Run to God. You Will Make It.

King David wrote these words in 2 Samuel: “What a God! His road stretches straight and smooth. Every God-direction is road-tested. Everyone who runs toward Him makes it.” 2 Samuel 22:31, MSG.

This is the same David who was chased for decades throughout The Land. His enemies included King Saul, his own son Absalom, a wanna-be leader by the name of Sheba, and of course the armies of Philistines.

Here towards the end of the journey he acknowledges and worships the One True God. We might expect this song in the Psalms, but here it as at the end of the 2 Samuel narrative. Despite the many setbacks of the shepherd-turned-warrior-turned-king, his heart is pure before God. He takes time, regularly, to sing and praise the Almighty for who He is.

Every time you begin to run back to God, He will show the way to His throne. It is unmistakable. He wants you to make it.

“The LORD is my rock… He is my shield and my saving strength, my defender and my place of safety. (v3, NCV).

“In my distress I called to the LORD. I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.” (v7, NIV).

“He brought me out to an open place; he rescued me, because he took pleasure in me.” (v20, CJB).

“You give me a better way to live, so I live as you want me to.” (v37, NCV).

“You are a mighty rock. I will honor you for keeping me safe.” (v47, CEV).

‘So I will praise you, LORD, among the nations. I will sing praises to your name.” (v50, NCV).

Even if your life feels like it’s full of ups and downs and right turns and left turns, know that every time you begin to run back to God, He will show the way to His throne. It is unmistakable. Why? Because He wants you to make it! In fact, He is making the way clear. Even now.

David’s son Solomon says it this way: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:56, NIV).

And once we’re there, we will join David in praising God for all eternity.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, the all-powerful God, who was and is and is coming.” (Revelation 4:8, CEV).

“What a God! His road stretches straight and smooth. Every God-direction is road-tested. Everyone who runs toward Him makes it.” (2 Samuel 22:31, MSG).

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 58. A Light Shining Like the Dawn of a New Day.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 58.

Another wow and convicting chapter. Let me encourage you to read it directly for yourself today. It’s just 14 verses.

God, through the prophet, is asking us to examine ourselves, to look at the motivations of our own heart. How often do we do spiritual things for the show of it and then complain, wonder and ask why He hasn’t answered our prayers? When talking about the spiritual discipline of fasting, for example,

“Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after? A day to show off humility?” (v5, MSG).

I’m reminded of a time when I was once asked, “What is the one thing you want to be remembered for long after you are gone?” With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I replied, “My humility.”

Have you ever engaged in the spiritual discipline of fasting? There have been times when I have refrained from food for my situation, for my breakthrough. Here the prophet says, no, the goal of fasting is not for our benefit: “I’ll tell you what it really means to worship the LORD. Remove the chains of prisoners who are bound unjustly, free those who are abused.” (v6, CEV).

Then… then when your heart is in the right place, when we are focused not on ourselves but on what God wants, then… “Then your light will shine like the dawning sun, and you will quickly be healed. Your honesty will protect you as you advance, and the glory of the LORD will defend you from behind.” (v8, CEV).

God reminds us of His faithfulness, how He will provide life-giving water in the dry lands. This occurs when we give of ourselves first and put His ways above our ways; when we give food to the hungry and care for the homeless, for example. When we pray for others, even our enemies, before we pray for ourselves.

One of the other ways we honor Him is via worship:

“But first, you must start respecting the Sabbath as a joyful day of worship. You must stop doing and saying whatever you please on this special day. Then you will truly enjoy knowing the Lord. He will let you rule from the highest mountains and bless you with the land of your ancestor Jacob. The Lord has spoken!” (v13‭-‬14, CEV).

Indeed. The Lord has spoken. A good word from Isaiah 58 today!

 

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.
(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 17

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah. Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 17.

More doom. This time for Damascus, to the north.

There is some hope, however:

“At that time the people will turn and trust their creator, the Holy God of Jacob.” (v7, CEV)

Here’s what The Message says:

“Yes, the Day is coming when people will notice The One Who Made Them, take a long hard look at The Holy of Israel. They’ll lose interest in all the stuff they’ve made—altars and monuments and rituals, their homemade, handmade religion—however impressive it is.” (v7-8, MSG).

Oh, may that day be today! Can we lose interest in all the stuff we’ve made? All the altars? All the rituals of our handmade religions? All the programs of today’s church? All the lights, smoke, volume and smooth talk of many of today’s weekend worship services? Yes, this is what is used to encourage people to attend church in America. This is how churches compete with secular entertainment. I get that. I’m not against those things.

