Thus Saith the Lord

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This morning I was reading in Proverbs (a great source of practical and spiritual wisdom) and came to this: “Every word of God is flawless, He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Proverbs 30:5). Immediately my mind went to the armor of God in Ephesians 6 and the Shield of Faith, and a light went off in my mind. I’ve always understood that the shield of faith is my confidence, my trust, my determination to stand strong behind my faith in God. Do you see the weak link in that chain – my. It’s all dependant on me. And I am not that strong. My faith is feeble on my best days, and I’ve had some pretty rough days of late.

But if my shield is God’s own words – what a strong and study defense I hold in my hand. If my confidence is in God’s promise to “never leave you nor forsake you” (Jos 1:5) and to “be with you where you go” (v. 9), the enemy cannot penetrate God’s faithfulness.  If I am clinging to His declaration that “You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you . . . I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is 41:9-10), I know satan cannot defeat me. And if He said “Remain in me, and I will remain in you” (John 15:4), it’s His hand in my hand that is holding strong to that shield and nothing and no one can break His grip. When Jesus was in the wilderness, what was His response when the devil tried to tempt Him? “It is written . . .” (Matt 4:4, 7, 10).

Just a side note: did you notice the second part of Proverbs 30:5? Go back and read it again – I’ll wait for you. When your faith is crafted from the very Word of God, God Himself takes up the position of defense. He is YHWH Magan – The LORD the Shield. If that Shield of Faith is going to protect you it must be made of something stronger than steel – the mighty Word of the living God. Beloved, if you will put your faith in “Thus saith the Lord” you will see your Shield standing between you and the enemy (see 2 Kings 6:15-17). That’s a position of security and victory.

Dry Ground

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“O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

“Lord, I just feel so dry, like the cracked ground of a desert,” I wrote in my prayer one day.  It was the best description of my life. My soul felt dry and my body was weary.  My spirit longed for Living Water.  In my parched state, I pleaded with God to send relief.

As He so often does, the Holy Spirit sent me on a “Biblical scavenger-hunt” to see what the Word has to say.  He took me to Exodus 14 where Moses, through the power of the Lord, caused the sea to part and the people crossed over “on dry ground.”  He took me to Joshua 3 where again the Israelites crossed the Jordan (at flood stage, mind you) by way of a divinely dried-up riverbed. They didn’t slug through mud and muck but walked on firm, dry land.  Then He took me to Ezekiel 37, where the prophet spoke the Word of the Lord and dry bones came to life again, with tendons and flesh and the breath of Life.  Finally, He took me to Isaiah 53 and reminded me that Jesus was called “a tender shoot, like a root out of dry ground,” (v. 2).

In all of these, He reminded me that dry seasons can be the gateway to the Promised Land.  They can precede a time of awakening and renewal, and they can actually become a place of growth.  I learned through these examples that surviving dry seasons requires perseverance, listening to the Word of God, and being humble and submissive before Him.  These are lifelines during these times when our hearts and our spirits are like a cracked desert.

Beloved, if you are in Christ, God will use even the dry seasons of your life to fulfill His plan and purpose.  You need not be afraid, but press in and press on.  There is Living Water in His Word and His Spirit.  He will send the refreshing you need.  Then “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.  It will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for Joy” (Isaiah 35:1). God will bring beauty to the desert, the wilderness, and your dry heart.

Last Words

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“Drive carefully.” “Have a good day.” “Call when you get there.” “I love you.” Last words. When your kids are climbing out of the car, when your wife heads off for a weekend with her friends, when your nephew leaves for college. It’s our final opportunity to connect and leave them with something important. Many times those last words express our heart more than voluminous conversations.

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he wrote about wisdom, immorality, marriage, freedom in Christ, spiritual gifts, love, and the resurrection. Out of all these very weighty topics, Paul’s final instructions to his friends were: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of good courage; be strong. Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). Firm faith. Good courage. Love in all things. What powerful watchwords for Christ’s church! And we still need them today.

