The Music Within

St Peter's Basilica, 2011

Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy, 2011, taken by MMW

 

The Music Within

Lord Of The Dance –
I danced in the morning
When the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven
And I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem
I had my birth.
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he….
(Except from Hymn by Sydney Carter, 1963)

If you know me, you know my love for music. For as long as can I remember I felt as if it was music pulsing through my veins. It doesn’t matter where I am, or how noisy it is, if a song is playing somewhere in the background I will hear and listen. When I awaken in the middle of the night there is usually a song playing in my head. I am never without music within.

I can’t tell you the number of times that God has used my love of music to reach out to me in some way. The following is just one of those times, and I’m so glad I was paying attention! (The personal note at the end was written as part of the entry at that time.)

Stillness entry from March 5, 2018 —
As I enter The Stillness He is telling me over and over to breathe deeply, to breathe Him In and Satan out; Him In and the world out; Him, New Life, In and me out. As I still myself and welcome Him, I am hearing my music playing downstairs. It keeps drifting into my conscientiousness. He says “Let it, child.” I begin smiling, softly crying, and praying, “Thank you, Lord, for the music in my life. It brings joy to my heart and an exuberance for the life within me. It is a pure happiness that makes me thankful, and while it is secular music from my past, it fills me with a spiritual awareness that it is truly a love gift from You to me. Thank you, my Lord, Jesus Christ, my Savior, and the One who Loves me.”
(Personal – As I end this, the song drifting up just happens to be, “You Decorated My Life” by Kenny Rogers. I firmly believe He just confirmed all that just took place in The Stillness. Yes, The Lord has decorated my life through His gift of my love for music. He wants us all to be happy in who we are and He looks for opportunities to give us Love gifts. I need to be better at looking for them and being open to receive them. Oh, how His heart must ache when we fail to notice His gift, and how He must smile when we recognize His gift as the blessing it is, and thank Him for it.

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‘To Do’ Lists

“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice;  In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”  Psalm 5:3

We all have ‘to do’ lists, whether written down or in our heads.  The list may be of things we must get done or take care of.  There may be multiple lists of things to accomplish, things to buy, things to change, things we desire to achieve or things we need to let go of and forget.  We have bills to pay, groceries to buy, houses to clean, jobs to work at, children to raise, husbands, wives and friends to spend time with.  When we get up in the morning, most of us, have a fully planned day ahead.

Each one of these lists has something listed first, and something listed last.  First might not be what we necessarily want to do first, but rather what we feel must be done first.  However, if both the first and the last on the list are not prayer the in-between doesn’t matter.  In fact, prayer should be listed first, last, and in-between every item on our list!

If we begin in prayer, strive in prayer, and end in prayer our ‘to do’ list will be fully accomplished… at least everything that should be accomplished.  Put prayer at the top, bottom, and in the middle of your ‘to do’ list, and let God work beside you.  Soon, you will wonder how you ever got anything done without praying through it!

(Originally published in 2011, and again 2013.)

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The In-Between

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada, taken by Martha Wiggins, 2010

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada, taken by Martha Wiggins, 2010

“For I know the plans I have for you,”, declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

There is a real difference between a frown and a smile.  This difference can be both seen and felt.  There is also a real difference between begrudgingly doing something and joyfully doing something.  And then, there is the in-between.

Let’s say you have something you need done.  It is very important, and yet, you are not able to do it yourself.  You ask someone to do it for you.  How do you feel when they mumble and groan the whole time?  You feel entirely different when they smile, when their demeanor shows they actually want to help out.  And then, there is the in-between.  You ask; they do.  You and they both know it isn not something they particularly want to do, but because they love and trust you, they are very willing to do it.

The same correlation can be seen in how we accept and have faith in God’s will, God’s plan for our lives.  Sometimes we want something so bad we are willing to sacrifice other things, important things, to get it.  We jump through all of the earthly hoops, and then seal the deal with prayer.  We know how we will react when the answer is yes, but how do we react when the answer is no?

