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“Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;”

– 1 Thessalonians 4:1

 

One of my friends says that he, who has been in church all his life and saved for most of it, always tries to pay attention to gospel presentations during sermons, because it is so good to be reminded of these truths, to agree with them still, that we are great sinners undeserving of our Great Savior, who is nevertheless our Redeemer, Friend, and King.

 

Many of my friends, and I am often among them in this, feel that when speaking happens at church gatherings, it is rarely that satisfying, thought-provoking, insightful teaching that we long for.  We are honestly bored, and also get this puffing feeling that others might need the simple and lowly instruction offered in these messages, but we are beyond that.  I still see this in myself even though it has been some years since I realized that not all speech in church ought to be intended to teach (1 Corinthians 14:26).

 

In the New Testament, it is shown that there are multiple speaking giftings to be used for building up the Church.  Among them is teaching.  But there is also prophecy, exhortation, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, tongues and their interpretation.  In Hebrews, when we are commanded not to forsake assembling together, this comes as part of an admonition to consider one another to stir up love and good works, and that when we gather, we are to “exhort one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Paul tells Timothy to “Preach the word! …Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching,” and also to “Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”  This seems to have been a model in at least some synagogues at the time as well, that after reading from Scripture, they offered a time where those present could offer exhortations to the congregation (Acts 13:15)

 

John the Baptist, the great prophet, “with many other exhortations, preached to the people.”  Judas and Silas, prophets in the book of Acts, “exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.” (Acts 15:32) Prophecy, though sometimes an otherwise unknown revelation including foretelling and rebuke, is sometimes associated with timely and relevant exhortation: “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” (1 Corinthians 14:3)

 

When we read Paul’s letters, he often says that the congregations that are recipients of his letters have already been instructed, and do not need a repetition of the lesson.  But he still speaks to the topic.  Why?  I think it is likely that Paul was exhorting them.  Peter explicitly says, “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding [you],” (2 Peter 1:12-13)

 

What is exhortation?  First the Greek, parakaleo, often translated, besides “exhort”, as “comfort”, “encourage”, and “beseech”.  The English dictionary defines “exhort” this way: “strongly encourage or urge someone to do something”.

 

I know for me that I need reminded.  I benefit a lot from hearing people agree that doing the right thing is worthwhile.  “[B]ut exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13) So I want to receive exhortation, not being discontent because I hoped for a stimulating teaching, but rejoicing that I am in company with people who support me in good works, good words, and good attitudes.

 

Jesus exemplified this in His letters to the churches, as dictated in Revelation (chapters 2-3). Not much of it is introduction of new doctrines or ways of doing things.  He is, rather, comforting them with encouragement about what they are doing well, and pleading for them to do what they know to do.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Hebrews says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled…” In the United States, our legal system calls things “marriage” that the Bible most certainly would not. But if we only looked at that one verse from Hebrews, we could believe that the thing called marriage that isn’t, is “honorable”. We could pull in other teachings about marriage and how great it is and what it means spiritually, and encourage people to accomplish those great things and represent those great truths by practicing the thing falsely called marriage. If this stood for a few generations, most people would forget that it is a perversion of what the Bible calls marriage.

What if there are other Christian practices that this has happened to, in the forgotten past? How do we trust that what we understand to be the biblical and Christian practices of Church gatherings, pastoring, church leadership and decision-making, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, ordination, etc. are the things the Bible is discussing?

Like we can with marriage, we can compare other Scriptures to our practices, right? We can ask, “Did God say anything else about these practices? Did God address what we are doing, regardless of what it is called, in positive or negative ways?”

I believe it is possible for God to reveal corrections to us* if we are humbly seeking Him, and if He wants to at the moment. It seems like sometimes He doesn’t want to, and I’m not quite clear why.

I want to have respect for generations of believers who have been inviting God’s discernment, and to value their conclusions. I don’t see any honest way to do this without acknowledging that there have been stretches of time where Christianity (the public institution, anyway) has promoted false understandings of things, and it has taken a long time to straighten some of them out. I have to acknowledge that different parts of the Church, distanced by geography (at least) have for long periods of time held different beliefs from one another.

How much weight should we put on our own experiences? If our experiences seem to line up with a teaching, and be fruitful for the Kingdom of God, does that indicate that these understandings and practices are the things God intends?

