Names of God: El Elyon

Musings, Names of God

Exalted, Most High, Above all others. These are the connotations of El Elyon.  An apt description for an Infinite Being who defies all human description.  This name is not widely known but shows up in some of the most fascinating narratives of the Old Testament!

El Elyon is a compound of El, God, and Elyon, the highest, exalted, most high.  This name is first declared in relation to the priest Melchizedek, king of Salem, later renamed Jerusalem.  In Genesis 14 he invokes the Name as a blessing on Abram.

El Elyon appears to indicate a preeminence above other deities in a pantheon. Abram emerged from a pantheistic society that subscribed to regional deities.  The region of Ur, where Abraham was from, primarily worshiped Nanna the moon goddess.  In Genesis 12, Moses uses the personal name for God, YHWH, as calling Abram out of his homeland and promising to bless him and his family in the land of Canaan.  

Abram’s nephew, Lot, after associating himself with the King of Sodom, was captured by a rival king and taken north of Damascus.  Abram not only rescued his nephew but defeated the enemy forces and returned with the spoils of war.

Melchizedek proclaimed the Most Exalted God as Possessor/Creator of the Earth and offers Abram a blessing.  Abram accepts this blessing and appears to progress from acknowledging YHWH as not just another deity but as the preeminent deity and creator of everything. He rejects the overtures of the King of Sodom with his own proclaimation of this Name.

Interesting side-note: 

Why would Abram defer to Melchizedek? The Bible is distinctly vague about the identity of Melchizedek and the writer of Hebrews uses this example and lack of definition within the line of the patriarchs as a foreshadow of Jesus Christ.  Some extrabiblical scholars attempt to make a case for Melchizedek being a title, King of Righteousness, given to Shem, the son of Noah and progenitor of Abram’s family. In Genesis 9:26 Noah declares, “Blessed be the LORD (YHWH), the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.” Positing Melchizedek as the heir of Noah and the oldest living man of that era might explain Abraham paying him tribute and for the priest to in turn bless Abraham in the name of the Most High God. 

There is no consensus on dating the genealogies of Shem and Abraham so while it is an interesting thought it is not the main point my study. This is a study of the Names of God. Regardless of their respective timelines, Abram’s family had assimilated into the pagan traditions of Ur until YHWH called him to the land of Canaan.

The name is next mentioned in the Book of Numbers when the pagan oracle, Balaam, is recorded using the name in his prophecy about the Hebrew God.

The name appears in Deuteronomy 32:8 in “Moses’ Song”.  This is the final book of the Torah. The name is invoked in reference to the “days of old” when the Most High divided the nations and fixed the borders of the people. 

The Victory Song of King David in 2 Samuel 22:14 invokes this name specifically in relation to the name YHWH.  This connection with David also make the numerous references throughout the Psalms and Lamentations understandable. 

Interestingly Isaiah uses this name in connection to the story of the Prince of Babylon which is often believed to be a relation of the fall of Lucifer/Satan from Heaven.

An Aramaic form of this name appears six times in the Book of Daniel which is also where the name “Ancient of Days” appears.

Finally, a Greek form is invoked twice in the New Testament. Both in the Gospel of Luke.  Jesus is referred to as the Son of the Most High and John the Baptist specifically is identified as the prophet of the Most High. 

The significance of this Name is difficult to overstate but identifies Elohim/YHWH as preeminent and exalted.  It is invoked at pivotal moments to describe HIM in the most ancient sense and as the Creator of all things.

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FATHER,

YOU ARE EL ELYON. YOU have been since before time and YOUR NAME will continue to be associated with righteousness and justice as long as it is proclaimed.

Thank YOU for making YOURSELF known even through unwilling prophets like Balaam and the prince of Babylon.

Thank YOU for drawing Abram back out of the darkness of paganism and into YOUR SERVICE.

YOUR priest, Melchizedek, and YOUR prophet, John the Baptist and most importantly YOUR SON, JESUS CHRIST, are our examples of your Righteousness for all eras.

Bless YOUR HOLY NAME

In JESUS’ Name, ~ Amen

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References of the name El Elyon in the Old Testament: 

Story of Melchizedek

Genesis 14:18-20 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. 

Genesis 14:22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth,

Story of Balaam

Numbers 24:16  the oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered:

Moses’ final Song

Deu 32:8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.