Do we really have a choice here?  After all, when the answer is no, we have no other choice but to accept His will.  Actually, the choice is in how we respond to and accept his will.  Remember the difference between begrudgingly and joyfully doing something?  If we begrudgingly lay our disappointment at His feet, we are saying, “I don’t like this.  I don’t want this, but because You are Lord and you say so, then it is.”  If we joyfully lay it at His feet, we are saying,  “Thank you, Lord.  It really is fine!  I guess I really shouldn’t have wanted this after all.”

I think this is where the in-between comes in to play.  Instead, we bring our disappointment and lay it at His feet saying, “Lord, this really hurts right now, but in your infinite wisdom you know best.  Help me to accept and trust your will, your plan for me.”

If you were God, which approach would you prefer?  Would you want the begrudged acceptance, the joyful resignation, or the trusting disappointment?  Which response would you feel was the most honest?  Personally, I would rather know someone is disappointed in me, but trusts me, than have them constantly complaining about me, or just giving me lip service.

You do have a choice.  Take your disappointments to Him.  Let Him know your pain, but let Him know you trust Him also.  He knows the plans He has made for you.  Besides, He can handle it!

(Original article posted in 2013, and in 2014)

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Taking On The Burdens of Others

This Stillness Journal entry is one I have shared before.  After reading it again recently I felt the nudge to share it again. It just made me think of all the pain and suffering, and all those helping others, those who take on the burdens of others, during this worldwide virus pandemic. Prayers for all.

Stillness entry from 2012…
February 2, 2012 – Today as soon as I felt His Hands on me in blessing my mind took off in many different directions. Recognizing this I immediately asked Him to place His Hands and bless me again so I could begin again. He did so, and as He did, He began to tell me this story.
“There was a man who drove a truck. He had delivered all of his goods to the city at the top of the mountain in a timely manner. He was returning home with his empty truck. Along the way down the mountain he saw other truckers who had packed their trucks so full they were struggling to get up the mountain. The trucker felt both the need and the desire to help so he stopped each truck and took on some of their load. His heart was gladdened as he watched each continue on effortlessly up the mountain. At the bottom he turned his truck around to head back up the mountain, but soon realized he was now too full to make it up to the top. In taking on everyone else’s loads he had overburdened himself. Knowing the goods still needed to be delivered on time, and that there was not enough time to lighten the load and make two trips, he began to worry, to doubt his good intentions and his good actions. Where was everyone he had helped? Surely they would see his state of affairs when they came back down the mountain and offer to take back some of their load. But no, they were so elated in their own good fortune to have completed their deliveries on time that they could focus on nothing but themselves. After struggling to head up the mountain for a time, the kindhearted man stopped. He said, “Lord, if You want these goods delivered to the mountaintop city, You will have to do it. The Lord replied, “Exactly, son. I already have.” A cross appeared in front of the truck. The man got out and kneeled down at its foot. He began to pray and offer up all the burdens he had taken on from others. He prayed to the Lord to help all with their burdens in the future but to use him to help whenever needed. He asked for himself only those things to be of use in helping others. The Lord was pleased and rewarded the man with great faith, strength, courage, and wisdom to know which loads to help with. The man returned to his truck. The load seemed ever so light as he traveled to the mountaintop city once again to make his delivery. The others’ heavy goods were delivered on time. While they went about in ignorance of the labor and suffering they had caused, the trucker continued to help wherever possible. He now knew he could always lighten his load by first dropping it off at the foot of the Cross. He knew Jesus would deliver the goods.”
(Personal thoughts – I wrote this as it was being given to me having no idea where it was headed and how it would end. As always, everything left at the foot of the Cross is delivered.)

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My Lenten Journey – Day 42b

Continuing my 2020 Lenten Journey- with personal thoughts and commentary by Martha McDuff Wiggins on the book “Lord I Want To Know You” by Kay Arthur.

Day 42b
Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There (Part 4, Final)

And His own received Him not. But, to all who received Him…

In this final day of our Study we are going to look at how wonderfully the LORD fulfilled His promise in Ezekiel 48:35. I will be heavily relying on the Study book to take us step by step through the life of Jesus using many of the names we have now come to know, but also adding my own commentary to help clarify at times or to go a bit further…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Elohim, The Creator). He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:1-4).

