Blessed, happy…

The hillside that looks down to the Sea of Galilee from the Mount called the Mount of Beatitudes, or Mt. Eremos in Israel.

 

We started the day at the top of Mt. Arbel. The Master had taken us up the night before. At daybreak, we watched a gorgeous sunrise over the Sea!  Mt. Arbel is His favorite “get away from it all” spot. You can get a view of the whole lake from there.

We had spent much of the past few weeks all around this northern part of the Galilee. He had chosen 12 of us to be His closest followers, His talmudim. Many of us grew up around here, working the sea for fish and the land for grain.

As we journeyed down towards the shore, He warned us about the expected crowds today. There was something in His heart that He needed to tell the people… If people were going to receive any kind of physical healing from Him, they were going to hear why He healed first.  He told us of the story when He taught in the synagogue in Nazareth… when the reading from the Prophets for that day was from Isaiah. He affirmed the reason He had come… to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind… to set the oppressed free.

And now today, today would be the day when the Teacher revealed His yoke, His perspective, His views on the Law. And today, he would set the whole tone for the next year and a half of ministry…

As He began to teach, He did so just like He was in a synagogue. He sat down on a rock. And He preached with such authority.

“Blessed, happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven,” He began.

“Blessed, happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

“Blessed, happy are those who are meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 6:3-5).

With each blessing, more and more people made their way to the field below Him. He continued…

“Blessed, happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed, happy are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed, happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 6:6-8).

His voice echoed off the hillside and fisherman pulled their boats onto the shore to hear more.

“Blessed, happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed, happy are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 6:9-12).

The Master spoke for quite some time… I looked around as the crowd continued to increase. People elbowed each other to see His face. They wiped their brows as the warmth of the day increased. “Who was this?” I heard them murmur to each other.

He watched as fishermen on the shore began to pack their catch in salt to preserve it. “You are the salt of the earth,” He assured us. “But if the salt loses it saltiness, how can it be salty again?” (Matthew 6:13).

He looked east toward Hippos across the sea and proclaimed, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:14-16).

He then began to illustrate His views on Torah, His yoke, by noting what other teachers of the Law have to say… He would start by saying, “You have heard it said… “ and then He would add, “but I say to you…” It was His way of bringing grace and life to the Laws of Moses. For example, He said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:43-45).

Some in the growing crowd were mesmerized by these teachings. Others were puzzled as this man appeared to be a learned rabbi, but was questioning much of everything we all knew of the Law.

He taught on murder, adultery, divorce, prayer and fasting. He summed up the Law and the Prophets with this straightforward statement: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12).

The topic that spoke most to my heart? Anxiety. I will admit, I’m a worrier. And yet, as He looked at the flowers in bloom on this very hillside, and saw the birds flying through the treetops, the Master urged us:

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34).

 As He concluded this powerful, yet simple message, the crowd was amazed. I looked at the others with a smile, humbled that He had chosen us to be His disciples… and wondering what else we might learn in the days and weeks to come as we followed our rabbi.

Some of the thoughts, perhaps, of one of the 12, as he remembered that day where Yeshua first spoke those words.

_____

There are so many amazing teachings in this, the first of Jesus’ public teachings. As we see often, Jesus flips many of the norms and teachings of old on their heads. You are blessed when you are poor in spirit. It’s okay to mourn. Be hungry for righteousness not the Law. Be a peacemaker. Don’t worry when you are persecuted, or when you are hungry or naked. Seek first the Kingdom. Be salt. Be light. Treat others as you want to be treated. This is how you are to pray.

He was going “on the record” … establishing His yoke, His ways, His views on Torah. And ultimately, Matthew 11:30: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

So, say “Yes!” to the Law. But, more importantly, say “Yes!” to Grace. Say “Yes!” to the way of Yeshua. He spoke with the bold and loving authority of God.  This message is for everyone. Jew and Gentile alike. Believer and unbeliever. For those who heard it first-hand on a hillside along the banks of the Sea of Galilee as He spoke it – Matthew says in 7:28 that the crowds were amazed!”

AND the timeless message is for us today. Can we be amazed again? I hope so!