Song of David; Identified with YHWH

2 Samuel 22:14 The Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered his voice.

Psalm 7:17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

Psalm 9:2 I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 18:13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire.

Psalm 21:7 For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.

Psalm 46:4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

Psalm 47:2 For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.

Psalm 50:14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,

Psalm 57:2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

Psalm 73:11 And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”

Psalm 77:10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

Psalm 78:17 Yet they sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.

Psalm 78:35 They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer.

Psalm 78:56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep his testimonies,

Psalm 82:6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;

Psalm 83:18 that they may know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.

Psalm 87:5 And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; for the Most High himself will establish her.

Psalm 91:9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge—

Psalm 92:1 [ How Great Are Your Works ] [ A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath. ] It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

Identified with YHWH

Psalm 97:9 For you, O Lord, are Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.

Psalm 107:11 for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.

Story about the Prince of Babylon (sometimes associated with the fall of Lucifer)

Isaiah 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

Lamentations 3:34-39 To crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth, 35 to deny a man justice in the presence of the Most High, 36 to subvert a man in his lawsuit, the Lord does not approve.  37 Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? 39 Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?

Verses in Daniel are a different Aramaic word, illay, with similar meaning which means “highest” in relation to God.

Daniel 7:18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’

Daniel 7:22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.

Daniel 7:25 He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law;  and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.

Daniel 7:27 And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

Daniel 4:24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king,

Verses from the New Testament are translated from the Greek, ho theos ho hupsistos, the God the highest. 

Luke 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,

Luke 1:76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

Thoughts from the Awaken Class Discussion: Jeremy taught today and had a terrific application for the study of this name!  If YHWH is really the LORD, Most High then we should be willing to let HIM direct and control our lives.  We say we follow El Elyon but are we really? Are we willing to concede the control of our circumstances to HIM and to let HIM lead?  How often do we allow the worldly kings in our lives to control and manipulate us like the king of Sodom attempted to do to Abram?

Names of God: YHWH

Names of God

Name/Attribute/Meaning: I AM; the self-existent, eternal God

Transliteration: YHWH, Jehovah, sometimes GOD (Genesis 15:2)

First Place the Name appears: Genesis 2:4

The Hebrew names Elohim and Adonai are applied to other Semitic deities but YHWH is unique to the God of the Bible. This name is often referred to as the tetragrammaton (Latin for four letters) and sometimes called the “personal name” of the Hebrew God. In English translations, YHWH is translated as the LORD with all capitals as compared to Adonai which is translated the Lord with only the first letter capitalized (Lord) Early Hebrew did not have vowel markers which were added later by the Masoretes to assist in reading. Scribes believed the name reflected by the Tetragrammaton to be so holy that it was never spoken aloud and a new writing utensil was employed, the word written, the utensil broken and not used again. Such reverence has actually caused the true pronunciation to be lost.

In order to further protect the name YHWH they began writing it with the vowels from Adonai creating YAHOWAH but continued to pronounce Adonai. When the first English translators encountered Jahowah they did not realize it was an artificial construct and transliterated it into English as Jehovah. The current English pronunciation of the YHWH is derived from simply adding the vowels “a” and “e” between the consonants of the Tetragrammaton to make it pronounceable and is interchangeable with Jehovah in compound names. Conservative Jewish tradition still does not read it aloud or use the transliterated version of Yahweh. (See Bible Project video about YHWH)

The revelation of this name to Moses was based on the Hebrew verb “to be” and is found in Exodus 3:14 when the LORD reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush. The name “Elohim” is used in relation to creation throughout the first chapter of Genesis. In Genesis 2:4 the name YHWH is introduced in conjunction with Elohim (LORD God) in relation to the creation and relationship to humanity. Moses, the traditional author of the Torah, first five books of the Bible, would therefore have made the decision to insert the personal, relational name of God in Genesis 2.

Tell them that I AM sent you. He defies description yet allows us a glimpse of His Glory in this revelation of Himself.

YHWH is often used as the first part of compound descriptive names for God. It is easier to describe what God is not than to do justice to what HE IS…

All of His attributes modify each other perfectly. He is both mercifully just and justly merciful.

This is difficult to understand but allows us to glimpse the enormity of identifying God. 

