trials of loved ones.  The main methods that I have coped have been through the encouragement from loved ones, songs & hymns, and scripture.

 

Vocabulary.com defines encouragement in parts.  Within the word encouragement we see the word “courage,” which means the ability to face danger and deal with it. To encourage, then, is to help develop that ability in someone, while the “ment” at the end makes that development into a noun, the act of giving courage or support to another. www.vocalbulary.com

 

The root word of encourage is courage. Lexico defines courage as the ability to do something that frightens one or the strength in the face of grief and pain. Lexico also has the origin of the word courage: Middle English (denoting the heart, as the seat of feelings): from Old French corage, from Latin cor ‘heart’.

 

So encouragement is using your internal feelings that are: fear, grief, and pain and transforming the inconceivable into something that is extraordinary.  This transformation is not something that is innate, but something that has to be cultivated and practiced.  You must find individuals that will be encouraging and allow the Spirit of God to encourage your heart and spirit.

 

One individual that embodies encouragement is David.  In the books of I & II Samuel, you are given a brief glimpse into the life of David from youth through death.  In these scriptures, it is evident that David shows courage and encourages the Israelites to stand up to the Philistines and he use his final words to encourage the people of Israel to continue to trust in God.

 

I Samuel 17:32-37

And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

 

II Samuel 23: 2-4

“The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;
his word is on my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken;
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain[b] that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

 

These two passages from Samuel show that the nature of David was encouragement.  In the face of unspeakable and unimaginable danger, his spirit was aligned with the Spirit of God.   When you read the full story of David and understand the highs and lows of his life. He was not a perfect man, but he was a man that understood that even when his steps where not completely in step with God’s plan and purpose, he would recognize the misstep and correct the actions.  The story of David is a true story of encouragement that despite all of the afflictions and turmoil and strife that we are witness to God’s divine and awesome plan for our lives and us. Let us greet this New Year and remember the past year with a spirit of encouragement.

Joy verses Despair

 

Todays Verse : James 1:2-3

Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

The other day, a friend and I had a conversation about the Advent season and the coming of Christmas and we asked one another “ Have you been able to find Christ in the season?” This was an interesting question and it led me to reflect on the theme of this week of Advent:  JOY.

As I begin to reflect on the anticipation of the coming Christ and the joy that he brings, I am in awe. There are thousands of songs and hymn that celebrate the joy of Christmas and of Christ. From a quick Google search there are about 110,000,000 results (0.68 seconds) references to Joy and Christmas. Joy is a major result of Christ coming into the world.  To fully comprehend the impact of Christ in the world let us look on the world before he became flesh.

Before Christ entered the world as flesh, the world was in Despair, the opposite of Joy.  There was not a true feeling of comfort and peace for anyone.  Before Christ came into the world, the Spirit of God was not available to all.  The Spirit of God was only for the few and chosen that God had appointed such as the prophets.  This was a time when TRUE Desperation and Despair were common daily aspects of life. There was constant despair from hunger, sickness, pain, and suffering.  There were glimmers of hope and peace and joy, but it was not a constant that people were aware or had access.  There was so much hurt and sadness that God gave his remedy to alleviate the despair: Christ.

Luke 2: 10-14

10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

 

Christ came into the world and brought JOY.  His coming came to alleviate the hurt and pain that the people had suffered.  He opened up new ways of peace and healing.  Christ (God the Son) allowed us to become reunited with the Father (God the Father) through the presence of the Holy Spirit (God the Spirit). The coming of Christ did not erase the Despair of the world, but he came to give us a different perspective of despair. He allowed us to be comforted by the Spirit in the times of despair.  He gave us a new connection with God and others.  In the times of despair in hunger, the Spirit will intercede on your behalf and communicate with others to help you in your need.  In times of pain and suffering, the Spirit will give you ease and healing.  In times of sickness, the Spirit will give you hope that this will be for benefit of God’s kingdom and glory.