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).
While others knew Him not, there was one who did. As required by law, Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the LORD. This was the new temple, built by the Israelites according to the LORD’s instructions after the earlier one built by Solomon, from which the Lord had departed, had been destroyed. Simeon, an old and righteous man, had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah before he died. Upon seeing the infant Jesus there in the temple, he immediately recognized him as Jehovah-shammah, The LORD is There, as prophesied by Ezekiel.
“Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:22-32)

At the age of twelve Jesus came again to the Jerusalem temple. Separated from Mary and Joseph, He remained behind for three days among the teachers in the temple, listening and asking questions. While they were all amazed at His understanding, unlike Simeon, they did not recognize Him as Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There.

Nor did they submit to Him as Adonai, The Lord, when during His adult ministry,  He divulged His true identity. “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” (John 8:58-59).

They could not see that it was Jehovah-jireh, The Lord will Provide, who stood before them in His temple, or on Mount Moriah, the very place where Abraham was provided with the ram to sacrifice in place of Isaac, his only begotten son. There before them stood the Lamb of God, the LORD’s provision, His only begotten beloved Son, to be sacrificed for all of their sins. Yet, they did not recognize Him, they knew Him not.

They also refused to hear or see Jehovah-raah, the Good Shepherd, who called them by name, who came to find His lost sheep and lead them to life eternal.

Because so many refused to believe, an undercurrent of fear had developed among some of those who had chosen to follow Him. “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66).

Even though they had been following Him, they failed Him by not carrying His standard, by not rallying around Jehovah-nissi, The LORD Is My Banner. Instead they deserted Him. By putting themselves first, by refusing to defend Him, they greatly tested Jehovah-tsidkenu, The LORD Our Righteousness!
“For knowing God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God”(Romans 10:3).

As His popularity grew among the lost and wandering people, crowds began to form wherever He went. They hungered and thirsted for the Truths He shared. As the crowds grew, so did the fear among government and Jewish religious officials. He was gaining too much power. They began to plot against Him. They arranged to take His life never realizing (blinded so the LORD’s promise could be fulfilled) they would be laying hands on Jehovah-sabaoth, The Lord Of Hosts, who had at at His command legions of armies filled with mighty warrior angels.

For 33 years Jesus, the Son of God, walked the land of Palestine preaching, teaching, working miracles, and going in and out of His Jerusalem temple, until the day came when He departed it once again, saying “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, ‘BLESSED is HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD! And Jesus came out of the temple” (Matthew 23:37-24:1).

They crucified Him, Jehovah-tsidkenu, The LORD Our Righteousness.
They pierced His side. The healing blood and cleansing water gushed forth. They did not know that it was the blood of Jehovah-rapha, The LORD Who Heals (them).
They did not know, and could not believe, that it was Jehovah-mekoddishkem, The LORD Who Sanctifies You, who hung there on the Cross of Crucifixion.
And sadly, because they did not know Him, they missed the peace that Jehovah-shalom, The LORD Is Peace, brought with Him.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand”(Romans 5:1-2)

Three days after being crucified and buried, Jesus was Resurrected from death and ascended into Heaven, where He, Jehovah-tsidkenu, The LORD Our Righteousness, sits in judgment over all.

Yet, recognized or not, received or not, Jesus fulfilled the promise of Ezekiel 48:35, that Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There would return to His Jerusalem temple. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

We are His children, and as such, heirs to Life Eternal. Because we have believed on His name, and are His children, Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There, dwells within each of us, for we are each His temple.

So, the Study book walked us through the timeline of Jesus’ life on earth while interjecting many of the names of the LORD wherever it was meaningful to do so. By studying and knowing these names along with their characteristics and attributes, we have developed an arsenal of weapons ever at our disposal to fight our daily battles against Satan and his desire to rob us of our inheritance. Clearly, it is in these battles that our hope is in Jehovah-jireh, The Lord Will Provide.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (John 3:16-21)

Mental action to facilitate your Lenten Journey:
Yes, We are His children, and as such, heirs to Life Eternal.
First we must recognize Him when He is Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There. Then we must make our temple a good and honorable dwelling place for Him. Does your temple need cleaning? Now is the time.
🙏🏻💖

Further action if so inclined:
—Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
Do you live in darkness for fear of the light? Sometimes the most important thing you can do is shine a light on your deeds.