But, I believe our prayer each weekend as we step into a worship venue can be this: “God, may I see and hear You and only You today.” As we open our hands with humility and seek “The One Who Made Us” in our rituals, we will find “The Holy of Israel.” Let our hearts be impressed with the message from the Spirit rather than our senses impressed with the atmosphere of the room.

In John’s gospel, Jesus encourages us with these words: “God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24, NIV).

May we continue to trust God, long before there’s a hint of “doom” in our lives. And may we trust our Creator even during times of hardship and struggle. For He is our God. And we are His people. He is our mighty Rock where we find protection. (v10, CEV).

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

When we worship, God fights on our behalf!

When the Shofars blew, the enemy was defeated and the walls fell down.
When the Shofars blew, the enemy was defeated and the walls fell down.

The story of Joshua and the fall of the walls at Jericho.

I’m a minister in the Tabernacle, a priest. My grandfather was Aaron. My name is Phineas. I was born in the Wilderness. Growing up we heard great stories of God. How He was with our people during the Exodus. How He parted the Red Sea. How He gave Moses the Law. But, honestly, we feel more like nomads instead of a “chosen people.” We are a people without a homeland.

That all changed recently, however. We’ve just entered the Promised Land. What an experience! Moses died a couple of months ago and had appointed Joshua to take us into this place that flows with milk and honey.  We had all just been consecrated to the Lord and it was the end of Passover. Joshua told us to get ready for a great battle, and that God Himself would be the Captain of our Army!

Yes, we’ve conquered a few lands east of the Jordan, but, we all grew up in the Wilderness. We’re learning to be warriors, but we are mostly shepherds. Except for the 40,000 trained soldiers from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh.

God has gone before us. God has defeated our enemies. I’m thankful Joshua knew what to do, although, I’m certain it’s not the way other armies would do battle. He says that God kept telling him to “be strong and courageous.” Looking back, I can see why.

Just ten days ago we crossed the Jordan River on dry ground as our ancestors had crossed the Red Sea. I was fortunate to be chosen as one of priests who blew the ram’s horn, with the procession of the Ark of the Covenant. It was amazing! This rushing, flowing river, stopped immediately as our feet entered the water. It was our generation’s miracle. And everyone crossed on dry land.

We were camped just outside the fortress city of Jericho. It was going to be our first stop – and our first conquest — in this New Land. God told us this land was now ours, all we had to do was go and get it. “Go and get it?” But, by force. As in, a battle? Some of us would probably die.

Joshua, our Commander, lined us all up… 600,000 men, plus the women and children.  The strategy was to surround the city of Jericho with people. It was only about a half a mile around, so that meant that the line only needed to be a half mile long.  Picture this: each row was 1,000 people wide, shoulder to shoulder.  The line was almost half a mile wide!  And guess who was at the front? I was. Yep! This huge mass of people. And at the very front, an armed guard. Then all of us priests. Some of us were part of the worshippers, blowing the Shofar. Other’s carried the Ark.  Joshua put my people up front! As I said, we are of the tribe of Aaron. My work in the tabernacle is to blow the trumpets and encourage all of the children of Israel to gather together in singing praises to the Almighty. When we heard the news that Joshua would put us up front, I must admit, I was frightened and worried. I’m not a student of battle strategy, but I kept wondering, “don’t those who lead up front get killed first?”

It was early in the week and we marched, over a million pairs of feet, around these massive city walls. The line was so immense, when those of us in the front had finished the circle, we met those from the back of the line who were just getting started. We had fully surrounded the city.  I’m sure the people inside Jericho were confused at our actions. We had heard they were afraid of us before we ever got here. Many wondered why we didn’t just attack the citadel once we had it surrounded.  But we listened and followed Joshua. He kept telling us of this face-to-face meeting he had with the one he called “The Captain.” How God said that He would go before us into battle. That He promised the victory! All we, the descendants of Aaron, were to do was lead the people in worship and walk around the city.

Once we had circled back around to where we began, we went back to our encampment and spent the night there. Early the next morning we did the same thing we did the day before.

And this continued. Day 3. Day 4. There was no one visible any longer on the city ramparts. We guessed they were filled with great fear by now. And we, soldiers in training, were looking for a fight.  And yet, we weren’t fighters.

