A Fighting Frog And A Burnt Bridge

This morning, I thought of a card Sis Livingston gave me when I was younger. That image helped me through so many battles. I don’t know if she knows how important it was to me.

It was of a pelican, who was trying to swallow a frog, but the frog had two hands sticking out, holding on the the pelican’s neck. The message, never give up, and keep fighting. I also thought of a statement my Mother said. “If you’re tempted to turn back, burn the bridge behind you in your mind, so giving up isn’t an option.”

They were so much more than words and pictures. They were an encouragement through a lot of trials. They also let me know, someone was looking out for me. It wasn’t only the message, but the method. 

The way you encourage someone is just as important, sometimes more so, than the words said. A beat up car and a limousine will both take you somewhere, but one is a whole lot more comfortable than the other. Those two things, and so many others helped carry me through things, that I never thought I would make it through.

Another reason it helped me so, is I knew the people who gave it to me. These two kind, and extremely strong ladies, knew how difficult things can get, but they kept going. Today, I’m where I am, in so many ways, because of them, and their encouragement.

I hope if you’re down today, you’ll think of the frog, and the burnt bridge, and keep going. If you’re not down, find a way today, not to give advice, but encouragement. It will help someone else battle their own bird of prey, burn your doubts, and keep going forward.

Sun And Moon

Joshua 10:11-14

And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.

At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,

“Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel.

God has always chose two to three items, events, or pointers, to confirm His intent.  Two of which, that have always featured prominently since Creation, are the Sun and Moon. The events in Joshua are a perfect example, and one that points both backward and forward.  

Habakkuk 3:11 (ESV Strong’s)

11 The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped, at the flash of your glittering spear.

Scientists tell us the Earth revolves around the Sun, and the Moon around the Earth. For the Sun and Moon to stop, this means that the orbit of the entire solar system was affected. The Spirit Of God stopped everything for His people, led by Joshua.

Habakkuk said, recounting the event that the Sun and Moon stood still in their habitation. This meant that the orbit of these two bodies stopped, which meant that all of the planets orbit stopped at that time. At the command of Joshua, the universe stood still.

I believe that everything in the Old Testament are a type and shadow of the New Testament, including this event. The name Joshua in the Old Testament, is the same as the name Jesus in the New Testament. Both come from the Hebrew name Yeshua, meaning Jehovah Is Salvation.

Joshua said that the Sun stood still over Gibeon, and the Moon in the valley of Aijalon until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. That statement is not coincidence. You have to look at where the Sun stood, and where the Moon was.

Notice the Bible says the Sun stood, but the Moon was in the valley. One stood over Gibeon, and the other was in the valley of Aijalon. Gibeon is the hill city, Aijalon is a field of deer. Aijalon is also in the region of the tribe of Dan.

Genesis 1:14-18

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 

15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 

16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 

17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 

18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

I believe that the God does things in twos and threes, which is why there is the Sun, Moon, and Stars. God said in the Old Testament that He put them in place to be for signs, and seasons. In Matthew 24, Jesus said that the Sun, Moon, and Stars would be connected to the end times. 

For today, I would like to focus solely on the Sun and Moon, except to say, this. Like the Stars form constellations, we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. This is why the Church can’t get caught up in the everyday, but must look ahead to that day!

Matthew 24:3

3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Luke 21:24-25 

24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

Jewish scholars, in the Talmud, say that a sign related to the Moon is a sign to Israel, whereas a sign in the Sun, is a sign to the world. I believe this, much like I believe the fig tree is a sign to Israel. Each of them is mentioned in Matthew 24, when they asked what was the sign of two things, the sign of His arrival, and the end of the age.  

Luke uses the phrase, the time of the Gentiles, and in the next sentence mentions the signs in the Sun, Moon, and Stars.  Like Joshua, He mentions the distress of the nations. The question is then, if the Moon is Israel, what is The Sun?

To answer that, first I would like to take you to somewhere that may seem out of place, at first. It references another time in history, where there were two great bodies, like the Sun and Moon. One was the Kingdom Of Judah, and the other, the nation of Israel. One followed the family of David, and the other was estranged from it.

Judah was not only the Kingdom, but the family of Judah. Also, it wasn’t by itself, part of the tribe of Benjamin remained with Judah. Benjamin was the youngest, or last son of Jacob. Much like Judah reflected David, and the Kingdom Of Praise, which is what the name Judah means, I believe the Sun points twofold.

Malachi 4:2 

2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

First, to God Himself, and second, to the Kingdom Of God, or the Church. Thus I believe that the Sun represents the Church Of Christ, and the Moon, the Nation Of Israel. Both precious to God, both with an eternal future, even though one sets on, or above a hill, and one rests in the valley..