I’d like to say how much I’ve been blessed knowing that you came along on this beautiful and hopefully meaningful Lenten Journey with me. I wish you the most wonderfully blessed Easter as He Resurrects Himself within your heart. 🙏🏻💖😇

I’ll leave you with one last thought-
—“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5)
Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There.

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My Lenten Journey – 42a

Continuing my 2020 Lenten Journey- with personal thoughts and commentary by Martha McDuff Wiggins on the book “Lord I Want To Know You” by Kay Arthur.

Day 42a
Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There (Part  3)

“Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it” (Ezekiel 11:22-23).
It would be almost six hundred years before He would return to His temple. How deeply saddened He must have been.

The LORD did not completely wipe out His people though. After the seventy year captivity He allowed a remnant to return to the destroyed city of Jerusalem. They began the work of restoring the new city, rebuilding the temple, and later the walls of the city.

The new temple could never compare with the former glory of Solomon’s original temple. Nor could the new city equal the old Jerusalem. The people wept for the loss of the old, learning the hard lesson that sin costs and consequences.

The word Shekinah comes from the root word ‘dwell’ and signifies ‘the dwelling presence of the LORD on earth’. When the LORD eventually did return to the temple it was not in complete fulfillment of Ezekiel 48:35, it was not in His full Shekinah glory. However, through His prophet Zechariah, He later confirmed His intent to still fulfill the complete promise.
“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling” (Zechariah 2:10-13).

Later, He again expressed His intention, through the Old Testament prophet, Malachi.
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 3:1).
Malachi was the final Old Testament prophet. The people would wait to hear from the LORD again for four hundred years more

During the long time of His silence the children of Israel would cling to two very important truths, to both His name, Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There, and to His Word.
“I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy name for thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness; for thou hast exalted above everything thy name and thy word” (Psalm 138:2)

If we remember nothing else from this Study of His names, we should remember the LORD keeps His promises, His word, without fail… for the LORD, is unchanging and His love endures forever.

I divided this day into two parts, a and b. Our name is still Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There. It is the name the LORD himself used when He promised His people, those who love Him, that He would return and dwell in their midst. And He kept His promise…
He came to his own, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13).

Let’s stop here. He came into the world and we knew Him not. I am so glad the LORD led me to this particular Lenten journey. The Study book ties it all together so beautifully, especially for Holy Week, as we shall see.

Mental action to facilitate your Lenten Journey:
Stillness before the LORD is something that doesn’t always come easy for me, and probably for many of us. Try to set aside some time this week. Choose a spot, inside or outside, that gives you a sense of peace or at least comfort. Turn off your worldly connections, maybe do a little spiritual reading or pray. Then stop and quietly invite Him to sit with you.
🙏🏻💖

Further action if so inclined:
Have you ever fallen on your face before the LORD in desperate fear or need? I have, and I wish that type of situation on no one. If you have, though, you know what it means to realize He is there.
When you realize He is walking right there with you and is totally involved in whatever your situation may be, you will find relief. You will find your fears and anxieties are unnecessary. Call out to Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There. He’s there already, you just haven’t recognized Him.
🙏🏻😇

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My Lenten Journey – Day 40-41

Continuing my 2020 Lenten Journey- with personal thoughts and commentary by Martha McDuff Wiggins on the book “Lord I Want To Know You” by Kay Arthur.

Day 40 – 41
Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There (Part 2)

The LORD may be slow to anger, but He does get angry and His anger has consequences. His chosen people had chosen the world over Him, and so He chose to place them in captivity to the Babylonians for seventy years. The city of Jerusalem would be invaded by the Babylonians three times, each time taking more captives.

