Debbie's Perspective

Just my thoughts of the day.

On A Hillside

Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down.  A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all.  The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel. – Matthew 15:29-31

At first the people were trickling through the village, but now there are swarms of them descending like locusts, eating and buying up all the extra food to be had.  They are on their way to see a teacher; a young Rabbi they hope will be able to heal them or someone they love.  They come with their mats, carts, and slings upon their backs filled with lame, blind, and mute men, women, and children.

I have never seen so many sick in one place.  They are usually hidden away to keep them and their families safe from ridicule and contempt.  Everyone believes that being blind or lame comes from sin; either yours or your family’s.  I have always wondered how I could have sinned before I was even born.  Is that possible?  But how could I accuse my parents?  What could they have done so terribly wrong that would give them a son with a lame foot?  Thankfully they love me, and didn’t throw me out on the street to beg or even die.

At least I can do some work as a shepherd as long as they stay in the fields close to my village.  It’s hard on my family when they take the sheep to pasture in the upper hills.  The other shepherds don’t want me to come because they say I go too slow and hold them back.  I don’t blame them, but we don’t have as much to eat during those times.  I know it is my fault.  Would this Rabbi heal me too?

All my family and friends think I should go with this group and try to see the Rabbi they call Jesus.  They say, “Zechariah, this is your chance.  You should go and see him.  Maybe you will be healed.”  That would be a miracle for sure.  Oh what a wonderful miracle that would be!  It seems impossible, but I’ve heard story after story this past week about this man.  They say he isn’t at all like the other Rabbis or Pharisees.  He doesn’t sneer and stay away from the sick; condemning them for their sins. He actually goes to them, touches them, and then they are healed.  What kind of man could do this?  I’ve heard whispers that he is the promised Messiah.

Maybe I will go and see him.  If I am not healed myself, at least I can see his miracles.  No one will yell at me for going too slow, this caravan of people are all going slow.  I’m glad we are close to where they say he is.  I hope this throng of people don’t drive him away with their needs.  I don’t know how one man could possibly meet all of these needs.

As we begin to climb the hill, I see thousands of people camped out everywhere.  There is singing and praising God all over.  A man runs up to me and says, “I can walk, I can walk!  I once was paralyzed, but now I can walk!”  Another woman is crying and saying that she can now see.  There are parents clapping and laughing as their child is running around them with legs that have become straight.  It’s true.  It’s all true.  He can heal the sick.

I start to make my way further up the hill where a crowd is pressing in.  I think this is where Jesus is.  Yes, there he is.  I see him now putting his hand on a young girl’s head and looking up to heaven.  He is talking to God and calling him Father.  I’ve never heard someone talk so freely and intimately to God.  Now the young girl is screaming, and laughing, and hugging the people around her, and they are laughing, too.  She can talk!  She’s never been able to say a word, but now she can talk.

I sit down on a rock not far from Jesus, and I watch as person after person comes before him, and he heals them; young, old, rich, poor.  So many of them have much greater needs than I do, and there are so many.  How can I ask him to take time to heal my foot?  He is so busy, and there are so many more waiting for his touch.

His disciples are worried about him.  They keep coming and urging him to stop and eat something, and rest.  The crowd has been amazingly good; no fighting or pushing trying to get to Jesus.  There seems to be such a peace about this man, that you have that same sense of peace when you are near him.  It’s a feeling that everything will be okay.  If he walked away to get something to eat or to rest, would that peace go away and the crowd begin to get upset?

The disciple they call Peter is insisting that he come away for a little while, and the other disciples are pushing the crowd back.  Jesus smiles and says something to the crowd I can’t hear, and then they move away.  Jesus turns and begins to walk a little way off, but then he stops.  He’s looking straight at me.  His eyes feel like they are looking deep into my soul.  He’s walking my way.  Did I do something wrong?  Why is he coming over to me? Will he tell me he can’t help me because of my sin or my parents’ sin?  He hasn’t said that to anyone else.