*Who ought “us” to be, though? Is it my job, without holding a position of authority in the Church, to discern these things? For myself? For the Church? For society? Is it my job to say anything to others if I believe I have discerned that our conventional practice is wrong?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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A friend recently asked me what are my family’s traditions for Christmas.  Besides a formal meal, we also purchase and decorate a Christmas tree, the latter usually to the backdrop of nostalgic Christmas songs and candlelight.  But the most familiar tradition, even an oft-lamented one in our materialism-saturated society, is the exchanging of gifts.  But I am convinced there is nothing inherently wicked with either the getting or the giving of presents.

Gift and give are newer forms of a presumed old, old root, the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *ghabh- meaning “to give or receive”.  Before it reached English, it appeared in the Old Norse with a definition “gift, good luck”.  For a while it was pronounced yiven, before the guttural ‘g’ resurfaced.  An initial ‘h’ sound is also associated with the root, developing into the somewhat opposite word have.  Isn’t it interesting that giving and receiving are so closely linked that they’re all mixed up with the same family of words?

Present specifically carries the notion of something offered, freely, but before it is received.  It is set in the presence of one, placed “before their face”.

The word receive has a more Latin than Germanic heritage, entering English c. 1300, about 200 years after the Norman French conquest of England, from the Old North French, meaning at that time “seize, take hold of, accept”.  I like the emphasis on the fact that a gift cannot simply be thrust on someone; the action is interactive, with the receiver willingly taking the gift.  In earlier forms, found in Latin, the word meant “regain, take back, recover, take in, or admit”.  There’s a sense of vengeance contrasted with the sense of hospitality.

Hospitality is, in Greek, xenia, especially referring to the “rights of a guest or stranger”.  There is a city in Ohio named for this word.  I think that is a lovely motto of which to be reminded every time one’s city is mentioned.  It is not so much seen in our country as in many other nations, including the Israelite tribe whose generosity to the poor and stranger in the land was mandated by the Mosaic Law (see also this passage).

Hospitality is also a French/Latin borrowing, also since the 1300’s.  It comes from a word meaning “friendliness to guests”.  Compare this to the word host, whose entry at Etymonline.com goes further than the longer form hospitalityHost goes back to the PIE *ghostis- which is supposed to have referred to both the host and the guest, with an original sense of referring to strangers, on whichever side.

In the 1993 movie, “Shadowlands”, based on the life of C.S. Lewis, there is a scene about Christmas in which he is discussing the fate of the season in their mid-century culture:

One [Inkling] laments, “I’m afraid Christmas, as I remember it, is rather a lost cause.”

Jack, as his friends call him, and sounding rather like his voice is echoing out of far-away winter-bound Narnia whispers, “It’s because we’ve lost the magic… You tell people it’s about taking care of the poor and needy, and naturally they don’t even miss it.”

To which his friend, a Roman Catholic priest, responds, “The needy do come into it: ‘no room at the inn,’ remember?  The mother and child?”

I do like to remember that.  I like that older songs remember that.  I like that my friend this year asked for suggestions of how to make our holiday reflect the truth of this verse, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” She wanted to know how to celebrate being made rich and to imitate Christ’s poverty-bearing, rich-making love.

There is a tradition of being charitable particularly at Christmas.  (This is in the line of other, biblical feast-days, during which kindness to the poor was encouraged in response to God’s blessings of abundance that were being celebrated, especially in the harvest-feasts of Firstfruits and Tabernacles.  It is a way to recognize that it is God’s undeserved blessing that provides enough to survive or feast.  If we, by pleasing Him, do not relinquish His grace, we are to expect His continued blessings.  And He is pleased when we remember the poor and have charity towards them.  We can give like the saints in Philippi, depleting our own storehouses, knowing that the God who is using us to care for the poor will faithfully provide for us as well.)

This responsibility to the poor is communicated by the history of the word generous, which originally meant “of noble birth” (same root as genus, referring to biological descent and classification into kinds or races or families) and only by implications of the duty, of those blessed with more, to share with those who have less did it come to mean “magnanimous”.

Benevolence, “disposition to do good”, is a compound word, from the Latin bene “well” and volantem “to wish”.

Alms is another term for this benevolence.   In Old English it was ælmesse, occurring also in German, and Latin, where it is spelled eleemosyna.  This was, in turn, borrowed from the Greek eleemosyne, referring to “pity, mercy”.  In modern English, though rare, it means a gift, especially of money or food, given out to the needy.

Charity is from the Old French, “charity, mercy, compassion; alms” from Latin, “costliness, esteem, affection”.  Isn’t it instructive, the impulse of expressing love by costly, sacrificial giving?  It can be satisfying, and blessed, to give.