The Study book tells us how in biblical times a name usually described an individual’s character. The first reference to the name Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There, is from the LORD Himself in the Book of Ezekiel.
—“The distance all around will be 18,000 cubits. “And the name of the city from that time on will be: the Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35).
In Ezekiel the Lord lays out very detailed plans for a city, a new Jerusalem, for the old was to be destroyed. By naming His city using the word shammah, which literally means ‘there’, the LORD is assuring His people that He will come. He will be there in the new Jerusalem.

The reference to the name Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There, is actually the last sentence in the Book of Ezekiel. We also read in the Study book that Ezekiel can basically be broken into two parts; the LORD is NOT there (Chapters 1-32) and the LORD IS there (Chapters 33-48).
It was written for those Jews who had been taken into Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel was taken in the second invasion and was not called to prophesy until he had been captive for about five years. It was clear the LORD’s judgment of captivity had not brought about the repentance and reform so necessary for His people to be reconciled. The same sinfulness and idolatry followed them from Jerusalem into captivity. In fact, they thought Ezekiel’s prophesy about the impending destruction coming on the city of Jerusalem was not believable. They couldn’t accept that the LORD would give the Babylonians world dominion, especially over them. After all, they were His chosen people. Falsely believing all was well, because they had the ‘necessary credentials’, they made no changes in their wayward lifestyle. (Think saying I am Saved because I believe, and then living life outside of His commandments.)

So, in the first part of Ezekiel, the city of Jerusalem had not yet been destroyed. But the people had greatly angered a jealous LORD (Qanna).
—“You shall have no other Gods before me… You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children…”(Exodus 20:3-6)

In Chapter 10, after repeated warnings to the people, and right before Jerusalem fell in battle and was to be destroyed, Ezekiel actually witnessed, and recorded, the glory of the LORD departing from the temple.
—“Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them” (Ezekiel 10:18-19).

It’s hard to accept that we could anger the LORD so much He would depart from us. Idolatry will trigger a jealous God’s anger about as quick as anything. We must remember though that His is a holy and godly jealousy.
He created each of us in His image and likeness. There is no room, nor reason, to bow down and worship any other God, be it spirit, or worldly. We must be careful to whom or what we give reign over our lives, lest we become like the captives and see Him depart from our temple.
“—and God acted according to His name, just as He had warned His people He would. He left Jerusalem”(2 Corinthians 11:2).

When Ezekiel fell on his face and cried out to the LORD asking if He was to bring the remaining remnant of Israel to a complete end, He gave a message to take to the people.
—“Thus says the LORD GOD, ‘I shall gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I shall give you the land of Israel.’ …And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:16-19).

So, our name is still Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There.
Yet, today we have learned that He can also not be there! Keep in mind here, that while we may be wandering or captive to our own evil ways; while we may have angered Him so that He has departed from our temple, He has not left us without hope, without a vision for our future… where He is already there waiting.
Still, today we haven’t quite reached that point of fully understanding the name of  Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There.
And yes, we will continue to seek that full understanding as we go forward.

Mental action to facilitate your Lenten Journey:
Can you think of a time you know made the LORD angry? Did you feel cut off or abandoned? Did you regret it? Did you repent, confess, and try to make reparations? If not, it’s not too late. He is there waiting. He lovingly forgives all.
🙏🏻💖

Further action if so inclined:
Do you believe the LORD sent this virus into our world? Is He holding us captive within our own homes? If so, what is He asking of us? Think this through honestly and decide, either way, what you will change. How will you be different or better, when set free? Who will you thank and praise? Hopefully, Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There.
🙏🏻😇

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My Lenten Journey – Day 39

Continuing my 2020 Lenten Journey- with personal thoughts and commentary by Martha McDuff Wiggins on the book “Lord I Want To Know You” by Kay Arthur.

Day 39
Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There (Part 1)

“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18).

We are a ‘live for today’ world. Many of us want, actually believe, we are entitled to instant gratification. Many believe it is a ‘right’ (Not talking Constitutional rights here) to be personally happy, personally satiated, no matter the situation; even at the expense of others. As a result many have blinders on; have lost their vision of the future. As a result many live in captivity, held there by their repetitive refusal to leave behind their self-serving ways; captives to their world of selfishness and sinfulness.

