Word of encouragement: God’s Strength

As you’ve probably guessed I’ve hit another ‘wall’ with The Greatest Story piece.  I’ve been struggling with lots of different things. A few weeks ago I wasn’t feeling well but I was able to get to my Church’s monthly event called Encounter. I was really struggling because I’d felt prompted to invite God to allow His Word to do a work in me. I could feel God’s piercing gaze and the dividing and cutting away of stuff, which meant that I felt extremely raw and emotional therefore I struggled to speak.

One of the ladies there, Noreen, did an amazing exercise with us which revealed just how connected we are but it also revealed to me that:

  • The times I’m weak someone lends me their strength.
  • The times I have no voice someone will speak for me.
  • When I have no encouragement to give someone will encourage me.

Reminds me of the words that Paul heard when he was struggling: “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (New King James Version)

I know that you’re reading this and you may be struggling, you may feel weak, unable to speak and so discouraged. I know it can be hard to ask for help but Jesus can grant you strength when you’re weak; He will be the voice to speak for you; and be the encouragement to break through your discouragement. Just ask Him for help and He will readily respond.

Inviting God’s Word to do a work in our lives is painful because His Word pierces our hearts, it cuts and it divides. These are all extremely painful things but the piercing highlights an area in our lives that needs to change and if we allow God to cut away and divine those things from our lives we find life everlasting that truly transforms us. For example:

Death can be replaced with life.

The darkest fear can be replaced with a powerful peace.

Weakness can be replaced with strength.

The deepest grief can be replaced with overflowing joy.

Discouragement can be replaced with encouragement.

Doubt can be replaced with faith.

Sickness can be replaced with healing.

Wrong thoughts can be replaced with the right thoughts.

Lies can be replaced with Truth.

All through the mighty name of Jesus and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.

I pray today that it will be so. Amen.

I’m holding onto those promises tightly and praying God will breakthrough for me in many areas of my life. I started my weekly blog in response to the Call to write. I’ve loved the journey that God has been taking me on and sharing the words given is the greatest privilege. Right now I’m struggling to write the next part of The Greatest Story, I don’t want to do any injustice to the story so I’m taking a break from blogging to do some more research and work on other projects I feel called to concentrate on right now. I pray I’ll have something to share again with you soon.

Thanks for your support and I appreciate your prayers.

Blessings, Keona

Greatest Story Part 19: Like Children

Jesus smiled as the sun’s rays hit His face, what a glorious sunrise it had been. As He had watched the world wake up His spirit had been renewed and revived. The sounds around Him had grown and Jesus knew that His disciples would soon come looking for Him, He rose from His place of prayer and gathered His things. Making His way down He paused to take a look at the hills around Him and smiled as He watched the shepherds gently rousing their sheep, a prayer tumbled forth: ‘Father help me to rouse those around me, empower me to pull them from their slumber.’.

By the time Jesus joined the disciples breakfast was ready and they were eager for the day to start, they quickly ate and made their way to the Temple courtyard, and as the crowds gathered Jesus began to teach. A voice called out: “Rabbi, who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus smiled and called a young child closer, “I tell you the Truth, it is those who turn from their own ways that God smiles upon. Repentance and a humble heart is what He desires. Come to God like a child, trust Him utterly and completely, for that is who the greatest in the Kingdom is.” Jesus could feel the confusion in the crowd and prayed for the right words before continuing: “welcome children into your midst for then you’re welcoming Me also. Take heed that you do not hinder children, do not lead them into sin but teach them how to love the Lord God with all of their hearts, all of their minds and all of their souls. Model this for them and show them the way”. Parents began to press their children forward to be blessed by Jesus and the disciples tried to turn them away, “do not bother the Rabbi, He is teaching.” But Jesus called out: “Please allow them to come, have you not heard what I’ve been saying?” as the children gathered around Him Jesus blessed each one and again called out: “remember the Kingdom of Heaven belong to those such as these, those who are humble and trusting. Do not look down upon them for I assure you that their angels are always in the presence of My heavenly Father. What is done to them is seen and noted, both good and bad deeds are recorded, and you will be responsible for every single act.” Jesus released the children back to their parents and prayed for His words to penetrate hearts: “Become like a child, trust God completely by casting all of your cares and concerns upon Him, for He longs to help. He is a kind and gracious and loving Father; He has compassion upon those who fear Him; and He lavishes His love upon His children.” Jesus turned to face a father and son standing by and asked: “If your son cries out to you in the middle of the night do you ignore him or do you race to his bedside?” the father smiled down at his son “at the sound of his cries I quickly awake and I run to him as fast as I can”. Jesus smiled, “and if he were to ask you for a fish would you give him a snake instead” the father laughed and shook his head “of course not!”. Jesus turned to the crowd, “at the cries of your children you rush to their side to comfort and console them. You work hard to provide for their every need and you grant their requests appropriately.” The crowd nodded and Jesus continued: “if you sinful parents can care and love your children, then why do you doubt that a pure and powerful Father can care and provide for you?” Jesus turned back to the father and looked deeply into his eyes “if your child misbehaves do you ignore his bad behaviour and let him run amuck?”, the father shook his head. Jesus turned to the crowd: “do you allow your children to run off the edge of a cliff? Or stand back as they seek after destruction?”. The crowd murmured and Jesus spoke with great force: “Do not be dismayed if you find yourself being disciplined by God, for He rebukes and corrects those He loves. When He sees you misbehaving or racing along the path of destruction, He lovingly steps in. Only the foolish are quick to ignore loving correction. Do not allow your prideful hearts to harden against wise advice, reveal your great love for God by embracing His correction.” Jesus thought back to the sheep He had seen in the early hours of the morning and again prayed that the words would awaken their hearts, “Don’t be afraid but I urge you today to heed My advice and instruction, for those who love and obey My teachings reveal their love for God. Those who love Me love My Father and He makes a home within their hearts. Know that He longs to give you the Kingdom, in fact it gives Him great joy! So I implore you to passionately seek the Kingdom of God above all else and He will give you all that you need.”