As we get closer to the celebration of Christmas, we may be faced with many insurmountable obstacles that challenge our family, friends, jobs, and faith but we must remember that we do not have to allow despair to control us.  Christ has already given us the JOY that is the remedy of the despair.   We must chose daily to find Christ in everyday and allow his JOY to supersede any despair that we encounter.

Have a very Merry and Blessed Advent and Christmas.

 

Priscilla and Aquila

Wonder and the Extra-Ordinary

Today’s Reading: Acts 18

December 1, marks the beginning of the Season of Advent, the anticipation of the coming of Christ.  This has been a very cherished and waited season for my children and my wife and I.  It is a season of wonder and excitement and dreams.

This past week, I have been reading several devotions and bible studies that highlight the notion of wonder and expectations.  Sun Stand Still, gives several amazing and powerful devotions in where situations that seems ordinary, actually are a setup for God to do something extra-ordinary.   This season brings to thought of how the ordinary items and people can change the mindset and hearts of many: cattle trough, stable, baby, swaddling(burying) cloths, a birth scene, and shepherds.  God also uses our situations and circumstances to perform miracles in the midst of dire situations.  In the reading, we can see how unexpected and unprepared situations can be used to grow some of the most profound founders of the early church .

In Acts Chapter 18, Paul is on his missionary journey and has traveled from Athens to Corinth.  In Corinth, he meets an exiled couple from Rome, Priscilla and Aquila.  The three of them found a common trade, tent-making and go into business together. While in Corinth, Paul forms a church for both Jews and Gentiles.

 Acts 18: 1-4

After this Paul[a] left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them,and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

After eighteen months, Paul and the couple sailed to Syria and then to Ephesus.   In Ephesus, the couple helped to establish the church and minister to the people.

Acts 18 :18-19

 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers[c]and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.

Acts 18:24-26

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit,[d] he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 

This trio of saints is an exhibit of how God can utilize and assist us in seeing the wonder and extra-ordinary gifts and scenarios for those who are about his will.  God has taken an ordinary introduction and trade, tent-making, into a profound group of church builders.  The ordinary has become extra-ordinary, the situation of the two set of people, both being exiled because of their belief in God.  Both are looking for sanctuary and find a common belief and friendship and relationship in each other.  This friendship doesn’t stop when the climate dictates that they must flee again, this friendship persist until they are called to a greater cause: Paul to Greece and Macedonia and Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus to minister and mentor Apollos.

 

As we continue in this season of Wonder and Extra-ordinary can we allow ourselves to:

  • Open our minds and spirits to the possibility of God doing extra-ordinary things in our ordinary day?
  • Is there a potential relationship that you have not created yet that will produce greater results to show God’s love and awesomeness in wonder?
  • Are we willing to accept the unknown that God has presented us with and allow him to lead us in ways and place that we have not imagined?
  • Where has God welcomed us to be bold and courageous in his Word?

 

Father,

Thank you for the Wonder and performing miracles in the ordinary situations.  Allow us to be aware and open to the way you speak to us.  Allow us to expect the unexpected and listen for the extra in the ordinary. Amen

Where are your accusers?

The Adulterous Woman

John 8: 1-11

 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]

John gives us an example of Jesus’ love and compassion without too much action or commentary. The story is that of a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery.  From the previous chapter, the scribes and the leaders are trying to find a way to falsely accuse Jesus to get him to be executed.  While they are trying to find something on Christ, they find this woman who is guilty of adultery.   In Deuteronomy 22:22-30, the law that was given shows the “proper” way that the situation of the unlawful act should be handled, but the leaders are trying to use their intelligence to outwit Jesus.  Fortunately, Christ is able to use his peace and calmness to stop the confusion and calamity of the crowd and restore the woman to her whole self.

