Cofradia 2013 – Hard to Believe

Hi all!

A team of women is busily preparing to return to Cofradia once again in January, 2013. This year’s trip is scheduled for January 5 – 12, 2013.

The theme for this year’s teaching and events is “Hard to Believe Bible Stories.” Yes, there are sure a lot of stories in the Bible that are hard to believe. We have chosen just a few:

  • Jonah. The whole story of Jonah is hard to believe. Jonah, a prophet (the vessel of God’s voice) of Israel, is sent to Israel’s enemy with a word of judgment and a call to repentance. When Jonah runs in the opposite direction, God send a great storm and prepares a great fish to swallow Jonah and later spit him up on the shore of his destination. Of all the possible reactions, Jonah is greatly distressed by Nineveh’s repentance!
  • Elijah and the Altars on Mt. Carmel. Elijah has prophesied judgment on the king, the land, and the people for worshiping idols. A contest is held on Mt. Carmel between the prophets of Baal and Elijah, the prophet of God. It is hard to believe how the prophets of Baal acted to call for the idol’s attention; it is hard to believe what Elijah did to prove God’s authority; it is hard to believe that some still won’t believe.
  • Jesus on Mt. Calvary and the Empty Tomb. Hard to believe that God would enter into the time and space of a human body and live with us. Not only to live with us and for us, but to die for our sins. Then, after this apparent failure, some women witness the empty tomb and hear of a Living One! Others did not believe their testimony but what came after that event has changed lives into eternity.
  • We are hosting a catered banquet as a special event for the local ladies. They and their friends may come free of cost to enjoy a meal, decorated tables, learn to know some of the women of the Bible, and hear of an invitation to a greater banquet.

What makes each of these stories hard to believe? How do we even know they are true? If they are true, what do they tell us about God? Who is He? What has He done? What is He doing? What will He do? Can we know why God sent Jonah; why God’s fire came from heaven; why God’s Son come to earth; why a home and banquet are prepared for us? How do these old stories affect us? Where do we fit in?

Ah….

What are some of your “Hard to Believe Stories?” What do they tell you?

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Enlarge my heart!

Psalm 119:32

I will run in the way of Your commandments when You enlarge my heart! Psalm 119:32

This is the assertion of the psalmist who also laments in this stanza, “My soul clings to the dust; … “My soul melts away for sorrow.” Have you ever tried to run or even move swiftly when dead tired, full of sadness, weary from weighty things? The lightness of swift running is very appealing – perhaps especially to escape from the circumstances that lead to these feelings! How does a soul rise from the dust and sorrow? Answer: “when You enlarge my heart!”

I chased this thought around in the scriptures and found other uses:

In Genesis 26, the servants of Isaac and Abimilech quarreled over a well. Isaac dug three different wells and named them “contention,” “enmity,” and “Rehoboth – broad places, room enough” which is the same root word as used in Ps. 119:32. “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” (Genesis 26:22)

1 Kings 4:29: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore.”

Isaiah 60:5 – of the future glory of Israel: “Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.”

2 Corinthians 6:11-13 Paul precedes these verses with a list of the marks of a true ambassador of the grace of God including: great endurance, purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God. “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.”

At times it is difficult to figure out what parts of our journey on The Way is our responsibility and what part we must leave to God. In Psalm 119:25-32 do we maybe find some shades of the answer?

Psalm 119:26-27 include telling God of my way, asking God for instruction and understanding, and meditating on His wondrous works. Just as Isaac’s servants had to dig three wells before they had room enough for all to drink, a child of God will continue to work and dig to root out our ways – confessing self-will and sin. Like Solomon we can ask for instruction and then study God’s word to learn His wisdom. Meditating on God’s works may take effort on our part to make the time to quiet the mind and reduce distractions to that one thing.

Then Psalm 119:30-31 contain several statements of commitment: “I have chosen …” and “I cling to…” Endurance, whether in physical exertions or mental activities, is not acquired by passiveness. The same is true of many of the character traits in Paul’s list. Purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, truthful speech develop through continual practice, day after day, year after year, strength built upon strength.

The truly good news, encouragement, and ultimate enlarging come from God’s gracious work. He hears and answers our confessions; He provides and promises the work of His word; His work in the universe is open to the eyes of our heads and hearts! The finished work of Jesus on the cross is the initiation of the new covenant promised that God himself would write the words of His law on our new hearts. The Holy Spirit is given and He enlarges this new heart to overflowing with the forming of our new natures.