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Father,

YOU ARE… What an incredible blessing it is to be able to turn to YOU!  To be able to know YOU on any level is an incredible gift but for YOU to choose to reveal YOURSELF to us and desire a relationship with us is beyond comprehension!

Thank YOU for reaching out to us and help us to never take this relationship for granted! To know YOU and be known by YOU is a priceless treasure!

Help us to continue to build on the foundation YOU have provided and seek to know YOU better in every area of our lives!

In Jesus’ Holy Name we pray, ~ Amen

 

Names of God: Elohim

Musings, Names of God

Name/Attribute/Meaning: God, Judge, Creator

Transliteration: Elohim  אֱלֹהִים

First Place the Name appears: Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Number of Occurrences in OT: 2,606 times

This is the first revelation of our Creator named in Genesis 1:1 as Elohim. It is interesting to note that in this initial introduction the word is plural in form but used as a singular.   Both El and Elohim are used not only in the context of Hebrew deity but in references to other god figures of other religions as well. (Psalm 86)  Elohim is often shorted to “El” when used in conjunction with other descriptives ie. “El Shaddai”.

The significance of this plural noun used with singular verbs is hotly contested by scholars.  It is difficult to avoid drawing conclusions about the triune nature of our God by this apparent disparity.  This idea is supported by Genesis 1:26 which records, “Let us make man in our image…” There are modern examples of a plural used as a singular. A common example is the use of the “United States” as a singular.  I am not sure this does not further support a trinitarian view but I am a southerner and have a pretty strong concept of the 10th Amendment! I think that this name alone may not be conclusive but the weight of evidence throughout scripture makes it seem like a strong indicator. The necessity of trinitarian doctrine is to understand this apparent plurality of the Father, Son and Spirit while continuing to honor the revelation of the Shema. In Deuteronomy 6:4,

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

God, the Father, was present at Creation.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is revealed in the Gospel of John to be the “Word” and in John 1:1, “In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Finally, in Genesis 1:2b, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” 

How the LORD can be absolutely One God and at the same time exist in in three distinct persons is the perfect example of the necessary tension required for faith.  Faith is required when finite beings consider the Infinite.  If we could understand completely we could be sure that we had oversimplified. No metaphor or example will hold up but just like fire and electricity, we do not have to fully understand them in order to be comforted by their presence but we must treat them with respect.

If you have never taken time to really get to know God then this all may seem very difficult and even overwhelming but I believe that Genesis 1:1 is written exactly this way for the very purpose of our God’s desire to know you and to make Himself known to you.  He desires a personal relationship with you and we will discuss further in the next post the more personal name for GOD and how it came to be known. 

Click this link you would like more information on how that is possible.

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Father,

You are the GOD of all creation and You have chosen to reveal Yourself to us from the very beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation!

You did not need us but You chose not only to create us but to redeem us from our sin and to continue to lead us toward Yourself!

We seek not just Your Name but Your heart.  Make us more like You in every area of our lives and help us to reflect You clearly to everyone we meet each day.

We love You and thank You for loving us first!

In Jesus’ Name, ~Amen

 

Names of God: YHWH Rapha

Musings, Names of God

The Lord who heals.  Our world is in such desperate need of healing today. There is so much sickness of body, mind, and spirit all around us.  I had planned to start this series on the Old Testament Names of God with a different Name but felt the Holy Spirit leading me, as HE often does, away from my plan and encouraging me to follow His instead!

YHWH Rapha is a compound name for God. 

YHWH is the English transliteration of the four Hebrew consonants which were revealed to Moses by God at Mt Sinai. This name first occurs in Genesis 2:4 but the story of how Moses, traditional author of the Torah, came to know it is found in Exodus 3:13-15. It is often called the Tetragrammaton and is related the Hebrew verb hayah, “to be”. The Bible Project has a terrific video explaining how this personal name for the God of the Israelites has been represented throughout history. The English word “Jehovah” is often substituted or “LORD” in all capital letters.  More on this later.

Rapha is a name based on the Hebrew verb “to heal”.   

This name is first introduced in Exodus 15:26 when the LORD is teaching the Israelites not only about His Character but important aspects of their own character as well.  He reveals Himself as their Healer.  Their need for Him is revealed in what they lacked.

