Posts Tagged ‘Old Testament’

The secret to living the Christian life is to become best friends with the Holy Spirit. He has all the right qualities for that role and will not disappoint you- Charles Stanley

I posted this quote from Pastor Stanley’s InTouch Ministries devotional some time ago while Allana and I were deep in the treatment for her Leukemia.  It has been percolating in my brain since then.  The importance of this statement has become clearer and clearer in my life, though the topic languished here in the draft file.

As we walked the difficult road of cancer we greatly appreciated the observations and comments about our faith and commitment to Christ through the trial.  The truth is we don’t see it.  We didn’t then and we don’t really now.  We do not feel overly special, or faithful and certainly not holy.  Yet we see the impact of our lives and are humbled by it and blessed to see the Holy Spirit working around us in the lives of God’s people and in the lives of those soon to join the family!  So what is the secret.  Well it is not so secret.

The Holy Spirit is our Best Friend.  Friendship takes time to cultivate.  I think that too many times we think that we have all the time in the world to become friends with the Holy Spirit and that we do not need to become close with the Holy Spirit until the S*** hits the fan.  The reality is that if we wait until we decide we need the friendship of the Holy Spirit to cultivate that relationship we are in for a tough time of it.  This is just another view of the Hupomone lifestyle.  If you read the Intro to Hupomone you will see that the Greek word mean “remain under” or “remain about”.  This is the only way that a true friendship will develop.  It is the result of persistence, perseverance, steadfastness (all words used to translate Hupomone).

Many Christians believe that Acts 2 was the beginning of the relationship with the Holy Spirit for the disciples. However if you read the Gospels carefully you will find Jesus intentionally leading the disciple into relationship as a part of guiding them into relationship with Himself.  Even in the Old Testament we find the Holy Spirit in relationship with men like David, Moses, Elijah and others.  Luke notes that Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied about his son.  He also notes that Simeon who greeted Mary, Joseph and young Jesus had the Holy Spirit upon him.  No Acts 2 was not the beginning of the relationship for the disciples, it was the culmination of the relationship.  In fact it was the culmination of the relationship for all mankind.  The cross bridged the gap between man and God allowing the Holy Spirit to enter an new level of relationship.  The disciples would hold on to the Holy Spirit as their best friend, most even to their deaths.

“As Moses, David, and Mary discovered, getting to know may include walking with Him through life’s darkest valleys.  But in these times, we gain tremendous insight into the Father’s character.”  Dr. Charles Stanley

 Is the Holy Spirit your best friend?

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Good Morning!

So yes I have taken a break from writing while Allana was writing her “90 Day Faith Walk”.  I share some of the posts here but if you would like to do the whole “Walk” you can find it HERE.  Also her women’s group True Beauty is open for new members from April 26th until May 17th.  There is currently a waiting list but Allana will be adding additional members.  The group operates on Facebook and is by invitation only.  If you are interested you can email me for more information.

 

The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever .

So here is the reality of The Nineteen days.  We never know when we are living them out.  The Guidry’s are not really unique in this experience.  I would guess that everyone of you has walked through their own Nineteen Days, innocent of the storm that was just over the horizon.  The fact is that this was not my first journey through the Nineteen Days, but it is my first journey through them where I truly understood David’s heart as he penned this Psalm.  How we walk out the Nineteen Days is a function of this Psalm.  Sentence by sentence it is a guide written by a man who walked through his own Nineteen Days many times over.

David knew about enemies.  He faced them in a literal way that few of us have ever (and most of us will never) experience.  Whether it was the giant Goliath or his own son Absalom David’s life was filled with the turmoil that mortal enemies brings. We are unlikely to face an armored giant or have our son plot to steal everything we have but the enemies we face are just as real as those that assaulted David’s peace. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.  Other times ( and this phrase is a poetic restatement of the “Valley of the shadow of death”) the simple fact that we are God’s people in an ungodly world places us in the presence of our enemies.  God’s table provides sustenance and hospitality in the presence of those who hate him and us and it IS God’s table.  He does not call us to prepare our own tables in enemy territory.  He calls us to sit at his table under the covering of his hospitality.  Just as wisdom prepares a place for those who seek God in Proverbs 9, God has prepared this haven in the midst of turmoil.