Love is, by own definition, the giving of a treasure.  Treasure comes from the same Greek root as thesaurus, and it means “hoard, storehouse, treasury” – presumably of something worth enough to be collected and kept safe.  Can stores be shared?  What does it say when one is willing to disperse a hoard?

Donation is attested in Latin, donum, “gift”, from the PIE *donum.  The same word is found in Sanskrit: danam “offering, present” and in Old Irish dan, “gift, endowment, talent”.

In my family’s tradition, the focus is more on expressing love to one another than to those less fortunate.  Our gifts are an exchange, late 1300’s, “act of reciprocal giving and receiving”, from the Latin ex- “out” and cambire “barter”.  Cambire is supposed to be of Celtic origin, the PIE *kemb- “to bend”, developing in the sense of altering the current state, then specifically changing something by putting something else in its place.

At Christmas especially, the packages under the tree are almost always wrapped, so as to be a surprise.  Unexpectedly, this word used to mean only “a taking unawares; unexpected attack or capture”.  The roots are sur- “over” and prendre “to take, grasp, seize”.  It might be ironic that though we think of thinly cloaked gifts as surprises, at Christmas they are not always unforeseen or unexpected; who hasn’t made a Christmas wish list?  In fact, it is perhaps a disadvantage of our custom: that gifts come to be expected, or even demanded, by the recipients.

When the word wrap appeared in English around AD 1300, it meant “to wind, cover, conceal, bind up, swaddle”.  I think we do this to increase the ornamental feeling of festivity, not as a symbol of the baby Jesus being similarly wrapped before being placed in a manger.

Swaddle seems to come from a word meaning a slice or strip.

Ribbon, which often adorns our gifts, might have a similar historic meaning, if it is related to band, “a flat strip” and “something that binds”, a rejoining of two divergent threads of Middle English, distinguished at one point by different spellings, band referring to joining together and bande to a strip or even a stripe (where it likely morphed into ribane, a stripe in a material).  The original root of band is, PIE *bendh- “to bind”.

Something else we use to hold things together when we’re wrapping them?  Tape.  My cousin says, “tape, lots of tape.”  This Old English tæppe is a “narrow strip of cloth used for tying or measuring”.  It could be formed from the Latin for “cloth, carpet”, tapete, or it might be related to the Middle Low German tapen, “to pull, pluck, tear”.

(These words are so fun, the way they communicate the action by which the thing got to be – or the state that inspired and enabled an action.  What was life like for the people who named a strip of fabric tape?  Well, maybe they were pulling on cloth {reminiscent of one of my favorite Christmas movies, “Little Women”, where the ladies of the house spend time tearing old sheets into strips to be used as bandages for those soldiers wounded in the American Civil War}.  Why would they do that?  To have something with which to bind things together.  It’s a different world from our manufacturing-driven lifestyles, where tape and ribbon and string are purchased in packages off of shelves.  They’re things made originally for their purposes, not improvised from something else.  It’s like a history lesson in a word!)

The other reason we think of gifts during the holiday season in which we remember God’s entry into our world in human flesh is because His birth was honored by gifts from wise visitors from the East.  These men recognized that Jesus was born to be the King, the long-prophesied King of the everlasting kingdom.  And though this God-King could have turned stones into bread, and summoned armies of angels, He chose to experience poverty.  Though He experienced the lowliness of being born to a poor mother and living as a refugee, a stranger, in Egypt, he was honored by costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh when a very young boy.

Such is the nature not only of love, to give sacrificially, but also of worship.  How remiss would any of us be, to overlook the presence of the Highest King?  Not only is His worth expressed by Kings giving Him treasures; it is demonstrated by the “sacrifice of praise” every person can offer:  The Christmas carols sing that the wise men have “come to pay Him homage,” Old French “allegiance or respect for one’s feudal lord”, from Latin homo, “man”.  Or in “What Child Is This?” we are bid to “haste, haste, to bring Him laud”, also Old French, “praise, extol” from Latin laus, “praise, fame, glory”.  A cognate, or brother-word in Old English was leoð, “song, poem, hymn”.  He is worthy of the richest treasures.  We owe Him everything we have, everything that is.  We also owe Him our allegiance, our praise, our songs.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Many thanks and credit to the resources of www.Etymonline.com and www.Dictionary.Reference.com in compiling these definitions and histories.  Also to www.BlueLetterBible.org for Scriptures.

