Steadfast

I woke up this morning praying for encouragement in a sort of desperate, oh my do I have to get out of bed, way. And quickly repented. I didn’t need encouragement. I needed Presence. Him. The Godhead. I needed more than blessings. I needed the Source.

Then I read this, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

I Corinthians 15, 58

And I received encouragement through the Presence of his Word.

Life is full of constant change, from the march of time to the aging of our bodies. The flux barrages us on all sides until we are worn. Maybe you’ve had one too many changes and you feel like you want to retreat into a cave and settle in for hibernation. I’m there with you.

Or maybe it’s not change that pressures you into seclusion, but failure or jealousy or bitterness or a headache.

Take comfort that his steadfastness enables your steadfastness. It’s those three words, in the Lord, that anchor us for carrying on our work through the twists and turns. You may come to the end of your patience and ability to endure, but He has no end. And neither do his mercies. So we remain in the Lord, where nothing we do is in vain. That is, a life that is swallowed up in the presence of the Almighty abounds with purpose so that even the smallest deed is done unto him.

Be steadfast today in the Lord. Enjoy his presence.

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Numbering Our Days

1 Chronicles 1 and 2
The descendants of Adam were Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared,  Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah. The sons of Noah were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The descendants of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The descendants of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The descendants of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim. The descendants of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. The descendants of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan. Cush was also the ancestor of Nimrod, who was the first heroic warrior on earth. Mizraim was the ancestor of the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites,  Pathrusites, Casluhites, and the Caphtorites, from whom the Philistines came. Canaan’s oldest son was Sidon, the ancestor of the Sidonians. Canaan was also the ancestor of the Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites,  Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, Arvadites, Zemarites, and Hamathites. The descendants of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram. The descendants of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arphaxad was the father of Shelah. Shelah was the father of Eber. Eber had two sons. The first was named Peleg (which means “division”), for during his lifetime the people of the world were divided into different language groups. His brother’s name was Joktan. Joktan was the ancestor of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All these were descendants of Joktan. So this is the family line descended from Shem: Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, and Abram, later known as Abraham. The sons of Abraham were Isaac and Ishmael. These are their genealogical records: The sons of Ishmael were Nebaioth (the oldest), Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael. The sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine, were Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. The sons of Jokshan were Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Abraham through his concubine Keturah. Abraham was the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac were Esau and Israel. The sons of Esau were Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam, and Korah. The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, Kenaz, and Amalek, who was born to Timna.  The sons of Reuel were Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah. The sons of Seir were Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. The sons of Lotan were Hori and Heman. Lotan’s sister was named Timna. The sons of Shobal were Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho, and Onam. The sons of Zibeon were Aiah and Anah. The son of Anah was Dishon. The sons of Dishon were Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran, and Keran. The sons of Ezer were Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan. The sons of Dishan were Uz and Aran. These are the kings who ruled in Edom before there were kings in Israel: Bela son of Beor, who ruled from his city of Dinhabah. When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah became king. When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites became king. When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad became king and ruled from the city of Avith. He was the one who destroyed the Midianite army in the land of Moab. When Hadad died, Samlah from the city of Masrekah became king. When Samlah died, Shaul from the city of Rehoboth on the river became king. When Shaul died, Baal-hanan son of Acbor became king. When Baal-hanan died, Hadad became king and ruled from the city of Pau. His wife was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred and granddaughter of Me-zahab. Then Hadad died. The clan leaders of Edom were Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel, and Iram. These were the clan leaders of Edom.
