He Is Prepared

God has a plan for you and for me. One that isn’t destroyed by life’s circumstances, one that includes Mercy for our failures, and our fears. That doesn’t mean life is easy, and fairness is such a misunderstood concept.

Joseph’s situation didn’t seem fair until you saw how he rescued his family, and the known world from famine. Abraham’s situation didn’t seem fair, but if Sarah had Isaac any earlier, Rebecca would not have existed yet. Every step God is walking with you, both the sure and the unsteady ones. Each has a purpose.

Whatever this day holds, He is prepared for, especially when we’re not. Today wasn’t unexpected for Him, and He has the answers for it. We may not find out all the why’s and when’s right away, but as long as we know Who knows all, every question has an answer. In my life I’ve learned that bringing everything to Jesus, takes care of everything!

The Tribe Of Asher

Numbers 2:27
27 And those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Asher, the chief of the people of Asher being Pagiel the son of Ochran,

Nothing with God is an accident. That’s not to say that every second of time is micromanaged. Most people misquote  the Scripture, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” All things aren’t good, or even divinely intended, but God melds the events of our days to bring us to that great day that is to come.

Solomon said life and chance happen to us all. David said Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light unto my path. The steps of a good man are ordered of The Lord. The path, the steps, and the direction are planned, but we will face obstacles in the way.

God allows, not causes the obstacles. An whether the stumbling block is a key to a future event, something that life brings, or something that our mistakes have caused, God will use it to help, and not hurt us. Joseph’s brothers were not inspired to throw him into the pit, but God knew it would happen.

What was meant to be an instrument of cruelty and revenge by man, was what God used to save the same men’s lives. What does all this have to do with Numbers 2:27? For one thing, Pagiel’s ancestor, Asher, was one of those who threw Joseph into the pit.

It’s Pagiel’s name that introduced the topic that I’m getting ready to share, and have alluded to above. Among other meanings, his name is defined as, “Accident Of God.” God is merciful, kind, compassionate, wise, but one thing He is not, is accident prone.

There are no accidents of God, and yet, this is what this young man’s name means. That one definition arrested me. I was reading Numbers 2, the chapter about the standard bearers around the Tabernacle, and I felt that I needed to go back and look up Pagiel.

When I saw the meaning, I wanted to learn everything I could about the young man. He was the Prince of his tribe. His Father’s name is Ochran, meaning muddler or trouble. An the standard he stood by was the olive tree.

Beyond that, we know very little about the man that sparked such an interesting name. So I began to look at his family, and the tribe he was the head of. It was a large tribe, apparently a successful one, but with very few, named, prominent members.

His tribe is described as the happiest of tribes, and yet, it is one of the those that God had placed on Mount Ebal to curse, or warn of what would happen if Israel backslid. We view happiness as a blessing, and it is with a life that is pleasing to God, but without a relationship with God, happiness is only a deception.

Happiness without a relationship with God, is a very dangerous thing. With sorrow, there is longing, a sense that things can be better. Sorrow screams something is missing, happiness whispers everything is fine. Destruction often doesn’t come in a shout, but in a soft, quiet, murmur.

Longing in itself isn’t a sign of righteousness though. Any emotion, any condition, outside of a right relationship with God, has it’s perils. Just as happiness, absent God, is a masking of truth, the lack of happiness can lead you on a road of danger.

Some of the most serious people away from a stage, are comedians. I don’t know if it’s that they get bored with being funny, or if they get tired of it. Perhaps they get bored with laughter. Or they resent that is the only facet of their personality people see, I’m not sure.

What I do know is that they eventually put on a happy face like an actor puts on a mask. It’s not real, if they’re good at what they do, it can seem like it, but it isn’t. Asher may have been known to be the happiest of tribes, but there was trouble lurking somewhere behind the tent door.

Among the tribes bored with the manna, tired of the blessings, was the tribe of Asher. Every thing good that God had given them, and still it was not good enough. When they got to the promised land, they failed to drive out the Phoenicians in the land they inherited.

There were no judges recorded of Asher. No great kings ruled from this tribe. The great prophets, such as Moses, Elijah, and Ezekiel, were not from the tribe of Asher. I did find one important thing that happened with this tribe in the Old Testament.