 

[1] Friedrich Hauck, “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” as cited in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, by Kenneth E. Bailey, © 2008, p. 68.

 

(c) 2019 Rich Ronald.

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Where to find Living Water? Jesus.

Living in the Overflow… Jesus says, “Come to me and drink.”

This city is such a madhouse. I love coming up to Jerusalem for the feasts, but Sukkot is always crazy! Not only does all of Israel make pilgrimage, but then we are commanded to build booths to live in for the eight days of the festival. It reminds our people of the years of wandering in the desert, and how Jehovah provided for our every need then… And we trust that He will be our Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, for us today and in the New Year.

The already crowded and narrow streets are packed with people, animals and sukkahs. The weather has turned cooler the past couple of days and so each little hut also has a small fire going, so smoke fills the air. The smell of animals, coal fires and people crammed together is, let’s just say, unique at this season! Each year, my wife and three children make the five day journey from The Galilee to the City of David. It is a time of rejoicing, for sure! We celebrate the fall crops of grapes and olives. And we begin our prayers in earnest for the grain we have just planted and that our One True God would bring rain to the land. Each day as part of this celebration of Tabernacles, the priest will walk from the Temple to the Pool of Siloam with a golden pitcher. It takes several hours of the day as the journey is about a mile. He retrieves Mayim Chayim, living water, from this spring-fed pool to pour out on the altar with the sacrifices. The amount of water is minimal. But its significance is everything! We are trusting that God will provide rain and good weather for the kernels of wheat and barley tucked under the soil on each family’s small plot of Promised Land. There’s nothing further we can do for the grain. The rest is up to YHWH.

On the Final Day of the Feast, the priest makes eight trips to the Pool. Along the voyage those of us in the crowd shout the Psalms of Ascent from King David. Hour after hour, it’s a raucous time of joyful celebration. The priest works the crowd as we all shout “Hosanna — God Save Us!” The higher the pitcher over his head, the louder we cheer. The lower the pitcher, the softer the crowd murmurs our “Hosanna’s!” It was during one of those quiet moments… the priest had lowered the pitcher of life giving water, the crowd was quietly singing “Hosanna…” Suddenly in a loud voice someone among the people shouts “SH’MA! Listen!” We all turned towards the commanding speaker, stunned to realize that it was not a priest, but it was the new rabbi Yeshua, from our hometown.

His words still reverberate off my heart: “Sh’ma! Listen… Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them!” We turned one to each other nodding our approval. Who wouldn’t want Mayim Chayim, living water, every day?! I heard some near me say He must be a prophet,likely thinking of the prophesy from Ezekiel that says living water will flow from the Temple deep enough to swim in. Others said He must be the Messiah.

I’m still undecided… I knew Yeshua as a boy. We grew up together. I heard Him at our synagogue in the Galilee recently… I want to believe, but the priests there chased him out.

But I keep wondering, what would it be like for me, for my family, to have living water flow from my heart… to overflowing… Is it possible? Is it really possible?

 

Some of the words, actions, thoughts perhaps, of a bystander at the Feast of Tabernacles from John 7.

Are you thirsty? We all have seasons of weariness, don’t we? Where we find our hearts so conflicted or broken. Or we are sitting on anger or unresolved hurt. Or we are so busy with life that we are brittle and about to crack. Would you let the living water of Jesus fill you up?

 On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, “If you are thirsty, come to me and drink!  Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say.”  Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone that had faith in him. John 7:37-38 (CEV)

Some might say this is the most important part of the story. This is a promise for “everyone that has faith in Him.” Look at who the Holy Spirit is:

The Father… will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you. John 14:16 (LB)

The Spirit will show you what is true. John 14:17 (CEV)

God’s Spirit doesn’t make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control. 1 Timothy 1:7 (CEV)

It is the Holy Spirit who is our comforter, who gives us hope when we see no way out. It is the Spirit who gives us boldness to proclaim the hope of the Gospel to a friend at work or our neighbor. It is the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth, and gives us wisdom to make right decisions.

Drink. Everyone! From the Life-giving springs of Jesus.