Those whose hearts had been stirred pressed forward and Jesus blessed each one. He invited them to join Him at the river to be baptised and many raced ahead with great excitement.

Notes

The greatest in the Kingdom: Matthew 18:1-10 Mark 9:33-37,

Jesus blessing the children is found in Matthew 19:13-14, Mark 10:13-16 & Luke 18:15-17

God as a loving Father: Psalm 103:13; Proverbs 3:11-12; Proverbs 15:5; Matthew 6:6; Luke 11:11-13; Luke 12:31-32; John 14:23; 1 John 3:1

I’ve featured my most recent sunrise picture captured from my balcony. There is something so wonderful about watching the world wake up, I’m always astounded by the colours that burst forth. No sunrise is ever the same and when I think upon that I smile knowing that God is so clever and creative. Whenever I watch the world transform from darkness to light, as the things around me slowly came alive, it’s a powerful reminder of what God does. It’s also a personal reminder that God is getting me there, bit by bit He is restoring and reviving me, I just need to be patient.

How wonderful it is to trust in Him for God has called us out of the darkness into His wonderful light! See 1 Peter 2:9b

Greatest story Part 18: Celebration

The next day Jesus and the group headed out to participate in the many activities and celebrations taking place. The usually small town had swelled to six times its normal size so getting from place to place was a challenge but despite the overflowing number of people the mood was one of celebration and joy. The only cause for tension was the increased Roman presence in order to keep the large crowds in order. Jesus skillfully wove His way through the crowds, shielding His mother from the pushing and shoving as much as He could. As they gathered in the Temple courtyard the shofar rung out and all paused with awe. The High priest recited the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NKJV)

The crowd replied: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God.” Another priest stepped forward with a scroll, he gently unrolled it and recited: “The Song of Moses. Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying: “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is His name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; they sank to the bottom like a stone. Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces. And in the greatness of Your excellence You have overthrown those who rose against You; You sent forth Your wrath; it consumed them like stubble. And with the blast of Your nostrils the waters were gathered together; the floods stood upright like a heap; the depths congealed in the heart of the sea.  The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my desire shall be satisfied on them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.’ You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? You stretched out Your right hand; the earth swallowed them. You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation. The people will hear and be afraid; sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling will take hold of them; all the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them; by the greatness of Your arm they will be as still as a stone, till Your people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over whom You have purchased. You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. The Lord shall reign forever and ever.” Exodus 15:1-18 (NKJV)

The crowd replied: ‘Blessed are you, O Lord our God. Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will enter into them, I will give thanks unto the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter it.’

The priest continued: “For the horses of Pharaoh went with his chariots and his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them. But the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea. Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them: “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” Exodus 15:19-21(NKJV)

The crowd replied: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God. Forever worthy of our praise! Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord, to Thee. Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love. Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee. Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King. Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee. Take my silver and my gold not a mite would I withhold. Take my intellect and use every power as you choose. Here am I, all of me. Take my life, it’s all for Thee.

Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine. Take my heart it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne. Take my love, my Lord I pour at Your feet its treasure store. Take myself and I will be ever, only all for Thee. Take myself and I will be ever, only all for Thee. Here am I, all of me. Take my life, it’s all for Thee.

Here am I, all of me. Take my life, it’s all for Thee. Here am I, all of me. Take my life, it’s all for Thee. Here am I, all of me. Take my life, it’s all for Thee.”