King Hezekiah sent messengers throughout Israel to keep the Passover. He was asking Israel to turn from their sinful ways, and return to God. Initially there was resistance, but Asher was the first tribe mentioned who humbled themselves, and came back to Jerusalem.

The “happy” tribe realized that what they had, the wealth, the pleasant conditions, everything that they were content with, wasn’t enough. Somewhere in them, there was a desire for something that was more than what they had.

So they made the journey back to God. Maybe your life seems fine. The bills are paid, you have your health. Nothing seems to be wrong. Maybe you’re even a happy person. Let me ask you something, are you complete?

I’ve seen broken men laugh. I’ve heard laughter at the funeral home, but it didn’t change the condition that had brought us there. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, then something is missing in your life.

Asher realized this, and while we don’t know what all happened, we do know someone passed on what Asher returned too. The last two generations we see in the family of Asher, are a Father and a daughter.

The man’s name is Phanuel, and he has a daughter named Anna. She is a widow, and when we meet her, most likely her father is dead, because she is eighty four years old.

I’m guessing they’re not what you expected. It’s not really a thriving group. The memory of a Dad and a husband, and she only got to be married for seven years. The Bible mentions no children, no relatives, and no legacy.

It would appear to be a sad life, but like I said about happiness, appearances can be deceiving. Her dad, Phanuel, meant The Face Of God, and that is where Anna spent her time, near God, in the Temple.

We only see her for three verses of Scripture, but oh what three verses it is, Luke chapter two. This family of a handmaid, whose namesake was born as a weapon in a feud between two sisters, now saw another child. The woman’s whose Father was named after God’s face, was blessed to see the Face Of God in flesh!

Like the founding namesake of her tribe, this child was also a weapon, but He was not born out of jealousy. The Christ was born to rescue the happy and the sad, those who laughed, and those who cried. The prominent, the forsaken, and the seemingly forgotten, all were rescued by this weapon of hope.

There are no accidents of God. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, what happens to you, may not be planned, but you were. God may not micromanage the events of time, but He created time to spend it with you and I.

It was no accident that Anna, who had been so faithful, even in the midst of her sorrow, got to see Jesus. Sorrow, like laughter, can be a gift, and they can both be gifts from God. It doesn’t matter what brought you to Jesus, only that you find him. Anna means Grace, and as long as Grace brings you to Jesus, it doesn’t matter how you get there.

One of the places in the tribal territory of Asher was the town of Beth-emek, meaning House Of The Valley. There are times when we inherit a house in the valley, or a depressed state. Sometimes it’s by chance, other times it’s through our own mistakes, or at times, it just happens.

Regardless, you find yourself in a house in a valley. You inherit it in the midst of others whose circumstances are different. Don’t make the mistake that there borders are better for you than your own. They are different, but God did not place you where they are, or them where you are.

Each tribe was placed in the location that was best for them. Asher was meant to bring laughter to the House Of The Valley. Some people are called to sorrow, not for themselves, but for those who would come after them. The House Of The Valley is not a closed house, nor did God place you in an isolated place. He placed you a secure location, in a place that desperately needs some true joy.

Beth-emek was surrounded by places like Jiphthah–el, meaning God will open, the place right before Beth-emek. After it, is Neiel, or Moved Of God, which is followed by Cabul, or sterile and limitation. When God places you in a trial, one that lasts so long, you feel it’s become your address, don’t forget that He never sits you where He’s not standing beside you.

Beth-emek was in the center of all these places. It was the gateway that bridged what is open, into where God is moving, to those areas where limitation and barrenness seem so common. Asher was meant to connect the sorrowful with a joy that’s doesn’t numb the pain, but turns it into a testimony.

The last individual from the tribe of Asher, that we know by name is Anna. This woman, a Prophetess, had experienced her own valley. Instead of sadness, she shared the source of her joy throughout Jerusalem. She shared the love for God she had, in spite of a long, lonely trial, with everyone. Anna knew, Jesus is here to rescue the isolated, the limited, and the hopeless.

This seemingly insignificant tribe, which entered the world laughing, now exits it rejoicing, heralding the birth of The Savior. We met Pagiel beside his standard, the Olive Tree, among the thousands of Israel, surrounding the Tabernacle.