There is the key phrase, “in the midst”, David says “In the presence”.  This is a concept that too many Christians just don’t get; that too many preachers and teachers ignore.  It is attractive to us, to just avoid the whole “valley of the shadow of death”.  Certainly if I pray right and have enough faith I can just stay on the mountaintop all the time!  When Allana was first diagnosed with cancer we had several very well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ who assumed that if we just prayed and had faith Allana would be instantly and miraculously healed.  Now don’t get me wrong I completely believe that God does heal!  I also believe that God intervened on many occasions throughout our journey through Cancer.  However when Allana and I prayed and sought God, especially following our first round of Chemotherapy, His answer was “I need you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, My rod and My staff will comfort you.  I will prepare a table in the presence of your enemies.  You will dwell in My house forever.”  The fruit that has come from the walk in the valley has been truly amazing.  God has provided opportunity after opportunity for us to share Him with so many.  Here is the cool thing about the tradition of hospitality in the Old Testament times, strangers were welcome at the table.  The table that God has prepared for us “in the presence of mine enemies” is one that we are free to invite ALL to join.  It is not a table that we are supposed to wall off or cower under.  It is a place that is made for us to introduce our enemies to our most gracious (literally full of grace) host Jesus Christ our saviour and Lord.  Who will you invite to sit at God’s table?

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Lion's Den

 As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm. And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king.  Daniel 1:20-21

Daniel is one of the most amazing characters in the Bible for a number of reasons.  Our canon of Scripture places Daniel among the prophets but the Jewish Scriptures do not.  The Jewish Canon places it in a group called The Writings.  While one cannot deny Daniel’s prophetic gift, he did not hold the office of prophet.  Certainly God calls on him repeatedly to speak  to the various leaders of Babylon, but that leads us to another unique thing about Daniel.  Other than the fact that Daniel was a Jew and was taken at a young age from his home in Judah the contents do not speak of or to the Jews.

So what do we know about this enigmatic figure and author of one of the 39 books of our old testament (one of the 24 in the Jewish Canon)? Daniel lived in the sixth century BC.  His family was either of the royal family or the nobility.  Pretty much everything that we know directly of Daniel comes from the book bearing his name.  The authorship of the book is much debated but I do not doubt that Daniel wrote it near the end of his life, probably after he had retired from public service.  I find most other textual criticism to be contrived either for academic reasons (you have to write your dissertation on something) or with the express need to explain away the miraculous.  He grew up during hard times in Judah.  His dedication to God from the very beginning would indicate to me that his parents were godly people living in ungodly times.  They are not mentioned here or elsewhere in Scripture.  If they did survive the siege and capture of Jerusalem Daniel was taken from them at around the age of 13.  This was the typical age at which the Babylonians of this era began training for public servants.  We are able to historically place the siege and capture of Jerusalem right around the year 605 BC.  This enables us to date many aspects of Daniel’s life, particularly when his service to Babylon began and ended.  This is what caught my attention and brought me to look a little deeper at the life of this man of God, this man of  hupomone (perseverance).  Daniel as we said was not a prophet, he was not a priest nor a missionary.  He was a public administrator and in many ways a politician by trade.  Daniel served God in the Babylonian courts and government until the year or year after Cyrus captured Babylon seizing control of that empire.  That event is historically established as occurring in 540 BC.  So Daniel served God in his capacity as an administrator for several versions of the Neo-Babylonian Empire from 605 BC until 540 BC, or including training around 65 years!  That is some serious Hupomone!  Throughout that time he maintained his dedication to and love for God, even facing death!  He probably spent the last few years of his life (from 540,41 to 543,44) penning the book under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which would become of part of the canon of Scripture we hold as the Word of God today!  He was very much an Old Testament Missionary, called to a pagan people to speak the heart of God.  Consider his words to Nebuchadnezzar: ‘Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’  Daniel 4:27 It seems that most often studies of Daniel focus in on either the eschatological aspects of his prophecies or just a few specific events within the book.  The next few weeks will be dedicated to looking at Daniel and the Long Haul.

