Ancient Path

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#Lent14 — Walking In The Path Of Life

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts.  In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom.  We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

A reading from the Psalms.

The LORD is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength.  He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast before me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23 (NLT)

This is the Word of The Lord.

Today’s post originally ran on February 9, 2012.

Our feet take steps.  That’s what they were designed for.  The steps we take compose our path.  Because of the reputation that God has in heaven, because of the fullness of His character, because of the supreme authority that He carries, because of His rank of King of kings and Lord of lords, and because we are His representatives, He guides us in paths of righteousness, so that we have a legal right-standing with God through the blood of Jesus and thereby have a right relationship with God (Psalm 23:3).  We’ve all had guides before that we’ve followed and guides that we’ve ignored while we went and did our own thing.  “Our own thing” is what I’ve been talking with God about today.  My own thing.  My own path.  My own choices.

I can choose to say, “Yes” to God and walk on the path that He has lit for me.  For He — His Word, Jesus — is a light for my feet and a lamp on my path (Psalm 119:105).  He doesn’t tell me where we’re going along the way, but He’s lit enough of my path for me to know where to put my feet down next, and He’s told me to simply follow Him.  He has told me that His path is one of life (Psalm 16:11).

Or, I can choose to ignore God as my guide.  I can choose not to spend the time in His Word with His Word, Jesus, to gain the light I need for my path.  I can let worry or doubt or pride convince me to put my feet down at another place along the way.

No matter which choice I make, I have a lamp to guide me.  The lamp that guides the righteous is Jesus, the Word of God.  The lamp that guides the wicked — haughty eyes and an arrogant heart — is sin (Proverbs 21:4).  So, I can choose light as my lamp or darkness as my lamp.  Those are my two choices, and I don’t have a third choice.  There is the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness.  There is not a Kingdom of “My Own.”  Why is that?  Why can’t I make my own little kingdom somewhere between the light and darkness.  Why can’t I sit on the fence?

I don’t own myself (1 Corinthians 6:19).  I never have owned myself.  I was a slave to sin (Romans 6:6) before the gift of God’s righteous act given through His eternal grace.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, gave His life as a sacrifice in order to purchase with His blood men and women for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).  I was owned by the Kingdom of Darkness before Christ redeemed me with His precious blood allowing me to enter the Kingdom of Light.  The blood of Jesus has set me free from sin, and I have become a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18).  I have become a slave to God, the benefit I reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life, for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:22-23).

When we leave the path of darkness and came into the path of righteousness, in order to fully receive all that God has for us, we must get rid of everything that possessed and influenced us from the Kingdom of Darkness.  The way that we do this is to die to sin (Romans 6:2), for when we are baptized into Christ Jesus, we are baptized into His death (Romans 6:3).  Our determined purpose is to fully know Christ, progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, that we may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection, and that we may so share in His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness even to His death in the hope that we may attain to the resurrection that lifts us out from among the dead even while in the body (Philippians 3:10-11).  If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection (Romans 6:5).

So will we count ourselves dead to sin to be alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11)?  Rather than offering the parts of our body to sin as instruments of wickedness, we will offer ourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life.  We will offer the parts of our body to Him as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).  In Christ, we are a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

Therefore, why would we want to go back to the path of darkness by choosing to ignore God and choosing not to spend time with Jesus, our lamp on our path?  Let’s continue in the path of righteousness.  Let’s continue saying, “Yes” to God as His Word lights our path.  Let’s continue to follow Him with simple childlike faith, knowing that He leads us in life.

A Shepherd in Antalya Province, Turkey.

A Shepherd in Antalya Province, Turkey.

#Lent14 — The Path That God Walked

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts.  In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom.  We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

A reading from the Psalms.

You said to me, “I will point out the road that you should follow.  I will be your teacher and watch over you.  Don’t be stupid like horses and mules that must be led with ropes to make them obey.”

All kinds of troubles will strike the wicked, but your kindness shields those who trust you, LORD.  And so your good people should celebrate and shout.

— Psalm 32:8-11 (CEV)

This is the Word of the Lord.

Over the past few months, I’ve been meditating on the idea of the Ancient Path.  It all started in about October of last year when in my reading I read again the sixth chapter of Jeremiah and came across this verse:

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”  — Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)

One of the things I’ve learned in discussing this verse (and others from the Old Testament that talk about the “way” or the “path”) is that in the Hebrew there’s an idea of the ancient path being the “path that God has already walked.”

Think about that.

The path that God has already walked.