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Two Mites

The widow gave two mites to the Temple treasury while Jesus was watching. I’ve always thought about it as a sacrifice. But it’s more. How inadequate and pointless must she have felt, dropping pennies into the donation pile? That woman had to have humility, a willingness to let God have the puny bits she could offer. And she had to have faith, that God being mighty and all, He could make good use of her mites. Loving God probably helps with all that, too.

Sometimes I’m tempted to be so ashamed of my own weakness and imperfection that I don’t offer them to Jesus.

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.  So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

~ Luke 21:1-4

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’ve been learning a lot, since June, about spiritual warfare.  God told me to focus on learning about it and practicing it.  The other day I wrote down a list of what I’ve learned to do when I recognize attacks.  I thought it might help you out.  Or you might help me out by adding to it or correcting anywhere I’ve overstepped.

 

Responses To & Wards Against Spiritual Attacks:

 

Prayer

Obviously there are so many kinds of prayer.  First of all, I can simply ask God for what I want or need.  Jesus truly says, “Ask and you shall receive.”  I want to try to live that, to find out the fullness of what it means.  Talking to God keeps me close to Him, keeps my perspective pointed His way.  I pray Scripture sometimes, as God leads (Ephesians 6:10-20 if I can’t think of anything else).  I call out for help from the God who is mighty enough to deliver me from my enemies.  He is a shield, a help, a comfort, a refuge.  And He can guide me to the purposes He has for me – the things His enemy is trying to distract me from.  He can show me how to move past the ambush.

 

Thanks

So many of the spiritual attacks come in the form of doubting God’s word and character.  Thanks remembers who God is and what He has done and what He has promised.  It names them like a claiming for my collection.

 

Praise

Praise takes thanks a step further.  It shouts to the world that my God is good.  I feel like it’s less defensive and more offensive in this spiritual battle, a tactic that has the enemy of God wishing he could avoid bringing the subject up.

 

Rest

God created rest.  It’s just a fact.  He made us to need it.  Rest is related so intimately with waiting and trust.  It is an outward submission to the fact that while I do nothing, He is able to work.  He doesn’t need me; I need Him.  And so I still my body and even sleep sometimes, committing my concerns to my good Father.

 

Enjoying Good Gifts

If one of the lies is that God isn’t good, it gains power when I refuse to take the good that God gives.  He uses these gifts to refresh us and to speak to us of His love.  We have to be receiving from God.  If we are dependent on Him, it doesn’t mean that we just let Him do everything.  It doesn’t mean that we only take from Him the things we perceive as useful for the battle.  We take everything He gives.  In the midst of sorrow, if He gives laughter, we take that too.  We remember that the battle isn’t a punishment; it’s a privilege.  So I don’t act like a child pouting in time-out; I taste chocolate and dance in the yard and I thank God for His wisdom!

 

Encouragement

I’m so glad that God didn’t make us to fight these spiritual battles alone.  I heard a preacher say once that God called the Church to spiritual warfare – more than He called individuals.  I haven’t figured out what that means or if I agree entirely, but I do know that the members of the body of Christ have been given gifts to build each other up for the ministries God has prepared for us.  I love it when my friends tell me they are in this with me, when they remind me of truth, when they admonish me to persevere.  Sometimes I even beg them for it.

 

Prayer Together

This one has been coming up in my thoughts a lot lately, and I feel conviction that I’m not very good at making it happen.  I believe that when we recognize spiritual warfare, we should come together to petition God together for strength, guidance, and victory.  For whatever reason, I think we’re supposed to be doing this in groups and not just alone.

 

People

Sometimes I get to be around people who aren’t aware of the battle in my life, and even that can be a bulwark against spiritual attack.  It is good to be around humans.  We minister to each other.  We are made in the image of God, objects of His love, and instruments of His righteousness.  It is good to be reminded that God is at work in lives, in situations completely unrelated to my battles.  He grows people.  He answers prayers.  He wins.

 

Speaking/Writing/Remembering Truth

When I’m in the midst of the weightiest attacks, sometimes the only things to cling to are prayer and truth.  I can start small, naming the truth I see about me: “That is a window.  Today is Thursday.”  And then I can tell myself, journal, or tell others truths I know about God.  I can remember things He did in the Bible.  I can remember what He did for me yesterday, last month, last year, or when He saved me the day I turned six.  One very important thing to remember is that God freely gave His Son to pay for my sins.  Paul springboards from that truth to asking, “Will He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  It doesn’t make sense for God to give us His most precious possession and then to hold little things back just to be mean!  The final type of truth that I focus on is who I am in Christ: “I am chosen.  I am sealed.  I am empowered.  I am loved.”