The invitation is from Jesus to you and to me. This is not just a once a year thing like the Feast of Tabernacles. I believe we need to empty ourselves of our self everyday. What does that mean? To wake up each morning and say as Jesus did in Luke 22: “Lord, not my will, but your will be done.”  John Eldredge says to ask God this prayer everyday: “What is the life You want me to live?”

Be eager to drink from the springs of living water everyday. And then, let His love, joy, hope and peace overflow through you to others all around you.

 

(c) 2019 Rich Ronald.

You May Have Failed, but You Are Not a Failure.

Sunrise. Breakfast with Jesus.

 

It was ten days after the resurrection. Another day had passed. Like the previous ones, we pondered what to do next. Last thing we remember was Jesus telling us to wait. So, we had waited. And frankly, the waiting was boring. Today, I decided to do something different. Today my restlessness got the best of me. So, today, I decided to return to that with which I was very familiar.

“I’m going fishing,” I told the others.

It was just after midnight, when the Sea of Galilee typically teemed with active, easy to catch fish.

Thomas, the sons of Thunder and two others joined me. It was fun to go back to something we had once enjoyed regularly. The past few months, even the past three years, had all been such a blur. Jesus had turned our world upside down. We had been fishing… but for new souls, new converts, not Tilapia and Herring.

There was something joyful and peaceful about the repetitious nature of throwing our nets out and bringing them back in… And yet, as the moon passed from one end of the horizon to the other, that peace and joy turned to angst and frustration. We caught nothing. Absolutely nothing! All night long. Here I am… a fisherman… Sure, I’ve been away from this day to day life since we were on the mission with Jesus… but, this is in my blood… same with James and John… My mind raced back to the night Jesus was arrested… I felt like such a failure then, too!

At daybreak we saw a man on the shore. He asked about our luck with the nets. I hid my face as John told him we had caught nothing. The stranger told us to try the right side of the boat; we’d find our fish there.  That riled me up even more! “Right side of the boat. Left side of the boat. What difference does it make? Are we going to listen to some guy on the shore?” I queried to no one in particular. Thomas urged us to give it try… Thomas!

So, we cast our nets out the right side of the boat. You wouldn’t believe the haul of fish that weighed our nets down! The seven of us couldn’t even bring them on-board. Who was the stranger on shore? Could he have something to do with this? Nah…

Just then the dawning light of the new day shown right on the man. John looked out over the water and recognized the figure. He shouted, “It’s the Lord!” My heart skipped more than a beat or two as I plunged into the icy water and swam as fast as I could towards the shore! Jesus helped me out of the water and we enjoyed a laugh-filled embrace.

The others met Jesus around the fire as I pulled the net ashore and laid out all of the fish… 153! What an amazing catch. We enjoyed a breakfast together with fish that He had already caught. It was such a joy to be with Him again!

He took me aside and asked me three questions… well, it was the same question, but He asked it three times. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” That caught me off guard. He hadn’t called me by my birth name in three years! Of course I loved him! With each affirmation He asked me to take care of and feed the sheep He was leaving in my care. By the third time I realized what He was doing… I looked over at the others around the camp fire and remembered the last time I warmed my hands at a fire and the shame I felt at rejecting Him to a servant girl. I fell at His knees and wept… Three times I denied I knew Him. Three times He asked if I loved Him. Three times He commanded me to tend to His sheep. He was asking me to join the ranks of shepherds like Abraham, Moses and David.

Along that sandy beach, in the middle of a pile of flopping fish and the distant stare of my best friends… I was humbled, broken, really. He was recommissioning me as He did that day back at Caesarea Philippi, when He last called me “Simon” and the first time I truly confessed that He was the Messiah, the Son of Living God.

__________

Some of the words, actions and thoughts perhaps of Simon Peter, from John 21.

 

We have all failed at something, right? For some of us… it might be many, many things…  Maybe you’ve failed at a job or a career. I have. Maybe you’ve failed at a being a friend. I have. Maybe you’ve failed your parents, your spouse, your kids. I have. Maybe you feel like you have failed God. I have. But hear me: you might have failed at something. But God says you are NOT a failure!