There comes a point in each of our lives where we are faced with a decision to make.  In those moments, we must seek out which is the right path.  Which is the path that holds the way that enables us to further the Kingdom.  Which is the path that God has already walked.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the principle of community development that says that God is already in the place to which He has called you.  He’s already there—long before you get there.  And He will remain there—long after you leave.  Yet, remember, if He’s already there, that means He’s already walked the path to get there.  He blazed the trail.  And, now, He calls to you to walk along it.

Stand at the crossroads and look.  Ask for the ancient path—the path that God has already walked.  Walk down that path.  And, there, you will find rest for your soul.

As you stand in the place between two decisions, ask God to show you the path which He has walked, and walk down it.

There is a peace that comes from knowing that you’re on the path that God has already walked.  It’s a peace that says, “No matter what comes up, I know that God has already walked past it.”  He’s already taken care of the briers and the sharp rocks and the fallen trees.  He knows what’s on it.  AND, can be trusted to help you walk down it.  Trusted to show you the next step to take.

“By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.” — Psalm 119:105 (MSG)

As you walk down the path, with God’s Word leading you step-by-step there is an additional promise to remember.  The prophet Isaiah reminds us that as we walk that there will be a voice BEHIND us saying “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21(NIV))

So, walk securely down the path that God has already walked.  His Word guiding your steps.  His Voice behind you whispering in your ear.  

Walk on.

A trail at Haupoca, Chihuahua, Mexico

A trail at Haupoca, Chihuahua, Mexico

 

#Advent13: An Ancient Path

As we have done in years past, we are again blogging our way through the Advent Lectionary readings.  We love this season as it allows us to take time to slow ourselves down and walk between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is time for us to live in full knowledge of the “Now” of the Kingdom without rushing the “Not Yet” of the Kingdom.  Thank you for being a part of this journey with us.  Our prayer is that these posts will serve as devotional meditations to focus your heart and mind on the imminent coming of our King!

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

The desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands. The desert will sing and shout for joy; it will be as beautiful as the Lebanon Mountains and as fertile as the fields of Carmel and Sharon. Everyone will see the LORD’s splendor, see his greatness and power.

Give strength to the hands that are tired and to knees that tremble with weakness. Tell everyone who is discouraged, “Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue, coming to punish your enemies.”

The blind will be able to see, and the deaf will hear. The lame will leap and dance, and those who cannot speak will shout for joy. Streams of water will flow through the desert; the burning sand will become a lake, and dry land will be filled with springs. Where jackals used to live, marsh grass and reeds will grow.

There will be a highway there, called “The Road of Holiness.” No sinner will ever travel that road; no fools will mislead those who follow it. No lions will be there; no fierce animals will pass that way. Those whom the LORD has rescued will travel home by that road. They will reach Jerusalem with gladness, singing and shouting for joy. They will be happy forever, forever free from sorrow and grief.

— Isaiah 35:1-10  (GNT)

The Word of God for the people of God.

Isaiah is writing to a people in exile.  These are a people who have been through it—and most of it of their own accord.  They failed to follow God. They were exiled from the land that was promised them—a land that they never fully occupied.  And, now, on the banks of the Euphrates they wonder how to sing the praises of God (Psalm 137).  The Prophet—the same one who told them they were headed for exile—tells them that a road is being paved on which they will head home.

Isaiah’s prophecy doesn’t just hold hope—confident and joyful expectation in God’s goodness—for the Israelites waiting rescue from the grasp of their captors.  It holds hope for us.

As we travel throughout the world and talk to front-line workers, one of the—almost unanimous—prevailing themes that comes out of those discussions is that they are tired.  The are worn out.  The work is hard.  It’s long.  It’s often without immediate fruit.

One of the things that God has challenged us to do in our ministry to the “give strength to the hands that are tired.”  To speak courage to them.  To remind them of Who is on the throne of the Kingdom in which they live.

On more than one occasion as we have sought out the word of the Lord for where we were to go, this passage has been a part of that word.  A reminder of the call with which God has challenged us.  Go.  Give strength.  Speak courage.

And, that’s what we do.  Our “mission” is to speak life.  To impart blessing.  To pray over.  To give courage.

One of the most important things that you can do for us—and for our friends in the nations—is pray that we readily recognize the “Road of Holiness”—the ancient path.

In another of the exile prophecies, Jeremiah (6:16), tells the people to “stand at the crossroads and look.  Ask for the ancient paths and where the best road is.  Walk in it, and you will live in peace.”  Pray that we will always know which is the ancient path. That we may be able to stand alongside the workers in the nations and help them see the ancient path.  That we may strengthen them as they walk along the path.