In Biblical days, the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, wandered for forty years in the wilderness, captives to their own evil hearts filled with lust and debauchery. The LORD had rescued them from the chains of slavery they suffered under the Egyptians, only to have them turn to idolatry instead of to Him. After warning them multiple times through His trusted Prophet, Jeremiah, and promising them a righteous path to salvation, He allowed them to enter Canaan, the Promised Land of Milk and Honey. And what did they do amid all this beautiful and fertile land? They went right back to their evil ways! They also had the gall to believe in false prophets and this greatly angered the LORD. He enslaved them to the Babylonians for 70 years! However, not without hope, not without a vision for the future:
“This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:10-14).

These verses from Jeremiah 29:19-14 hold within them some of the most well known and often used Biblical phrases from our LORD. You often see verse 11:
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
It is a beautiful and comforting verse no matter how it’s interpreted. I wonder how many know it in it’s true context, though, as a vision for the future, as a hope given from the LORD, that a release from their captivity was forthcoming, albeit in His timing? (As everything IS!) There would be many hard lessons to learn while banished into Babylonian captivity, but this was a promise the righteous could hold onto through it all.

Another you often see is verse 13:
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Many seek Him, but not with their whole heart. He doesn’t want ‘lip service’ (repeated memorized prayers with the feeling and intent long gone from them). He doesn’t want ‘tongue in cheek’ words or service (seeking the approval of men without real concern or selflessness in giving).  He doesn’t want ‘words from both sides of the mouth’ (professing one Truth, but living an entirely different one). He wants none of that. He wants a heart that has been wandering, or in captivity, to yearn for, to desire only the love, rest, and comfort being with Him can provide. No other idol, man made or spirit, can have a root in the heart that seeks Him. It must be uprooted and thrown out, that He May abide in every space therein.

Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There, is our name. While we haven’t quite reached the point of full understanding, and we will for sure going forward, for today let’s stop here. We have learned that while the LORD may be slow to anger, (Think Patience with a capital P!) it is possible to anger Him. He may even set us aside for awhile, wandering or in captivity, but He does so while leaving a vision for the future in our heart, a hope for His redemption. If His hope is in us, His Spirit is with us. He IS there!

Mental action to facilitate your Lenten Journey:
I once read a great spiritual meditation on verse 13 above, which I will share with you. It’s from a devotional book, “A Deeper Walk” and this particular one is called, “Life’s Breath”.
—An inquirer went to a wise hermit who was known as a man of God. “Tell me the way of salvation,” he asked. The hermit led him to the river. There he grabbed the inquirer and held his head under the water. The man fought desperately to get free, but the hermit was strong and held him under. Finally, when he thought his lungs would burst and he had nearly lost all strength, the hermit released him. As the man coughed and gasped for breath, the hermit said, “When you want salvation as much as you wanted air, you will find it.”  God knows that we will not truly come to Him until we realize that our lives depend on it. When we recognize that we need God more than anything, we will seek Him desperately.

Ask yourself what it is you desire most?
🙏🏻💖

Further action if so inclined:
Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt His presence in a strong and very personal way?Remember, dwell in the memory of it, and then thank and praise Jehovah-shammah, The LORD Is There.
🙏🏻😇

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My Lenten Journey- Days 37-38

Continuing my 2020 Lenten Journey- with personal thoughts and commentary by Martha McDuff Wiggins on the book “Lord I Want To Know You” by Kay Arthur.

Day 37-38
Jehovah-tsidkenu, The LORD Our Righteousness

“Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst for righteousness; for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

The LORD made His Covenant with Abraham—that his descendants would be fruitful and multiply; they would become many nations and would bear great kings.  He kept His Covenant—for His promises endure forever.

The LORD delivered His people of Israel from their bondages of slavery in Egypt, even parting the Red Sea for their safe passage, all with the intention of leading them to the ‘promised land of milk and honey’, Canaan.