The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take. If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with his hand. Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT)

I don’t understand why I act the way I do. I don’t do what I know is right. I do the things I hate.  What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die? Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me. Romans 7:15, 24-25 (MSG)

So, here is Peter… he feels like a failure. He denied Jesus. And now he can’t even fish anymore! Yet he’s been fishing his whole life, right? But, he was now trying to do it on his own terms.

Jesus gets his attention in a big way, right?!  As if to say… “Peter, you’re not a fisherman any more… you tried… all night long you tried… but you couldn’t catch anything without me… and that’s because I’ve got a greater purpose for you now!”

It’s morning… a new day has dawned… for Peter and for all of us. Each new day is a new day to start afresh. Peter recognized the Lord. And he leaped out of the boat and swam to Jesus to be with the Lord. It was a simple step. Like throwing the nets out of the other side of the boat.

I think that sometimes we all believe that we must take a giant, Grand Caynon leap of faith in order for us to be right with God. No, it’s as simple as turning from left to right… or just running to Jesus.

“Apart from me, you can do nothing,” Jesus had told them all in the Upper Room (John 15:5).

It’s the same for you and me.

 

(c) 2018. Rich Ronald.

The Power of The Holy Spirit!

Do the clouds have to move, or does the wind have to blow, in order for us to know the Holy Spirit is moving in our lives? I hope not.

I’m an entertainer. A showman. I love being the center of attention. I love dazzling the people with illusions and tricks and sleight of hand. I wear only the finest silks. I love to pretend that I am a really important person, even though I’m just a common Samaritan. They call me Simon, the Great Wizard! And everywhere I go, people are in awe. But what’s really ironic, is that I’m not at all powerful. It’s just an act.

This man Philip, a follower of the Nazarene, came to town recently. He gathered such a large crowd as he preached that the people began to forget about me. He took my audiences away from the town square to the river where he was baptizing people in the name of Jesus. I was fascinated at his ability to inspire and was so touched by his words, that I too, decided to become a follower of Jesus and was baptized. You wouldn’t believe all the things that Philip could do. He would put his hands on a person, say a quick prayer and they would be healed in the name of Jesus!  And let me tell you… Philip’s power was real! Not like my illusions.

One day, some others they called “disciples” also came to town. Peter and John were two that walked with Jesus in Jerusalem and were considered in His inner circle when He was alive. They also drew large crowds here in Samaria and they said that not only did new followers of Jesus need to be baptized, but they might also receive the power of the Holy Spirit. I watched in wonder as they laid their hands on people, prayed for them and then, they received the Holy Spirit.

I thought how amazing it would be, how amazing I would be, if I had that power, too! So, I decided right then and there that no amount of money would be too much to pay for me to have that kind of power! I approached the one they called Peter after he healed a man with a deformed arm. I pulled him aside and asked “How much? Please show me how you did that! Name your price! I’ll pay anything if you show me your secret!”

Peter, who up until that moment was filled with laughter and great joy, suddenly turned very angry! “May you and your money perish for thinking that God’s gift can be bought!” he said! “You can have no part in what we are doing if your heart is not right before God. Turn from your wicked ways, Simon, for you are jealous and there is sin in your heart!”

He was right! I wanted to follow Jesus. But I also wanted the power to dazzle and thrill audiences. I fell to my knees right then and there. My heart broke with fear and with awe at who God was and what Jesus had done for me. “Pray for me, for my soul, Peter!” I cried out through my tears…“I only want to know Jesus, the power of His resurrection and the joy of truly following Him,” I thought to myself.

Peter and John returned to Jerusalem after that… Philip left too… Those of us who remained in Samaria saw the power of God continue to change hearts… even mine!

 

The words, actions and thoughts, perhaps of Simon the Sorcerer, as it is recorded in Acts 8… with the hopeful conclusion that Simon’s heart was changed too!

How about you? Do you embrace the fullness of the Holy Spirit? God gives us the gifts of the Holy Spirit for His glory and our joy… not for our glory!  Simon the Sorcerer was attracted to the gifts he saw in Philip… confidence, boldness, compassion and joy. And Simon saw those things and wanted them… but he was interested in making his own name famous and thought the power of the Holy Spirit could be bought for a price. The Apostle Peter called him out on it! Peter told him to repent, and we see that the wizard asked Peter to pray for him. We can be hopeful that he was truly repentant.