Day 5. Day 6. “Forgive me, Joshua, but what’s the strategy here?”

Day 7. Would today be just another of the same thing? “No. Today would be different,” Joshua told us. We lined up as usual, but today the march would be quiet. Only the priests were to blow their shofars. No noise from any of the rest of the people of Israel. When we concluded our trip around Jericho, Joshua ordered us to go around again. And again. And again. This was taking all day and we were tired! Something big was about to happen. Our heart rates increased. There was lots of nervous energy. Finally, as we concluded the seventh circuit Joshua told us to blow the ram’s horns with all our might. And he told the people to shout! To scream. To cry out to God. To worship! Previously it was ominously quiet. Now, it was raucous! The din of the shouts of praise to the Almighty was deafening.

And then the ground underneath our feet began to shake, and the dust began to boil. The walls of the city shook as first one stone, then another fell from its mooring in the rock. Our people shouted louder and louder. We sang “Hallelujah!” to our King! We blew the trumpets until our cheeks hurt and we were spitting everywhere. And in a matter of seconds the city walls came crashing down. Waves of dust and dirt blew everywhere with great force. We were covered from head to toe. But the walls, the walls, they fell in a manner as to make ramps up into the city. Our brave soldiers charged forward and destroyed everything and everyone, except for one lone family who had sheltered some of our advanced spies earlier in the week.

It’s truly amazing what God did as we obeyed and worshipped Him. He assured us He would fight on our behalf. And oh, how He did! It was His victory as we worshipped and entered the Promised Land with shouts of great joy!

My interpretation of Joshua, Chapters 1-6.

(c) 2015 Rich Ronald.

Advent Day 16, The Gift of Encouragement

December 16

The Gift of Encouragement

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

When you feel a need for encouragement, how do you get it?  Do you call someone special?  Do you exercise or paint or play a game with your son or daughter?  How about singing or dancing or just watching a play or a movie? Or maybe it’s just connecting with a good friend over coffee or tossing a ball to your dog.

We all need encouragement from time to time, don’t we?

Today’s gift is what I see to be the Gift of Encouragement.  It’s probably just the way I’m wired, but I see encouragement all through the paragraph that begins with Verse 18 of Chapter 5: Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20, NIV)

Within the past year or so I took a spiritual connection assessment.  It asked a series of questions about how one connects with God.  Some people connect with God best by being out in nature; some in quiet solitude.  For me, my strongest connection with God is in worship.  I love to worship and sing my heart out and I love those musicians who lead worship and so skillfully take us to a place of complete adoration of God.  And truly, when one is fully immersed in worship, I can understand how Paul connects it with being drunk.   And I see this as a gift of encouragement in that he says “to speak to one another with psalms…”

The Psalms are a fabulous source of encouragement. Many are David’s personal journal entries.  I can so relate to David.   Often he begins a Psalm, such as Psalm 69, with a cry: “Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life!  I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold… I am weary with my crying… I wait for my God…” And then, as he journals and writes and ponders the greatness of God’s blessings through the next several verses, more than likely in song, the Holy Spirit takes him to a place of adoration at the conclusion: Verse 34: “Let heaven and earth praise Him!”

May I encourage you to encourage one another, through the words of the Psalms, or through other places of Scripture?  Write them out as prayers and give them to one another… and encourage one another.

That is the true Gift of Encouragement!  God gave us His word, filled with songs of blessings.  Yes, you can read them yourself. However, isn’t it great when God gives you a word of Scripture that he wants you to share with someone else?  Or he directs someone to a specific passage and they write it down and give it to you?  This is how the body is built up. 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, answered the call of her destiny with a song and a word of encouragement.  Following her encounter with the angel Gabriel, and as she met with her cousin Elizabeth — who was also supernaturally pregnant, carrying her son, John the Baptizer — Mary quotes the Old Testament song of Hannah from 1st Samuel 2. 

“I’m bursting with God-news! I’m walking on air. I’m laughing at my rivals. I’m dancing my salvation.  Nothing and no one is holy like God…” (1 Samuel 2: 1-2, The Message)

The words of both Mary and Hannah!  That is sheer joy and encouragement all in one!  May you receive this gift, and be available to give this gift to others, during this Advent season.

Father God, thank you for those who encourage me when I need to be encouraged.  Thank you for blessing me with every spiritual blessing.  May I be both a giver and a receiver this Advent.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2011. Rich Ronald