Standing Stones

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I have come across them on an ocean shore, on top of a mountain, beside a river; a stack of uncut native stones balanced upon each other, often forming a manlike figure. They are called inuksuk, meaning “in the likeness of a human” in the Inuit language. On a forbidding, often featureless northern landscape, these rough stone sculptures were a welcome sight for searching travelers. Originally used by the arctic dwelling Inuit for communication and survival, the inuksuk is a traditional monument, saying “someone was here” or “you are on the right path”.

An even earlier civilization used standing stones as monuments, not by their own decision but at the command of the Lord God. In Joshua 3, the Israelites came to the Jordan River where Joshua conveyed God’s instructions to the Levite priests carrying the ark of the covenant. They were to step into the water and lead the people to the other side. This was no meandering stream but a river at flood stage, swift and deep. Obediently they took their first step, then watched in wonder as the waters mounded high on either side of a dry path opening up across the riverbed. “The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” (Joshua 3:17 NIV)

For the second time in their exodus from Egypt God had parted the waters miraculously before the Israelites. He wanted them to remember, so through their leader, Joshua, He instructed a man from each of the twelve tribes to carry a stone from the middle of the Jordan and set them up together as a monument. “Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘The Lord your God did to the Jordan just what He had done to the Red Sea when He dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always worship the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4:21-24)

I have standing stones in my life. Not actual stones but figurative markers on my lifeline indicating where God has done mighty things. When I am asked, “What do these stones mean?“, I will speak about a barnacle-covered beach stone at the seaside bible camp where he made me His own. The place where tears wet a crumbling altar of broken vows and health is where everything was lost so I could come to know the Love I could not lose. I will gladly describe the obelisk pointing skyward where He knit my life back together in a new place, grounding me with love and purpose. Each beauty sketched in sky and landscape, creature and person, places a pebble in the monument of my worship of Christ who is worthy of all honor and adoration, the Living Stone.

“Come to Him — the living stone — who was rejected by people but accepted by God as chosen and precious. Like living stones, let yourselves be assembled into a spiritual house, a holy order of priests who offer up spiritual sacrifices that will be acceptable to God through Jesus the Anointed.” (1 Peter 2:4-5 The Voice)

Advent ~ A is for Anticipation

frost on windowLast Christmas I published a series of devotionals using the word “Advent” as an acrostic for each week celebrated. As the season begins anew, I am sharing these posts with you again, to help prepare your heart and spirit to joyously celebrate the birth of Jesus. May God richly bless you this Christmas, dear readers!

Remember waiting by the window, looking for that special someone to come up the walk? Recall the wide-eyed wonder of a child waiting for daddy to come home? The expectancy of a hope to be fulfilled carries with it a sweet impatience, a tingling of nerves and slowing of time which hold their own pleasure.

There is an expectancy of hope resonating throughout time. Can you hear it? A whisper, a murmur, a hum of anticipation beginning in a garden, rippling in a flood, rustling across a desert, then gaining volume in the voices of prophets.

Someone is coming!

Someone promised by God, a Messiah, anointed for a specific purpose, to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)

Waiting for the Messiah was a centuries-long occupation for the Israelites. Their anticipation of who he would be and what he would do for them was grounded in the temporal. The New Testament Israelites particularly looked for his coming with desperate expectation, as they groaned under oppressive Roman rule.

So even with well-known prophecies of a virgin giving birth to Emmanuel, God with us, in the nondescript town of Bethlehem, they still looked for a Messiah who would arrive on the scene with great fanfare, ready to throw off the yoke of Roman domination.

If only their horizons could have stretched to what He really came to do — enrich the spiritually bankrupt, free those locked into sin, open the eyes of hearts blinded by lies; and bring liberation to souls tied up in guilty knots. His is a kingdom of the spirit, and in coming to earth for a time as a man, He taught us to anticipate the much vaster reality of eternity in heaven with Him.

Quite often what we anticipate with eagerness ends up disappointing, leaving us with unmet expectations. But with the arrival of Jesus Christ the Messiah, realization far outdistances expectation. There have been many men who have led oppressed countries to freedom, or brought enlightenment to their people trapped in ignorance, but only One in history who could liberate souls.