 

Fasting and Self-Denial

Mostly my experience with fasting is experimentation.  I ask God whether to fast.  I don’t understand all of how it works or why God made fasting to have power in spiritual warfare, but Jesus said it, so I believe it.  Maybe it has something to do with recognizing my dependence on God for the sustaining of my life.  I think there is something to be said for self-denial, for practicing being led by something other than the impulses of what my body or mind want.  Plus, since the body is pretty good at sending those impulses, I can use them as a reminder to focus on God and to pray.

 

Obedience

The Bible warns me to take heed lest I am also tempted, when I’m pro-actively engaged in the spiritual battle.  So I regularly evaluate whether I’m being obedient.  How have I failed to do what I know God wants me to?  I put on the breastplate of righteousness, believing that pursuing good works God has called me to puts me in the places where He can readily use me to intercede for others.  When I am obedient, I am not so distracted with repenting – and I am not fighting to regain the foothold I had given over to the Devil.  But I also remember that my God is merciful.  When I fall, I cry out to Him and He forgives.  His grace strengthens me for obedience; it isn’t something I do apart from Him and then bring myself before Him well-armored in my own good works and strength.  Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  I have to let it be Him working in me.

 

Reading and Hearing Truth

I want my mind to be saturated with truth so much that it can’t even hear the lies of the Devil.  I want to be so confident in the truth that deceits are easily identified and turned back.  So I read the Bible, read books about factual things, listen to Christian lectures or good Christian music.

 

Work

Rest is important, but so is staying busy.  The last thing I need is down time when my prayers are exhausted and I’m bored and the temptation comes to chase after my own pleasure.  Work is therapeutic.  It is a taking-back from the chaos, a living out of the dominion God called the first Man and Woman to.  In a way, that’s the same thing happening in spiritual warfare.

 

Calling On Jesus’ Name

This one is potent.  If I feel strongly oppressed, I need to speak Jesus’ name aloud, to claim the authority of the King of Kings to fight this battle for me.  It’s also pretty potent before God.  If I’m confident enough that my prayer is for Jesus’ sake, for the bearing fruit in His kingdom, I present my supplications in Jesus’ name.  And Jesus promised that whatever we ask the Father in His name, we can have confidence that we have from Him.  This is another form of acknowledging the truth of God’s promises.

 

Rebuking Demons

Sometimes I need to take seriously that there are personal creatures scheming against me and that they do not have authority to oppose me, because I am a chosen ambassador of God in the world.  I openly resist the Devil, and trust that the Bible is true when it says “He will flee from you.”  I don’t know how long it lasts, or exactly how this works, but I try it because it is taught in Scripture.

 

Prayer For Others

The spiritual battle does not just affect individuals, so I pray for others potentially involved to be guarded against the schemes, temptations, and opposition of our spiritual enemy.  I pray for them to put on and take up the armor of God, being strengthened with His might.  I pray for them to be vigilant.  I pray that God would hedge their families, their health, their jobs, their travel – and anything else that seems relevant or that God leads me to pray for them.  I pray that they will be in right standing with God, repentant of sins and practicing righteousness.  Intercession is one more thing that I think the spiritual warfare is opposing in the first place, so to go forward doing it seems to me a good idea in resisting the attacks.

 

Attention to God’s Works

Like remembering what God has done in the past, and being around people in whom God is active at present, I can look around me right now and observe the wise and powerful works of God.  These things don’t have to be spiritual, though sometimes they are.  I gain encouragement watching God change the seasons, open up wildflowers, bring a bee buzzing by.  I watch Him move the hearts of “kings.”  This isn’t quite the same as praise or thanks, because it precedes them.  First I slow down and give heed to what God is doing – I set out looking for it.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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My favorite Bible story these days is about Saul of Tarsus.  He’s the villain of the story. And the hero, though rather a passive one.

 

The Christian Church is just getting started.  People are learning to pray together and preach the gospel boldly and see some miracles happen.  But Saul has been trained to be a Pharisee, and they know the rules, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is not so big on rules.  Plus Jesus claimed to be God, something Saul didn’t approve of.  He knew the chief priests were on his side, so he decided to do something about it.  Executing Stephen for blasphemy had seemed to him to be a huge success; now the Christians were on the run, and with a bit more pressure, the whole blasphemous sect might be a thing of the past.  After acquiring official sanction from the Jewish leaders, he started hunting down the Christians.