The next priest stepped forward and gently unrolled his scroll: “David blessed the Lord before all the assembly; and David said: “Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever.  Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You. For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, as were all our fathers; our days on earth are as a shadow, and without hope. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own. I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You. O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and fix their heart toward You.  And give my son Solomon a loyal heart to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes, to do all these things, and to build the temple for which I have made provision.” Then David said to all the assembly, “Now bless the Lord your God.” So all the assembly blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and prostrated themselves before the Lord and the king. 1 Chronicles 29: 10-20 (NKJV)

The crowd replied: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God. Forever worthy of our praise!” and each person knelt down slowly, lowering their faces to the ground. As their foreheads hit the ground a song of praise rung out: “To You my God is my passion, in You is my desire and love. To You is my heart and my kidneys, to You is my spirit and breath. To You are my hands, to You are my legs and from You is my character. To You myself, to You is my blood and my skin with my body. To You are my eyes and my ideas and my shape and my form. To You is my spirit, to You my strength and my trust and my hope. To You I’ll sob and not resemble until You will illuminate my darkness.  To You I’ll call for, to You I’ll cling until my return to my land. To You is kingship, to You is tide. To You is my craving adoration. To You is help in time of trouble, be my help in time of trouble. And what am I and what is my life? And what is my strength and my power? As a fallen straw pushed aside, and how will You remember my mistake? And hidden light in front of You, let it be my hideout and my abode. And under Your wing’s shade please allow my presence.”

The High priest stood and issued the final blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV)

Jesus and the group wove their way back through the crowds and spent the rest of the day enjoying the celebrations before enjoying a meal together back at Rufus’ home.

Notes:

Written with help from:

https://www.chosenpeople.com/site/passover-in-israel-past-and-present/

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/portrait/temple.html

https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/he-went-to-synagogue

“OPEN TO ME” Lyrics from Psalm 118:19-20, song lyrics link: http://hebrewsongs.com/?song=pitchuli

“Take My Life”, written by Christopher Tomlin & Louie Giglio. YouTube link.

“TO YOU MY GOD” Lyrics: Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, link: http://www.hebrewsongs.com/?song=lechaeli

‘To You’ Hillsong YouTube clip

This is also a really interesting and in-depth explanation about Passover here:

http://www.jewfaq.org/holidaya.htm

Many blessings, Keona

Greatest Story Part 17: Passover

As the days dragged on Jesus’ heart grew light despite the tiredness of the travel, He smiled as they crested the hill that would take Him to the road that flowed to His village. Oh how good it would be to see His family. As they wandered the familiar streets Jesus breathed in deeply the sounds and smells that took Him back to His childhood. He waved and smiled to the stall holders that recognized Him and hugged the relatives that rushed to Him. He purchased some fresh supplies to aid with tonight’s meal and made His way to His home. Walking in He was quickly wrapped in a big hug from Mary, she didn’t seem to want to let go “Oh it is so good to see you Son, welcome home!” Jesus laughed and relished in her words and embrace. Jesus made His way through the house to the adjoining workshop and found James and Joses busily working away, “hello!” He called out and they quickly dropped what they were doing and embraced him with whoops and hollers, “ah He has returned! Just in time to help us get this order done.” Jesus laughed, “of course you’d put me straight to work!”. The brothers caught up on the news until Mary called them in for dinner. The tiny home barely fitted the extra bodies, especially with many of Jesus’ family wanting to cram in to catch up with Him. The night passed quickly with much joy and laughter filling the home, Mary had to wipe the happy tears away from her eyes many times. In a particularly poignant moment Jesus caught hold of her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. The next few days passed with Jesus helping out in the workshop and He revelled in crafting things again, He worked hard to ensure that the large order would be finished before they all left for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The days passed quickly and before He knew it Jesus was back on the road.

Jesus and His family travelled with many cousins and friends; their large group ensured safety along the sometime treacherous road. Thankfully their trip proved to be an uneventful one and before they knew it the long journey had ended. The mood was one of jubilation as Jerusalem came into view, how all their hearts lifted. Mary had organised for most of them to stay with Rufus and Merry again, however this time it would be in their new home which was a larger place on the outskirts of town. As they departed from and made their way there Jesus looked at the hills and smiled, what fond memories He had of racing through there with His cousin John. Jesus was hoping that He would get a chance to catch up with His dear cousin, but Elizabeth had mentioned that she wasn’t sure He would be able to make this trip. Jesus prayed that they would connect again soon. Rufus and Merry’s new home was stunning, as they walked in they were guided to a large banquet hall that was busily being set up for the Passover celebration. The weary travellers gratefully sat down and allowed the servants to dip their feet in the cool water, Jesus felt as if the refreshing water washed off His dust and fatigue. They were next shown their rooms and quickly settled in. Once she had unpacked and freshened up Mary helped with the preparations. Jesus was shown the private garden by a beaming Rufus, he had painstakingly picked the plants for this area and the result was stunning. Jesus commented at how peaceful the area was and Rufus chuckled “Oh I’m so pleased to hear You say that, I really wanted it to be an oasis for our guests, a place where they could pray and be reminded of the garden of Eden.” Jesus smiled “It’s pretty close.”. They both stood and absorbed the peace of the garden before being called to help. With all the extra hands the preparations were quickly completed, and everyone took some time to change and have a few moments alone. Rufus ensured that the kitchen staff had a break before the evening festivities began and then spent some time praying in the garden. This Passover felt different and he couldn’t quite put his finger on why, after much prayer the answers hadn’t come so he sighed and quickly changed before calling everyone to the banquet hall. As people arrived downstairs they quickly took their assigned seats, Rufus and Merry were seated first, then quickly followed by the oldest to the youngest. Once all were seated the servants stepped forward and performed the ritual handwashing. Once every hand had been washed the first cup of wine was brought forth, when the jug was presented to Rufus he prayed:

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has created the fruit of the vine.  And you, O Lord our God, have given us festival days for joy, this feast of the unleavened bread, the time of our deliverance in remembrance of the departure from Egypt. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to enjoy this season.”

Rufus handed the jug back to the servant who proceeded to fill each cup, as Jesus held His the smell the warm red wine filled His senses. Once every cup had received some of the wine Rufus continued: “We remember Your promise, oh great and mighty God, to bring Your people out of the yoke of the Egyptians.”

Rufus then placed his cup down and indicated to the Karpas: “Let us now partake”, he joined Jesus in dipping the bitter herb into the vinegar and then the items were passed around the table. Once everyone had completed this ritual the servants cleared the plates and the second wine was presented to Rufus, he looked around “we will now sing the first of the Hallel Psalm:

“Hallelujah. O Servants of the Lord, give praise; praise the Name of the Lord. Let the Name of the Lord be blessed now and forever. From east to west the Name of the Lord is praised. The Lord is exalted above all nations; His glory is above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, who, enthroned on high, sees what is below, in heaven and on earth? He raises the poor from the dust, lifts up the needy from the refuse heap to set them with the great, with the great men of His people. He sets the childless women among her household as a happy mother of children. Hallelujah.”

“When Israel went out of Egypt, when the house of Jacob fled from a people of strange language,  Judah became God’s sanctuary and Israel His dominion. The sea saw God’s hand move and fled; the Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills were like lambs. What ails you, O sea, that you fled? O Jordan, why is it that you turned back? What caused the mountains and hills to skip? It is because the whole earth trembles at the presence of the Lord, the whole earth listens to the God of Jacob. He is mighty and turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a fountain of waters. (Psalm 114)”

As the words faded from each lip the servants brought forth the washing basins. Rufus declared: “Lord God we thank You and praise You for the bread we are about to enjoy.” The servants washed each hand and then brought forth the lam, vegetables and unleavened bread. Rufus indicated to Jesus who prayed: “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments, and commanded us to eat unleavened bread.” Rufus broke the bread and dipped it with Jesus into the charoseth and bitter herbs. Jesus then turned to Mary and repeated the actions, Mary then turned to James and repeated this; the pattern continued until each person had shared the bread with the person sitting next to them. As the youngest finished eating Rufus served some lamb to Jesus and He in turn repeated the action. The mood was light and joyful as everyone enjoyed the delicious meal. As the last morsel was devoured the servants cleared the plates and presented the third wine to Rufus along with the last of the bread. Rufus prayed: “Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments, and commanded us to eat unleavened bread.” Then lifting the cup he continued: and every voice joined him: “The name of the Lord be blessed from now until eternity. Let us bless Him of whose gifts we have partaken: Blessed be our God of whose gifts we have partaken, and by whose goodness we exist.”

Rufus declared: “We praise You Lord for redeeming us with Your outstretched hand and with great judgments (Exodus 6:6).” All drunk of the wine and the servants brought forth the forth cup. Rufus smiled and invited all to join him in finishing the Hallel Psalms:

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has created the fruit of the vine. We praise You Lord, You have taken us as Your people and You’re our faithful God. Your mighty hand brought our ancestors out from the burdens of the Egyptians (Exodus 6:7)” Then each voice rung out in song:

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness. Why do the nations say: ‘Where is their God?’ For our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him. The wicked put their trust in their idols made of silver and gold, made by the hands of men. The idols have mouths, but cannot speak; eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear; noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel; feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them and so will all who trust in them. Hear O house of Israel, trust in the LORD — He is our help and shield. Hear O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD — He is our help and shield. Hear you who trust in the LORD — He is our help and shield. The LORD remembers us and will bless us: He will bless the house of Israel, He will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless those who fear the LORD — small and great alike. May the LORD make you increase, both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man. It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to silence; it is we who extol the LORD, both now and forevermore. Praise the LORD”. (Psalms 115:1-18)

“I love the LORD, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, save me!” The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, He saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. For You, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I cried out: “I am greatly afflicted.”; in my dismay I said: “All men are liars.”. But O Lord how You alone delivered me. How can I possibly repay the LORD for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfil my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. O LORD, truly I am Your servant for You have freed me from my chains. I will bring a sacrifice, a thank offering, to You and call on the name of the LORD. See Him in the courts of the house of the LORD — in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.” (Psalms 116:1-19)

“Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.” (Psalms 117:1-2)

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever. Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”  Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures forever.” The Lord has heard our cries and set us free. The Lord is with us, we will not be afraid. What can mere men do to us? The Lord is with us, He is our helper. We will look in triumph upon our enemies. It is far better to take refuge in God than trust in men. It is far better to take refuge in God than trust in princes. All the nations surrounded us, but in the name of the LORD we cut them off. Though they surrounded us on every side, in the name of the LORD we cut them off. They swarmed around us like bees but died quickly, like burning thorns, for in the name of the LORD we cut them off. We were pushed back and about to fail, but the LORD helped and delivered us! The LORD is forevermore our strength and our song; He has become our salvation. Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous, loudly they proclaim: “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! Though we were chastened severely, He did not give us over to death. We will not die but live and forever we will proclaim what the LORD has done. Open for us the gates of righteousness; we will enter in and give thanks to the LORD. We will give You thanks, O God, for You answered us; You have become our salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone; the LORD has done this and it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD grant us success. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God and He has made His light shine upon us. With boughs in hand we join in the festival procession up to the horns of the altar. You are our God and we will give You thanks; You are our God and we will exalt you.  Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.” (Psalms 118:1-29)

The festivities lasted late into the night with many more songs of praise sung.

Notes:

The past few weeks I’ve felt swamped with sickness and study, trying to write this story has simply eluded me. I didn’t feel that I had the capacity to give the story justice. I think that the fear of failure also had me paralyzed.

Praise God! I got my major assignment submitted and slowly recovered from a cold. I’ve surrender to an afternoon nap a few days this week which has also helped me to get things back into focus.

I needed a bit of a visual picture and found a map of Jesus’ ministries extremely helpful, thanks to The Bible Journey. But again I apologise as I’m not 100 % sticking to those events.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me, I REALLY appreciate it. I have semester break coming up so I plan to dedicate quite a bit of time to this story to ensure that I can keep the momentum up when I resume studies again in August. I’ll also catch up on some much-needed rest and relaxation.

I’m absolutely fascinated by the Passover rituals and I have based the events from an article I found on Bible.Org.

 

Hear you who trust in the LORD, for He is your help and shield.

He will bless those who fear the LORD, both small and great alike.

(Psalms 115:11,13)

The Greatest Story – Chapter 16: Who Is Jesus?

A few days later, as Jesus prepared to leave, Mary lingered in the doorway “when will I see You again?” she softly asked. Jesus paused packing His things and turned to her “Mother, it is my time now. I must go forth as I’ve been sent to do.” Mary’s eyes filled with tears but she nodded and smiled, “I know Son, it’s just hard for a mother to let go.” Jesus embraced her and they spent some time chatting and praying.

Jesus eventually gathered His disciples and they made their way through the Judean countryside, soon the sun’s warmth forced them to rest and they made their way to the edge of the Jordan River. They found a sheltered spot to rest and it was here that Jesus started teaching people who sought Him out:

“Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Come! Draw near to God and He will draw near to you! Surrender your lives to God, take a stand against the devil. Run away from evil and into the loving arms of God. Turn from your own ways, acknowledge your sins and ask for forgiveness. Feel the weight and the pain of your sin, be sorrowful and weep! Let your minds acknowledge the feebleness of your own way, be humbled. Mourn for the wrongs you’ve committed, bow low before Yahweh and be exalted by His glory. Come back to God, for heaven’s kingdom realm is now made available and accessible to those who cry out for forgiveness. Come and be cleansed, receive a new heart and a new life!”

As the people listened and responded Jesus directed His disciples to baptise them. As the days progressed people travelled from near and far to hear Jesus’ message, receive healing and be baptised.

As the crowds grew John the Baptist’s disciples noticed the change and two of them left to investigate, they saw Jesus nearby and realized that many of John’s followers were now listening to Jesus. Returning they pulled John aside and told him of their findings, “Rabbi, your cousin Jesus is teaching and baptising people nearby, His followers grow while yours diminish. Aren’t you concerned?”

John laughed and declared: “remember when the Temple assistants sought me out and asked me: ‘who are you?’ I replied and declared that I wasn’t the Messiah.” John’s disciples nodded their heads and John continued: “they asked if I was Elijah or the Prophet that was expected and I explained to them that I am simply a voice shouting in the wilderness: ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’ and when questioned over my authority to baptise I explained that I  baptise with water, but that the Promised One would baptise us with fire and great power.” John’s disciples nodded and one of the replied “yes we remember all of that and that you claimed not to be even worthy of untying His sandals.” (John 1:19-28). John nodded “that is right.” John’s disciples started to mumble and argue as their frustrations grew and one of them blurted out: “well the One you identified as the Messiah, is also baptising people. And everybody is going to Him instead of coming to us. What will happen to your ministry?” John laughed, “it is as it should be. All that we receive comes from the hand of God, I am merely fulfilling my role. I told you, and many others, that I’m not the Messiah so it should be of no surprise to you that another has come.”