This means, as Jesus said, the Church is a city set on a hill, Whosoever will, let Him come. There is Salvation in The Light Of Christ, also, He has not forgotten Israel. They may not know Him right now, but they won’t stay in the valley. There will be a day when Israel comes in contact with the redemption of Christ, just as the Moon will turn to blood.

So you have two bodies, pointing to Jesus, and the end times. Like Israel and Judah, two halves of one nation, two parts of the world’s future. If Gibeon represents the city sat on a hill; and I should mention, it was Joshua who had mercy on the Gibeonites, the Canaanite people who became part of the nation of Israel, then what is Aijalon?

Among other things, the tribe of Dan, which is representative of judgement, were appointed to it. It had been occupied by the Amorites. During the days of Joshua, it was appointed as a Levitical City. It is the scene of a great victory by Saul and Jonathan over the Philistines. Rehoboam fortified it. Benjamin occupied it. The Philistines later took it from Ahaz. 

In short, it is about judgement, victory, and sacrifice. Regarding the revelation of Christ, God’s precious nation, Israel, is in the valley right now. Like a field of deer, exposed to the elements, and the predators, they’ve experienced great highs, and great lows.

Yet, the purpose of it all, is not the judgement, but the rescue of God’s people, both Spiritual and natural Israel, will receive rescue and redemption. Though the forms will be different. 

The sun is over Gibeon, or detached from the battle. I believe this points to the catching away of the Church. We call it in the Rapture, referred to in Isaiah 26:20, 21 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15 – 18. I would also point out, Joshua 10:13 said that the Sun stood still in the midst of Heaven.

The Moon, will remain in the valley, until the battle is won. Until the nation took vengeance on its enemies. Jesus said, when you see Jerusalem compassed about with her great armies… . There will be a battle, there will be a tribulation, Israel will be in the valley, but they won’t stay there.

Joshua 10:14-15 

14 And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel.

15 And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal.

They will come out victorious from the valley. For The Lord fights for Israel. An with Jesus, the Joshua of  the New Testament, all Israel, Spiritual Judah and the nation of Israel, will return to Gilgal, or the circle. 

What does that remind you of? The stopped orbit of the universe, until the battle is over. When Christ returns, and the tribulation plays out, existence will not end, it’s just beginning.  Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, what God has in store for those who love Him.  Isaiah put it this way.

Isaiah 9:7, 8

7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

8 The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.

Watch the Sun and Moon. Watch the Church, and Israel. Watch for Jesus’ return. Pray to be ready, before the final battle starts.

Calling All Clark Kents

Today is a good day for us to make a small difference in someone’s life. A smile, a kind word, an empathetic ear. Someone needs you today, they may not need a Superman size answer, most don’t. They may only need a Clark Kent to help them while they’re working out their questions.

Vehicle Of Hope

Paul knew that, God had promised him he would appear before Caesar, so he wasn’t praying for his life in the storm. He was praying for the lives of those in the boat with him. I know there were times when he prayed for himself, but this shows that in stressful times, he showed concern for others.

The greatest men and women I’ve ever known, in their own storms, cared for someone else. Whether your circumstances are great, or horrible, you’ll find that, focusing on the needs of others, gives you peace. It may not reveal how your situation will work out, but The One who cares for you, will work it out.

Also, I’ve found that, when focusing on others, either my situations work out faster, or I just notice the wait less. Regardless, doing for those around me, blesses me in the process. The greatest blessing is to be a vehicle of hope.

Giving hope to others, when the waters are raging over the side, reminds you, The Storm Calmer hears you over all the noise. He spared everyone onboard, because Paul asked Him too. Someone could have a tomorrow, because of your prayer today.

Helps, The Rope, And The Umbrella

The following is a message I was blessed to share at Point Of Mercy on Sunday.

Acts 27:17

17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.

1 Corinthians 12:28

28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

I. Introduction – Two Objects, 3 Rules Of Thumb

I miss our Pastor today, he is Ministering to those in the Bristol Church today. He has asked me to speak on one of my favorite topics. It’s something I’m very passionate about, and that is what The Bible calls The Ministry Of Helps.  

To do that, I’d like to use two objects, and 3 Rules Of Thumb, to illustrate the office. I’ll talk about the items first, a rope, and an umbrella. 

The two objects have a few things in common. They are water, preparation, and the fact that they are not designed to work by themselves.

II. Rope, The Nature Of The Office

In Acts 27:17, the Apostle Paul is on a boat, the waves are busting against the boat, trying to do as much damage as possible. During that time, the sailors took ropes, or chains, and undergirded the ship.