Corinth was a multi-cultural, polytheistic culture – they had people from many backgrounds who held to many different beliefs. It was so easy to take a little bit from each one – including Christianity – to make a self-serving religion. That sounds very much like our world today, doesn’t it? Paul reminds us to stand firm in our faith in Christ and Christ alone. But he also assures us we don’t stand on our own.  He opened this letter by telling the Corinthians, “[The Lord Jesus Christ] will keep you strong to the end” (1:8). Firm faith leans heavily on Christ for strength and courage.

Why do we need courage? Have you been out there lately? The powers (human and spiritual) that rule the world are trying to destroy the Christian faith. We need courage just to walk out the door. We need courage to resist the enemy. We need courage to stand for truth and righteousness. In a day and age when sin is celebrated, we need courage to say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

And oh, how important love is. Jesus said love is the defining factor in the lives of His followers – “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35). And love, more than any other means will draw men to Christ. In everything – our jobs, in school, in our families, in our relationships, in good times and hard times, in peace and in disagreement – let love be the rule.

If today were my last day on earth and I wanted to leave you with the most important words, I would say the same thing.  Beloved have faith, be courageous, and live in love.

Jesus is . . .

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“We’re New Testament people, we don’t need to read the Old Testament.” “I just want to know about Jesus, so I’ll stick with the New Testament.” Ever thought or said anything like that? I’ve heard it many times. As Christians – Christ’s followers – we are focused on only what Jesus did and taught.  But the Old Testament looks ahead to Jesus Christ.  Check it out:

In Genesis, He is the Seed of the woman who will one day crush the head of Satan.

In Exodus, He is the Passover Lamb and the one who leads His people out of bondage.

In Leviticus, He is the great high priest and the perfect sacrifice.

In Deuteronomy, he is the Great Prophet to come.

In Joshua, He is the Captain of the Lord’s host.

In Judges, He is the one who faithfully delivers His people from the cost of sin.

In Ruth, He is our Kinsman Redeemer.

He is the anointed King in the line of David in the books of Samuel.

In the books of the Kings, He is the Spirit filling the Temple.

He is the great Teacher in Ezra and the Restorer of broken walls in Nehemiah.

He is the Interceder for His people in Esther and the coming Redeemer in Job.

He is the Shepherd in Psalms and the Source of all wisdom in Proverbs.

He is the Teacher in Ecclesiastes.

He is the Beloved Bridegroom in the Song of Solomon.

In Isaiah, He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and Suffering Servant.

In Jeremiah and Lamentations, He is the Man acquainted with sorrows.

In Ezekiel, He brings life to dry bones.

In Daniel, He is the Ancient of Days.

He is the faithful Husband in Hosea, the Hope of His people in Joel, the Judge of the nations in Amos, and in Obadiah the One who warns of coming judgment.

In Jonah He is the preacher of the Good News, in Micah He is the Ruler from Bethlehem.

In Nahum, He is the judge of His people’s enemy,  the Sovereign Lord in Habakkuk, and in Zephaniah, He is the God who is mighty to save.

In Haggai He is the Glory of the House of God, in Zechariah He is the Royal Priest and in Malachi Jesus is the Son of Righteousness.

Beloved, if you want to know Jesus, read the Old Testament. He is all over the place.  Then read the New Testament with a fresh understanding of Jesus who was and is and is to come.

Why the Old Testament Still Matters

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Reading the Bible is paramount for the believer who wants to live and walk as Jesus did – after all, that is the purpose for our salvation – “to be conformed to the likeness of [God’s] Son” (Romans 8:27). I’ll bet you have started trying to read through the whole Bible and found it to be more challenging than you thought. Especially in the Old Testament – especially in Leviticus! What do all those old rules and sacrifices and rituals have to do with us as New Testament believers? EVERYTHING!

The entire Old Testament looks ahead to Jesus Christ. He fulfills every promise and completes every command. In Genesis He is the Seed of the woman who will one day crush the head of Satan. In Exodus, He is the Passover Lamb and the one who leads His people out of bondage .In Leviticus, He is the great high priest and the perfect sacrifice. In Deuteronomy he is the Great Prophet to come. In Joshua, He is the Captain of the Lord’s host.