There are foreshadows of Christ throughout the Old Testament and especially in the wilderness story.  In the next three chapters, God made the water sweet, provided bread from heaven and water from a rock. Provision is made in the face of need.  In Numbers 21:4-9 the story of the Bronze Serpent is another example of the foreshadowing of Christ and divine healing of the people in the wilderness.

The prophet Malachi speaks of healing in chapter 4, verse 2 as taking place on the great day of the Lord.

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

The connection of this healing with the Messiah, Jesus Christ, seems most evident, for me personally, in the miracle of the woman with the bleeding disorder.  Recorded in three of the four gospels, Matthew 9:20–22, Mark 5:25–34, Luke 8:43–48, it is a powerful story of a desperate desire to be made well.  The woman believed that she needed only touch the hem of Jesus’ garment to be healed. 

Have you ever wondered why she thought this? 

Matthew 14 speaks of others healed simply by touching His clothing but look back into Malachi 4:2.  The Hebrew word translated as “wing” is kanaph which can be like the wing of a bird but can also mean the extremity of a garment.  The edge of the Jewish prayer garment worn by most observant Jewish men was referred to as the wing. It is not a great stretch to believe that this woman believed Jesus to be the promised Messiah and hoped for healing from touching the hem of his robe.  She would receive the healing she desired that day but the healing she truly needed would not come until Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross and died for her sin. 

Like the Israelites in the desert, she had endured her wilderness and realized her need for healing.  How often sickness brings us to the end of ourselves and turns our gaze heavenward.  We desire a respite from our suffering but the LORD our Healer, YHWH Rapha, desires so much more.  He desires to heal not only our body but our mind and soul as well. He desires for us to be reconciled to Him and each other in righteousness.

It is possible for Him to bring healing in the short term but we have to trust that even if He does not it is because He has a greater plan for His Glory and our good.  This is a hard truth which resides in the necessary tension which exists in the realm between the finite and the Infinite. Learning to live with this tension protects us from oversimplifying what is and must remain beyond our ability to understand.  If it “all makes sense” to us then we probably have it wrong. 

I do not know what ailment you face but I know that YHWH Rapha loves you and desires that you come to know Him for who He really is and accept Jesus as Savior. Click this link you would like more information on how that is possible.

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FATHER,

YOU ARE Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals, and we call on YOUR NAME for the physical healing of those suffering around us here at years’ end. So much of YOUR Character is revealed to us, like the name Jehovah Rapha, while in times of wilderness wandering. So often we cannot understand why YOU allow the trials and struggles in our lives but YOU never fail to be near to us when we call upon YOU!

I pray for the physical healings that are necessary but also for the healing of hearts and minds that may only be achieved in times of forced rest and weary calm. I pray for each of us to know YOU better but realize that may only be possible as we weather the storms that we are facing. I pray for families struggling with the loss of loved ones and even for relationships lost when the people are still very much alive but in conflict. We seek YOUR LIGHT in our darkness and reach out to touch YOU knowing that healing comes to those who revere YOUR NAME!

In JESUS’ HOLY NAME, ~ Amen

The Power of Expectation

Advent

Hope is a powerful word that is often misconstrued…

For a follower of Christ, it is more than just an optimistic outlook but a confidence that God will complete the plan that HE has promised.

The prophecies of the Old Testament cast a vision of the Messiah that gave hope to God’s people.

This is the HOPE that we celebrate this first week of Advent.

The LORD speaks of the Hope of the Messiah even as the punishment of the Fall was delivered.  

The first woman, Eve, in the midst of the curse, became a vessel of redemption.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. ~ Genesis 3:15

The Psalmist calls out a prayer and song of hope:

Our soul waits for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

For our heart is glad in him,

because we trust in his holy name.

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,

even as we hope in you.

Psalm 33:20-22

Hope is at the heart of our celebration of Advent.  As I have pondered this truth the women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus Christ come to mind.  Their stories are often marginalized as women in an age of patriarchs and they would not live to see the hope of a Messianic line in which their names were revered but they each demonstrated the “hope”  that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would deliver His people. 

They were more than optimistic… they expected HIM to complete the promise of a Savior and went to great lengths to be included therein.