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“Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears.

Ezekiel 24:16

(I do want to start this with a disclaimer: While I do believe that God has called us to walk this difficult road for His purposes and have already seen incredible fruit from our experiences both within us and around us, I have no reason to believe that Allana is going to be taken from us any time soon.)

Serving God can at times be overwhelming.  We are not told a lot about Ezekiel’s wife, just that she was “the delight” of his eyes.  Ezekiel loved her.  She was perhaps, next to God, the most important thing in Ezekiel’s life.  I have heard it taught that Ezekiel somehow sinned in his desire for his wife, that he had placed her above his devotion to God.  This is simply not in the text and perhaps arises from the desire to believe that God is here to serve us instead of the other way around.  We serve a God who loves us immensely.  We also serve a God who commands ultimate obedience, honor and trust.  The circumstances surrounding this loss are not known to us.  It can be supposed that Ezekiel’s wife succumbed to a fatal illness, a much more common occurrence in the those days than living a long and healthy life.  I can easily imagine Ezekiel crying out to God in prayer over her having been there many times for Allana.  I cannot but believe that Ezekiel’s wife was a godly woman, the respected and honored wife of a priest.  Why O lord does she have to go through this?  And the answer comes,” “For my purposes”

Paul understood service to God when he wrote to the Philippians, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, ” (Philippians 1:29)  Carizomai does not mean imposed upon or required.  It carries the sense of a pleasant task, a favor, something given benevolently.  As His servants, suffering for His name and for His purposes is part of the gift, but in the same book we find that this gift is paired with something else.  “ Rejoice in the Lord always ; again I will say, rejoice !  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will  guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)  This does not mean that everything is going to go the way that we desire it to, it means that through the storm we will be able to say, “It is well with my soul”.

God called Ezekiel to more than just losing the love of his life.  He is called to contravene the social norms of the day and to not enter into what was the common practice of very public and very loud mourning.  God calls him to “groan silently”.  Paul says, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.”  We are called to a holy standard not only in the gift of suffering for His name, but in the Holy Spirit empowered ability to break the customs of this world in our reaction to that suffering and show the very nature of God in our actions.  When we do that the world takes notice!   “and in the evening my wife died. And in the morning I did as I was commanded. The people said to me, “Will you not tell us what these things that you are doing mean for us?” (Ezekiel 24:18-19)  It is in the very city of Philippi that we get the story of the Philippian Jailer.  After being beaten and praising God through a night of imprisonment Paul and Silas are able to lead their captive audience, the jailer, and his whole family to Jesus.  “Sirs, What must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30)

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I just went back and read my Christmas Eve post on Nisa.  This is a quote from that post:

We have a mighty heavenly Father who cares for us in ways that I cannot begin to fathom.  He loves us in a way that is so far beyond my understanding that I only touch the edges of what AGAPE really means!

Several weeks ago while in prayer God gave me the name Nisa Faith.  Indeed she is a miracle of faith, not the simple faith of a single prayer or even the cry for healing but the faith of a 9 year journey.  She represents to us the faith of Abraham as he led his entire family to Canaan.  She represents the faith of Joseph as he waited in slavery, in prison for God to act.  She is even now, yet in the womb that miracle, an incredible act of God.