Later, when explaining the structure of the Church in 1 Corinthians, that same Apostle, uses the word Helps again.  He mentions them between the Ministry of Healing, and Administration.  Between The Divine, and The Divinely Appointed, you will find The Gift Of Helps.

For generations, the Church has been compared to a mighty sailing ship.  So it’s interesting that this word parallels these two Verses.  

What is a Help, in that majestic ship of Zion? They’re not the sail that catches The Wind. They’re not the wheel that steers the ship. They’re not the navigator who charts the course. Helps are the ropes that help the ship against the waves. 

I am proud to say I have been called to The Ministry Of Helps, and I love it dearly. My first experience with it, is one of my earliest memories of Church.  Unlike some, I’ve had four sets of Grandparents.  Two were blood, two were adopted.

One was Grandpa Ott Shelton, and the remembrance that I have is him conducting the preliminaries where Grandpa Hill, my maternal Grandfather Pastored. When Grandpa Hill spoke, Grandpa Ott sat behind him, supporting him. 

I can still remember the sweat running down his face as the old metal fan circulated. What I didn’t know, was how my life would be impacted by both men, by both callings.  What I was seeing was two offices in God’s Kingdom. One was rope, held in Anointed, human hands, like the ropes in the hands of the shipmen. The other, was what God described as Anointed Stars Of Light, in The Hand Of A Mighty God.

To understand one office, you have to look briefly at the other.  The Apostle Paul, a Pastor, and the Leaders God has given to receive His Vision for the Church, have an awesome responsibility.

Revelation 1:13, 16-17

13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.

16 And He had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And He laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

Looking briefly at Revelation 1:16-17, let me ask you a very practical question. If The Stars were in The Right Hand of Jesus in Verse 16, and His Hand is resting on John’s shoulder in Verse 17, where did The Stars go?

I believe they went the same place that the Urim and Thummim stones went in the days of Aaron’s Priesthood. In a pocket of the Ephod over the heart of the High Priest.  You see I believe that The Men Of God spend their lives, either in The Hand Of God, or hearing and connecting with the Heartbeat Of God.

I don’t use the term Man Of God in a chauvinistic meaning. I use it to convey the weight of the office. Helps are not these Leaders. Helps are the metal ropes attached to the ephod of the High Priest, helping to hold things in place. 

Helps are placed in the hands of these leaders for the benefit of The Church. A Help is not designed to command the horizon, but is an instrument to help the Church get there safely.

The office of a Man Of God is a calling of Vision. The office of a Help, is a calling of Perception. God did not give me a blueprint of 200 Gleaves (where God has brought Point Of Mercy too), but He did give me the perception to see that He had given it to our Pastor. 

I could not have gotten us here, but I did know who could. A Help must know, and deeply love, His God, God’s Leaders, and God’s People. It’s not enough to do work, it’s about the spirit behind it.

A Help isn’t called to cast vision, but to be part of the vision that is cast.  Don’t misunderstand, that is not a statement of humility, but a description. I’m both proud and thankful for my calling, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.  

I love my calling, and I would not want to be anything else.  I see the purpose in my office, and I’m trying to make sure I fulfill that purpose. That purpose is to help, wherever I can, however I can, whenever I can.

As I said, the office of Helps is a rope. A Rope is in fields as diverse as construction, seafaring, exploration, sports, rock climbing, theatre, and even communications. Ropes have a purpose, but they are not stand alone objects.

Pulleys direct the force of rope to share a load, and multiply the force applied to the end. Ropes connect everything from an astronaut to his station when doing a spacewalk, to tent pegs, and sails to a ship. We can do so much when we are all pulling together towards the cause of God.

A Help though, is more than an office, it has to be a covenant of salt. Seafarer’s nets were “salted in” at the beginning of the fishing season to bring good fortune. This often took the form of a blessing, and sprinkling them with salt. 

Salt is spiritually a symbol of loyalty and friendship. A Help must be loyal, and be a good friend. In Bible times, and today, a salt covenant would join people the way a treaty does today. What a Help does can change, Why a Help does what they do must not.   

Our Why is to have a relationship with God, those He has given His Vision to, and the people that He has called a Help to serve.  Take a look at this X-Ray of a rope.  If the Ministry Of Helps is a rope, then the single strands are individuals.

Job 41:16-17

16 One is so near to another that no air can come between them.

17 They are joined one to another; they clasp each other and cannot be separated.

One rope, each with individual opportunities to Make A Difference.  The closer together in purpose, the stronger the rope.  Don’t allow any thing to make you fret, or fray you away from the calling God is calling you too.