Tamar

First mentioned in Genesis 38 in relation to Judah, son of Jacob, who arranged for her marriage to his oldest son.  It simply states that her husband was an wicked man and the LORD put him to death.  We can only imagine how he treated his wife.  Next, she is shamed by the second son and set aside by Judah.  Despite her mistreatment, or maybe because of it, she goes to great lengths to secure her place among the people of Israel according to their customs but she was forced to play the harlot to do it.  It is through her and Judah that the Messiah would come.

Rahab

First mentioned in the second chapter of Joshua, a successful harlot of Jericho, heard the stories of YHWH, and went to great lengths to secure a place among the people of Israel.  It is through her and Salmon that the Messiah would come.

Ruth

First mentioned in the Book of Ruth,  like Tamar loses her husband but goes the extra mile to cling to her adopted family and returns with her mother in law to Israel.  She marries Boaz, Rahab’s son.  It is through her and Boaz that the Messiah would come.

Bathsheba

First mentioned in 2 Samuel and again in 1 Kings she  is perhaps most well known for her affair with King David, but she is listed as the “wife of Uriah.”  I believe that this is less about shaming her and more about including the faithful Uriah in the heritage.  It is through her son, Solomon, with David that the Messiah would come.

Each of these women lived in the shadow of Eve and was hobbled by the sinful world in which they lived. 

Each hoped for the promised Messiah who would crush the serpent’s head.  

Each had been with at least one other man before the husband to whom she would bear the child included in the Covenant lineage.

Our God is willing and able to use us where we are; no matter how humble the circumstances to accomplish HIS PURPOSES.

Mary

The young mother of Jesus, whose story is found in the Gospels of Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38  was not a harlot, an adulteress or even married before… she was a virgin… but the world saw her as no different than these other women.

She would experience a miracle no woman before or since has ever known but most would not believe the wild story she told of the child’s extraordinary conception.

She would give birth to GOD and watch Him die… but still she would hope…

She would see Him resurrected and then she would lose Him again… but still she would hope…

These stories are different but they share something in common. 

They found themselves in places they never expected where life was absolutely not going the way they had planned but they never gave up hope and we are all the richer for it.

Remember their names, go read their stories and cling to the HOPE that the Gospel is spread by us, the least of these, and our testimony is usually built out of our response to our lowest moments.  Be encouraged!

On this first Sunday of Advent we light the Candle of Hope!

Advent Thoughts: Singing

Advent

He would suffer every single day of his life so that he could, with his life, give grace to rebels, extend love to those who would deny his existence, impart wisdom to those who think they know better, and extend forgiveness to everyone who seeks him.
            ~ Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul David Tripp

One of my favorite memories of my visits to Israel was walking across the temple mount with my mother in 2009. We heard another group singing Amazing Grace in their own language.  Our group joined in English as we passed them and the recognition and smiles between us abounded.  My mother squeaked and whispered loudly, I believe that will be what heaven is about… don’t you think? Every tribe and tongue praising HIM together?  I agreed not knowing that she would see and hear for herself in 2014. I look forward to joining the chorus and Advent reminds me that it is only possible through the birth, death, and resurrection of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

My understanding of this truth is grace, undeserved, unmerited and often taken for granted.  May I see the whole world through such eyes of grace.

Along these lines is Luke 2:14 which was one of those verses which rocked my world when I began studying the ASV and ESV but makes so much more sense in context.  The common translation from the KJV is “peace on earth, goodwill to men” but closer examination reveals the Greek word εὐδοκίας (G-2107) which indicates “goodwill” or “pleasure” changing the understanding of “God’s goodwill to all mankind” to “peace among those He shows favor toward or finds pleasure.” 

I have found favor through no righteousness of my own and I am humbled and awed by His grace and hope to never cease sing His praises! 

Let us seek HIM together this Advent Season!

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Luke 2:13-14 (ESV) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

             “Glory to God in the highest,
                       and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Revelation 5:8-13 (ESV)

8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

A Great Multitude from Every Nation  Revelations 7:9-17 (ESV)
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

 

 

December 1st Resolutions

Musings

On November 30, 2017 I realize that 2018 is hammering down on me and while I have completed much this year my personal blog has not been a priority. 

I was part of a terrific group of ladies who wrote for a collaborative blog called Middle Places but its time has passed and we are moving different directions. I have archived some of my favorite posts from that site now that it is gone and will probably add more but have neglected to add new content here.

I would like to fix that in 2018 but I just could not let the year go down with ONLY ONE POST!  

