Day 3 | Roadblocks

day 3What are the roadblocks in your life?  What causes you to stumble in your faith?  What trips you up just as you are beginning to run well the race of life?

For the Israelites, the Jordan River was a roadblock.  It stopped the progression of the promise.  After all the years of wandering, they were so close they could feel it!  They could smell it!  They were finally at the borders of the promise, but they weren’t there yet.  There was one more river to cross, but it was a doozey!  At that time of year the Jordan River was at flood stage.  Maybe a few of the strongest could forge the river, but Joshua had the holy assignment of getting all of the people across the flooded waters of the Jordan River, 40,000 men, not counting women, children and animals.

They spent three more days of consecrating themselves to God, and then it was time.  They were ready to cross, ready for God to make the way.  They had heard of what He had done in the past, parting the Red Sea.  Was it possible He could do it again?

At first nothing happened.  But then they took that step of faith.  They stepped into the flooded Jordan River.  And when they stepped out in faith, the waters of the river peeled back.  Were they afraid that the water would fall back on them?  Did they run across in fear or walk quickly across in amazement?  Regardless of their emotions at the time, they took that step of faith and kept going.

After all were safely across, God gave another assignment.  He told Joshua to go back to the middle of the Jordan River and gather 12 stones.  These were to be stones of remembrance.

The Lord wanted them to take the stones from the Jordan because he knew they were a forgetful people.  They were forgetful about who He was, what He could do and what He required.  And, I am forgetful, too.  That is what this Lenten season is all about…it is about remembering.

And as we remember who He is and what He has done and what He will do, He will begin to do extraordinary things.  Why?  So that all will know that God is powerful and wonderful and kind and merciful and loving.  When they see us, and what God does despite our ordinary-ness, God alone will be glorified.


Gathering Stones | A Lenten Series

gathering stonesLent is the season of remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus. Many Christians respond by giving up something they really enjoy, so that this small sacrifice will make them more mindful of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. Several years ago, I decided I would not just give something up, but I would also take something up. I posted a short devotional each day of Lent to encourage myself, and any one who wanted to join me, to give greater attention to the meaning of Easter. This year I will re-post my Lenten Devotional, Gathering Stones, in hopes that we can encourage each other to prepare our hearts for Easter.  Lent starts today, February 14!  I would love to hear from you about what you are learning during these next 40 days!


Day 1 | Why 40?

day 1Hi, friends!  Happy Lent!  I am excited about the next 40 days as we seek God together.

Why 40?  If you have read my book, Stones from the River Jordan, you know why.  But here is an excerpt from that book for those who have not read it:

Holy Numbers

Now let me stop for a moment and explain something that I think is really cool about reading the Scriptures.  There are many references in the Bible to certain key numbers.  I call them “holy numbers”.  Some of the most common are three, seven, 12, and 40.  The number three can be classified as holy perfection like the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The number seven indicates completion and perfection—like the seven days of creation. The number 12 often encompasses the family of God,  representing all God’s people, and reminds us of the covenant or unending promise of relationship between God and his people—like the 12 tribes of Israel or the 12 disciples. The number 40 is often a number of cleansing and preparation for the extraordinary—like the flood in the days of Noah which lasted 40 days and 40 nights, or when Jesus fasted 40 days in the wilderness before He began His ministry.

 

So the answer to “Why 40?” is that we choose to remember for 40 days in order to be cleansed

In order to be transformed

In order to invite the preparation of the Holy Spirit to make our hearts and minds ready for God to do something extraordinary in our ordinary lives.

 

In our society today, 40 is a big, scary number.

We laugh, sometimes cry, dress in black, and endure endless jokes when we turn 40.  If you haven’t reached that historic point in your history, let me relieve you.  It is not that bad.  I am 46 years old (ummm, now I am 51!) as I write this blog post.

Unless God has another plan, I am right in the middle of my life.  The dreaded “middle age” term applies quite nicely.  I am good with it.  I, so far, have avoided a mid-life crisis.

 

While growing up, I was the middle child.  Often we find ourselves in the middle of a problem, in the middle of one of life’s storms, in the middle of grief.

In the middle doesn’t feel like a great place to be.

It is like you’ve settled in, not expecting too much.

But this is not God’s plan for us.  He doesn’t want us stuck in the middle of mediocrity.

He wants to use that middle place for cleansing and preparation for the extraordinary things to come.

Trust Him.  Wait and see.  Be still and know that He is God.  He is with you. He is for you.  He wants to show you how lovingly He can transform you and take you to the high places, to the extraordinary places.


Thoroughly Equipped: Schedule for Bible Reading for February

Hey, friends!  I hope you are still reading God’s Word each day and listening to the whispers the Holy Spirit has for you.  Keep going!  Here is the list of scripture reading for the month of February.  If you get behind,  no worries.  Just pick back up and start on the current date.  Or you can quickly catch up by listening to it on the Bible App as you go about your day.