Love, that, at its core, is the Ministry Of Helps. Love in everything, care about others. Care enough to get your hands dirty. Care enough to cry with those that are crying. 

Care enough to look silly if it helps someone. People are kind, and compliment Ashley and I on Children’s Ministry, but it’s not that we’ve done anything great.  We have done a few important things.

First, we found out from both Pastor, and Pastor Jason, what the Vision God had given them for Children’s Ministry was, and we embraced it. Second, we embraced both the children, and our fellow team members. We are all truly a team, we work together.

Third, Ashley and I aren’t afraid to look silly.  I never knew some great Ministry trainers would be magicians, clowns, and old vaudeville comedians, but they have been.

Fourth, and this is something Pastor taught me, we try to teach on the children’s level, not down to them.  Fifth, and this is a major temptation you have to fight against, we try to teach to the Jacob of today, not the Jacob of last year. Lastly, we try to learn new things, so that we’re also different and better teachers than we were last.

How does that pertain to Helps? For two reasons. First, it’s a place we are currently helping. You can’t experience something you’re not doing. Second, you have to be present in what you’re doing, be proactive, not reactive.

Habakkuk 2:2

2 And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.

Make sure you always keep in mind what God is doing.  A spirit of unity and humility will cause you to prosper in what God has planned for your life. As I said, God gives The Leader the Vision, for the Church, or the department, or the Small Group, but it’s our job to embrace it, and run with it.

Take the Vision, a Vision Of Mercy making lives new, impacting our communities, our cities, and our world, and reach to your part of the world.  

Up to this point I’ve been describing the nature of the office. To give you an idea of what it is. It’s under the auspices of God, under the direction of The Leadership Of The Church, and serving the ship, or the members of the Church.  

III. An Umbrella 

A Help ministers to God by serving both His Leaders, and His people.  I compare it to an umbrella.  Those who know me are probably hearing a theme song and a sound effect about now, but let me show you what I mean.

Like the rope, an umbrella is under authority. The person holding the handle is in authority.  He or she directs where the umbrella is going to go.  The holder decides when to extend or retract it.  

The umbrella’s purpose is the same as the ship’s rope, to minimize the effects of the water on the holder. A Help is an extension of what God wants to do through the Church. An instrument designed to work in conjunction with others.

A Leader, whether a Pastor, Director, or Coordinator, any level of Leadership, is the heart, eyes, shoulders, and mouth of the unit, a Help is the arms, fingers, legs, and the feet.  I can’t say what door God is going to open next, but I can point you to who does know. I can’t say how your need is going to be met, but I know how to pray for it to be met.  

A Help isn’t part of the foundation, but he can help build the wall.  A Help is the Eliezer that says Abraham I’ll be your legs to go where you send me to get Isaac a Bride. A Help is the Hushai who says Yes David, I’ll do as you ask. Instead of escaping with you, I’ll go back to Absalom and be a Spymaster for God’s Kingdom. 

A Help is the soldier priest Benaiah, asked by David to teach the Cherethites and Pelethites, Philistine soldiers, how to conduct themselves in Israel.

A Help isn’t the Solomon Who was called to build God’sTemple, but he’s the Hiram who follows the instructions, casting the Pillars and the fire pans.  

A Help is the servant of the King who petitions for Jeremiah’s rescue, and is commanded to take ropes, and pull him out of the pit. The King directed Ebedmelech to minister to someone who would in turn minister to others.

A Help takes many forms, just like a rope. He does whatever he or she is asked, following the leading, just like the umbrella.

I get excited by this, for these three reasons. First, it was modeled for me, by men like Ott Shelton, Darrell Livingston, Gene Rush, and Hagen Webb.  When I first started preaching I had no idea what I was doing.  

I would watch Bro Darrell, Pastor’s Uncle, down to how he stood. If you see me holding my hands together when something is happening in Church, it’s because I saw him do it. I also saw him volunteer to mow yards, clean the Church, teach Bible studies, dress up like a clown, and study The Word.

I saw men like the Head Usher, Bro Gene Rush Help in anyway they were asked, never asking for anything in return.  I saw men like Bro Hagen Webb’s my other adopted Grandpa, stand faithfully, voicing and living their support of Pastor Crawford, and God’s work.

A Help, is like another Help in The Bible, Doctor Luke.  Above all, a Help seeks to do no harm.  They seek to minister to the needs of everyone from the Apostle Paul to the survivors of the shipwreck.  

Second, I’ve seen what happens when a Help steps out of their calling, and into an agenda. It’s one thing to have dreams, hopes, and desires. It’s quite another to have an agenda.  