As we look at this particular situation, we can see it in a different manner.  We are the adulterous woman and we are presented to Jesus.  How many times have we been presented to Christ or gone to him with our shortcoming and sins?  How many times have we been presented with situations that we believe that we have created and Jesus will not save us from? How many times have we held our heads in shame in the presence of Jesus and we stop him from comforting us? Jesus is the only on that can judge us and make us whole.  He knows all the sins and obstacles that we allow the enemy to use to stop us from being close to him.  He knew the woman before she was presented to the crowd.  He knew each sin that she has ever committed (from the oldest to the newest). He knows all the things that makes us vulnerable and knows that the enemy will use these to stop us from getting close to Jesus and allowing him to heal our being.  What are the sins that are hold you and me back from the true love and compassion of Christ?

A little further in the chapter, Jesus states that he alone cannot make judgment on individuals, but he and the Father together can make judgment.  Jesus chooses to forgive us when we are submitted to his divine grace in spite of the sins that we have committed in the past and present.  He sees us without anyone to condemn us.

Mary Magdalene

Today’s Reading Luke 7:36-8:3

Who can say what has happened to another person?  Who has been in the shoes of the other person? How well do you know the person that you are the most intimate with? Do you know their inner most dreams, fears, and aspirations?  Do you know what makes them truly happy or creates the most intense hurt?  How can you comfort the ones you love the most? These are some of the questions that are the most difficult to answer.  Once a wise man told me that even after 50 and more years of marriage you are always learning something new about your partner, and that is the treasure of the commitment.

In the account of Luke, the apostle describes a scene that would have been typical for Jesus.  He has been invited to dine at someone’s house and take part in dialogue and discussions.  In this particular instance, there is a woman that comes in anoints Jesus feet with ointment and tears. The house is the house of an official of the synagogue: a Pharisee.  The woman uses an alabaster bottle, which is a specific type of material and high expensive. The woman uses her hair to wipe the tears and ointment from his feet. Jesus knows the woman’s past and all that that she has done.  By her act of faith, she is renewed and made whole again.

Earlier in the chapter Luke explains about the centurion, who request that Jesus speaks health and healing over his servant that is far away. Jesus then responds to the solider and beings the journey to his house some distance away.  Before Christ can get to the house of the centurion, Jesus is stopped by several friends of the soldier and Jesus is informed that the faith of the Centurion is so strong that he believes that Christ has the authority to speak the words and the servant will be made whole.  Jesus speaks and the servant is healed that moment.

With Mary Magdalene, Christ uses this opportunity to exhibit his authority over sin in the presence of others who believe that have the knowledge of all situations.  This was a town that Jesus was not familiar with from the perspective of the Pharisee.  The Pharisee believed that he had the authority and control over the situation.  He was allowing Jesus to be made a patsy for his enjoyment. But Christ was able to show his authority in a gentle yet effective manner.  He knew the woman’s past.  He knew the thoughts of his host.  He know how to ask the questions to bring the judgment.  He knew that he had the authority and power to rebuke the sins of the woman and create a new person in her.  He knew the inner most thoughts of the woman.  He knew everything about her and had compassion on her and allowed her to worship and give faithfully to his goodness and mercy.

 

Some of the hardest questions that we can ask ourselves are the questions that Christ can heal and mend. Some of the experiences and choices that we have made can allow us to receive a glimpse of the beautiful redemption that Christ has for us.  If we were perfect, Christ would not be able to use us for his glory.  Will we allow ourselves to open up to Christ and allow him to heal us through our faith in him who knows us the best?

The Final Mercy : Joseph of Arimathea

Today’s Reading

Matthew 27: 32-61

The story of the passion has been told countless times.  Sometimes when we hear the same story and recounting of the facts we can become complacent and not taking the full experience as it was originally felt. Over the last several weeks while preparing for the person of the week, I have had the chance to really meditate and revive the passion and the full breath of Joseph of Arimathea.