He walks right up to me.  I nervously look at the ground at his feet.  “Zechariah, why have you been sitting here all day, do you need something?”  he says smiling.  “Yes, Rabbi, but it is such a small thing, just a turned in foot.  Surely you only have time for much greater needs than mine.”  He begins to laugh, but not a mocking laugh like I hear so often from some of the men in my village.  No, it’s a wonderful laugh; a kind of infectious laugh that makes me want to laugh, too, even though I don’t know what I’m laughing at.

I look up into the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen.  Their warmth keeps me from looking back down.  Then I ask, “Wait, how do you know my name?”  He smiles and says, “I know all about you, Zechariah.  You are worried that your problem is too small for me to care about, and so many others are worried that their problem is too big for me to fix.  With God, all things are possible.  What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

Can that be true? Am I really valuable to God?  Jesus makes me believe that I am.  Jesus puts his hand on my shoulder and asks me, “What would you have me do for you, Zechariah?”  I take a deep breath and say quickly while I still have the courage, “Oh Lord, I really want you to heal my foot.  I want to walk normally.  I want to be able to work and help my family so my parents won’t have to work so hard.”  I’ve said it finally; the deepest desire of my heart, the desire I haven’t allowed my thoughts to articulate because I’ve never had any hope that it could be possible.  Now, looking into Jesus’ eyes, I believe it is.

Jesus kneels down in front of me, takes my foot in his hands, looks up to heaven just like he did before, but this time he’s talking to the Father about me.  Right before my eyes, my foot begins to straighten out, and my leg begins to grow and even out with my other leg.  Jesus looks up at me smiling, and says, “Why don’t you try it out?”  I leap to my feet and start running up the hill.  I can’t believe how fast I’m running, but wait, I haven’t thanked him.  I turn and run as fast as I can back to Jesus’ side, I fall on the ground in front of him and cry out, “Thank you Lord!” He has me stand up before him.  There are so many questions I want to ask, but before I can, his disciples come and urge him to come over under a tree where they’ve prepared some food for him.  He walks away with them leaving me with a smile.

It’s really happened; I’m whole, not just because my foot is now healed, but because Jesus has done something in my heart.  I’m as changed on the inside as I am on the outside.  I believe he really is the Messiah.  I can’t wait to tell my family about him.   Even though I’ve been here for two days, and I should be tired, I feel like I can run like the wind all the way home.  I pick up my pack and begin to make my way through the crowd, headed back to my village.  I am stopped along the way by different people I traveled here with asking me what happened to my foot.  Each time I tell them, the pain from all my years of being lame, all the teasing and taunts from others, all the struggle, it all slips away.  It’s like I’m brand new on the inside, the old me is dead, and a new me is born.

As I walk home, I look up to heaven and thank the Father for sending Jesus to make me whole.  I walk a little faster until I am running.  I start laughing.  That’s it, Jesus’ laugh, he knew all along.

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Stuck at the Pool

Do you have a situation or a need you’ve prayed and prayed for God to fix, but days, months, even years have gone by and your miracle still hasn’t come? When this happens it’s easy to start thinking it might be too late, but you keep on praying and making excuses why it hasn’t happened, holding on to the slightest sliver of hope that maybe it still could.

While I was studying the passage in John 5:1-9a, 14 about the miracle Jesus did for the man at the Pool of Bethesda, I saw some things that have given me a fresh hope for my miracle.

Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches waiting for a certain movement of the water, for an angel of the Lord came from time to time and stirred up the water. And the first person to step in after the water was stirred was healed of whatever disease he had. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” John 5:3-6

  • Even in a crowd of people, Jesus still sees me individually. I’m not lost in the multitude of other’s needs. 
  • There is no statute of limitations on God working a miracle in my situation. Just because He hasn’t, doesn’t mean He won’t. 
  • God won’t automatically meet a need He knows I have until He shows me what it is, and I’m ready and willing for Him to do something. I have to know what I need and want to change.