The difference is one seeks to benefit others, or to be mindful of others as The Scripture says. The other seeks their own benefit, to manipulate a situation for their own advancement.  The opposite of helping is hurting, and when a Help steps out of their calling, or works contrary to God’s plan, that’s what can happen.  It’s not worth it.

I hurt when I think of the Gehazi’s, who went from serving others, to serving themselves.  Folks, bless others, and God will bless you! I’m not the best a,b, or c in a lot of things, but if I had a need today, God would supply it.

I don’t say that arrogantly, but to show you the blessings of abiding in your calling.  This office I hold dearly, has blessed me with joy, wisdom, love, and laughter. I didn’t do it to get, but in doing it, I continue to get more than I ever imagined. 

I couldn’t have figured out how to design this building, but I can make coffee for the one who can.  I can’t stop that little baby from crying when it’s in pain, but I can call on The God who can.  I can’t explain how a family is going to get from the end of the money to the end of the month, but I can teach their children about Jesus.

An in the process, I may not be able to give them the two thousand they need, but I can give them the twenty of that two thousand. It’s not about the magnitude of the help, but the motive of the help.

Bro Jon, you don’t know how much what men like Bro Gary Potter and you are doing by being in that parking lot. As a young person when I got to Church, no matter how hard my life was at that moment, I knew I’d see Bro Gene Rush’s smiling face.  I knew Bro Darrell would make me laugh. I knew someone cared for me.  

Thirdly, the best thing about a Help is, you can be one.  Some callings require a specific calling, but we are all called to be a Help to others.  I’ll close with this. In Israel, in the inheritance of the tribe of Judah, was a Landmark.

IV. The Stone Of Bohan 

Joshua 15:6

6 And the border went up to Beth-hogla, and passed along by the north of Beth-arabah; and the border went up to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben:

A stone called the stone of Bohan, a son of Rueben, not Judah. Why did this Reubenite get a stone in Judah? Because the Reubenites already had their inheritance on the other side of Jordan. They were only Helping the other tribes get their inheritance.

Commentators believe that Bohan, who’s name literally means Thumb, died fighting for Judah.  He died helping others, and those he helped never forgot him.  The rule of thumb for someone in the Ministry Of Helps is this.

  1. Make yourself pliable in the hands of those God has placed you in. 
  2. Seek to Help them, and The Kingdom, in anyway you can, they’re your family. 
  3. Do whatever it takes to accomplish the goal, caring not for yourselves, but the needs of others. 

Do this, and you will be part of the great calling that is The Ministry Of Helps. Maybe you’re here, and you want to do something for God, but like me, you can’t do a, b, or c, it’s ok. I can’t sing, but I can worship while others too. I can tell them how much they blessed me.

I can listen to the brother or sister who’s had a hard week. I don’t have to offer advice, just my concern for their welfare.  I can’t play the piano, but I can help clean up in Brewpoint. 

God isn’t asking you to do what you can’t, He will do that. He’s asking for those who are willing, to do what they can, to be a Help for others.

Smile Along The Road

Someone you know is having a hard day. Maybe not a bad day, but a difficult one. Check on them today, ask what you can do for them today.

Take a moment to show them someone cares about them enough to listen, without an agenda or opinion. People don’t need to always know what we think, only that we’re thinking about them. Love in action isn’t always heroic, but it is consistent.

Love, listen, and learn about what they want to talk about today. Even if it seems completely off topic, it’s relevant to them. An you never know if this conversation may help get them til their tomorrow, or at least past today.

Some days you live for, others you endure, and some you forget. Yet, you never forget the love and kindness of those who’ve been with you along the way. Be someone’s companion on their journey, and make them smile along the road.

Path Of Light, And Talking Sheep

Psalms 23:3-4

3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Sometimes the path can be scary. At times, most of the time actually, I’m not sure what will happen next. I overthink too many things, and under think the important things.

The problem isn’t the path, but that we forget who chose it.  Notice the verse didn’t say He leads us in paths of safety, but in righteous ones. He says this after saying He restores our soul.

With the exception of museums, items aren’t restored to sit on a shelf. They’re restored for use. You don’t rest a soldier to send them home. You rest them, to send them into battle. That’s why the next verse talks about the valley of the shadow of death.  

We also forget Who our traveling companion is. I will fear no evil, for You are with me.  Jesus walks beside us, and He is armed.  The Shepherd has the Shepherd’s weapons, rod and staff. Some battles are for us to fight, others are to watch Him fight for us.