The last place we see the tribe of Asher, is in Revelation chapter seven. Standing, sealed with the seal of God, among the tribes of Israel, worshipping The Lamb. Jacob said Asher’s bread would be fat or rich, and he would yield royal delicacies. Moses said he would dip his feet in oil, and that he would be acceptable to his brothers.

In other words, Asher eventually testified of God’s Grace, as well as His birth, sharing real joy with the world. No matter the trouble the family faced, no matter how many accidents seemed to befall them, no matter what struggles they inherited, Asher kept going. In the end, he stood with his brothers, and his children, rejoicing at the Throne Of God.

Acrylic Jacob Sees The Wagons

The Word says that Jacob revived when he saw the wagons Joseph had sent.  This is my attempt at reflecting it in acrylic.  As you know, I’m passionate about God, writing, and art. My goal is to reflect Him in both my writing and artwork.

It’s the primary way I hope to add value to my readers, reminding them of God’s support, even in dark times.  The sky is purposely darker behind Jacob, than it is before him.  Yet, the cloud, fills both places.

The Lord is with us every hour, and will bring us from the darkest hour, into brightest day.  I wondered painting this, if the same road Joseph’s wagons rode in on, was the road that he was carried on, captive into Egypt?

Either way, Joseph lived, Jacob revived, and the pathway to Moses and the Passover rolled ever closer to arriving.  I hope you enjoy this acrylic, Jacob And The Wagons.

 

One Verse

One verse. There have been days, complete periods of time, where one verse carried me. It’s not always the same one of course. Some days it’s from my daily reading, if it’s not invested in, it can’t return to you, or from days passed.

A lifetime of reading God’s Word, the new practice of a new believer, or a re-committed one, is more than routine. It is a lifeline for your future peril. A lesson for our not yet given children. A shoulder for future burdens, and for current anxiety. Prayer, reading God’s Word, and Fasting, which we all must do more of, are the cornerstone of today, and the building blocks of tomorrow.

Whether you set goals, or make resolutions, make time daily for a Heavenly conversation, and consistent time away from the table. In 2018, you may or may not lose those ten pounds, learn to play the clarinet, or go back to college, but you can do something life altering.

Five minutes in daily prayer, two chapters at least daily, and regular fasting will make more of an impact than you can ever imagine. You’ll find that prayer becomes part of your thought life more throughout the day. A battle will arise, and a verse will come to mind that is a perfect defense against it. Fasting will not only temporary subdue the flesh, it will help to keep it in line throughout the rest of your year.

I challenge you in this new year to come. Do these three things daily. A year from now, you’ll find these three commitments, we’ll make you richer in spirit, give you more peace in the storms of life, and make you more productive in every area of your soul and life.

Goals – The Hammer, The City, And The Plane

To set a goal, is to set a boundary. That is what the word means, it’s from Middle English meaning limit or boundary. It may seem counterintuitive, but think about it.

A finish line is boundary, a limit to the race. Once you achieve that goal, you are no longer bound by the same limits. It’s time to set a new goal.

We are coming to the boundary of December 31. Some will cross it having successfully crossed the finish line of the goals, or boundaries they set last year. Others will step from 2017 to 2018, still hoping to achieve the dreams of 2016, 2015, or even 1999. Most of us will be a mixture of the two.

I doubt we have achieved every goal we set last year, and that’s ok. Should we have done better, most likely. Yet, you and I can’t change our progress from yesterday to today.

We can however, step up our consistency today, reaching into tomorrow. Once there, we can do it again. Goal setting is wonderful, anyone can do it. Goal achieving requires consistency.

The old adage slow and steady wins the race is true. It’s not because of the level of the speed, but the level of the steady pace. A moving man will get somewhere, a person standing still will go nowhere. So don’t knock yourself for what you didn’t do.

Instead, figure out what you can do each day, to get to where you want, or need to go. I’ve got some goals I set for 2018. Some are improvements on last year, some are goals I failed in last year, and some are new opportunites and challenges that I didn’t see coming last December.

A ninety year old man, who used to be a carpenter, was too weak to drive a nail into a wall in one sitting now. He remembered what he used to do, but wasn’t about to allow it to stop him from doing what he could. So, each morning, and each night, he hit the nail once, as hard as he could. In three days, on his ninety first birthday, he hung the picture.