“I can’t sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! John 5:7-9a

  • I can make excuses for why my situation hasn’t changed, but that isn’t what God wants from me. My excuses could keep me from getting my miracle. 
  • My idea of how my situation can or will change isn’t necessarily how God is going to do it. God doesn’t need a formula. 
  • I can’t rely on someone else to get it done for me—someone else’s prayer, someone else’s faith.  Others can come along side me and join with me in prayer and faith, but ultimately I’m responsible for seeking, praying, and believing. It’s my faith and my relationship with Jesus that are key.
  • I must be obedient when Jesus tells me what to do in my situation. When Jesus gives me a command He will give me the ability to get it done, so just do it.

But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. John 5:9b

  • Not everyone will be happy with my healing or the way God met my need. Rejoice and don’t worry about other’s agendas.

But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” John 5:14

  • When my healing comes and this situation is fixed, it can reveal hidden things that also need to change. When God reveals what I need to change, it’s in my best interest to do it.

I believe miracles still happen and healing still comes for all the various needs we have – physical, mental, emotional, relational, etc. My desire is that the hope God has given me through these insights will also bring renewed hope to you in your situations.

With God all things are possible.

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Selective Listener?

Luke 6:27a ~ “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!

I was just walking toward the kitchen as my husband walked past me and quickly said, “Don’t worry, I have already asked her to clean it all up.”  Then he promptly left the house for work.

I hesitantly walked around the corner and came face to face with my teenage daughter using her feet on two dish towels swiping away at the floor.  When she saw the look on my face she said, “Mom, you should be glad that I already cleaned up a lot of it.  It was really messy earlier.  Great! I thought as I surveyed the flour and powdered sugar dusted counters, the sink and counter full of dishes, and the little drifts of powdered sugar clinging to two of the cabinet doors.

I was already frustrated irritated, okay let’s be really honest, I was angry with her over two other incidents in the last couple of days.  So last night when she just had to bake these cookies for the school project – at 10:30 p.m. – I went to bed.

After cleaning the kitchen (grudgingly because the bus doesn’t wait, and let’s face it, her cleaning methods were just making a bigger mess at the moment), but having her make her own lunch because I was taking care of her mess, I sat down to have a little quiet time with the Lord hoping for a new perspective on things.  He never disappoints.

I was reading the verse that practically screamed off the page at me, “But to you who are willing to listen…”  Well, of course, I listen.  Those who don’t would be the unbelievers or those who pick and choose what they want out of the Bible, right? I felt the Holy Spirit nudge at my heart and ask, “Are you sure it isn’t talking about you?”

Okay, Lord, show me what you want me to see.  He said, “Well, now that you are willing to LISTEN, I’d be happy to show you.  Just keep reading.”  As I read about how I am to love, be good to, bless, and pray for my enemies, I realized I wasn’t even doing that for my family so how could I possibly do it for my enemies.  Oh no! I was a selective listener.

Of course I love my family, I do good for them, I bless them, and I certainly pray for them.  I justified the situation; after all, I was just a little mad at the moment.  But wait, this passage doesn’t stop at those.  Oh goodness, there is more!  What about turning the other cheek, offering my shirt when my coat has been demanded of me, and giving freely without asking for anything in return?  Surely this isn’t talking about my situation because I’m dealing with my child, not enemies.

Hmmm, let’s see.  The end of verse 35 says that if I do all of these things I will truly be acting as a child of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  Then in verse 36 Jesus says, “You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

I know sometimes I have to chastise and discipline my children, and it is clear in God’s word that He does that to us, His children, because He loves us.  But, He is also compassionate toward us, and sometimes just makes sure we are listening and then teaches us the right things to do.

 

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The Path Ahead

The mountain path

The Path

The mountain waits for me to begin my climb. The road leads in, but I can’t see where it goes. Does it end somewhere in there among the trees and boulders that block my view? How treacherous is it?

The mountain is beautiful from here. Untouched by my presence. I can imagine all kinds of things from ground level.