Also something else I never remember noticing, throughout the chapter, only the sheep is speaking. We hear no reply from the Shepherd. It’s not because He’s not listening, He is, and intently, but the Shepherd is taking the sheep somewhere.

He is taking them to the place where David wants to stay. From the perspective of the sheep, an not as ruling Shepherd, he says,  I want to dwell in the house of The Lord forever. In other words we are going to where The Shepherd speaks.

We talk about the dark times of the soul, and worry in those battles where we do not seem to hear His voice. I’ve been there, but if we heard His voice before the battle, and we remember He is with us fighting, then we must hold to two things.

First, there is a reason why He is silent. God never does anything without a purpose, even silence.  It may be that He needs us, like David, to think through what we are facing. At times, we need to process.

Most likely, like David, we already know what we need to know. David is talking here, but He’s speaking truth previously taught him by the Shepherd.  He is literally armed with the knowledge that God is taking care of him. 

Conversations with God is both where we came from, and where the journey is leading. When we go through this, the enemy tempts us to think either, we’re not being heard, or that we never heard from God to begin with, or that we will never hear from Him again. Yet the truth is, God has spoken into our life, and He will speak into it again.

All the while we are battling this fear, God maybe thinking something. He maybe thinking, I told them this would happen. I asked them to trust Me, and I gave them My Word to keep them. That’s what David is doing in this Psalm.  He’s not holding to what God is saying, but what He has taught Him.

This is a Psalm of a sheep who has been lead by The Shepherd. One that has seen all of this firsthand. He knows The Shepherd is for Him, and that reassures him through a difficult journey.

Second, it is our opportunity to speak to the other sheep. To explain how Faith empowers you to follow when you do not understand. When we look at the inspiration of our heroes in the Faith, it’s not the good times that inspire us.  

It’s those times when they faced, what seemed insurmountable odds, and yet were unfettered by one choice. It wasn’t that they were all fearless. My Grandfather seemed to be, but He talked about previous battles where he feared.

I saw others, go through the battle while fearing, and that wasn’t easy.  I saw some go through the battle second guessing their own decisions. Or even asking if this was the right path, but our heroes were unfettered by one very important thing.

They never gave voice to giving up.  They may have been tempted, they may have stumbled, but they kept going.  The reason we go through dark times of the soul, isn’t to stop in the darkness, but to push through to The Light. What we miss, is even in darkness, is this. David said I see Him. 

He may not have heard Him through the battle, but He saw Him leading Him in, through, and out of it. He saw Him nourishing Him through it, with The Word Of God. He saw Him anointing Him through it. He saw Him leading Him to The House of The Lord.

Dark times of the soul don’t mean you don’t see God, it just means a closer focus.  Battles are filled with smoke, and noise, but the closer we get to Jesus in the battle, the easier to see His movement in our lives. If we see He is with us, then others will see Him too. An one day, when they’re on this journey, they will remember how you followed on the path of Light, and they will tell others how to do the same.

The Tribe Of Naphtali

Joshua 20:7

7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.

Kedesh means Sanctum, or Holy Place, and Galilee means circle. Isn’t it wonderful, that The God who sits upon the circle of the Earth according to Isaiah 40:22, grew up in Galilee, the circle referenced in Isaiah 9:1). In the allotment of Zebulun and Naphtali.

We talked about that aspect in the chapter on Tribe Of Zebulun. I bring it up here for a slightly different reason.  To talk about the circle that Naphtali, not Jesus, was birthed into.  About what looked, from the outside, as a dysfunctional family, filled with chaos, but was actually a Holy place, ordained by God for Naphtali.

Whether true or not, when I think of Naphtali, I think of a strong burly man. The type of man who would have been a brawler, or a wrestler. After all, it’s what his name means, it’s how he was introduced into the world. To view him, you have to begin with the women in his life.

I’ll confess, I’ve always preferred Leah to Rachel, but I doubt Naphtali felt the same way.  Bilhah was his Mom, but Rachel named him. Mind you, I don’t know how favorable he viewed her either. According to Genesis 37:2, it was Rachel’s son who reported on the bad report of the children of Bilhah and Zilpah.

Before we cast blame on anyone involved, look at the course of events that led to the birth of Naphtali. Laban promised Jacob Rachel, but gave him Leah. Then gave him Rachel, who was barren. Jacob loved her, but hated Leah.

When Rachel saw she couldn’t have children, she gave Bilhah her maid to Jacob to marry and have children with.  Dan was first, Naphtali was second.  Bilhah’s name means trouble, and the family dynamics certainly were that, troubling.