 

February 1:  Exodus 13:17-15:18, Matthew 21:23-46, Psalm 26:1-12, Proverbs 6:16-19

February 2:  Exodus 15:19-17:7, Matthew 22:1-33, Psalm 27:1-6, Proverbs 6:20-26

February 3:  Exodus 17:8-19:15, Matthew 22:34-23:12, Psalm 27:7-14, Proverbs 6:27-35

February 4:  Exodus 19:16-21:21, Matthew 23:13-39, Psalm 28:1-9, Proverbs 7:1-5

February 5:  Exodus 21:22-23:13, Matthew 24:1-28, Psalm 29:1-11, Proverbs 7:6-23

February 6:  Exodus 23:14-25:40, Matthew 24:29-51, Psalm 30:1-12, Proverbs 7:24-27

February 7:  Exodus 26:1-27:21, Matthew 25:1-30, Psalm 31:1-8, Proverbs 8:1-11

February 8:  Exodus 28:1-43, Matthew 25:31-26:13, Psalm 31:9-18, Proverbs 8:12-13

February 9:  Exodus 29:1-30:10, Matthew 26:14-46, Psalm 31:19-24, Proverbs 8:14-26

February 10:  Exodus 30:11-31:18, Matthew 26:47-68, Psalm 32:1-11, Proverbs 8:27-32

February 11:  Exodus 32:1-33:23, Matthew 26:69-27:14, Psalm 33:1-11, Proverbs 8:33-36

February 12:  Exodus 34:1-35:9, Matthew 27:15-31, Psalm 33:12-22, Proverbs 9:1-6

February 13:  Exodus 35:10-36:38, Matthew 27:32-66, Psalm 34:1-10, Proverbs 9:7-8

February 14:  Exodus 37:1-38:31, Matthew 28:1-20, Psalm 34:11-22, Proverbs 9:9-10

February 15:  Exodus 39:1-40:38, Mark 1:1-28, Psalm 35:1-16, Proverbs 9:11-12

February 16:  Leviticus 1:1-3:17, Mark 1:29-2:12, Psalm 35:17-28, Proverbs 9:13-18

February 17:  Leviticus 4:1-5:19, Mark 2:13-3:6, Psalm 36:1-12, Proverbs 10:1-2

February 18:  Leviticus 6:1-7:27, Mark 3:7-30, Psalm 37:1-11, Proverbs 10:3-4

February 19:  Leviticus 7:28-9:6, Mark 3:31-4:25, Psalm 37:12-29, Proverbs 10:5

February 20:  Leviticus 9:7-10:20, Mark 4:26-5:20, Psalm 37:30-40, Proverbs 10:6-7

February 21:  Leviticus 11:1-12:8, Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 38:1-22, Proverbs 10:8-9

February 22:  Leviticus 13:1-59, Mark 6:1-29, Psalm 39:1-13, Proverbs 10:10

February 23:  Leviticus 14:1-57, Mark 6:30-56, Psalm 40:1-10, Proverbs 10:11-12

February 24:  Leviticus 15:1-16:28, Mark 7:1-23, Psalm 40:11-17, Proverbs 10:13-14

February 25:  Leviticus 16:29-18:30, Mark 7:24-8:10, Psalm 41:1-13, Proverbs 10:15-16

February 26:  Leviticus 19:1-20:21, Mark 8:11-38, Psalm 42:1-11, Proverbs 10:17

February 27:  Leviticus 20:22-22:16, Mark 9:1-29, Psalm 43:1-5, Proverbs 10:18

February 28:  Leviticus 22:17-23:44, Mark 9:30-10:12, Psalm 44:1-8, Proverbs 10:19

 

 


Thoroughly Equipped: The Secret, Sacred Life of the Christian

Today’s reading is Genesis 23:1-24:51, Matthew 8:1-17, Psalm 9:13-20, Proverbs 3:1-6.

Our assigned reading is no longer about the Sermon on the Mount, but my thoughts are still back there, sitting at the feet of Jesus, trying to see what new insights those familiar words may have for me.  What keeps coming to my mind is this:  There is a secret life for the Christian.  Of course, secrets in the negative sense of the word can create havoc and bitterness and deep, painful scars.  Negative secrets can destroy.  We see in the current #MeToo movement that many, many women have held negative secrets of great pain—until now.  Bringing these types of secrets to the Light of Jesus releases the grip of pain, shame, and bitterness and in time will render it powerless to hurt you any longer.  Don’t keep negative secrets.  You certainly don’t have to reveal your negative secrets on a social media platform.  In fact, for some, the better choice would be with a trusted friend, family member, pastor or counselor.  But today, my thoughts are not on the negative secrets, my thoughts are on the positive ones. For the Christian, there is a whole secret life that only is shared with the Father.  We remain open to others, we live in honest community, we remain willing to share our “pearls” with others, but at the same time, we have a whole private life with the Lord.  Matthew 6 begins, “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.” And in verse 6 we see this about our secret life of prayer: “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corner and in the synagogues where everyone can see them.  I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.  But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.  Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

For the Christian, there is a secret life.  In verse 14 we are encouraged to forgive those who sin against us, and in turn, God will forgive us.  Forgiveness is a secret work. It is hard work that is done in our heart and is between us and God.  Yes, others may be involved, but the work of forgiveness is between us and God and is accomplished in our secret, sacred time with Him.

We see in verse 16, that our times of fasting should be accomplished in our secret, sacred life.  In those days, fasting was a common practice.  People would often put on sackcloth and mope around, announcing to all that they were fasting.  Jesus said that our fasting is secret and sacred.  It is between us and God.

And in verse 19 we see this same secret, sacred concept in regards to our treasures. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

So, our good deeds, our prayers and time of fasting, our earthly treasure…all should fall under the category of secret and sacred.  All of these are between us and God.  All of these are part of the intimate privilege of the secret and sacred life of the Christian.  And our Father who sees our every secret will help, heal, and reward us.