Only taking a step onto that unknown ground will give me an accurate understanding of the road that lies before me.  I can’t see my next step until I take this one.

Here I go.

One hesitant step at a time.

Lord, you’ve promised to be a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.  Let me have eyes to see the light you are shining right at my toes.

Help me stop trying to stare into the distance, squinting through the darkness trying to discern the path ahead.  Is that a bear or just a rock in the shadows?  It’s hard to tell in the darkness of the trees that block my way.

Oh yes, the light, the light I’m supposed to be using is here, here at my feet illuminating the rocks and the dip in the road.  I could easily dismiss them as unimportant.  These aren’t so big. I could have traversed them all on my own.

But isn’t it the little things that trip us up; cause us to stumble and scrape our hands and knees? It’s the little dips in the road we don’t see that catch our toe and throw us down.

I can’t be looking ahead to the big things – they won’t be missed when I come upon them.  I must keep to the road at my feet, letting the light from the lamp of the Lord shine on those things I need to keep my eye on.

 

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He Obeyed

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ~ John 1:1
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. ~ John 1:14a

Everyone knows that Joseph was Jesus’ earthly father, but he has always seemed to me to be this character in the background, kind of just along for the ride in the whole story. That really couldn’t be further from the truth. Joseph was a major player in this redemptive plan.

There may not be much written about him, but the things that are point to someone who was just as carefully chosen to be Jesus’ parent as Mary was. In my last blog post – She Believed, I talked about some reasons why I thought God chose Mary for this assignment… she knew God’s word, she believed it already, and when the angel spoke to her, she believed him.

If we take a look at Joseph’s part in the story, we will see that while Mary believed, Joseph obeyed.

So why was it so important for Joseph to be an obedient man? Mary just had to believe what the angel told her, and then the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she became pregnant. Joseph, on the other hand, not only had to believe what the angel would tell him in his dreams, but he would have to take action.

It was just as important for Jesus to have an earthly father as it was for him to have an earthly mother. In that day, a woman couldn’t survive without a husband. Mary would need a good man to provide for her and her baby as well as keep her safe in very perilous circumstances.

In comes Joseph.

In Matthew 1:19 we see that Joseph is a good man. We also see that he is kind because he doesn’t want to disgrace Mary publicly, but plans to break off their engagement quietly. The law actually gave him the right to have her stoned. Whew! Thankfully he was good and kind.

But, in the midst of his own thoughts on divorcing her quietly, an angel appears to him in a dream and tells him to go ahead and take Mary for his wife because she is telling the truth, and to name this child Jesus. Then it says that when he woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary for his wife, and that he named the child Jesus. Did you see that? He did it when he woke up. He didn’t wait around; immediate obedience.

Matthew 1:22-23 – All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through His prophet:
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! And they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

This isn’t the end of it, though. In Matthew 2:13-14 it says that an angel appears to Joseph again in a dream after the wise men have left, and tells him to get up, flee to Egypt with Jesus and Mary, and to stay there until he is told to return. He leaves that night with Mary and the baby. Again, immediate obedience.

Matthew 2:15 – …This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

A third time the angel comes to him in a dream and tells him that he can go back because those who are trying to kill Jesus are now dead. So, he gets up and heads back to Israel. When he’s afraid to head back into Judea, he’s warned in a dream and leaves for the region of Galilee.

Matthew 2:23 – So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

That is a man of action! He doesn’t hang around, he doesn’t discuss it with anybody, he just gets up and does what he is commanded to do with no arguments. It couldn’t have been easy leaving everything behind each time and heading to unknown places with no family or friends.

Every time Joseph was obedient he took part in fulfilling God’s plan of redemption through His son, Jesus. Yes, he was definitely a major player in this story and not a background character.

We’ve seen that Joseph was a good man, a kind man, and a man of action through obedience. He was dedicated to protecting Mary and Jesus. He’s not mentioned in the great hall of fame of faith filled men in Hebrews, but I have to believe that he is part of the great cloud of witnesses that are surrounding us.