We need not fear the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  If we know what gifts God has given us through His Holy Spirit, when we know how we are wired, we can serve Him in our sweet spot and can grow deeper and deeper in our faith and dependence of Him. That’s where God wants us. That’s where I want to be.

The list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be found in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4. The fruit, or confirmation, of the Holy Spirit in our lives is shown in Galatians 5.

But don’t focus on the gifts. Focus on the Giver. Don’t focus on signs and wonders. Focus on the wonder of God instead!

I recently watched the TV series AD, Kingdom and Empire, on Netflix. It’s the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, up to about Acts 9. An amazing thing happens every time there is a miracle, or work of the Holy Spirit… whether it is by Peter or one of the other followers of the Nazarene… the wind blows, the music swells, the clouds move. As I watched I thought, “why doesn’t that happen to me?” And, I honestly believe it is because God wants us to see that using our gifts everyday is as miraculous as when people are healed instantly or something supernatural happens. Can we get to that place where we don’t need to see the wind blow, the clouds move or the music swell to know the Holy Spirit is real?

 

 

 

(c) 2018. Rich Ronald.

Joy Comes with the Morning!

 

You can trust in the sunrise!

 

From the journal of Mary Magdalene:

Today started as yesterday began… and even how Friday dawned… As the sun came up I began to weep and mourn. For today was to be another day without my Messiah. The Sabbath was not kind to me this week. Most of the day I sobbed uncontrollably. We met with the others and cried together. Tears of confusion and anger. Tears of disappointment and fear. What would our lives look like now? Oh, how I loved Jesus. When He healed me of my seven demons, my whole world flipped right side up for the first time in years. Of course, I followed Him, I served Him, I loved everything about Him… On Friday afternoon I gazed up into His beloved face as the sky behind Him grew fierce and black. I stayed until He breathed His last. I fell to my knees in horror as the soldier pierced His side. I helped Joseph and Nicodemus take the body down from the cross, cleaning it as best we could in the short time before Shabbat.

The new week began today with the same heaviness deep in my heart. I went to the tomb to properly anoint the body with oil and spices. I kept hearing His promises echo in my head… “I will never leave you nor forsake you…” There was an eerie darkness in the garden. The birds, normally singing loudly in the pre-dawn springtime, were unusually quiet. I wondered how I would roll away the stone.

As I arrived at the burial spot, I was confused because the entrance to the crypt was wide open. Was this the right place? Had I misunderstood Joseph’s directions? As I looked inside, I saw an empty slab in the darkness. A cold breeze slapped my face! Immediately my anger increased as I wondered who had stolen the body? I ran to tell Peter and John and they quickly competed to see who could get there first. They both confirmed my initial discovery and left me standing in front of the vacant tomb.

I sobbed uncontrollably for what felt like hours. I paced back and forth. I fell to my knees. I shook my fist at heaven. Something prompted me to look inside once more. I saw two angels sitting about six feet apart. An empty burial cloth lay between them. They asked me why I was crying? Why do you think? There is a massive hole in my heart and the pain is great!

I looked away and began to leave. A man was nearby; I thought he might be the gardener. I couldn’t see his face for the sun was rising over his right shoulder. He too asked me why I was crying. With all my heart I asked him if he had taken the body someplace.

He spoke my name. “Miriam. Mary.” My heart skipped a beat as I recognized the familiar, loving voice of Yeshua! In that instant, I recalled a time when the Lord told us that He was the Good Shepherd… and that the sheep know His voice…  I spun around quickly, like a dancer!  My weeping suddenly turned to great joy as I recognized my Lord and fell at his knees! “Rabboni!”

He’s alive! He spoke to me first! He told me to go tell the others. I would say that I can’t believe it, but I do believe it! He has risen! I have seen the Lord!

There was great sorrow and weeping last night. And the night before that… But today… today… joy has come with the morning!

 

The actions, words and thoughts, perhaps, of Mary Magdalene, as recorded in John 20.