John’s words did not alleviate the confusion, so he took a deep breath and continued: “I was here simply to prepare the way. I’m like a bridegroom’s friend who is simply happy to support his friend. As he stands by the bridegroom and listens to the vows exchanged a great joy floods his heart, he is happy that that his friend has found love and has a beautiful bride to now care for him. I take great delight and joy in my cousin’s success for I know that He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. I truly believe that Jesus has come from above and is far greater than anyone else. We are of the earth and therefore we speak of earthly things, but He has come from heaven and speaks of heavenly things. He testifies about what He has seen and heard, He speaks the truth. But how my heart breaks to see so few believe what He declares. His teachings are beyond what we’ve ever heard before but yet hard hearts still prevail. It is my prayer that His ministry grows and grows, that many will realise that what He says is true. For I know that He is sent to us by God. He speaks God’s words, for God has granted Him the Spirit without limit.”

John paused and then reflected “I was blessed to witness how much the Father loves His Son and to receive the insight that God has put everything into Jesus’ hands. I truly know that anyone who believes in God’s Son will receive eternal life and that those who don’t listen will remain under God’s angry judgment and never experience eternal life.” as that thought took root in John’s heart his eyes flooded with tears.

The sorrow gradually dissipated, and John looked deep into the eyes of those surrounding him “please” he implored them “do not fret or worry over my ministry but instead take heart and be of good cheer, for I’ve been obedient and now Jesus will take over.” (John 3:22-36)

John could still see the confusion, he took a deep breath and continued, “we’ve spent our days shrouded in darkness but now we can say that we see a brilliant Light! Though we may still be surrounded by dark shadows,  we can know that God’s Light is shining bright. Though we still live in the land of death we can declare: “The Dawning Light arises, we praise You God for we can see the brilliant Light!” (Inspired by Matthew‬ ‭4:16)

As the crowds that sought out Jesus swelled the Pharisees began to murmur and complain “who is this Jesus?” they questioned, “who does He think He is?”. Jesus’ disciples heard of their questioning and warned Jesus, upon hearing the news He knew that it was time to move on. Jesus and His disciples packed up and began to make their way to Galilee. (John 4:1-3)

 

Notes:

Jesus’ cry to the people has been inspired by Matthew‬ ‭4:17‬ and James (Jacob)‬ ‭4:7-10‬.

Did Jesus baptise? John 3:22 states that He did baptise but John 4:1-3 states that He did not personally baptise. These little details can leave me feeling confused but The Southern Cross article explains that “Whether Jesus took a hand in this preparatory baptismal routine or not, is immaterial.” The main thing is Jesus ministered to those in need and whatever form that took surely it doesn’t really matter?!

I know sin and repentance are tough words to grapple with. Sin is basically any wrong doing, this can be a lie or lustful thoughts or harboring anger or even committing a crime. No wrong doing is worse than the other, they are all seen as something we need to repent of. Which gets us to the second tricky word: repentance, this is simply acknowledging we made an error, asking for forgiveness (God’s and other people’s if necessary) and embracing God’s plan.

If you would like to study more, here are some links:

www.allaboutgod.com

www.allaboutgod.com

The Greatest Story – Chapter 15: Salt and Light

The wedding celebrations had lasted until the early morning, but Jesus and His disciples had left as soon as they could because they would be traveling to Capernaum with His family. It was here that Jesus tried to prepare His family for the time to come and in particular He felt a longing to explain to His mother all that would unfold. After much prayer He gathered His family and His disciples together and shared with them the words His Father had given Him:

“In the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God, for the Word already existed. God created all things through the Messiah and for the Messiah, nothing was created without Him. The Word gave life to everything and everything was created to bring God glory. The light shines brightly in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:1-5)”.

Jesus paused and prayed for the right words as He allowed the truth to sink into their hearts. After moments of silence Jesus softly continued “Our ancestors walked away from God as they wandered through the wilderness, they constantly grumbled and complained. God heard their disgruntled protests and sent poisonous snakes among them. Many were bitten and died.” Jesus looked around at the solemn faces and continued: “When the people’s hearts were gripped with terror they cried out to Moses: ‘Forgive us! We have sinned against the Lord our God and against you, please speak to God for us and ask Him to remove the snakes.’ Moses did as the people asked and spoke to God, he was instructed to make a bronze replica of the snake and attach it to a pole. When people were bitten they could look upon the bronze snake, remember the Lord God and be healed! Just as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole for deliverance so must God lift up the Son of man and place Him on a cross.” (Number 21:4-9 & John 3:14-15) Mary gasped as fear gripped her heart, “what are you saying?”, Jesus grabbed her hand and said: “It must be done so that everyone who believes will receive eternal life.” Mary collapsed into Jesus’ arms sobbing as His family and disciples looked at Him with confusion and concern. Jesus’ heart felt heavy with the burden and He murmured: “You MUST always remember that the light shines brightly in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it”.