In Judges, He is the one who faithfully delivers His people from the cost of the sin. In Ruth, He is our Kinsman Redeemer. He is the anointed King in the line of David in the books of Samuel. In the books of the Kings, He is the Spirit filling the Temple. He is the great Teacher in Ezra and the Rebuilder of broken walls in Nehemiah. He is the Interceder for His people in Esther and the coming Redeemer in Job.

He is the Shepherd in Psalms and the Source of all wisdom in Proverbs. He is the Beloved Bridegroom in the Song of Solomon. In Isaiah He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and Suffering Servant. In Jeremiah and Lamentations He is the Man acquainted with sorrows. In Ezekiel He brings life to dry bones. In Daniel He is the Ancient of Days.

He is the faithful Husband in Hosea, the Hope of HIs people in Joel, the Judge of the nations in Amos, and in Obadiah the One who warns of coming judgment. In Jonah He is the preacher of the Good News, in Micah He is the Ruler from Bethlehem. In Nahum, He is the judge of His people’s enemy, the Sovereign Lord in Habakkuk and in Zephaniah He is the God who is mighty to save. In Haggai He is the Glory of the House of God, in Zechariah He is the Royal Priest and in Malachi Jesus is the Son of Righteousness.

When you read the Old Testament, always look for Jesus, He is on every page, in every verse. Then read the New Testament with a fresh understanding of Jesus who was and is and is to come.

Be Silent

When I was in first grade I was put in the corner multiple times for talking. I have not outgrown that need to express myself. But I am learning about the power of God in silence. And it’s a very challenging lesson.  There is someone dear in my life who is making some very poor decisions and I have a LOT I want to say to him. But God has urged me to silence.

The lesson is rooted in the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho (admit it – you started singing in your head didn’t you?) When Moses died, Joshua took over the leadership of the nation of Israel. He was well-suited for the next phase in their journey for they were facing a lot of warfare to take over possession of the Promised Land. Joshua was leading the people in the direction of Jericho when the “Commander of the army of the Lord” came to him with the strangest battle plan in history. But he followed it to a T. For six days the entire nation walked silently outside the walls of the city as the priests blew the trumpets. I would have shaken my fist and shouted to the people on the other side of that wall, “You’re going down! God is going to give us the city! You don’t stand a chance!” But that was not the plan. Words were nowhere near as intimidating as the sound of trumpets and shuffling feet.

God is telling me, “I know how frustrated you are. I know you have wise words you think will straighten him out, but he will never hear me with you running your mouth at him. Be silent.” Argh!  But, of course, He’s right. So like Joshua and the people of Israel, I am going to Stand Still (that’s a great song by the Issacs) and pray and watch. You know the rest of Joshua’s story. On the seventh day, the people marched and then the command was given to SHOUT – and the walls came tumbling down. I suspect I’m not the only person dealing with a stubborn stone wall. All your advice and – let’s be honest – nagging have has fallen on deaf ears. So Beloved, be silent. Stand Still. Let God do the work. And the talking

Stepping Out in Faith

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“As they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14)

Jesus had encountered ten men who had leprosy, they had pleaded for healing for their hopeless condition. They had likely heard of the many times Jesus had touched someone in need and been instantly healed. No doubt they anticipated the same. But what did Jesus do?

“When He saw then, He said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests’” (v. 14).  But where was the healing touch?  Where was the skin, once diseased and white, now fresh and pink?  “Go show ourselves to the priest – but we’re no different than before!”  Perhaps it was the authority in Jesus’ voice, but off they went to obey His prescription.

And our key verse says, “As they went, they were cleaned.”  Jesus spoke, they obeyed and the miracle came.  After the step of improbable obedience.  After taking Jesus at His word and walking toward the temple and the priests.  They could have questioned Him, “But you haven’t healed us – why should we go to the priests unless you do something first?”  They acted on faith.

When the Centurion came to Jesus on behalf of his ailing servant, he told the Lord, “Just say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).  Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (v. 10).  When a royal official begged Jesus to come and heal his son who was near death, Jesus told him, “You may go.  Your son will live.” the man “took Jesus at His word and departed.” (John 4:50).  On his way home a servant told him that his son was better.  At his inquiry, he learned that the boy’s fever broke at the same time Jesus told him that he would live.  The waters of the river parted “as soon as the priests set foot in the Jordan” (Joshua 13).  They had to touch their toes to the water before the miracle came.  But it came.  And the people crossed over on dry ground.