Let’s review Naphtali’s standing in the family at this point. He was the younger brother to Dan, and the sixth son of Jacob. He was the second born son of the third wife, not even the second favorite spouse, but a servant.  Bilhah didn’t ask for any of this, but it was her reality.

Naphtali didn’t ask to have to put up with the favorite child, his perfect stepbrother Joseph, but it was his life.  Rather than focus on Joseph and Naphtali’s relationship, I mentioned it to soften the view we’ve always had of Joseph’s brothers. They weren’t justified, but their life wasn’t easy either.  

Now that we’ve looked at the family, and baby Naphtali, let’s see what the wrestler named his children.  What would the son of a former slave call his sons? Would he be bitter, or better?

Genesis 46:24 (KJV)

24 And the sons of Naphtali; Jahzeel, and Guni, and Jezer, and Shillem.

I believe you can tell a lot about a man by what he names his children. Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, And Shillem. God will allot, protected, forming, and repaid, this was the meaning of their names.  

I wonder if one of Naphtali’s favorite stories, as a child, was to hear about the night his Dad wrestled with the Angel. Was it a story he retold his children? Most of all, did he understand that the limp was a victory, and not a defeat?  

Based on what he named the first child, I suspect he did. The man named wrestling, didn’t say I have carved out something, or wrestled it.  He said God will allot. It appears he knew, even though Naphtali probably wouldn’t have chosen this place in the family, that God had provided it. He still gave Naphtali a place, in the family of faith. 

For all of the problems he had seen, he recognized that God was working. He could have very easily been born the son of another, whose father was not Jacob, but God said, this child, at this time.

Remember, it wouldn’t matter what Rachel’s intentions were, if Bilhah couldn’t have children. Naphtali, based on the name of his firstborn, understood God’s Providence in all things. So much so, he named his second son protected.

It is the third and fourth children who intrigue me. One is named forming, and the other repaid.  What was going on at the time?  Was He talking about his family’s future, his son’s, or his own?  

Genesis 49:21 ESV

21 Naphtali is a doe let loose that bears beautiful fawns.

Genesis 49:21 KJV

21 Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.

I suspect it was partially the family’s future, because the fourth son’s name meant repaid.  It leads me to ask if  something happened between the birth of these two boys? I don’t know what it was, but I do know one thing.  If Naphtali had questions about his family’s future, Jacob would shed some light on it.

God has a plan for all of us. He intends to form us, form a ministry through us, and to form an inheritance for us to pass on to the next generation. Some things He forms for public view, others He forms in the stillness. 

As humans, if we are not called to a particular event, we can have the tendency to view our lives as purposeless, this is a mistake. God was forming something, for example, in Job. We can be tempted to think the catalyst of Job was the enemy’s response to God’s question, but God asked the question, to fulfill God’s purpose. God wanted to form something in Job before the enemy ever opened his mouth.

We do not always see the purpose, before or after completion, and that’s okay. At times, knowing isn’t necessary. If we know The Who, the why is less important. It appeared Job had everything he needed, so he didn’t know the why. He couldn’t see, that Job dealt with fear, and relied on his righteousness as a comfort when his friends unrighteously judged him.

They were wrong, but that didn’t make Job’s righteousness his defense. Like us, Job basically said I’ve done what was right, and I’m still facing this mess.  What we all miss, is had God not opened our eyes to our need for redemption originally, we would not have attempted to do what was right. We attempt to live lives of faithfulness, not because we are spotless, but because He washed our spots away.

Before we leave Job, and how his situation speaks to Naphtali’s, let me mention one more item. God never told Job he wouldn’t face troubles. We have been tempted to view Job’s troubles as an unprecedented event, but while Job had a hedge, that was the rarity.  Jesus told us we’d face troubles in this world, and that’s always been true, since Adam.

The greatest thing about the book of Job wasn’t Job’s righteousness, knowledge, or sacrifice. The greatest lesson of Job was, that even at his lowest point, even hurting, confused, and angry, He held to God. He said “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

I love this verse, and Job meant it.  Yet, don’t admire it so that you miss the fact, God never intended to slay him. He intended to bless him, and refused to allow the enemy to destroy him. I believe, that God tricked the enemy into being a factor to remove Job’s fear, and reliance on his own righteousness, and to lean completely on God.

How does this apply to Naphtali? Can you imagine the guilt that gripped Naphtali and his brothers, as they watched their Father’s sorrow? I don’t know if Naphtali was a Father yet, either way, can you imagine the fear he felt when the thought hit him? 

What he must have felt when something whispered, what if it was Jahzeel, instead of Joseph?  Job relied on his righteousness, Naphtali didn’t even have that luxury. He knew he was guilty.