There is not a formula answer to the who does what work question; not a guarantee of “If I do X then God will do Y.” I think that is good! I have experienced times when I was unable, or unwilling, to do the work and God graciously provided, but the most profitable times have resulted by deliberate choosing and clinging to God’s word. When I have chosen I been given rewards that truly have enlarged my heart.

Tell Him, ask Him, meditate on His word and works, faithfully choose His ways, and cling to His testimonies. Trust Him to enlarge your heart!

Is there a Christmas Psalm?

This morning as I think about the psalms, I wonder if there is a psalm that could represent or foreshadow our Christmas celebrations. What do you think? Certainly many of the psalms are used to celebrate God’s gifts and goodness, his lovingkindness and benevolence to all people. Maybe, a psalm that mourns would be appropriate for this season, after all Jesus came to earth as the Son of Man for a purpose that involved atonement for our sin. The psalm that came to my mind was one that I read last Easter season as one of the Messianic psalms – Psalm 45. Let’s see if this celebration psalm fits the celebration of Christmas…

“My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.”

Christmas is the time when we get more letters and cards from friends, relatives, dentists etc., than at any other time of year. There is a sense of ‘good tidings’ and happy greetings with one another – those we know and those who are strangers. In the busyness, could one possibly forget to address the verses to the king?

“You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever. Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty!

In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; Let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.”

Splendor and majesty was the heavenly hosts’ message in Luke 2, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Meekness is an attribute that is mentioned in this season, but the sharp arrows and falling people in the Christmas story came at the hand of the evil King Herod instead of the good king that is celebrated in Psalm 45. Peace with God – oh what gift to share with others!

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.”

Here is mention of myrrh and cassia, like the gifts brought by the king makers from the east. One thing we often do not mention at Christmas is that the myrrh and frankincense were used as burial spices also, but they are certainly gifts meant to honor a king.

“Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him. The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people. All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold. In many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions following behind her. With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.”

So now we know, without a doubt, that Psalm 45 is a wedding song. At this point in the psalm we could sing, “Here comes the bride!” Notice well how backwards our modern wedding ceremonies are in that they concentrate on the bride. The wedding featured here, and in Jesus’ own teaching, highlights the coming of and preparations made by the groom for the benefit of his bride. In John 14, Jesus said that he was going away to prepare a place for his own, and that he would return and take them to his Father’s house to be with him. In the parable of the Ten Virgins, the bridegroom comes when his preparations are finished; some of those waiting were ready and others were not.

Is that not what a good portion of the Bible story – God’s story – about? God preparing a people, holy, pure, fit to be presented to the King? Jesus’ birth is the key to the creation of this people because there was no one who met God’s requirements to be joined to His Son. The people God had created as ‘very good’ rebelled and pursued less worthy gods; they sold their purity for a bite of fruit but had to be redeemed at the cost of a life. Jesus came to live a life fully obedient to God and to pay the price for his bride.

Further on in God’s story, Revelation 19, we read of the grandest wedding celebration in the marriage supper of the Lamb to the ready Bride clothed “with fine linen, bright and pure.” A wedding will happen! “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

“In place of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.”

The union of the couple is intended to be productive and long-lasting. Philippians 2:1-8 exhorts those who are in Christ to participate in that union by thinking like Christ and humility in service and obedience as he did. God gave Mary and Joseph instructions as to the name of the Child that would come and this name, Jesus, is remembered and praised in all generations because God has exalted it.

“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.” Philippians 2:9-11

Sing with the heavenly hosts – Merry Christmas! The Bridegroom is coming!

Wise Ones

I have been posting some of my old “Greetings” on our Women’s Ministry site in the Weekly Devotional.

We often associate the wise men with their gifts, maybe because that’s what we want!, but is that all we know about them?

Pop on over to visit…

 

 

 

A Story of Many Passions: 2 Samuel 11-12

A war with Israel’s enemy was being fought by strong and courageous soldiers in the field. In the spring, King David sent his commanders to fight, but he stayed home in Jerusalem. And the Bible records this story.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch, he walked about on his roof and saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful. David sent to find out who she was. Her name was Bathsheba; she was the daughter of Eliam, and the wife of Uriah, both were men in David’s army. David wanted this woman and he sent for her and lay with her as if she was his wife. She conceived and sent word to David, “I am with child.”

Well! David sent for Uriah to come home from the battle. “How is the war going?” he asked. “Are the soldiers doing well?” Then he told Uriah, “Go home. Relax! Enjoy your wife while you are home.” But Uriah did not go to his house or to his wife.