For the rest of the day Jesus’ family wandered around in a daze of confusion while Jesus took His disciples to the nearby hills to teach and encourage them. As they gathered on the highest hill, He sat with them and declared: “To this world, which is shrouded in darkness, you are the light. Just like a light on a hill cannot be hidden your light will shine for all to see. When it becomes dark inside our homes, we quickly light the lamp and place it on the table for all to gather around. We do not light the lamp and place it in a basket under the bed where it would be of no benefit, no we place it where all can see and gain benefit from its light. So will be the same for you, people will gather around your light and you must never hide it. Let your good deeds shine forth brightly for all to see, for your works will draw everyone to praise our heavenly Father.” Jesus looked around and made eye contact with each of His disciples before continuing: “you are the salt of the earth. Preserve well the words you hear from me and the works I reveal. Remember that salt is only useful if it still has its flavour, keep to my teachings. Do not become like salt without flavour, for it is quickly discarded. Food tastes best with the right amount of salt, too much and it is inedible but too less and the flavour is not changed at all.” Jesus spent time answering the many questions the disciples had and as the sun began to sink they made their way back to the others.

As darkness fell Nicodemus sought out Jesus, as a Pharisee he knew the laws and had awaited the Messiah with great anticipation. The reports that he heard about Jesus pointed to Him being the One they had waited for and Nicodemus was curious. As they sat and chatted Nicodemus asked: “Rabbi, I believe that God has sent You to teach us. I have seen the miracles You’ve performed and I know that God is with You. What is it that You want us to know?” Jesus looked intently into Nicodemus’ eyes and thought of the various things He longed to say and reveal, praying for wisdom He eventually replied: “I tell you the truth, unless you’re born again you cannot enter the Kingdom of God”. Nicodemus looked at Jesus confused “how is this possible? Even a small child cannot enter its mother’s womb to be born again.”. Jesus lovingly replied: “I assure you that no one can enter into My Father’s Kingdom without being born again through water and the Spirit. Humans reproduce human life but the Holy Spirit births spiritual life. That is why I say: ‘you MUST be born again’. Think of the wind that blows where it wishes, you can hear it but you can’t tell where it is coming from or going to, the same goes for the Spirit.”. The more Jesus talked the more confused Nicodemus became, “I really don’t understand, how is it possible?”. Jesus smiled kindly and replied: “Nicodemus you’re a respected and well-known teacher but yet you do not understand the deep meaning of the Scriptures. I assure you and most solemnly declare that I speak of eternal truths, I speak of things I’ve known, experienced and believe in. My testimony has no faults but yet you struggle to believe. If you do not believe Me when I speak of earthly things, then how can I possible reveal the heavenly realm to you?” Jesus paused and Nicodemus replied, “I want to understand, please be patient with me.” Jesus smiled and nodded, “No one has ever gone into the heavenly realm and returned but the Son of man has come down. God loves the world with an incomprehensible love, so much that He has gifted His one and only Son. All who believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God has sent His Son not to judge and condemn the world but to save it. Those who believe in God’s beloved Son will no longer live under condemnation and the Light of the world will flood them with life and hope.” Jesus sat back and watched as Nicodemus tried to process all that he had heard. They chatted late into the night with Jesus patiently unpacking all that He had revealed. (John 3:1-21)

Notes:

To find out more about Capernaum visit Bible Walks.

Thank you for your patience. I received some great insights as I spent time in the mountains. I will use the timeline obtained from the Bible History website as a guide but I also feel prompted to try and collate chapters into themes, therefore my chapters may not seem to unfold with great historical accuracy but I pray that the story will still greatly impact your heart. Thanks for sharing this journey with me!

Many blessings, Keona

 

The Greatest Story – Part 14: Water into Wine

The next day Jesus was walking through town when John the Baptist called out: ‘Look! I see the Lamb of God!’, then John’s two disciples quickly followed after Jesus. He turned around when He noticed them following Him and asked: ‘what is it that you want?’ Andrew (Simon-Peter’s brother) and Philip exchanged a glance and Andrew replied: ‘Rabbi we wondered where You were staying.’ Jesus replied: ‘come and I’ll show you.’. They made their way through the narrow streets and then gathered into the small room as Jesus patiently spent time teaching and sharing what was on His heart. Late into the night Jesus looked intently at Simon and declared: ‘you will be called Cephas’ Peter looked at Him with surprise ‘Lord do You mean rock or Peter?’ Jesus smiled ‘You will see’.