However, as they journeyed many fell away into the depths of sin and idolatry, eventually becoming more and more corrupt in their evil ways. Because of their evil hearts and their refusal to listen to God’s words to them, He left them wandering in the wilderness for forty years. He could no longer accept them as His people and nothing less than repentance and a return to righteousness would restore them to Him.

He sent His prophet Jeremiah to warn them of His impending judgment.  Even when presented with a path back to holiness and sanctification, they declared themselves hopeless, saying they would continue to follow their own ways according to the stubbornness of their own evil hearts.
A lost cause if you ever heard one, right?

Through His prophet Jeremiah the LORD chastised them:
“The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings” (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land (Jeremiah 23:5).

So, His original Covenant was being threatened by the unholy ways of His own people. And yet, He was Jehovah-raah, The LORD My Shepherd! These were still His Sheep. And as we learned previously, He searches out and tries to bring home His lost sheep.

As Jehovah-Jireh, their Provider, and in order to fulfill His Covenant with Abraham and His Promise to David, of a King and a kingdom that would endure forever, He established a righteous Branch—One who would reign as king, and seated at the right hand of God, The Father, judge the righteousness of the deeds and the hearts of every created being, when on that final day of judgment each would stand naked before Him.

His name is Jehovah-tsidkenu, The LORD Our Righteousness!
Through this righteous Branch comes the fulfillment of the LORD’s promise to David, and with it the promise of a New Covenant to replace the old. A New Covenant of Grace.

Because of this New Covenant, none of us are a lost cause. You might want to read that again… NONE, Not one, not even YOU, are a lost cause. No matter how far away you have wandered; no matter how many times you ignored Him calling to you; no matter how many times you refused His attempts to bring you home; no matter what evil deeds you have committed, He waits patiently, with ever-loving arms open wide to welcome you back. He Promises, and His Promises are forever.

How is this even possible? And Why?
The why is the easiest to answer, as it is because He loves us with an Everlasting Love. As Elohim, Our Creator, He made us by His Love, In His Love, and for His Love, and in His own image and likeness. Because of that deep abiding love, He is willing to give us as many do-overs as it takes, up until the day He calls us home and has to decide where we will live out our eternity: in the Grace of Everlasting Life with Him in Heaven, or enslaved with Satan in the fires of Eternal Hell.

As to how it is possible—
He leaves the choice to us, and yet, in His Merciful Forgiveness, provides the path to Sanctification and Holiness (Remember Jehovah-mekoddishkem, The Lord Sanctifies You?). It is through the Branch of Righteousness, His only begotten Son, The Lord, Jesus Christ, The Good Shepherd Who lays down His Life for us, that we are given the Holy Gift of The New Covenant—a New Life.

Here, again we see how all the names we have studied are coming together as a never ending circle ⭕️ of Life. Through His names all is worked to the good of all His children.

So, the name is Jehovah-tsidkenu, The LORD Our Righteousness! It is a name to call upon when you have succumbed to your own evil ways, a name through which righteousness can be restored, no matter how wretched a sinner you are.

Mental action to facilitate your Lenten Journey:
Do you wish you had a reset button, a do-over, for certain areas of you life? You do, but you must go through (call upon His name) Jehovah-tsidkenu, The LORD Our Righteousness. Ask him to point out any and all areas in which you need to be made righteous. Then seek His unending Mercy and unbinding Forgiveness. Then, in thankful praise, give Him your firm commitment to do and be better. It’s a process that must be often repeated, but a necessary one to be made Sanctified and Holy.🙏🏻💖

Further action if so inclined:
Are there sheep you may be leading astray through your words and actions? Or maybe through words left unsaid and in-actions?
Search your heart on this very important point, for the LORD says,
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture! (Jeremiah 23:1)

We are not only accountable to Jehovah-tsidkenu, The LORD Our Righteousness, for our own actions (sins) but also for the sins we lead others to commit. That’s one of those hard to hear declarations. One none of us likes to think about.
If you search your heart and find areas that need action or correction, call upon both Jehovah-tsidkenu, The LORD Our Righteousness, AND Jehovah-nissi, The Lord Is My Banner, to lead you to right solution, to the one that is for the good of all.
🙏🏻😇

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My Lenten Journey – 35-36

Continuing my 2020 Lenten Journey- with personal thoughts and commentary by Martha McDuff Wiggins on the book “Lord I Want To Know You” by Kay Arthur.