God is still working in the world.  He is still performing miracles.  But He is looking for people with the faith to expect them.  He is looking for people who will take Him at His word, who will go with confidence that He who promised is faithful.  He is looking for those who will step into the flooding river.  Now I realize we don’t have the physical Jesus standing before us, telling us “Go in faith,” but we have His Word in written form, and it carries the same authority as the words He spoke on earth.  It is full of promises we can claim and commands we are to obey.  Because obedience is the evidence of our faith – especially when the situation looks nothing like the miracle.  In fact, the Greek word for faith – pistis – means “to trust, with an implication that actions based on that trust may follow.”  Faith isn’t just a head thing – it’s a hands and feet thing.  It’s going when you don’t know the way.  It’s stepping out when you can’t see beyond your toes.  It’s taking God at His word with no reservation or hesitation.

Is God worthy of your trust?  Absolutely.  Is He faithful?  Completely.  Does He love you?  Eternally.  What else do you need?  Step out Beloved, the miracle will come.

What’s in a Name?

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“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).

Some of you know me as “Beth” and some know me as “Dorcas” and if you’re on Facebook, you know me as “Dorcas Beth.”  My given name at birth is Dorcas, but after endless teasing in school, pronouncing my name, spelling my name and convincing people it really was a legitimate name, I wanted something simpler.  I pulled Beth from my middle name Elizabeth and that’s what I’ve gone by for more than 20 years.  Of course my family and friends who’ve known me from way back when still call me Dorcas.  Names are important; they are much more than identifiers. To know someone and call them by name (and either name is fine with me) indicates a measure of intimacy.

Most people run through a list of names when thinking about what they want to call their baby.  There’s a list of the most popular names (Dorcas has never been on it!) as some names go in and out of fashion.  Many chose a family name to honor someone they love.  But I don’t know of many cases where an angel came and told someone what to name their baby.  God wanted to send a message to the world and even the name of His only begotten Son spoke of His power and love.

“Jesus” – Iesous in the Greek, yehosua in the Hebrew (translated Joshua) – carried the meaning “Yahweh saves.”  The Jewish people would hear Jesus’ name and remember that the Lord had saved His people in the past and He had promised to save them again.  They took that to mean a military and political salvation as they were under Roman rule.  But the salvation Jesus brought was far greater and wider and deeper than that.  Through Jesus, Yahweh (Hebrew for “The Lord”) intended to save the entire world.  Jesus came to save all people under bondage to sin and death.  He brought the salvation of God to all humanity.  Beloved, do you know Jesus?  More than just knowing His Name – do you know Him as Savior?  I pray this Christmas you can say “Yahweh saves – me!”

Is There a Point to All This?

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“March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days” (Joshua 6:3).

“Is there a point to this?” I fumed last week as I worked nonsensical logic problems.  Once again I was frustrated by course work that seemed to have no practical purpose.  I want to know the reason for whatever I’m being asked to do.  It helps me in the learning process if I can understand the “why” as much as the “how.” 

The Christian life rarely give us practical reasons for what we’re called to do.  Often we don’t even know how to accomplish that calling.  Throughout the Bible we see God calling people to do the impractical as well as the impossible.  Deliver two-million people from slavery, go through a raging sea with your captors literally on your heels, oh and I’m not telling you where you’re going; you’re just going to follow me day-by-day.  “Lord, how am I going to pull this off?”  “Just trust me and you’ll see.”  Take down a fortified city with no weapons – just walk around the city every day.  I can hear the bewildered people asking, “Lord, why such a crazy battle plan?”  “Just trust me and you’ll see.” 

How often does God ask you and me to do something that makes no sense and is completely outside of our power and ability to accomplish?  Is there a point to all this?  Why on earth would He make such a request?  How does He expect us to do the impossible?  I can almost hear His answer: “Just trust me and you’ll see.” There really is a logical and practical purpose – to give God the glory and honor He deserves.  He asks us to do the impractical and the impossible to show His power and might and sovereignty.  He asks great things of us to show that He is a great God.  Beloved, you and I have the awesome blessing of being vessels for the glory of God.  And that is the point of it all.