Then David invited Uriah to dinner and tried to make him drunk, but still Uriah remained on duty and did not go home to his wife. So David wrote a letter to his commander and instructed him to send Uriah to the area of battle that was the most dangerous. There was such a battle, and many soldiers, including Uriah, were killed.

This was reported to David and after Bathsheba had mourned the death of her husband, David took her to be his wife and she had a baby boy.

“But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.” (2 Samuel 11:27)

A Story within our Story (2 Samuel 12:1-7)

And the LORD sent Nathan, a prophet, to David.

Nathan came to King David and said, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

Then David’s anger was great against the rich man and he said, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

“YOU ARE THIS MAN!” Nathan said to David.

Nathan then told David a message from God; how God had blessed David and given him many good things. “Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?” You took what was not yours and murdered Uriah with the sword of your enemy. Now I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. This sword of death will not leave your house. Your wives will be taken by others and everyone will see it. You sinned in secret but the consequence will be as under the sun.

“I have sinned against the LORD,” said David to Nathan. (Psalm 52)

Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. But, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”

And this happened. David’s sin had consequences. His child did die. There was much evil and violence in David’s house. His wives and daughters were violated, and his sons rebelled against him. David was forgiven and his confession includes a renewed joy in his salvation but what earthly sorrows came to him.

What can we learn?

As you hear this story, you can list David’s sins: he was lazy, he looked at what was not for him, he desired what belonged to someone else, he took what was not his, he tried to cover-up his sins with tricks and lies, he tried to encourage another to sin, and he caused the murder and death of many men. This list of sins seems horrible, but we do these sins too. In fact Jesus taught that even if we think these things in our hearts, we sin against God.

Just as we follow the paths of sin as David did, we can follow his path to repentance and forgiveness. God is full of grace and He gave us his word to show how David confessed his sins.

Psalm 51 is a record of David’s prayer and we will examine it next to see what we can learn from it.

Another WORD regarding Psalm 19

I can’t seem to leave Psalm 19 just yet…

Psalm 19 can be divided into three sections, each of which revolves around words. The first six verses tell us that the very existence and exquisite functioning of creation are soundless words that declare the glory of God; the next five verses refer to the perfection and profitable benefits of the words of God in His law, testimony, precepts, and commandments – words written for our great reward; the psalm concludes with a prayer for God’s word to work in us and on our thoughts and words.

The word theme in this psalm reminded me of one of my favorite passages of scripture and it seems appropriate to bring it forward in this advent season.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … And the Word become flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. … And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. John 1:1-5, 14, 16-18

Then I also thought of an often used quote attributed to Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” This quote is certainly a useful reminder that others read messages from our actions but really – How does another person know the good news message of John 1, without shared words? Service to other’s needs shows compassion and care, actions may speak louder than words that one is a new creature, but it is not possible to bring another person to the Salvation who visited on mankind without speaking the words of the gospel. Peter acknowledged the importance of words. Many followers left when Jesus’ teaching turned to the ‘foolishness’ of his body and body and he asked the small group of disciples if they too would walk away from him. Peter’s response: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

Can you proclaim, preach, discuss, speak, and give witness to the good news of the Gospel with real words, words of eternal life?

Think about this now, at Christmas time. So many opportunities to lead into the words of good news!

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us – Immanuel.

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” – Savior. (Matthew 1:20-21)

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ (Messiah), God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God – The Prince of Peace. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Glory, Glory, Glory to the Lord! (Hebrews 1:1-4)

Psalm 19

Psalm 19 is a magnificent Psalm to practice reading with all of our eyes. Read it and ask:

  • What do the words say?
  • What images do the words show to my mind?
  • What does God tell about Himself and about me?

 Psalm 19:1-6

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
3 There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

What do the words say?

Nature is speaking. The heavens and skies declare, proclaim, and speak of God’s glory. They are heard all the time, with a voice and language understood by all the earth, to the ends of the world. Their message is the glory of God. The heavens and skies know the glory of God. The sun is given as a specific example to show this glory.

What images do the words show to my mind?

Think of how many different ways we see the skies – during the day, at night, in the mists of morning, and the soft slipping away of the day. Can you see the skies filled with stars, clouds, birds and butterflies? Do you imagine the heavens brightened by a moon or sun, stormy with thunderclouds, or painted with a rainbow? If the sun is given as an example of glory, what do you know about it? Can you look at it? Like the sun, glory is coming, blazing bright, strong, victorious, and never-ending; it will be felt by everything.