His witness of obedience still echoes through time.

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SHE BELIEVED

As I thought about the coming Advent season this morning, I decided to read the story of Jesus’ birth to begin to prepare my heart.  It always amazes me how the Lord can show me new things in a story I’ve read or heard multiple times.  Today He amazed me once again.

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you! ~ Luke 1:28

Mary was favored.  Why?  What was it about her that caught God’s attention? Why did He choose her to be the mother of His son? Did she do something special or did He just pick her out of a group of girls her age who were descendants of David?

I read on. I found some clues to why I think God chose Mary.

The angel of the Lord visited her and told her that she would conceive a son, name him Jesus, he would be great, would be called the Son of the Most High, be given the throne of David, and would reign over Israel forever.  Wow, pretty incredible stuff! She didn’t ask about all of that, she just wanted to know how it would happen; not all the great stuff, but how was it physically going to happen to her?  She was a virgin. It was almost like she was saying, “What will I have to do to conceive this baby? How will it happen?”

Once she was told, she agreed, even though the ramifications to her could have been devastating. She would be pregnant and not married. Her fiancé, Joseph, would know it wasn’t his. Would anyone believe her story? She could have been stoned for adultery, but she still said yes.  Why?

I think the answer comes in the next few verses.

One thing Elizabeth says to her jumped out at me.

You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” ~ Luke 1:45 NLT

This is happening to her because she believes that the Lord does what He says, but this verse doesn’t say “will” do, it says “would” do. It doesn’t mean that she believes that the Lord will do what the angel said He would do.  The next verses in the beautiful Magnificat reveal the deeper belief Mary had.

Luke 1:46 – 55 ~ Mary responded,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

There it is right there!  Mary knew the covenant promises of God and she already believed they would come to pass. She didn’t just know them, she believed them.  Her praises are filled with references to the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets.

Mary wasn’t just another Israelite girl who was the right age and of the right lineage.  She was a girl who had her heart filled with the Word of God! So when God called on her to be the vessel to bring His son into the world, she was ready and willing.

Another key to how Mary continued in her calling, even through the challenges it would bring, came in another part of the story.

After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.  The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. ~ Luke 2:17 – 20

Mary kept her heart and mind on the right things; the things God was doing, the promises He had made. She could see them being fulfilled right before her eyes because she was watching. She was highly favored and chosen because she believed that the Lord would do what He said, and she was willing to put action to her belief.

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I’m Not Supposed To

“I’m not supposed to……,” means my son with autism has done exactly what he is telling me he’s not supposed to do.  What he’s really saying is, “Oops, I’ve messed up again.  Will you forgive me?  Please help me.”

You see, he can’t seem to help himself.  He knows the rules, he can say the rules, he’s a stickler for others following the rules, but in the moment, he breaks the rules.  We have to help him.  We set up boundaries, we put things in place that stop him when he can’t stop himself, and we exact consequences when needed.

The other day when he had come to me for what seemed like the 50th time that day, I exasperatedly called out to the Lord asking why my child can’t obey the rules.  I know he isn’t trying to rebel.  He really does want to be obedient, but once again he isn’t.

Before I could get all of that out, I got a picture of the Lord in my mind with a twinkle in His eye and a chuckle in His response, “Hmmmm, I don’t know, Debbie, why would a child who knows the rule break it?”  Then scriptures about jealously, gossip, and anger danced before me.  “Could it be a desire to please self outweighs the desire to be obedient in that moment?”

Ouch! I had the distinct impression we weren’t talking about my son anymore, but about my “I’m not supposed to’s.”  How many times have I messed up, done exactly what I know I shouldn’t, but in the moment I just can’t seem to help myself.

Maybe my son knows something I don’t.  The minute he realizes he has been disobedient, he doesn’t run away from me, he runs to me; the rule maker, the one who can forgive him and help him find ways to avoid his lack of restraint.

So, I take a cue from my son and turn my heart to the Lord, “Father, I’m not supposed to…., will You forgive me, will you help me?”