He may have been tempted to cling to his secrecy.  Or to obsess over his children’s safety like Job did.  I can understand that temptation. Could that be why Naphtali named his second son protected?  

Is it possible that, between the two births, God removed out of Naphtali his fear, and guilt? Just as God had used the enemy to work fear, and self righteousness out of Job?  I believe the name reflects, not only the future of the family, but the growth of the wrestler.

The ESV, and most translations, in Jacob’s prophecy, say that “he is a doe let loose, which bears beautiful fawns.” The KJV says the same about the first part of the verse, but in the second half says, “he gives goodly words.”  I believe they both speak to Naphtali’s situation.

Considering the servanthood of his Mother, her elevation, also her children, and finally the naming of his children, I feel that is important. He gave his children a good name, or good words, and birthed a beautiful future before them, as a goal to leap towards.

Whether Naphtali named his children, or his wife did, we show no record of anyone else naming them.  Bilhah had not been allowed to name her children, no one said this about Naphtali.  Also, his Mother gave birth to two sons, Naphtali had four sons.

Naphtali was among the sons of Jacob who received one verse’s words worth of reference.  Others like Judah and Joseph received more, but more isn’t always a blessing. Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, at the time, would probably have traded with Naphtali.

Naphtali didn’t receive a large prophecy, but he also received no rebuke either. He may have seen the parallel. Still, I do wonder, was he happy at his Dad’s promise, or did it leave him confused, wondering what it meant?

Have you ever received a promise from God, that you did not understand?  Many times He does not ask for understanding, only acceptance. Don’t always try to figure out what God gives as a mystery. Ask for understanding, but don’t allow the lack of it, to be an obstacle in pursuing God’s promise.

 Earth shattering things happen when we follow God, and not our vision, or the blessings. We understand that God’s motive is life and light for all who meet Him at the cross, and He will take care of the rest! This is the type of faith embraced by Abraham, birthed in Isaac, established in Jacob, and instilled in Naphtali.

The Hebrew language is fascinating, one word has multiple meanings, as evidenced by the KJV and the ESV.  I believe Jacob meant his blessing to Naphtali in both ways. I believe Naphtali, in addition to being a good Dad, must have had wisdom of his own, which is different than knowledge.

In a house of 13 children, twelve boys and one girl, Naphtali had said something that stood out to Jacob. Even when one son was Joseph, and one Judah, Naphtali’s voice stood out to his Father. It must have been more than just a single phrase, because he said words, plural.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Naphtali said a lot, but that when he spoke, he said something of importance.  A wiseman taught me, its not the quantity of words you speak which matter, but both the quality and the consistency of what you speak.  

Lives aren’t built on flashes of brilliance, but on a consistent, and faithful commitment to what is right. Knowledge can be learned, but the same wisdom which says seek knowledge, teaches us to be faithful, or consistent. 

We know it wasn’t always the case with Naphtali, because Joseph brought his Father the evil report of the sons of Bilhah in Genesis 37:2. However, by the time of Jacob’s death, there had been a consistent change.

Jacob did not mince words during this prophetic speech. If he had any criticism of Naphtali, he would have voiced it, he didn’t. Jacob had only praise for this, not forgotten son. 

There is the lesson. Jacob, the Earthly Father, reflecting the fact that no matter our situation, Our Heavenly Father isn’t ignoring our circumstances.  No matter what we face, no matter how difficult, or how stressful, He hears our cry.  He will bless us, speaking a future into our lives, empowering us to give birth to a blessing far greater than our troubles.

It’s not about where you’re born in this life, or even whether your circumstances are triumphant or tragic. He produces greatness, in both the prison and the palace. What matters is that you are part of God’s family, and how you respond. 

The situation, the foe, the circumstance all are irrelevant to God, when it comes to your destiny. What is relevant, is will you trust in Him, when you don’t understand? Will you say, this doesn’t make sense, or I don’t understand it, but He does?

Naphtali said, God will allot, protected, forming and repaid. Naphtali emerged the squared circle of his story, to rely on God’s Will. In other words, I’ll trust Him to set the course, to keep us protected in the process, to form what’s needed in us, and to repay us, not by our merit, but by His worth!

Acrylic Rebuild

After watchin a program on Cornwall, it inspired this acrylic. It’s called rebuild for two reasons, first, is Illustrated by the rising sun is dispelling the fog. Second, reflecting that, despite the battle, the ruins of the castle still exists, ready for reinovation.

I believe, as a Christian, that no matter how hard your life has been, can be rebuilt. The Lord Jesus invades the fog of our situation, with Light and hope!