The sons of Israel were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. Judah had three sons from Bathshua, a Canaanite woman. Their names were Er, Onan, and Shelah. But the LORD saw that the oldest son, Er, was a wicked man, so he killed him. Later Judah had twin sons from Tamar, his widowed daughter-in-law. Their names were Perez and Zerah. So Judah had five sons in all. The sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul. The sons of Zerah were Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Darda– five in all. The son of Carmi (a descendant of Zimri) was Achan, who brought disaster on Israel by taking plunder that had been set apart for the LORD. The son of Ethan was Azariah. The sons of Hezron were Jerahmeel, Ram, and Caleb. Ram was the father of Amminadab. Amminadab was the father of Nahshon, a leader of Judah. Nahshon was the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz. Boaz was the father of Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse’s first son was Eliab, his second was Abinadab, his third was Shimea, his fourth was Nethanel, his fifth was Raddai, his sixth was Ozem, and his seventh was David. Their sisters were named Zeruiah and Abigail. Zeruiah had three sons named Abishai, Joab, and Asahel. Abigail married a man named Jether, an Ishmaelite, and they had a son named Amasa. Hezron’s son Caleb had sons from his wife Azubah and from Jerioth. Her sons were named Jesher, Shobab, and Ardon. After Azubah died, Caleb married Ephrathah, and they had a son named Hur. Hur was the father of Uri. Uri was the father of Bezalel. When Hezron was sixty years old, he married Gilead’s sister, the daughter of Makir. They had a son named Segub. Segub was the father of Jair, who ruled twenty-three towns in the land of Gilead. (But Geshur and Aram captured the Towns of Jair and also took Kenath and its sixty surrounding villages.) All these were descendants of Makir, the father of Gilead. Soon after Hezron died in the town of Caleb-ephrathah, his wife Abijah gave birth to a son named Ashhur (the father of Tekoa). The sons of Jerahmeel, the oldest son of Hezron, were Ram (the firstborn), Bunah, Oren, Ozem, and Ahijah. Jerahmeel had a second wife named Atarah. She was the mother of Onam. The sons of Ram, the oldest son of Jerahmeel, were Maaz, Jamin, and Eker. The sons of Onam were Shammai and Jada. The sons of Shammai were Nadab and Abishur. The sons of Abishur and his wife Abihail were Ahban and Molid. The sons of Nadab were Seled and Appaim. Seled died without children, but Appaim had a son named Ishi. The son of Ishi was Sheshan. Sheshan had a descendant named Ahlai. The sons of Jada, Shammai’s brother, were Jether and Jonathan. Jether died without children, but Jonathan had two sons named Peleth and Zaza. These were all descendants of Jerahmeel. Sheshan had no sons, though he did have daughters. He also had an Egyptian servant named Jarha. Sheshan gave one of his daughters to be the wife of Jarha, and they had a son named Attai. Attai was the father of Nathan. Nathan was the father of Zabad. Zabad was the father of Ephlal. Ephlal was the father of Obed. Obed was the father of Jehu. Jehu was the father of Azariah. Azariah was the father of Helez. Helez was the father of Eleasah. Eleasah was the father of Sismai. Sismai was the father of Shallum. Shallum was the father of Jekamiah. Jekamiah was the father of Elishama. The descendants of Caleb, the brother of Jerahmeel, included Mesha (the firstborn), who became the father of Ziph. Caleb’s descendants also included the sons of Mareshah, the father of Hebron. The sons of Hebron were Korah, Tappuah, Rekem, and Shema. Shema was the father of Raham. Raham was the father of Jorkeam. Rekem was the father of Shammai. The son of Shammai was Maon. Maon was the father of Beth-zur. Caleb’s concubine Ephah gave birth to Haran, Moza, and Gazez. Haran was the father of Gazez. The sons of Jahdai were Regem, Jotham, Geshan, Pelet, Ephah, and Shaaph. Another of Caleb’s concubines, Maacah, gave birth to Sheber and Tirhanah. She also gave birth to Shaaph (the father of Madmannah) and Sheva (the father of Macbenah and Gibea). Caleb also had a daughter named Acsah. These were all descendants of Caleb. The sons of Hur, the oldest son of Caleb’s wife Ephrathah, were Shobal (the founder of Kiriath-jearim), Salma (the founder of Bethlehem), and Hareph (the founder of Beth-gader). The descendants of Shobal (the founder of Kiriath-jearim) were Haroeh, half the Manahathites, and the families of Kiriath-jearim– the Ithrites, Puthites, Shumathites, and Mishraites, from whom came the people of Zorah and Eshtaol. The descendants of Salma were the people of Bethlehem, the Netophathites, Atroth-beth-joab, the other half of the Manahathites, the Zorites, and the families of scribes living at Jabez– the Tirathites, Shimeathites, and Sucathites. All these were Kenites who descended from Hammath, the father of the family of Recab.

I Chronicles 1 and 2 read like a county record book. Or maybe a baby name book, if you’re seeking the unusual. Or even still, like a fairy tale. Once upon a time lived all these people. They were born. And then they died.

What do we make of these genealogies? We gloss over them as lists, as if reading these names is just something to be checked off our list.

But these were real people. They laughed at jokes. They worked so hard their muscles hurt. They had good moments in which their words streamed encouragement. And they had bad moments in which impatience overtook them and they scolded loved ones.

They were like you and me. Human.

People with dreams and a hope for the future. People plagued by failures from their past.

As I make my way through these lists, wondering who these strange-named ancestors of my faith were, I am reminded of Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (New Living Translation). Many of us know the version, “Teach us to number our days….”

What is man? His days are like a breath, like dew that the sun dries up.