 

What do you do when you feel sorrow or sadness? Run to Jesus! Listen to His words in Matthew 6:

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place… Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” Matthew 6:6 (MSG)

Oh, to sense His grace… You’ll find it as you meet Him in your prayer closet each day.

 

(c)2018 Rich Ronald.

God IS with us. Always!

The Jordan River in Israel. A Land flowing with milk and honey is just on the other side. Photo by Rich Ronald.

Inheritance. Moses had been promising a Land flowing with milk and honey for 40 years. And now it’s ours! Somedays it’s truly hard to believe that we are actually here. Living in this inheritance hasn’t been easy. But it is so worth it.

Over and over again we were told that God would be with us as we entered the Promised Land. Forty years earlier, Moses sent an advance team to scout out the territory. They reported that there were giants in the Land and we’d be better off staying in the wilderness or going back to Egypt. But Caleb and I saw the beauty of the rolling hills, the fertile acreage, the amazing size of the crops and we were certain that Yahweh was blessing us…We were honestly dumbfounded that He would give us cities we didn’t have to build and allow us to eat from olive trees we didn’t plant. And now, we were the only two given the privilege to return.

First things first, we had to cross the Jordan River. While normally it flows lazily from Mount Hermon down to the Dead Sea, it was spring time, and the water had overflown its banks. It was time to see God’s amazing hand lead us as He had led our forefathers at the Red Sea.

The people nervously gathered by the water’s edge. We heard the Canaanites on the other side we’re confident the river would protect them as we moved from East to West, just south of Jericho. The Lord told me to put the priests out front and to have them carry the Ark of the Covenant. If God was going to be with us, His presence should lead the way.

With great fear, one by one and step by step the Levites waded into the rushing rapids… all while balancing the great Ark.  Honestly, I wasn’t so sure what would happen next as thousands of our people watched from the muddy banks of the Jordan. Would the priests slip and fall in? Would the Ark topple and get carried downstream by the current? But we had faith. We knew God hadn’t brought us this far to leave us stranded.

A miracle for our generation happened next! The water began to pile up, like it was splashing against an invisible dam. Some started shouting and praising God. “Look! It’s just like the Red Sea, Joshua!” I smiled as I thought of my parents being chased by Pharaoh, and then watched as my own children skipped across the dry river bed  holding their mother’s hand! 

Everyone was laughing; some were dancing!

We built a monument to the Lord in the middle of the river bed to remind generations after us of the great beginning to our crossing into the Promised Land.

We didn’t really know where we going or what to expect next. God continued to guide us and deliver us… There were victories at Jericho, Ai, Gibeon, Lachish, and many others… 180 towns altogether west of the Jordan.

We’ve been living on the Land in peace for a long time now. All of the tribes of Israel have just gathered for a delightful and moving celebration at Shechem. I reminded the people of God’s faithfulness through the generations… how He has fought for us, just as He promised. Our enemies ran from us, not because of our swords or our military strength… for we are just wanderers… They fled because of God. Some tried to fight us, but God gave us the victories, just as He gave us the Land.  Oh, how He has kept every one of the promises He has ever made to His people! How sweet God’s inheritance has been to every one of us.

I may not be here much longer… but for however many days I have left… as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!

 

The story of the people of God and their leader, Joshua, from the book of Joshua.

Do you ever feel like each new day is a brand new expedition, full of unknown diversions, diasters or battles with people you don’t even know? You wake up to new challenges that you didn’t expect to encounter? Today’s toddlers are achieving greater computer mastery than IBM executives in the 1950’s. Nothing is like it was. Everything is changing. It seems we live in a completely different world than just a decade ago. How do we find our way with daily, new unknowns?

God. It’s a simple answer, but it’s true. He is constant. And the same Holy Spirit that was with God in Genesis 1:1 at the creation of the world is with us today. As we follow the Spirit’s prompting, we receive God’s intended inheritance.

 Only those people who are led by God’s Spirit are his children. God’s Spirit doesn’t make us slaves who are afraid of him. Instead, we become his children and call him our Father. God’s Spirit makes us sure that we are his children. His Spirit lets us know that together with Christ we will be given what God has promised. We will also share in the glory of Christ, because we have suffered with him. (Romans 8:14-17 CEV).