It is the ancient path that we walk between the first lighting of the Advent Candles and the lighting of the Christ Candle.  It is the ancient path that leads us from the now to the not yet.  It is the ancient path that takes us from our home in Edmond into the nations and back again.  It is the ancient path that leads us all into the nations—be it physically, in prayer, through finance, or inviting the nations to us.

Strengthen the hands that are tired.  Give strength the the legs that are weak.  Speak courage.  Speak blessings—impartations of life that call one into their God-given destiny.

And, in this, we see the Kingdom come.  We see the now move closer to the not yet.  We see God’s desires accomplished in the nations.

An Ancient Road, Perge, Turkey

An Ancient Road, Perge, Turkey

Lent 2013: Guest Post – Neal Locke

As we have done throughout previous Lenten and Advent seasons, we are again blogging through the Lectionary readings in this Lenten season. This year, however, due to our travels in Central Asia, we have asked a number of guests to blog for us. These guests are individuals who are influential in our lives and work. We’re honored to share this space with them-and with you–in this season of reflection.

Rev. Neal Locke
Rev. Neal Locke

We are honored to once again have Rev. Neal Locke guest blogging for us. Neal and I met 15 years ago as students at Oral Roberts University. I am thankful that all these years later I can still call him my friend. (And, can say that we both successfully graduated.)

Neal, his wife, Amy, and three children, Grady, Abby, and Jonah live in El Paso, Texas, where Neal is the Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church.

A reading from the book of Genesis.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.’

— Genesis 15:17-20

The “pieces” referred to in this passage are pieces of animals sliced in half—not an appealing thought to our modern sensibilities, but part of an important ritual in antiquity. The ritual would go something like this: Two powerful and wealthy men (as displayed by their ability to sacrifice several large and expensive animals) would make promises to one another. The sliced, equal halves of the animals represented the equal status and commitment of the men making the promise. It is also possible that the cleaved animals served as a veiled threat of the fate awaiting anyone who broke such a promise. The two men would then pass through the animals, representing a shared and irrevocable journey.

But something is missing in this ritual as performed in Genesis 15:17-20. And that something is Abram. This is a completely one-sided covenant, for it would be impossible for God and Abram to make a covenant together as equals. Instead, God makes the journey through the halved animals on his own, as a “smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch.” This is the first of many times in the Bible that God manifests himself as fire (burning bush, pillar of fire, pentecost, etc.). It is a reminder to us today that God’s covenant to us, his people, is not something that we can earn, or to which we can even contribute anything of worth. Our salvation is something God undertakes alone, for our benefit.

The promise is certainly a good one. God promises Abram descendants and land—two things that an elderly nomad would have no right to expect or even hope for apart from God’s grace. But this promise is perhaps not without cost. Earlier in the chapter, in verse 12, “a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.” We are not told exactly what terrified Abram in his sleep. Perhaps it was a vision of the future in which his offspring would be aliens, slaves and oppressed. But when I look at the land which God promises Abram—land in the Middle East that has seen tremendous bloodshed and violence throughout recorded history right down to the present day—I cannot help but wondering if this is the terrifying vision Abram sees.

God’s promises are good, and God is faithful to keep them, but sometimes the road is long and fraught with seemingly insurmountable enemies. Again, we must remember the nature of the covenant: God does not ask us to surmount the insurmountable. That’s his job. Abram’s job was simply to be obedient, and bring the animals for the sacrifice. When we are obedient to God’s calling, when we sacrifice our time, talents, and resources to answer his call, God goes before us as a flaming torch to guide our way.

 

Lent 2012: 4.2 — God’s Glory On Tour

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.  Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures every evening.

Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded, but their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

God makes a huge dome for the sun–a superdome!  The morning sun’s a new husband leaping from his honeymoon bed, the day breaking sun an athlete racing to the tape.

That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies from sunrise to sunset, melting ice, scorching deserts, warming hearts to faith.

The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together.  The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road.  The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy.  The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes.  God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat-gold, with a lifetime guarantee.  The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree.

God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds.  You’ll like it better than strawberries in the spring, better than red, ripe strawberries.

There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure.  Otherwise how will we find our way?  Or know when we play the fool?  Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!  Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.  These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray.  Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar.

— Psalm 19 (The Message)

Siamese Twins and Pike's Peak

Siamese Twins and Pike's Peak, Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Psalm 19 is one of my five favorite Psalms.  The poetic beauty of nature used to illustrate the beauty of the Word of God.  And, who can resist fresh-picked, red, ripe strawberries?

God’s glory is on tour!  God’s glory is evident in the creation.  The skies, the rocks, the trees, the mountains all proclaim it.  They shout it.  God’s glory is on tour!

Yet, their proclamation is silent.  Even though His glory is written all over creation, it isn’t in creation that God chooses to speak with us.