 

But I think he knew better.  He’d studied the Scriptures.  He’d probably been around enough to at least hear of – if not personally witness some of Jesus’ miracles.  There was part of him that wanted God to be pleased with him.  He really believed in God.  A testimony like Stephen’s as he was dying doesn’t go without effect.  So he was zealous, and he was pushing forward in something that seemed godly to him, something he thought would be especially pleasing to God, something that, unfortunately for Saul, wasn’t God’s idea.  I suspect that there was some pretty intense spiritual warfare assembled, to discourage Saul from the calling God had yet to communicate to him.

 

And my favorite part is coming up here.  God was merciful to Saul.  Not only merciful; He had big plans for Saul.  Even Saul tracking down God’s elect to imprison them or worse wasn’t enough to keep God from accomplishing the ministry He intended through Saul.  In the Bible we see God doing lots of different things to people displeasing Him.  Sometimes He sends them prophets.  Sometimes He just has the earth open up and swallow them.  Or they die more natural deaths.  He spoke personally to Moses about His displeasure.  A lot of people in rebellion against God just continue on their wicked path, accumulating judgment for themselves.  Here we see that God took some drastic measures to bring Saul to Himself.

 

Saul is on the road between cities.  He has a few companions to help him with the Christian round-up.  But a light stops them in their path.  A loud noise frightens all of them.  Saul is literally blinded by the light, but he hears words.  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads!”  Basically the God of the universe is speaking to him from heaven, and he’s using his name.  That’s pretty special.  Then he asks him a question – one of the gentlest things He could do.  It also implies that maybe if Saul had stopped to think about it before, he could have figured out that he was persecuting the Son of God.  Finally one of my favorite lines, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  From what I can tell, God had been prodding Saul in one direction, and by chasing down Christians, by resisting the gospel of Jesus Christ, he had been resisting that guidance.  But God still nails him on it!  There seems to be so much firm tenderness in that sentence, that I just can’t get over it!

 

And the end of the story is that Saul was convinced.  (I don’t know what it would have taken if being blinded by a heavenly flash and hearing the voice of God out loud didn’t work to wake Saul up!)  A few days later God persuades one of His other vessels, the prophet Ananias, to heal Saul’s blindness and to see that he receives the Holy Spirit.  Thus begins the ministry of the Apostle Paul (his Greek name he soon started to go by).

 

Isn’t that a fantastic story?

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Job

I’ve been reading Job.  One of the Bible’s most complex poetry books, about suffering, usually attracts people when they feel afflicted.  That’s not really why I started in on it this time.  Job is one of my favorite books, mostly for the last few chapters at the end.  (The discourses in the middle typically confuse me.)  This month some friends have been talking about sermons they heard about Job at their church.  On a quiet night a few weeks ago I turned on an online audio Bible.  As I listened, Job 13 resonated with me.  In one verse, I felt like Job summed up his plea.  He said that he wanted to ask and have God answer – either that or for God to speak and Job to get to listen.  This righteous man had lost almost everything, and what he wanted most was not to get everything back, but to know God better than he ever had.

 

So I’m excited to read Job each night, delighted that it makes more sense to me than it ever has.  Here is this man I feel I can really respect.  You may have encountered in your life the scarcity of godly older men to be examples of faith.  And here he is.  This man isn’t all about doing – though he makes it clear he knows right from wrong, and has spent much of his life pursuing goodness.  Job was interested in knowing God more.  The more I read, the more I see it.  Even if by coming to him, God was going to humble Job and reveal his sin and judge him, Job was willing to take that risk for the chance of knowing God.  I know the end of the story.

 

As I read of Job pleading for God to visit him, I get excited about the moment when God does all that Job asks.  YHWH Almighty comes and reveals His glorious wisdom to Job.  He asks questions and Job answers.  Then at last Job is content.  Then Job lays his hand over his mouth and says “How can I reply?”  All along Job has wanted to know who he was, especially relating to God.  He knows now.  He responds with more humble worship.

 

The end of it all is that God is pleased with Job’s faith.  The man who met with God (perhaps more a theme of the Old Testament than I ever noticed before) is restored.  Blessings of prosperity, family, and usefulness to others’ spiritual lives return upon Job.  I assume the devil was astounded by this incredible mercy, that mere man may speak with God and live.  Take away the hedge God had placed around Job, and God surrounds the righteous man with His own presence.  This is not only Job’s heart; it is God’s as well.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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