In today’s passage, the first person that we are introduced to is Simon of Cyrene.   This is a man from the Northern part of Africa who has come to Jerusalem for the Holy Feast of Passover.  He and his family are casually walking in the streets or marketplace and he is forced to take Christ’s cross.  Let this sink in for a minute.  This man was celebrating the highest of holy days with his family, then the armed guards takes him away from his family.  He is probably dressed well and ready for celebrations.  He is then taken and forces to carry a “criminal’s cross”. At this point Christ has carried the cross for some time and his blood has soaked into the wood.  By Simon being forced into the role of cross-carrier, he grants Jesus the first Mercy.  He has helped in a visceral way to complete the Passion of Christ.  What if he had not obliged and granted the request?  Who would have been the cross-carrier?  Who would have given Christ some rest before his final hours?

The next several events are show the true sacrifice and pain that Christ endured

  • Verse 34 : they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.
    • This was a typical antiseptic – to help easy the pain of the Crucifixion
  • Verse 3 : And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.3
  • Verse 37: Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
  • Verse 38: Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.
  • Verse 39 :  And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
  • Verse 40: 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying,42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’
  • Verse 44: 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

 

After Simon has given Jesus a piece of grace, Jesus is being assaulted with some of the most vile and cruel items that would have broken many of us.  This is the price that he cared for us.  Then the Joseph gives Jesus his final earthly Mercy: Joseph took the body, prepared the body, and placed the body.

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. – Matt 27:57-60 

Joseph took the body:

  • Joseph breaks an important rule of Jewish law: he physically touched a dead person on the Sabbath, but prevents the curse of a dead man on the tree. Number 19:11-13 and Deuteronomy 21:22 -23
  • Being a Pharisees, Joseph knew the letter and expanse of the law, but he knew the person of Jesus and understood the reward for his discipleship is greater than the punishment of man.

 

Joseph prepares the body:

  • Joseph is the only that is mentioned in the gospels to have direct contact with body of the dead Christ. The other disciples were not at the crucifixion and the women were not allowed to be close to the body.  Joseph was the last person to clean the wounds of Christ.  He is the last one to apply balm and ointments to the body.  He is the last one to wrap the body in clean swaddling linens.  This preparation is one of the most intimate and profound responsibilities that one can have.  Christ made the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life, Joseph had given Christ the best response by gently and compassionately preparing his body for the next phase of the Passion.

 

Joseph places the body:

  • The final act of Mercy is that Joseph placed Christ in his tomb. This was a very powerful and meaningful gesture and example of his love.  In the earlier centuries, there were not a lot of tombs for common people or people without means.  Joseph had enough wealth, that he had this tomb prepared for himself many years of his expected death.  Many times people would use tombs of their ancestors, similar to catacombs. But this tomb was fresh cut and had not had any pervious occupants.  This was Jesus place of peace for three days.

 

Joseph, who shares the name of the step-father of Jesus, gives Jesus the same compassion and gentleness that Joseph did when he came into the world.

 

God has reveal many things in this passage:

  1. We may experience someone taking our cross when we are in the weakest parts of our journey
  2. While we are going through the midst of our hardest days the onslaught of worries, pain, defeat, criticisms, & meanness God has relief for us
  3. When we have finally gotten to the end of our journey: Christ will take our body, prepare our body, and place our body in a beautiful place where no one has been before.

Be Blessed

Into the fire: Hanahaiah (Shadrach), Michael (Meshach), & Azariah (Abednego)

Into the fire

Today’s Reading Daniel 3

The story of the Three Hebrew Men : Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is one of my favorite stories of the old Testament.  It is a story of faithfulness until the brink of death.   But as I become reacquainted with the story it has brought some new ideas to light.

These men had lost some major identifying elements in their early life: their home, their name, and their God.

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family[a] and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. Daniel 1: 1-4

In the first chapter of Daniel, we are introduced to the scene with the capture of Jerusalem and the children are taken away from their home. The children are place in a type of assimilation servitude to make them into the image of the conquerors.

The next possession that these young men had taken from them was their names.  As was mentioned several blogs previous, the naming of the children in ancient Jewish times was a major deal.  Nebuchadnezzar changed all of their names.