I did not know how real it was going to have to become in just a few short day.  I did not know that the flu symptoms that my beautiful wife was having were not the flu at all.  10 days later Allana was in the hospital in a battle for her life with a deadly disease known by its acronym ALL chromosome positive; Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Philadelphia Chromosome positive.   Allana’s CaringBridge site follows the details of our experience.  Throughout this time we have had ups and downs.  I have faced the prospect of losing her and I have faced the deep pain of watching her suffer in ways that I could not even have imagined.  Yet the statement that I made 8 days after Nisa’s birth remains the truest thing in my life:

We have a mighty heavenly Father who cares for us in ways that  I cannot begin to fathom.  He loves us in a way that is so far beyond my understanding that I only touch the edges of what AGAPE really means!

I truly believe that it is this core belief that has opened up our lives for the miraculous interventions that have followed us throughout this experience. It is when we tie our relationship with God to our circumstances that trouble occurs.  If we accept that when bad things happen God somehow has diminished his love for us then our spiritual life will be a roller coaster of highs and lows, undermining our ability to grow spiritually.  The core statement then becomes:

We have a mighty heavenly Father who cares for us when life is good.  He loves us when I understand and can grasp the good things that he gives us.

I have recently been reading Ezekiel.  My heart broke for him as I read the simple verse in the middle of chapter 24. 

 “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears.”

It is with that statement that God informs Ezekiel that his wife is going to die.  We are not given any of the back story or the circumstances, just that as a part of his office as prophet of God, as a part of his calling to serve the almighty, as a part of her calling to serve Him, his beloved wife was going to die.  Two things we need to understand here.

1.  Ezekiel was not told by God to just ignore the death of his wife and not to mourn for her.  The culture of the day and even through to today in many cultures in the region, called for very loud and public mourning.  We know that in Jesus day wealthy families would hire professional mourners to make the process as loud and public as possible.  It was this public and plastic mourning that God called Ezekiel to ignore.  “17 Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food [of mourners].”   This was extraordinary behavior for a recognized public figure.  God calls us as His elect to extraordinary behavior but he does not expect us to be wooden soldiers.  This mourning would be between God and Ezekiel.  And while the text does not explicitly say so, I believe that the phrase, The Word of the Lord came to me… is an indication of the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit.  Dabar is the Hebrew equivalent of Logos.  I am not going to jump into a word or phrase study here but I want to make the point that God did not leave Ezekiel hanging.  Ezekiel did not have the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we as New Testament believers enjoyed (He does note that the Holy Spirit entered him at one point and helped him to stand (Ezekiel 2:2).  Still “The Word of the Lord” was with him.  Ezekiel’s continued obedience and interactions with God’s people are a testament to his continued faith in God’s love for him.

2.  Ezekiel’s experience was not in vain.  When the Spirit of God moves things happen!  We may not understand or see the full scope of what God is doing but he calls His people to extraordinary behavior in extraordinary circumstances for His glory and to extend the purposes of His love for all mankind.

19 The people said to me, “Will you not tell us what these things that you are doing mean for us?” 

When God’s people do the extraordinary within the context of the extraordinary people notice.  And honestly what we do within the context of the ordinary often appears extraordinary to those who do not have a relationship with God.  We are not often told the impact of the words spoken by the Old Testament prophets.  I have to believe that while the national fate was sealed by the word of God individuals were impacted by the message and turned their faith to Him even as everything around them fell apart.

3.  It is in our relationship with God that the extraordinary occurs not out of ourselves.  It was the Holy Spirit through Ezekiel who defied the cultural norms to bring God’s message to the people of Israel. ” …for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1:21  Ezekiel’s response to this catastrophic even in his life is a direct response to the Holy Spirit.  I can assure you that his heart was breaking even as he rejoiced at the work of God being done in and through his life.  Some day I believe we will be able to talk to the individuals impacted by the ministry of Ezekiel even as the nation fell apart and  fell into exile.