Think of it as “show-and-tell”.  Creation shows us the greatness of God, yet He uses His Word to tell us of His greatness.

God’s Word.  Logos–God’s Word made alive.  “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.  We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” (John 1:14, The Message)

And, in this Word, we find revelation that pulls our lives together.  We find the right road–the ancient path.  We find life-maps showing us the way to true joy.  We find clear direction.  We find a Name–in which we move and live and have being (Acts 17:28)–with a pure gold reputation.  We find the decisions accurate to the uttermost.  We find red, ripe strawberries on hot summer days.  We find warning from danger.  We find hidden treasure.

Yet, more than that, in this Word, we find the very hope (confident and joyful expectation in the goodness of God) of Glory–Christ in us! (Colossians 1:27).  God’s glory is not just on tour in the skies, yet God’s glory is on tour with every step we take!  In every place we enter we bring God’s glory.  We take God’s glory on tour.

“Let me tell you why you are here.  You are here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.  If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?  You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.  God is not a secret to be kept.  We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.  If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hid you under a bucket, do you?  I’m putting you on a light stand.  Now that I’ve you there on a hilltop, on a light stand–shine!  Keep open house; be generous with your lived.  By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

— Matthew 5:13-16 (The Message)

 

Walking in Path of Life

A trail at Haupoca, Chihuahua, Mexico

A trail at Haupoca, Chihuahua, Mexico

Our feet take steps.  That’s what they were designed for.  The steps we take compose our path.  Because of the reputation that God has in heaven, because of the fullness of His character, because of the supreme authority that He carries, because of His rank of King of kings and Lord of lords, and because we are His representatives, He guides us in paths of righteousness, so that we have a legal right-standing with God through the blood of Jesus and thereby have a right relationship with God (Psalm 23:3).  We’ve all had guides before that we’ve followed and guides that we’ve ignored while we went and did our own thing.  “Our own thing” is what I’ve been talking with God about today.  My own thing.  My own path.  My own choices.

I can choose to say, “Yes” to God and walk on the path that He has lit for me.  For He — His Word, Jesus — is a light for my feet and a lamp on my path (Psalm 119:105).  He doesn’t tell me where we’re going along the way, but He’s lit enough of my path for me to know where to put my feet down next, and He’s told me to simply follow Him.  He has told me that His path is one of life (Psalm 16:11).

Or I can choose to ignore God as my guide.  I can choose not to spend the time in His Word with His Word, Jesus, to gain the light I need for my path.  I can let worry or doubt or pride convince me to put my feet down at another place along the way.

No matter which choice I make, I have a lamp to guide me.  The lamp that guides the righteous is Jesus, the Word of God.  The lamp that guides the wicked — haughty eyes and an arrogant heart — is sin (Proverbs 21:4).  So I can choose light as my lamp or darkness as my lamp.  Those are my two choices, and I don’t have a third choice.  There is the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness.  There is not a Kingdom of “My Own.”  Why is that?  Why can’t I make my own little kingdom somewhere between the light and darkness.  Why can’t I sit on the fence?

I don’t own myself (1 Corinthians 6:19).  I never have owned myself.  I was a slave to sin (Romans 6:6) before the gift of God’s righteous act given through His eternal grace.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, gave His life as a sacrifice in order to purchase with His blood men and women for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).  I was owned by the Kingdom of Darkness before Christ redeemed me with His precious blood allowing me to enter the Kingdom of Light.  The blood of Jesus has set me free from sin, and I have become a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18).  I have become a slave to God, the benefit I reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life, for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:22-23).

When we leave the path of darkness and came into the path of righteousness, in order to fully receive all that God has for us, we must get rid of everything that possessed and influenced us from the Kingdom of Darkness.  The way that we do this is to die to sin (Romans 6:2), for when we are baptized into Christ Jesus, we are baptized into His death (Romans 6:3).  Our determined purpose is to fully know Christ, progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, that we may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection, and that we may so share in His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness even to His death in the hope that we may attain to the resurrection that lifts us out from among the dead even while in the body (Philippians 3:10-11, Amplified).  If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection (Romans 6:5).

So will we count ourselves dead to sin to be alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11)?  Rather than offering the parts of our body to sin as instruments of wickedness, we will offer ourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life.  We will offer the parts of our body to Him as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).  In Christ, we are a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

Therefore, why would we want to go back to the path of darkness by choosing to ignore God and choosing not to spend time with Jesus, our lamp on our path?  Let’s continue in the path of righteousness.  Let’s continue saying, “Yes” to God as His Word lights our path.  Let’s continue to follow Him with simple childlike faith, knowing that He leads us in life.