Psalm 103, 15, 16

The world and all its glory is here today and gone ______________ (you know the saying). This fleeting time on earth is powerless to promise us anything lasting. We can fix our eyes on this temporary existence and become discouraged.

Or we can fix our eyes on the unseen, the eternal, the Creator, whose promises never fail or disappoint.

These people had successes, moments of victory and amazing innovation. Yet those moments passed and left behind nothing but a yearning for more. It’s that More that brings us to our knees in worship. The More of Christ and his eternal purpose. The More of God the Almighty and eternity is what infuses the today with goodness and enjoyment.

Because this life is good, and we are meant to enjoy it. However fleeting, God reflects his goodness in it.

Let us because not to mistake the good pleasures of this life as the bottom line. The satisfaction. Period. Let us look instead to what is beyond: the Giver of Life, the Creator of all things.

In what ways is the world tempting you to find satisfaction in the passing moments? In what ways are the fleeting things distracting you? Set aside the chasing after the wind (Solomon’s term from Ecclesiastes) and pursue treasures that are stored up in heaven where moths cannot eat them and rust cannot destroy them.

Questioning Through Mark: 8:22-26

They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.

Who were these people who brought a blind man to Jesus and begged Jesus to heal him? Why didn’t the blind man come on his own? Did these people seize the man by the arm and drag him to Jesus in order to see a miracle? To be entertained by this strange, holy healer?

We are those people wanting to be amused, seeking the fascinating, but not willing to seek the Fascinator.

Perhaps Jesus saw the hearts of these people who wanted only to test his power or be amused. Perhaps he saw the crowd forming. Thus, he took the blind man by the hand–a gentle way to lead a person–and led him outside the village, away from those who wanted to use the man for sport.

And there, Jesus healed the man. In two awkward steps. Spit and a touch. Why couldn’t Jesus skip the spit and simply touch away the blindness? Because Jesus wanted to give the man an opportunity to enter in to the healing process. To come on his own, in a sense, by answering Jesus’s question, “Do you see anything?”

The man could have replied, “Thanks anyway. It didn’t quite work.” But instead, he answers with honest faith, “I see men like trees, walking around.” In these words, I hear an invitation for Jesus to touch his eyes again. I hear the anticipation that sight is coming and is almost there.

Am I inviting Jesus by the words that I speak, by my responses to his questions?

Then Jesus touches the man’s eyes once more, and sight is restored. The man is sent home, not into the village. In other words, Jesus doesn’t want the man to subject himself to questioners, naysayers, or people who may steal his joy and cause him to sin.

Don’t (as Psalm 1 says) “walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.”

But go home. Go home physically, and go home in your heart . . . to belief in Jesus.

Jesus’s works aren’t for our entertainment. They are faith-fuel for our hearts. They point us to him so that we can give our lives to him.

Go home in your heart

When Jesus asks us if we see anything, what will we say? Will we see an invitation to follow him or will we see a miracle for our amusement?

Questioning Through Mark: 8:1-21

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied.
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them.
The people ate and were satisfied.
Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand men were present.
And having sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
  1. The abundance of Jesus is complete, meaning he can’t give us more than he’s already given. The loaves and fish only mirror the greater, spiritual gifts he gives. In scripture, twelve and seven and numbers of completeness. Perfection. Twelve tribes equal the fullness of God’s people. Seven days in a week equals the fullness of God’s work and salvation. Have we accused him of holding back?
  2. Jesus satisfied the basic physical need of the crowd. He met them in their humanity, validating that how God the Father had created them–with physical needs–was good. The need to eat is not a result of the Fall. Not having enough food is. But with Jesus there is more than enough. Have we sought satisfaction from sources other than Jesus?
  3. Sometimes we feel like the bread and fish collected and stored away in baskets. We’ve missed out on the ministry. We’ve been passed over. But hear this: the left over is not useless. It is testimony. It is witness to God’s abundance. And more so, the fish and loaves were not discarded. Jesus doesn’t waste. They were set aside for later. For the journey home. Not being used in the moment is not the same as not being used at all. Are we so focused playing a specific role in God’s kingdom that we have mistaken being left over for being left behind?
  4. In the scriptures, Jesus sets himself in front of us. He reveals himself and asks, “Do you still not understand?” We will give account someday for who we say he is. Let us not follow in the steps of the religious leaders who fancied religion over relationship. They had no need for a Messiah. Let us instead have ears to hear and eyes to see that we not only have need of a Messiah, but in Jesus, we have been given (abundantly, satisfingly) that Messiah. Do we get it?