That picture, was of the city he had always wanted to visit, but told himself he could never afford. There was something about hanging that picture though. It didn’t happen over night, but on his ninety second birthday, he and his family stepped off the plane and into the airport of the city in the photo. Next year, his goal is to fly the plane. He won’t start flying, he’ll start with the manual.

Plan. Gear up for 2018, get your mindset ready, and then read page 1, with page 2 in mind. Before we know it, we’ll turn the page on another year, better than when we opened it.

Stephen On Boxing Day

Today is a day that traditionally celebrates both Boxing Day, and the Christian martyr, Stephen. A man who went from caring for widows, to witnessing and giving his life for The Gospel. It’s fitting, that the day after Christmas, people remember a man who ran with the message of it.

Today isn’t the First Work Day after a holiday, or a back to drudgery day. Rather it’s an opportunity to practice the teachings of The One we honored December 25. No, Jesus wasn’t born in December 2,000 years ago, but we should honor His birth, Life, and purpose every day of the year.

So don’t let anyone depress you about today. Rather let the fire that empowered Stephen to see Jesus every day, do the same for you. Box up some of the blessings God has put in you, like joy, kindness, and love, and give them to someone today. Make their day after Christmas a day they also remember a follower of The Christ, not for who we are, but for what He has birthed in us!

The Busy, The Crowded, And The Rejected

I wonder if the Innkeeper ever found out Who he had turned away? I believe He did, the shepherds spread the news throughout the region. Do you think he ever felt guilty?

Maybe Jesus visited during His Ministry. Maybe He watched The Savior. We know Jesus traveled throughout the country, from Jerusalem to Galilee, and Samaria. Maybe the Innkeeper experienced Jesus take time for Him.

Perhaps bringing salvation into the inn that was too crowded for Him, all those years before. Either way, we know this, Jesus has time for the busy, the crowded, and the rejected. He’s been all three.

Maybe your Christmas resembles a scene from White Christmas. Or maybe it’s more like a Dr Seuss cartoon, and you feel like the Grinch. When it comes to your need, Jesus’ focus is on you.

He isn’t concerned about the setting, the Season, or the situation. Christ‘s goal today hasn’t changed. He wants the same thing that made Him make the journey to Bethlehem all those years ago, a relationship with you.

Nail Scarred Hands Hold Us

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of the old song, “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand”. Mainly for two primary reasons. I’d like to share them with you.

First, while His doesn’t change, mine is growing older. If I hold something to long, one falls asleep now. He held this same hand when it was small and tender, and then young and strong. Now, it’s middle aged, there’s still strength in it, but not what was there. One day He will hold it when it is weak and feeble. The only constant, His unshakable, unfaltering Power to keep us, regardless of what we face.

Second, I thought of the only change He ever allowed His hands to experience. Spirit was wrapped in flesh. The hands which birthed, held, and cradled, both time, eternity, and man, was born, held, and cradled. They grew from tiny to the hands of a Carpenter, rough and strong. Finally they were pierced, for our securing.

The unchanging hands the song speaks of, kept the scars of Calvary, even in His resurrected, glorified body. I’ve written about this before, but it still fascinates, amazes, and overwhelms me. He kept the reminders of His pain, as a symbol of His love to us.

The hands that hold us, have known pain. We have a High Priest who is touched by our situations, because He was aquatinted with grief. He knows how to comfort my wounds, because He knows what it means to be scarred.

One day, His nail scarred hands will embrace us, wrapping us in His arms. I don’t know what you’re going through right now. I’m not sure how your victory will happen, but I know it will. I know because I know who’s holding us.

Regardless of your circumstance, remember He’s brought you this far. You may not be where you thought you would be, but you’re still here. Where there is life, there is hope. An where The Hope Of Life is, He’ll take us the rest of the way.

Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand

Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

Refrain:

Hold to God’s unchanging hand,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand;
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

Trust in Him who will not leave you,
Whatsoever years may bring,
If by earthly friends forsaken
Still more closely to Him cling.

Covet not this world’s vain riches
That so rapidly decay,
Seek to gain the heav’nly treasures,
They will never pass away.

When your journey is completed,
If to God you have been true,
Fair and bright the home in glory
Your enraptured soul will view.