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The Closet Cleaner

But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open. ~ Matthew 6:6 Amplified Bible (AMP)

One version calls it a closet.  My closet? I wouldn’t even invite my best friend into my closet, at least not until I’ve cleaned it up.  At any given time there are muddy shoes, dirty clothes, suitcases, and lots of stuff that doesn’t belong in there, along with all my clothes.  Definitely not a place I would want to entertain the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

But that’s the point, right? Our prayer time isn’t supposed to be to entertain the Lord, it’s to allow him into our deepest most intimate space – the closet of our soul.  He doesn’t want us to only show Him the cleaned up areas of our life; the places we only show company.  He wants to come into the space where all our secrets are kept hidden away, where all the clutter and dirt can begin to hinder us from who we really want to present to the world outside.

The closet of our souls can look a lot like the typical closet; old baggage filled with hurts, pains, and unforgiveness, muddy shoes where we’ve veered off the clean path He’s laid before us, dirty clothes in the form of a sin stained heart and mind in desperate need of washing, and all the stuff – the cares of the world piling high, blocking what we really need to access.

Yes, He wants to meet us in the closet of our hearts and do some cleaning only He can do.  Our baggage will be replaced with restoration, healing, and forgiveness.  Muddy shoes will be cleaned and ready for the path ahead.  The sin stained heart and mind will be washed as white as snow, and all the stuff that blocks our vision and keeps us from the blessings waiting for us will be stripped away.

Okay Lord, come on in. I’m in desperate need of a thorough closet cleaning.

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An Eye and a Giant

1 Samuel 17:48 ~ As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.

The armies faced off, each on their own hill. The battlefield yawned between them in the valley below. A giant of a man stepped into the valley and began his taunt, striking fear and dismay into the hearts of the men he was calling to battle.

As I face a “giant” of my own I cry out, how do I slay this thing?  What do I do?  How do I take it down?  The giant is so big and no others seem to know how to slay it either, so I go to the one place I know I can get my answers.  I search the story of a young teenage boy who ran quickly toward the battle line to meet and slay his giant.

In the midst of this ancient story I find some precious smooth stones I can use to slay my giant.  Keys to having different eyes for the battle that lies before me.  David saw things differently than his Israelite kin, and this view made the difference between standing scared on the hill and racing head on to engage the enemy; a foe that to the physical eye looked unbeatable, but to the spiritual eye was nothing more than bird food.

He saw the enemy for who he really was.

The Israelite army saw the giant, Goliath, as a man; bigger, stronger, and having mighty armor and weapons – unbeatable.

David saw him as an uncircumcised Philistine who dared to defy the armies of the Living God.

An uncircumcised Philistine meant that Goliath wasn’t under the protection and sovereignty of the Living God, and by coming against God’s people, he had made himself an enemy of their God.

Smooth Stone:  I see ~ I am a child of the Living God, and when the enemy engages me he engages Him.

He understood who was fighting the battle.

Goliath stood and shouted day after day asking them why they would come out and line up for battle because he was a Philistine and they were servants of Saul.  They were to choose a man from among them to be their champion to fight and kill him. The Israelites saw themselves as mere men in the face of this great and mighty enemy.  How could any of them be a champion against this giant?

David understood that God himself was their champion. This uncircumcised Philistine had no chance against their great and mighty deliverer.

Smooth Stone:  I understand ~ Jesus is my champion.  According to Philippians 2:9-11, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  There is nothing that can defeat Him.

He kept his eye for the battle.

David’s older brother tried to remind him that he was just a boy, an insignificant shepherd with a few sheep in the desert.  He accused him of having wrong motives and only wanting to watch others do battle.

Saul, the king of Israel, tried to remind him again that he was just a boy and the enemy was well versed and experienced in battle.

Although David’s brother and King Saul were older, had more experience, and were in a greater position than he was they didn’t know what he knew.  They didn’t see what he saw.

