Monday, October 12, 2015

The Ancient Paths

"Thus says the LORD, stand at the crossroads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.  But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'"
(Jeremiah 6:16)

I'm a new resident to the Antelope Valley.  I'm really enjoying living in Southern California.  There's so much to do and so many places to go.  I usually just use the GPS service on my iPhone when it comes to getting around.  I type in the location and follow Siri's advice on which route to travel.  Nine times out of 10 I opt for the quickest route.

But occasionally I choose an alternate journey.  Not the fastest... maybe a more scenic drive.  Or even better, someone who lives here will give me directional advice and I"ll take a route I'd ever have considered.  That's how Jack took me to Tehachapi.  That's how we returned from Santa Clarita (via the Bouquet Canyon Rd.). 

Jeremiah was preparing the people of Judah for their impending exile.  The people had forsaken God.  They'd neglected his commands.  They worried only about themselves, never caring for others.  So God was going to disrupt their lives to get their attention.

Jeremiah uses an incredible metaphor to remind the people what their game plan should be: "stand at the crossroads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls."  So obvious, yet we often ignore this sage advice.

Guys (like me) get a bad rap for not wanting to ask for directions.  We'll figure it out ourselves, thank you very much.  But we often miss opportunities this way. Same with the people of Judah.  They had a chance to listen to the prophets, to follow the advice of hte forefathers and foremothers.  But they didn't. And they suffered.

I want to find rest for my soul.  I want to walk in the "ancient paths".  I want to journey along the good ways.   So I turn to the Holy Scriptures.  I read the Bible and meditate on the wisdom found therein.  I listen to the advice of elders, and those men & women of faith who've "gone before" me.  I want to ask for directions!

Keep me humble & open, LORD.  Direct my heart to ask for directions and to seek the ancient paths for my life.  Thank you for coming alive to me in scripture reading.  AMEN!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

No money? No problem.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, 'I will never leave you or forsake you.'"
(Hebrews 13:5)

There's a famous passage in the Bible that says "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10).  Most of us know that.  Money is important, but it's not the pinnacle of life.  We don't need to make it our primary focus, the end-all and be-all of our existence.

Today I was reading Hebrews 13, and verse 5 starts off with that familiar reprise: "Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have."  Okay.  Check.  Got it.  But then the author added one more caveat that caught me off guard: "... for he has said, 'I will never leave you or forsake you.'"  It's not just that when we fall in love (lust?) with money that bad things can happen.  It's not just hat pining for things we don't have gets us in trouble.  No.  Hebrews tells us that we don't need to "go all in" on acquiring money and things because Jesus is always with us.  He is our everything!  He can sustain us, no matter what our bank account says.  He, not money, can provide for our every need.

What a good word for me to hear right now.  I've never really been inclined to let my heart drift towards the love of money.  (I do, however, frequent in search of "great deals" on sale... often for things that I don't really "need.")  But we're still waiting for Jody to find a job here in the Antelope Valley.  She's decided not to commute the 1+ hour trek "down below" to where there are many more opportunities.  She wants to stay close to the church so she can be involved in the total life of our faith community.  But we're at the point (3+ months into this new appointment in California) that our savings has just about run out.

But instead of worrying about money, I'm reminded this morning that God will never leave us or forsake us.  So we'll hang tight and wait patiently on the LORD to provide.  Because that will be enough.  Amen & Amen!

Spring Cleaning

[From Oct. 6, 2015]

"The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, 'I have found the book of the Law in the house of the LORD.'  When Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, he read it."
(2 Kings 22:8)

Josiah became king when he was a mere 8 years old.  He had a good mom, he loved the LORD, and he was one of the few kings of Judah who "did what was right in the sight of the LORD."

When he turned 18, he instructed his temple secretary (Shaphan) to have the high priest (Hilkiah) open the temple donation box and start repairs.  (I wonder if this was the first time in his 10-year reign that he'd suggested that be done?!?)  In the course of the repair project, Hilkiah found a book and gave it to Shaphan.  The author doesn't say if Hilkiah read the book (you'd like to think a high priest would open it and see what it was, right?!?), but it does say that's just what Shaphan did!  The temple secretary took the time to find out what it was, and everything changed.  He read it out loud to the king, who realized this was a holy book of God's instructions (probably Deuteronomy), and his people for centuries had been neglecting its message.  Massive reform followed and Judah returned to seeking the LORD.

So who was the catalyst for this amazing revival in Israel?  Josiah, who initiated the repair project request?  Hilkiah, who found the lost book? Shaphan, who read it, understood it, and then communicated it in its entirety to the king?  It's probably just best to credit God for prompting the hearts of all involved.  However, this amazing story tells me a number of things about life and faith:
  • Everything (even the church) can use a good cleaning out every now and then...
  • Antiques (ie. old books) are only valuable if you take the time to read them and understand what they are...
  • God's word (the Bible) is powerful and lifesaving... if only we'll act on what we read there...
  • It's never too late to repent, reform, and return to the Lord!
Thank you God for this amazing story of cleansing, correction, renewal & revival.  Please don't let my life (or church) be so "cluttered" that I lose sight of what's truly important.  Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me!

A calming Presence

[From Oct. 2, 2015]

"Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress; he made the storm be still and the waves of the sea were hushed."
(Psalm 107:28-29)
Psalm 107 speaks about God restoring the Israelite exiles from Babylonian captivity.  The psalmist uses a variety of metaphors to illustrate this.  One deals with ocean imagery.  The people are compared to sea merchants doing business via shipping.  God is the one who orchestrates the wind, waves and the "at sea" experience.  But the sea is often treacherous and overwhelming.  The people got in "over their head" and cried out to the God.  God heard their cry, "brought them out of their distress," and calmed the storm.

The metaphor works fine.  But my heart & mind went straight to Jesus... and his experience with the disciples out on the Sea of Galilee... caught in the storm... Jesus calmed the sea and quieted the waves there, the true embodiment of Emmanuel: God with us!  It's just another reminder to me that God not only hears my cries, but can "calm the storms" of my life - if only I'll look to Him (and not just try to calm them on my own strength/insight).

Thank you, LORD, for your constant presence in my life - especially during the storms.  Calm and quiet the drama so I can focus more on you.  Amen.


[From Oct.1, 2015]

"You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you... For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you."
(Isaiah 62:4-5)

Weddings are occasions for great joy!  Just about everyone loves going to a wedding.  The bride always looks amazing.  She's surrounded by her closest friends.  The groom is so excited to see his bride.  There's a solemn covenant made before God and others.  There's music, dancing, food, fun... it's simply a fabulous event!

Isaiah 62 tells us that no matter how we think God feels about us (and sometimes we feel forsaken & abandoned by God because of life's circumstances), the TRUTH is that God loves and delights in us!  And Isaiah uses wedding imagery to talk about that love and commitment on God's part!  God rejoices in us, like a bridegroom over a bride!

What a powerful metaphor.  God has made an eternal commitment to us - to love, care for, and be in relationship with us.  Not because God has to... but because God WANTS to!  How amazing is that?

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways you love and delight in us.  Help me never to forget that.  And help me to honor the commitment you've made to me, by the way I live my life in relationship to you!