Could any finite human mind anticipate God coming to earth? — the great I AM growing inside a virgin‘s womb? — the Creator of the universe wrapped in the flesh of a helpless infant? The concept is beyond our scope to understand, but not beyond God’s ability.

Advent is a season of anticipation, looking forward to celebrating the wonder of God arriving on earth, a gift for all mankind. It is also a time to contemplate what you are anticipating spiritually in your growth towards the Messiah. I encourage you to share some of your contemplations with me.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.”       – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

 

Beautiful Disruptions

IMG_0529One day on a beach walk with a good friend, I told her about an e-mail I received that morning from a man I did not know. It seems I knew his brother and sister-in-law a long time ago. I watched the waves beat their way to shore, scuffed the sand with my shoe.

“He asked if it would be alright if we wrote to each other.” When I glanced at my friend, she was smiling. She said, “I have such a strong sense that from this day out, things for you will change for the better. God is up to something.”

My heart gave a hopeful little leap, then settled back to the cautious beat of one familiar with pain, disappointment and struggle. For several years all I had known was the war zone of a messy divorce and a life-threatening illness. Hope was hard to come by. But now when I look back I recognize that moment on the beach as one of God’s beautiful disruptions. Sometime later I married the man who e-mailed me and moved on to a whole new life full of love, joy and fulfillment.

Webster’s dictionary defines disruption as causing something to be unable to continue in the normal way: interrupting the usual progress or activity of something. A disruption is at first stressful because it throws things into disorder, putting us off the course we were used to. But God has a way of disrupting lives that opens up possibilities never imagined, even if at the time the disruption is unwelcome.

The scriptures are full of beautifully disrupted stories where God suddenly steps in to redirect the current path of someone He wants to use to fulfill His purposes. In Exodus 3, Moses has spent many years tending his father-in-law’s flock on the far side of the desert. God captures Moses’ attention when He speaks from a burning bush. He sends Moses on a mission back to Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. As a country herdsman spending days on end with only sheep for company, Moses’ life is beautifully disrupted when he becomes God’s chosen instrument to lead His people to freedom.

As a lowly shepherd boy on the hills around Bethlehem, David was unlikely to be chosen for any significant role. But God changed David’s life by sending His prophet, Samuel, to anoint him as the future king of Israel. God’s beautiful disruption caused David to become a mighty king, a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22 NIV) and a forefather of Jesus, the Messiah.

In the most glorious disruption of all, a Jewish peasant girl is visited by an angel announcing she is to give birth to the Son of God. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Through the power of the Holy Spirit, she becomes the mother of Jesus, God in human flesh, whose life, death and resurrection provides salvation for all who believe in Him.

Sometimes God reveals Himself to me in subtle ways. To be honest, I would prefer He direct me slowly and gently. But when I think of the mountaintops of my spiritual walk, it is the beautiful disruptions that stand out. Those times when God breaks suddenly into my mundane life speak of a love so great He would do the extraordinary to capture my attention. Such beautiful disruptions cause me to exclaim, only God.
Only God could orchestrate so many details to fulfill His purposes.
Only God interrupts by making me breathless with His beauty and majesty.
Only God beautifully disrupted time by stepping down from eternity to live among us.

©Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Anticipation

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The Advent season begins today, as does my gift to you, dear readers, using the word “Advent” as an acrostic for a series of posts for each week it is celebrated. Enjoy this blessed season!

 

 

Remember waiting by the window, looking for that special someone to come up the walk? Recall the wide-eyed wonder of a child waiting for daddy to come home? The expectancy of a hope to be fulfilled carries with it a sweet impatience, a tingling of nerves and slowing of time which hold their own pleasure.

There is an expectancy of hope resonating throughout time. Can you hear it? A whisper, a murmur, a hum of anticipation beginning in a garden, rippling in a flood, rustling across a desert, then gaining volume in the voices of prophets.

Someone is coming!