After a refreshing night’s sleep Jesus set out to find Phillip and invited him to join him, Philip readily agreed and went searching for Nathanael to tell him to good news. It wasn’t a hard search and Phillip excitedly declared: ‘We’ve found the person Moses and the great prophets spoke about! His name is Jesus, to son of Joseph from Nazareth!’, Nathanael looked at him with surprise ‘Nazareth? I haven’t heard of anything good coming from there!’ Phillip urged him: ‘please come and meet Him, see for yourself.’. As Nathanael approached Jesus he heard Him declare: ‘now here comes a genuine son of Israel, a true descendant of Jacob. Here is a man of complete integrity, there is no deceit hidden in his heart.’ Nathanael looked at Jesus with surprise ‘how do You know all this about me?’ Jesus smiled and replied: ‘I saw you under the fig tree long before Phillip found you.’ Nathanael fell onto his knees and proclaimed; ‘Rabbi! You are the new King of Israel. You are the One we have waited for, the Son of God!’ Jesus pulled Nathanael to his feet ‘do you really believe all of that?’ Nathanael nodded with tears of joy flowing down his face, Jesus looked intently into his eyes ‘do you believe just because of what I said?’ Nathanael shook his head and replied: ‘I know You are Him.’ Jesus smiled ‘Oh you will see great things! You will see the heavens open and sight heavenly beings, you will understand that I’m the stairway between heaven and earth.’. The other disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was saying but a deep revelation hit Nathanael’s heart and he embraced Jesus.

After another late night of teaching Jesus and His disciples finally managed a few hours of sleep. Wearily they awoke and made their way to a wedding celebration in Cana. When they arrived Mary smiled as her gaze fell upon Jesus, she quickly ran to Him and embraced Him. After a short time chatting the formalities began and the large crowd settled down to witness the ceremony. The wedding feast was a sight to behold, tables were laden with the finest foods and people greedily ate their fill. The wine flowed freely and the mood was merry and light. Late in the night Mary noticed that the groom’s mother seemed anxious and concerned, she made her way over ‘is everything ok?’ the lady turned and tried to smile ‘um..’ Mary could see her reluctance and pulled her to a quiet corner of the room ‘I’d like to help if I can.’ The groom’s mother smiled ‘Oh Mary you’ve already helped so much, I don’t want to burden you further.’ Mary grabbed her hand and replied: ‘if I can help I will, just tell me what the concern is, please.’ The groom’s mother reluctantly shared that they had no idea so many people would arrive, looking quite embarrassed she continued to explain that they were almost out of wine. Mary gasped she knew that if that happened the family would be disgraced and much shame would fall upon the newlyweds, the words that she had often heard Rabbi’s declare rung in her ears: ‘Without wine there is no joy!’. Oh dear she could see the dilemma that the family faced, Mary assured the groom’s mother that she would do all that she could and made her way to Jesus.  Stooping down she whispered in His ear: ‘there is no more wine.’ Jesus looked at her puzzled ‘that is not my concern.’ Mary insisted that He help but He replied: ‘Mother, it is simply NOT My time yet.’ Mary smiled, patted Jesus’ hand and walked to the nearest servants. Within listening distance to Jesus she pointed to Him and said: ‘Please do WHATEVER He tells you to do.’, she smiled at Jesus and sauntered away. The servants quickly raced to Jesus and looked intently to Him for instruction. Jesus sighed and prayed quietly before instructing them: ‘fill those jars with water’, Jesus indicated to the six stone jars that were nearby. The servants looked at Him a bit puzzled ‘we use those for the ceremonial washing which has been completed.’ Jesus sighed and patiently replied: ‘please just fill them with water.’ The servants nodded and quickly filled the jars. When the jars were full Jesus instructed them to take some out and present it to the master of ceremonies. The servant closest quickly obliged but Jesus could see his hand shaking as he carried the cup, walking up to the master of ceremonies the servant bowed and presented the cup. The man tasted it and exclaimed: ‘Oh how wonderful!’, beckoning the bridegroom over he declared: ‘a host always serves the best wine first and when people have had their fill they usually bring out the less expensive wine.’ Taking another sip he continued: ‘but you have kept the best until now and what a pleasure it is to taste!’. The master of ceremonies slapped the bridegroom on the back and loudly declared that the best wine was now being served. The crowd let out a loud shout and Mary winked at Jesus. The servants stood amazed and looked at Jesus with curiosity, they dared not question the fact that it was only water that had been served to the master of ceremonies, or was it? The servants gathered around the jugs they were serving from and smelt the surprising scent of a rich wine, they looked at each other with slight fear gripping their hearts, who was this Jesus?

Notes:

You read the wedding story in the Bible: John 2:1-12.

For more details about the importance of not running out of wine you can read the sermon ‘What Do You Do When The Wine Runs Out’ by Steven Spence, found at faithlife.com.

Also Biblehub.com has several commentaries that delve into this story.

The disciples can be found mentioned in: John 1:35-50; the first Disciples called: Matthew 4:18-22 & Mark 1:16-20 & Luke 5:1-11; and the 12 Apostles (Matthew 10:1-4 & Mark 2:13-19 & Luke 6:12-16). Those I haven’t mentioned yet I’m sure will weave their way in soon.

Picture – Pixabay