September is half over, and the brisk air of fall is upon us. As the seasons change, I am reminded yet again how much the natural world is a metaphor for life. Life has its different seasons that look and feel unique. Within each life season there can be high points and low ones. Sometimes the transition from season to season can be somewhat obscured and extremely gradual or it can be extremely abrupt and traumatic. But once you get to a new season, it’s obvious that a new chapter has begun.
We’ve come to the close of another year, completed another 356-day journey around the sun, and marched our way onto a new calendar. While the actual day marker of a new year is rather arbitrary since we are constantly in motion and heading towards the future each moment, as a society, we have collectively made January 1st a special day and time to celebrate. It has become a day to remember, reflect on, and learn from the past year and a moment to re-envision, reimagine, and make plans for the new one.
Happy New Year
Happy New Year! Twenty-twenty is officially in the review mirror. The calendar has restarted. The page has been turned. Twenty-twenty-one has begun!
However, before we can archive 2020 and leave it to history, we must take some time to reflect and ponder what we have learned. For some of us, 2020 has been a year of building, growth, new horizons, wonderful opportunities, and great blessing. We have seen God work in powerful ways as He opened door after door and broadened our borders.
Christmas is over. The presents have been opened. The wrapping paper cleaned up and the gifts put away. The feast has been consumed and most of the goodies have disappeared. While Christmas is an amazing, awe-filled celebration and time of memory making and remembering, the post-Christmas season can be a bit of a letdown. After all the planning, anticipation, and eager expectation, post-Christmas can feel mundane, anti-climactic, and disappointing. While New Year’s is right around the corner, it does not carry the same joy, celebration, excitement, and magical moments that Christmas does.
I hope you have enjoyed this mini-series and close look at the life of Deborah! Her story is amazing and her legacy lasting. Not only did the battle she led with Barak against the Canaanites bring peace for forty years, but her spiritual leadership brought spiritual renewal to the people of Israel. Furthermore, Deborah was unafraid of defying the status quo and following her God-given destiny. She was a fearless leader in a male dominant culture, and set an example of spiritual maturity in a spiritually dark and compromising generation.
Deborah, a prophetess and judge of Israel who was not afraid to lead in spiritual matters and hold the leaders of Israel accountable for what God had called them to do. However, Deborah was also willing to follow God into battle. She not only was willing to lead the people spiritually, but also to step out and physically stand with the people as they faced their battle with the enemy. Today we’re going to see how Deborah went from a prophetess and judge sitting under a palm tree to a warrior and victorious leader of Israel.
As we began to see last week, Deborah was a special woman with a special relationship with God. However, what made Deborah stand out was not that she had exclusive access to God, but that she took the time in a spiritually dark culture to pursue a relationship with the God of her forefathers. Now, we will see how that relationship with the Lord was used by God to redeem Israel from their oppressors.
Over the last couple weeks I have been studying the life of Deborah, the prophetess and judge. As one of the few female leaders in the Bible, her story and life is fascinating. And while we don’t have many details, God gives us enough information to make several important observations. So over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share some of the lessons I’ve gleaned from this mighty woman of God in a little mini-series called “Deborah: A Light in the Darkness.
It’s been over four months of crazy. Four months since we’ve been able to walk around and see people’s faces. How did what initially started out as two weeks of quarantine morph into four months of chaos? Now we’re on the other side and stepping into a brand new world. A world where everyone tries to maintain a six-foot personal bubble. A strange landscape of masks, face shields, and sanitizing wipes. Gone are the days of hugs and handshakes, and in their place are social bubbles and endless Zoom calls. What is this world coming to?!
Suffering: God's Magnifier
Suffering. It’s all around us. You see it on the faces of people you pass at the grocery store, see it in the stories posted on the news and social media, and see the pain it causes in the lives of those you know and love. We live in a broken world, but it can be hard to make sense of all the pain and suffering we see and experience. How can a good, loving Father allow us to go through hard times? As born-again believers, shouldn’t we be free from the ravages of a sinful world? If God is truly sovereign, why does He allow us to walk through suffering?
Reflection. Prayer. Repentance. Intercession. That’s what today is all about. It’s a day for the Church of Jesus Christ to gather and fill heaven with prayer and intercession. It’s a day of intentionality, as we make a point of coming before the Lord on behalf of our country. It’s a day of meditation, as we ponder and repent for the sins of our nation. It’s a day of action, as we humble ourselves and seek God’s face. Today is the National Day of Prayer in America.
Today is Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. It marks the beginning of Passion Week and all that is remembered and celebrated. However, let’s go back in time to the first Palm Sunday and remember what actually happened on that memorable day in Jerusalem.
“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.’ This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”’ The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’”
~Matthew 21: 1a, 6-9
New Year Reflections
As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been doing a lot of inner reflection and prayerful pondering since 2019 began. Last year brought a lot of change in the lives of people around me and great spiritual growth in my own life. God has revealed and confirmed a spiritual gift in my life and grown in me a greater heart for ministry. But overall, I have to say that the biggest thing the Lord has given me this past year is a greater burden for people.
Just Trust Me
I’m a full time private music instructor. It’s my job to teach students the inner complexities of music and how to translate what’s written on a page to how to play it on an instrument. I teach students of all ages, but right now, I have quite a few little guys—ages 5-6. And while these youngsters can be a challenge, it is so rewarding to see the proverbial light bulb come on and watch them master each new lesson. Recently, as I was telling my family some of the funny things these little guys have said—I have quite a few stories!—God hit me with something big.
Children trust utterly, absolutely, and entirely. They don’t doubt what you tell them, but in fact, are willing to somewhat blindly trust you.
The Beginning of a New Chapter
The Year of our Lord 2017 is now officially over. The New Year has begun. And while nothing feels different—the air is still chilly and life is still the same—it is the beginning of a new chapter in life. But before we look forward, let’s take a moment and look back over the past year.
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