Someone promised by God, a Messiah, anointed for a specific purpose, to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)

Waiting for the Messiah was a centuries-long occupation for the Israelites. Their anticipation of who he would be and what he would do for them was grounded in the temporal. The New Testament Israelites particularly looked for his coming with desperate expectation, as they groaned under oppressive Roman rule.

So even with well-known prophecies of a virgin giving birth to Emmanuel, God with us, in the nondescript town of Bethlehem, they still looked for a Messiah who would arrive on the scene with great fanfare, ready to throw off the yoke of Roman domination.

If only their horizons could have stretched to what He really came to do — enrich the spiritually bankrupt, free those locked into sin, open the eyes of hearts blinded by lies; and bring liberation to souls tied up in guilty knots. His is a kingdom of the spirit, and in coming to earth for a time as a man, He taught us to anticipate the much vaster reality of eternity in heaven with Him.

Quite often what we anticipate with eagerness ends up disappointing, leaving us with unmet expectations. But with the arrival of Jesus Christ the Messiah, realization far outdistances expectation. There have been many men who have led oppressed countries to freedom, or brought enlightenment to their people trapped in ignorance, but only One in history who could liberate souls.

Could any finite human mind anticipate God coming to earth? — the great I AM growing inside a virgin‘s womb? — the Creator of the universe wrapped in the flesh of a helpless infant? The concept is beyond our scope to understand, but not beyond God’s ability.

Advent is a season of anticipation, looking forward to celebrating the wonder of God arriving on earth, a gift for all mankind. It is also a time to contemplate what you are anticipating spiritually in your growth towards the Messiah. I encourage you to share some of your contemplations with me.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Heart Transplant

heart-shaped-stones-2Before surgery, Richard could barely walk the short distance from his living room to his bedroom without turning blue and gasping for air. With his mind fuzzy and ankles swollen, he felt much older than his 45 years. Doctors told him he suffered from cardiomyopathy, a disease killing areas of his heart muscle and hardening it with scar tissue so it no longer pumped blood properly through his body. Unless he received a new heart, he had a severely limited life expectancy.

When the hospital pager he always carried beeped for the first time, he knew his turn for a new heart had come. After the surgery, even through the fog of pain and drugs, he could feel new life in every part of his body. His family marveled at the pink flush in his once gray cheeks and the returned warmth of his hands. In place of his worn-out heart pumped a strong healthy one, restoring his future and his hope.

Actually, God was the first heart transplant surgeon. Ezekiel spoke this prophecy from God to the Israelites exiled in Babylon, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ez. 11:19 & 36:26) God’s promise was not for a physical change of heart, but for a spiritual one, involving mind, emotions and will.

God may have allowed the Israelites’ exile to Babylon because of their disobedience, but He was not giving up on them. Through Ezekiel’s prophecy He promises to restore them to the land of Israel, completely cleansed of idolatry and with a heart to obey Him. By the promise of a new heart, God offered spiritual regeneration. Through the provision of a Savior, Jesus Christ, God also gives us this promise. He has the same requirements of us as He had of the Israelites; “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit.” (Ez. 19:31)

If we turn from our sin and accept the redemptive work of Christ, He will give us a new heart. Our old “heart of stone”, rebellious towards God, will be replaced with a “heart of flesh”, teachable and open to His Spirit. God declares He will bring about the change, but He calls on us to affect the change by making the decision to believe in and personally accept Christ.  Then the surgeon immediately goes to work, removing our old sinful nature and giving us the very heart of His precious Son in its place. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
(2 Cor.5:17)

Richard will always be indebted to the family willing to give the healthy heart of their dead loved one so he might live. Every day he thinks about the person whose heart now beats strongly in his chest and he is filled with thankfulness. He takes good care of his new heart with regular doctor check-ups, a healthy diet and exercise. He knows he has been given a miraculous second chance.

Christ died, not accidentally but intentionally, so He could give us His heart, resulting in eternal life with Him in heaven. A new heart from Christ also means we have a divine opportunity to make a difference for Him while here on earth. Sharing your heart with someone today could result in them receiving a spiritual heart transplant that will change their eternal destiny.