And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. Daniel 1:7

Daniel (which means ‘God has judged’) becomes Belteshazzar (‘keeper of the hidden treasures of bel’).  Hananiah (‘Jehovah has been gracious’) becomes Shadrach. Mishael (‘who is like God?’) became Meshach – a name that refers to Venus.  Azariah (‘Jehovah has helped’) became Abed-nego (‘the servant of Nebo’). These names were very powerful names and the meaning behind each has been hidden even until today.  The names that I have known these men by are the names that were forced upon them without their consent.  This could have robbed them of their blessings if they were not strong enough to maintain their faith.

The last possession that was attempted to be taken from the Three Hebrew Men was their God.  These men were known for their faith and their commitment to God from the beginning when they were instructed to have the same diet as the other trainees.  But it was evident after they had been appointed positions of authority that there were some individuals who disliked them and wanted harm for them.  

Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. They declared[b] to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”Daniel 3:8-12

 

The king had created an image of him and demanded that all the subjects bow down and praise and worship the image.  The Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were the only ones standing and not following the commands of the king.  They stood up for their faith and were punished for their insubordination.  They were condemned to perish in a fiery furnace that was at such a temperature, the guards that placed them in the furnace dead from the heat.  But in the midst of the fire, God stepped in an protect them and released them from the fire.

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.  Daniel 3: 26-27

Some points to gain from the Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego:

  • No matter what has been taken from you, no on can take away your faith unless you submit to them.
  • In the midst of a world where everyone wants to conform, if you keep your values and will stand up for them when you are pressed: you will be rewarded.
  • God is already in the places that you are not aware of or certain.We have to be ready to see Him perform the miracles that he has promised.

Wisdom not by age

Elihu

Job 32-37

There are many people that create a lasting impression and impact on my life, but there is one that stands out from others, my Nanny.  Nanny was my mother’s mother and I spent a large amount of my life with her in general and traveling with her to numerous church events and functions. I started to travel with her at the age of seven or eight.  Around this time, she broke her foot at a grocery store and this led her to need more assistance than before. The broken foot was complicated by diabetes, created this new relationship and companionship that would shape me into the person I am today.  I would accompany her because her health had started to fail and she would need assistance with getting around.

During these trips and church meetings, I would be surrounded with seasoned individuals who were my grandmother’s peers: Pastors, Pastor wives, Missionaries, Church Stewards, and many others that were influential in the church.  I had the fortune to be in presence of these powerful and spirit-filled conversations, meetings, and prayers.  This was really a great experience for me.  I was granted access to wisdom and knowledge that I was not aware of at the time.  I had the chance to absorb my osmosis countless years of prayer, praise, downfall, turmoil, pickups, and glorifying that I am just now able to fully understand and grasp.

In the book of Job, which is the one of the oldest books of the Bible, we are able to have a window into the question of the goodness and providential aspects of God.  To recap the book of Job:  Job has 10 children, many camels, sheep, oxen, and servants.  He is a wealthy and righteous man in the eyes of God.  Within a day’s span, he losses everything (all of his possession and his health) and became dismayed and disheartened.   In the midst of this his wife tells him that he is foolish to continue to keep hope in God.  Then his three of his closest friends (Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite) comes and attempts to console him.  The friends sit with him for seven days in silence. Throughout the entire book if Job, these friends are trying to compel Job, that he has done something wrong and deserves the misfortune that has fallen him.  But after 30 chapters, we have this younger individual that starts to speak, Elihu.  Elihu brings wisdom to the group and gives insight into the mysteries that God has revealed to him.  Elihu shows that God is just and there are somethings that cannot be explained by man, but only with the Spirit.  It is this new realization that allows Job to be ready for his revelation that God presents himself.

As I read this, I could imagine, my grandmother and three of her close friends in a grand debate about the circumstances that they are going through.  Then in the midst of the hours long discussion, my youngest daughter, Nadya who is five, comes in a delivers some wisdom that completely changes their mindset and their understanding of God.   The main point of Elihu in the story is to show: Wisdom is not given by age, Wisdom is a gift, and Wisdom has to be used with discretion.