No matter where we go, no matter whether we’ve been there before or not, no matter if it is a place of joy or a place of suffering, be assured of this: God is with us.

Even Jesus walked an uncharted path at least once… on the via Dolorosa… The Painful Way… the walk from the palace of Pontus Pilate to the Hill of the Skull. It was a walk He had not ever taken before. He knew the destination; He knew His Father in heaven was with Him. He knew it was part of His inheritance… but He had never been there. It was a place of suffering for His glory and our inheritance.

Open up your hands and receive His inheritance today!

 

(c) 2017. Rich Ronald.

 

 

You can defeat the enemy, the Devil… the same way Jesus did!

 

The Israeli desert can be brutal. Satan tried to use it to his advantage. To no avail!

I am known as a tempter, a deceiver and schemer. My goal is to take anything good and wreck it. I have had many, many successes. Eve is the earliest. I was able to confuse her. Oh she had it so good there in the garden… By manipulating the truth just a bit I totally wrecked her life, her relationship with Adam and with God.

I also messed with Abraham, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon, even Peter. The list is endless. And, I’m sure I’ve messed with you.

So the day Jesus entered the wilderness I was poised for another great victory. I watched as he spent 40 long days in solitude.  I waited until he was at his weakest… he was lonely, hungry, and he was likely preparing for his next move. At just the right moment, I pounced!

The Israeli desert is rocky, dry and dirty. Loose stones the size of fists cover the landscape. Just walking can be a chore. And finding a spot to kneel and pray is impossible. With just the right amount of prompting, and the early morning light just so, I knew that Jesus was famished, I figured I may be able to convince him to see small loaves of bread where the path was covered with rocks. This was going to be easier than Eve.  He hadn’t eaten in 40 days. Appealing to his flesh and his position, I said: “If you really are the Son of God, and since you are hungry, why not turn these stones into bread… satisfy your hunger. Can’t you taste a fresh baked loaf, Jesus? Mmmmm.”

Even though he was famished and his body weak, his mind was sharp. He quoted Torah and said: “No one can live on bread alone. People need every word that God has spoken. The word is life. The word is my sustenance, Satan.”

He was stronger than I thought he’d be after 40 days without food.

We walked along for awhile together.  I took him to the City.  The air was hot, not a cloud in the sky. Although no one could see us, we went to the top of Solomon’s great temple. We looked down from the height above and saw people going about their day… the women to the markets and the men to their work. Bright colored awnings peppered the walkway below. I pretended to push him off and challenged his ego. If this is about words supporting him, how about these words from Scripture: “God will give his angels orders about you, Jesus. They will catch you in their arms. Jump, Jesus, Jump!”

He replied by quoting other words from God: “Don’t try to test the Lord!”

I schemed again how I might tempt him… I knew that God has given me the power over this earth, so I used that authority as a bargaining chip… I would gladly give that up if I could get Jesus to merely bow to me!  I’m still angry at God… It was supposed to be me on that throne in heaven! So we went north to Mt. Hermon, the highest elevation in all of the Promised Land. He was still physically weak. Surely I could get him to yield.  “Look to the mountains in the east and the great sea to the west.  This can all be yours, Jesus… all you have to do is bow before me. Think of it… you can bring your people your kind of peace, for all time… think of the wealth of this land, the bounty and riches of the fertile crescent, the many palaces of King Herod… I’ll see to it that it is all yours to do with as you wish… merely worship me.”

This time, he didn’t bow, he bellowed: “Go away, Satan!” Again he quoted the Word of God: “Worship the Lord, the One True God and serve only Him.”

Others were so much easier to cripple… I will continue to press on this one, the Son of God… but for now, I will leave him. I will leave him. But I will be back!

 

The words, actions and thoughts, perhaps, of Satan during temptation of Jesus in Matthew, Chapter 4.

 

Do you know you have the power to defeat the enemy? Use the words of God and the truth of the scriptures. Use the authority Jesus gives to all of us. Most important, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NIV).

 

Original sermon video is found here.

Photo by Matthew J. Parker. More info here.
(c) 2017. Rich Ronald.