Whatever circumstances one faces the opportunity for the extraordinary exists for all of the followers of Jesus who have the Holy Spirit as an integral part of their lives.  It is interesting that the less that we attempt to be extraordinary and only seek to be obedient, the more extraordinary things God accomplishes through us.

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This is  a study that I first wrote before Nisa’s birth and before the present trial that God has placed in our path.  More than ever the depth of God’s love for His people as illustrated by Hosea’s call and response to that call inspires my heart and lets me rest in the knowledge of His Grace.

“When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry ; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.”  So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.”  Hosea 1:2-3

Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.”  Hosea 3:1

Hosea is first and foremost a love story.  It is a live action representation of the redemptive love story called The Bible.  When I first read this amazing story I glossed over these two passages.  I did not really conceive of what God was asking of Hosea.

It is in chapter three that the reality of Hosea’s call becomes clear. Suddenly all of the technical sniping about the legal ramifications and the arguments over interpretation seem shallow.  Hosea was called by God to create in life a wonderful picture of His love for us, the love that culminated on a cross outside of Jerusalem and was fulfilled by an empty tomb!  It is a love that is sacrificial, one that accepts rejection and seeks redemption.  It is love that forgives offense and pursues atonement but it is a love that recognizes the requirements of holiness and demands a response.  It is a love that understands that in the absence of that response destruction comes.

“Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.  You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, You have eaten the fruit of lies.  Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors”  Hosea 10:12-13

In this case I like the NIV’s translation of CHECED (rendered kindness by the NAS), “unfailing love”.  I think this considers well the overall theme of Hosea.

“Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love…”

This foreshadows Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in Matthew 22 when asked what the greatest commandment was.  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind soul…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”


The formula is simple: Righteous living = Love.  God called Hosea to graphically demonstrate this love, the love of Righteousness.  He also calls us to love the un-lovable and shows us that this can be done without sacrificing righteousness.  Hosea never accepted and/or condoned her sin but he went and loved her, went and redeemed her where she was at.  In just the same way Christ came to our sorry estate and loved us, redeemed us.  Now he waits for our response.  Just as Hosea required a response from Gomer,

Then I said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days.  You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you.”  Hosea 3:3

Here the story of Hosea ends and the application to Israel begins.

“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them.  For the ways of the Lord are right, And the righteousness will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them.”  Hosea 14:9

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Since Allana was diagnosed with Leukemia this place has been a mad house.  People ask the question and I find myself saying over and over, I have had to redefine what is a good day and what is a bad day.  The new normal for Allana, myself and our family is a bad day by the old standards, every day.  As I sit here thinking about this redefining process and my relationship to God it became clear to me that my relationship with God is the catalyst and the key to it.  This is what God does for us.  This is how he grows and draws us close.  A burning bush redefined life for Moses.  Suddenly a good day was risking his life standing before Pharaoh, or before his very own irate people.  I cannot help but wonder if Moses did not wish for the good old days of tending sheep in the hills of Midian.  Joseph had his days redefined in Egypt several times.  An angel by a wine press redefined a good day for Gideon.  Job, well Job is Job and he is perhaps the poster child for the redefining process.  Jesus redefined a good day for the disciples, over and over and over.  Then He redefined it for the universe by dying on Calvary.  I can almost hear God in his best Jerry Maguire impression on that day speaking to His People:  You know our little venture, well it had a big day, a really big day.  Now I complete you!.  Each of these has a real element of BAD to them.  It is important to realize that God does not want us to suffer, but He USES it and yes ALLOWS it because it serves His purposes in achieving Romans 8:28 which outlines the end result of the redefining process.  The good thing about this process is that it has a core.  It is a core that is made of rock hard incorruptible absolute truth.  It is a core that is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and immutable.  What happens is that in all this redefinition we actually come to a single truth.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?   Micah 6:8

Circumstances change but a good day is when we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.  I cannot say that today was a good day, but We believe and we are learning  God give us grace and power to make tomorrow a good day, no matter what the circumstances are.

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