  • Wisdom is not given by age.
    • Many times in our society, we believe that the older a person is the wiser this person.This passage shows that it is not the age or length of time here that predisposes us to wisdom, but it is the Spirit of God that reveals the mysteries that He holds. Elihu was much younger than the other individuals, but has been given this insight.
  • Wisdom is a gift
    • Wisdom cannot be earned or bargained for, it is something that is only given and sustained by God. I have seen many wise persons that have been able to accomplish many things, then health or circumstances happen and the wisdom that they possessed is not accessible. It is a gift and needs to be cherished.
  • Wisdom has to be used with discretion and humility.
    • Until I slowed down and re-read this passage, I was unaware of the presence of Elihu. I though he was one of the other three with a different name.  He remained observant and thoughtful, until the right time.  He could have come in at any time, but his time was patience in practice.  Wisdom is not to be given with haste, Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”  Proverbs 17: 28

Jabez

Today’s Reading :  I Chronicles 4:9-10

What is in a name? When Jillian and I were expecting our children, we wanted them to have names that would reflect some part of their history and heritage.  We felt that the name that they had would create a personality or presence that would continue with them.  After long hours of discussions and deep thought we decided that the children would have specific names that would be part of our families’ histories and a reflection of them.

Oliver, was named from our grandfathers.  Upon research we found that Oliver has many possible linkages:  Latin term/name olivarius “olive tree planter”, or the Old Norse Óleifr (Ólaf); or a genuinely West Germanic name, perhaps from ala- “all” and wēra “true” “ All true” , or from alf “elf” and hari “army, warrior” “ Elf Army” .  As Oliver has grown up into a young man, I can identify that the name and the person that he is becoming are true and I am excited to see where this “army of elves” will go.

Ruby, was named in memory of grandmothers.   Her name meaning is associated with the precious stone that ultimately derived from Latin ruber “red”.  Ruby is also considered the short feminine form of the biblical name, Reuben, meaning, “behold, a son” in Hebrew; behold a daughter.  This is name seems to fit her from birth, as she was the first daughter that we had, but also due to her personality.  She is my spicy and passionate child.  She is also one of the most precious and tenderhearted individuals I know.

Nadya is the French form of the Russian Nadya, a nickname form of Nadezha, which is directly derived from the word meaning, “hope”.  Nadya was named for the true namesake of hope.  Hope for the peace and joy of God in our lives.   Jillian and I had experienced many highs and lows as parents with Oliver and Ruby through countless hospitalizations and health issues that we purposefully and intentionally gave her name with a specific blessing.  Nadya has been a true inspiration and joy to our family and continues to give us hope daily.

 

In the reading we are presented with a different naming process:  I Chronicles 4:9-10

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez,[a] saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

 

After much research, I was unable to find the direct mother and father of Jabez, but he is known as a direct descendant of Judah and his son Perez.  This would have been a big deal in the ancient times.  The lineage of the person would direct your path in life as well as your name.  Jabez was of the same line of David and Christ.  He knew that he was blessed through God’s anointing his forefathers Israel, Judah, and Perez.

He knew that the name that is given to you does not determine your outlook.  He would have been familiar with the story of his forefather Jacob being converted to Israel.  He would have been familiar with the story of his forefather Perez and how was conceived and how he preserved through these obstacles.  Jabez was aware of his name, it was rooted in sorrow and pain, but he was determine that God would create a blessing in the midst of the anguish and turmoil that he produced in coming into the world.

With the knowledge of whose he was (God’s, YHWH, Jehovah) and the circumstances that placed on him from his name, Jabez knew he had to speak it into existence and create a new direction for his life.  Jabez spoke such power that he is known today for his courage and faith.  He was known to an extent that there was a place: either a city or region that bore his name I Chronicles 2:55.

The example that Jabez has made for us is that no matter the situations that we are born into or have created ourselves, we are still God’s children and we are able to change the situation when we acknowledge God’s presence in us and that we are worthy of his blessings.