Clearer Vision

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”                Psalm 27:1

 What happens to our faith when our vision becomes clouded by fear and doubt?

In Numbers 13, the Israelites, having been freed from Egyptian slavery, now stand at the edge of the Promised Land.  Moses selects 12 men, one from each ancestral tribe, to explore the land of Canaan. After forty days, they return with samples of fruit – including a cluster of grapes so heavy it had to be carried on a pole between two men.  They declared the inhabitants “powerful and their cities fortified and very large.” While Caleb and Joshua declared, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (v. 30), the other ten spies “spread a bad report. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (v. 32, 33) They saw themselves as piteously small against the enemy who lived in this wonderful land that the Lord had promised to them.

I know this one, because I have spent far too many years looking at the giants in my life through the eyes of a grasshopper.   I am learning the key to overcoming fear – we have to develop clearer vision.  We have to look through eyes of faith.

First we have to have a clearer vision of our God.  When I feel the enemy pressing me, I turn to Psalm 18 where I am reminded that God is “my Strength, my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer, my Refuge, and my Shield.” (vs. 1-2)  He is a MIGHTY GOD! His power is beyond comprehension.  Psalm 66:3 says “So great is Your power that Your enemies cringe before you.”  When I recognize the truth that the power of God exceeds the power of any enemy force or circumstance, I can rest my heart – and mind in Him. He is also my Protector and Defender.  No enemy dares approach me with the Lord on guard. David said in Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”  The enemy trembles and flees at the name of the Lord.  Learn His Name and use it!

We also need to have a clearer vision of our giants.    The giants you and I fear loom so large and terrifying to us, but how do they compare to our God?  David certainly had the right perspective.  In the famous battle of David and Goliath, the enemy towered over the Israelites at over nine feet tall with massive armor and weapons. (1 Samuel 17:4-7).  Day after day, he taunted the Israelite army,
“This day I defy the ranks of Israel!  Give me a man and let us fight each other.  If he is able to kill me, we will become your subjects, but if I overcome him you will become our subjects and serve us. (1 Samuel 17:8-10) And how did the Israelites respond? “On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” Goliath’s threats had broken the spirit of the Israelite army and they believed themselves powerless against him. Isn’t that just like us?  We become consumed with fear as we focus on our enemy who taunts and defies us.  But the little shepherd boy David looked, not at the size of the enemy, but at the size of his God.  David told King Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” As David approached, with no visible weapon or armor, Goliath cursed him and shouted insults at him. But David responded with spiritual armor and weapons that Goliath could not see, and he said “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will hand you over to me…and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! (1 Samuel 17:45-46)” I am sure you know the rest, “David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone. (1 Samuel 17:50)” I want that kind of faith!  I want faith that knows the power of the Lord.  I want faith that is confident in God’s promises to defend and deliver me from all the giants in my life. I want faith to meet every challenge the enemy throws at me with my head held high and my eyes firmly fixed on God.

Finally, we must develop a clearer vision of ourselves-as God sees us.  If you are in Christ, God has declared that you are “His child (Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:1); sanctified (1 Corinthians 1:2); valuable (1 Peter 1:18-19); chosen (1 Peter 2:9); His workmanship(Ephesians 2:10);  His dwelling place (Eph. 2:22); dearly loved (Colossians 3:12); children of light (Eph. 5:8); a holy & royal priesthood (1 Peter 2: 5, 9) – and that is just a small sampling of what the Bible says you are to God.  The enemy will always try to make you feel small and defenseless.  He will always try to attack you with words of condemnation: “Look at you! Look at the mess you have made of your life! Look at your sin! You are worthless to God, He could never love you!”  But you need to know and believe that under God’s loving and protective gaze, you are a priceless treasure, His priceless treasure, and He loves you with an everlasting, never-failing, all consuming love.  When God looks at you He doesn’t see your mess, He sees your Messiah.

To stand strong in the face of fear, we must look to our God for strength and perspective.   “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes and we looked the same to them.”  But how do you look in God’s eyes?  Victorious!

Holy Father, the giants are big, but You, Lord are bigger. Help us keep our vision clear and our eyes “fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  God give us eyes to truly see.