What does God tell about Himself and about me?

The Psalm says that the skies and heavens don’t speak with words but simply the way they look and behave testifies to a wondrous Creator God. The Bible’s first words to us are, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The heavens and the earth were the first to be able to tell of His glory. We can look up, down, in or out and see what marvelous works God has done in nature and we understand without words and without a translator that God is an awesome God.

We know that in the story of Ruth, Boaz was her wing of protection. Ruth and Boaz get married and he becomes her permanent protector. The Book of Ruth in the Bible ends with the birth of King David’s grandfather and David wrote many, many of the Psalms. The story of the Bible, God’s story throughout history, is of the preparation of His people to be the perfect, spotless and pure bride for His Son Jesus. Like the sure glory of the sun rising each morning, Jesus promised to return for His people as their bridegroom! If you are promised to Jesus, you are waiting for your bridegroom just as each day waits for the arrival of the sun.

Psalm 19:7-11

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

What do the words say?

This section moves from nature to the word of God, the Scriptures. Each verse has a statement about the scriptures and then follows with a benefit. God’s written word is perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, sure and righteous, precious, sweet, and rewarding. The metaphors used to teach us about the scriptures are precious like gold and sweet as honey. We learn that the scriptures are from the Lord for us his servants. We benefit with revived souls, wisdom, joy, light and life, warning and protection, and a great reward.

What images do the words show to my mind?

When we read the many words used for the word of God, maybe our minds see the many different books and stories in the Bible. The metaphor of the gold might trigger a vision of many precious things and that leads you to the intent of this passage – to make you value and treasure these words, to hold them close in your heart, to have them with you at all times to enjoy the benefits promised. An image of sweeter than honey leads to a pleasant taste and an increasing desire for more of God’s word. Any of the parallel phrases might capture your imagination and desire for that kind of reward for your study of God’s word.

What does God tell about Himself and about me?

The first section of this Psalm said that the heavens and skies testified about God without words but all the earth heard them. People communicate with words and God’s word is the way He communicates to us. We can’t know the truth about God’s love, His holiness, His desires for our life until we read God’s own words. Nature will only take us so far in our knowledge of God and then we need the revelations found in the Bible to know Jesus and what is in God’s heart. The eyes of our hearts are opened to see that the “fear of the LORD” is a good fear and it is through that good fear that we live as His servants.

Psalm 19:12-14

12 Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

What do the words say?

Now here is a question: “Who can discern his errors?” Are there errors? Yes! Oh, yes, so many, many errors that the writer begins praying immediately asking for forgiveness, protection, power, and pardon. This is a very personal prayer to the “LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” asking that our words and even our thoughts be pleasing to Him.

What images do the words show to my mind?

What does your mind’s eye see when you read this prayer? Would a prideful person be praying this prayer? Does the person praying this prayer have anything hidden? Is he keeping anything back? This prayer is really opening the heart and mind for God to examine for any sinful actions and thoughts.

What does the Rock stand in for? A rock is sold and firm. A strong building must be put on a solid rock foundation in order to last for the family to live there. Hiding behind a rock will give protection and hiding in a rock, like in a cave, is safe shelter from many storms.

A Redeemer pays a price to purchase something owned by another. Do you see this transaction taking place? What is the price? Who is being redeemed?

What does God tell about Himself and about me?

Meditate a while on the fact that we have gone from the wonder of God’s creation, to the precious, sweet gift of God’s word, all the way to His focus on a hidden thought. How great is our God!

Each section of this Psalm tells of God’s greatness and has a message about His care for His people – you! The words of God are for you to study as truth, as wisdom, to be treasured and delighted in. These words will be used by God to make you pure and spotless and we can even pray for His help in this process! His promise of a bridegroom for you is as sure and the daily rising of the sun.

It is only in God’s word that we learn that the price our Redeemer paid for us was His own life. Our Redeemer is Jesus, God’s son, who came to earth, lived a blameless life, but died on the cross because of our sins. This redemption price was acceptable to God because after three days, Jesus rose out of the grave like the sun rising in the sky. God’s word tells us that He is now at God’s right hand interceding – praying – for those who are purchased by His life.

None of our thoughts, words, and actions are hidden from God. Those that are in error are sins, and God, not you, determines the errors. But forgiveness and pardon is here if we humbly confess and believe that Jesus paid the price for our redemption. You can come to the Redeemer and be acceptable in the sight of your glorious God – your LORD, Rock and Redeemer.

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