Day 35-36
Jehovah-raah, The LORD My Shepherd

23d Psalm:
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.
You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The 23rd Psalm is one of the most beloved prayers for those who need guidance, those who need comforting, and those who need hope. Just reading through it makes one feel feel loved, protected, and peaceful.

For the LORD to be our shepherd though, we must be His sheep.
“For this reason the Father loves, Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. . . . But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;” (John 10:17 and 26-27).

How do we know we follow the right shepherd and not an imposter?
He tells us in His own words in the following excerpts from John 10:
—Truly, truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. . . .
—The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy. . . .
—He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. He flees because He is a hireling and not concerned about the sheep.
If we are not following the right shepherd we will not feel love, protected, and peaceful. Instead, we will feel insecure, fearful, and distressed. We will wander through this earthly life aimlessly.

To be one of His sheep is to be known by our name. When He appears at the gate, He calls each of His sheep by name, and they follow wherever He leads them. Even if a strange shepherd calls out to them they will not go to him, because they do not know His voice. They do not trust what they do not know to be true.

There are other sheep outside of His flock, who do not understand, and in their ignorance have followed a different shepherd. Because our LORD is the Good Shepherd, He does not want to leave them behind. “I have other sheep, which are not of this flock; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16).

What happens when we are part of His flock and we wander off, or go astray?
He comes and finds us! And if we refuse to come, He waits patiently throughout our earthly life for us to realize our mistake and return.
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:4-7).

What if we repeatedly wander off?
One tool a shepherd has in his arsenal, to keep a repeat wanderer close by, is called a ‘leg brake’. Note the spelling, brake not break. He has a way of putting the brakes on the sheep, lol. It’s similar to a ball and chain. The shepherd attaches a weight to the sheep’s leg, but only heavy enough to slow its gait. In this way the Shepherd has a better chance of seeing and stopping the wanderer before it gets too far away. While the sheep may be a bit uncomfortable, it remains safe and protected within the shepherd’s care. In time the sheep will come to trust its shepherd’s care and will no longer yearn for greener pastures, so to speak. The ‘leg brake’ can then be removed.
Throughout this Study we have seen how the LORD sometimes renders His people helpless or brings them to their knees in order to make them realize their need of Him. He uses that ‘leg brake’ when we stray because He wants us to return to His loving care, to return to His flock and be safe.

How does the Good Shepherd protect His sheep from harm?
He lays across the gate opening so that nothing can get in and harm them without first going over or through Him. Nor, can the sheep get out without doing the same. He protects them with His own body.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (John 10:27-30).

So, the name is Jehovah-raah, The LORD My Shepherd. It is a name to be trusted, a name to be called upon when we wander far from the Truth, or lose our way because we can not hear His voice in our heart.

Jehovah-raah, The LORD My Shepherd, is also the name by which we we enter the gates of heaven. He lays down (in the gate) His life for His sheep…
—“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
—“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Mental action to facilitate your Lenten Journey:
Are you feeling insecure, fearful, and distressed? Who do you look to for shepherding? A parent, a friend, a counselor? Maybe they aren’t enough.

Read John 10 in its entirety and claim His Truth. Call upon the name of Jehovah-raah, The LORD My Shepherd! He is searching for you already. He will hear you ‘bleating’ from the wilderness and come to find you. He PROMISES, and His promises neverchange.
🙏🏻💖

Further action if so inclined:
Read Psalm 23 again…

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.
You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

It’s a great prayer to memorize! I did so many years ago and have found great comfort and refuge in it.
🙏🏻😇

(As an aside: Whenever you find Jesus saying ‘Truly, truly I say to you’ in the Bible, sit up and take note for what follows is always very important to our faith, aka a Truth. I have marked it all through my own Study Bible.)

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