Smooth Stone:  I keep my eye ~ My position, age, knowledge, and experience don’t matter in the equation and neither does my naysayers’.

He remembered his victories.

David had fought and killed lions and bears.  He may not have been experienced with this particular foe, but he was not inexperienced.  He had faced battles before and won.

Smooth Stone:  I remember ~ I have been here before.  I have fought other battles with great odds and won, not by my might or power, but by the power of the Lord.  Even if I hadn’t, He has won the ultimate victory, so I’m covered.

He engaged because this fight was not just a battle, it was a cause.

In 1 Samuel 45 – 47, David’s statement to the Philistine shows exactly how he sees the battle:

“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear.  For the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”

David ran to the battle line because he saw through spiritual eyes the heart of God to fight for His people and proclaim His name in all the earth as well as to remind His people that the Lord saves, but not with the weapons of mere men.

Smooth Stone:  I engage ~ I can run to the battle line because this battle isn’t just my own. I fight for a greater cause than just taking down my giant. I come to the battle in the name of Jesus, my salvation and my deliverer, to proclaim His name in all the earth, and remind my fellow Saints that the Lord saves, but not with earthly weapons.

The battlefield stretches before me.  I pick up my five smooth stones; I see, I understand, I keep my eye, I remember, and I engage.  My pace quickens, my foot steps sure, and my eye is on Jesus.

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Did They Know?

nativityWhen Mary said to the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true,” do you think she knew the stretching of her faith it would cause? When Joseph believed the angel and took Mary for his wife, did he know? Did they know the hardships they would face on the way to God’s glorious plan being fulfilled?

You would think that such a powerful promise from God that started out with angels bringing the news would have meant easy street, right? I mean, come on, she’s carrying a baby conceived by the Holy Spirit. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. He’ll reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end! That surely means there will be no trouble ahead.

Wrong. Everyone else wasn’t in on the plan. I’m sure there was talk around town, and probably some finger pointing. Then, when the baby is about to be born they have to travel a long distance to Bethlehem. Of course they should have a nice room with a comfy bed. No, the doors are all closed to them. A dirty manger with stinky animals is all they have.

God are you there? Surely you didn’t plan this? Are you mad at us? Did we do something wrong? Maybe we didn’t hear you right? Were those the questions they were asking or did they know?

Haven’t you felt that way before? You’ve gotten a promise from God, probably not delivered by an angel, but a real sense that God was bringing you something or leading you somewhere. You happily received that promise, and then somewhere down the road everything seemed to fall apart. Nothing happened or it did, but now it is all messed up.

Did they know that all of those things were part of the plan. Maybe they didn’t know that what seemed like a promise gone wrong was actually going to be a big deal in retelling their story. Maybe those times when we think God has left us and things are darkest are going to be the big deal in the retelling of our great faith story.

Of course, we know that God was right there with them orchestrating everything. We know the birth, the death, the resurrection. God knew it all as it was being lived out day by day. He knows our story, too, from beginning to end. Those dark times are in His hands as much as all the wonderful times.

Don’t we know that if Mary and Joseph had to walk out their faith day by day we will too? One small sentence in the story told in Luke 2:18 says, “All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” Did she think back to when the angel told her, “Nothing is impossible with God”? A whole host of angels proclaiming the news of the child and shepherds coming to worship Him? God’s promise was being revealed right before her eyes.

Maybe that is the key for us. As we celebrate this wonderful season of Christ’s birth, let us keep these things in our hearts and think about them often. God is fulfilling His plan in each one of us. It usually doesn’t go the way we think it should, but that doesn’t mean it’s not in His plan.

If you don’t believe me, just look at some other stories – David; annointed king and then running for his life for 15 years. Joseph; dreams of greatness, then is sold into slavery and imprisoned. Don’t let the dark times make you waiver in your faith or think your faith is wasted.

Did they know? Do we know? Either way, God is always faithful. We can put our total faith in the fact that God knows the story from beginning to end.

Reposted from December 2012

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