In February 2017 I was diagnosed with steroid-induced diabetes.  I have been struggling with sinus issues ever since dealing with toxic chinese drywall in our home.  Last fall was particularly harsh with a case of walking pneumonia that basically lasted from Thanksgiving to New Years!  I had a brief reprieve during the month of January (thus the last post) before being sideswiped by diabetes (brought on by four rounds of steroids fighting the walking pneumonia), sinus surgery, hospitalized for pancreatitis and finding out I also had the flu and needed thyroid surgery! All of this was from February to May!  The good news is that all that sickness and the potential threat of diabetes motivated me to not only get well but take better care of myself!  

I know exactly what to do to lose weight but unfortunately, I have never been successful in keeping it off.  Eat less… move more… Right?  We all know it but making it happen is something different altogether.  

I have never been a fan of making resolutions for this very same reason…fear of failure.  But since last February I have been food journaling through MyFitnessPal (lmclayton2) whereas of December 1, 2017, I have a 240-day streak going and keeping track of my exercise (or lack thereof) with a Misfit Shine 2 (lmclayton2) activity tracker.  I have lost just over 70lbs and I still have at least 20 more to go but I am not waiting to January 1, 2018 to make that happen. Feel free to friend me through either app as the encouragement makes all the difference!

I have also spent what little spare time I had helping to launch my son’s website: BradleyAClayton.com to promote his career as in graphic design, as an illustrator and cartoon artist.

Alas, my health struggles, sidelined my Through The Bible Plan with The Bible Project that I posted about last January.  Somewhere in during all the surgeries I got hopelessly behind but I am planning on picking that back up… right where I left off in the New Year!  The Read Scripture app is great and after my Advent readings this month I am looking forward to finishing what I started… even if it takes more than one year!

Perhaps the year to come is about continuing the race. A life of faith, health and encouragement is not a sprint but a marathon.  Like I said, not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions I am resetting my focus on December 1, 2017 for the days to come. I have been sidelined for a bit this year but the LORD has been working in my life and I cannot wait to see what the next chapter will be! 

Join me!

I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

In the Beginning and so much more!

The Bible Project
Mark and I are doing something very exciting this year.  
 
Reading the Bible in a Year… no, don’t click away yet! This is different!
 
I know most of us have started these plans with various degrees of success or have done it several times and just don’t see the benefit of slogging through Leviticus again but I’m asking you to take a moment and check out The Bible Project!  
I do encourage you to stick with this challenge.  If you get behind go do the reading for today, watch whatever videos you missed and keep going!  Every word buried in your life will bear fruit!
 
The Bible Project is a Portland based non-profit that utilizes short-form, fully animated videos to make the biblical story accessible to everyone, everywhere. We create videos, podcasts, and study guides that explore the Bible’s unified story by focusing on its overarching themes and each book’s literary design. We are committed to understanding the Bible in its historical context and communicating its wisdom for the modern world.
 
I think you will find it opening up so much perspective on your reading! 
 
I started a Facebook Page to challenge and encourage others to participate but there are still many brothers and sisters not on Facebook so I decided to open the new year with a blog about it here.
 
I keep thinking of new people to invite and I believe it will rock your world and your faith if you give it a chance.  Having been struggled some years and been successful others I encourage you to just jump in whenever the LORD has brought this to your attention.  Watch the video for whatever book is currently being read but then pick up the readings for today and go forward.  Many reading plans have been abandoned when we get behind and know where will not get caught up!  
 
The Bible Project 2017 Reading Plan allows you to download an app for phone or tablet or print a pdf to follow similar to the screenshot below. 
 
I am adding direct links just in case: on the page linked above but just to be sure. 
 
Even if you are not doing the Bible in a Year this year I encourage you to check out the videos.  Also note that there are sometimes two or even three versions of the videos sometimes with different emphasis.
 
For example: 
The Book of Genesis Overview: Chapters 1-11  and the Read Scripture: Genesis 1-11  are very similar but the Overview is just that and the Read Scripture video is more in-depth. Note there is also a video called Torah Series: Genesis 1-11 which appears to be the same as the Overview but is renamed and grouped with the first five books of the Bible known as the Torah.
 
Finally, they also have corresponding theme videos.  Here are the first two examples:  Image of God  and  Heaven & Earth
 
Finally, as if it was not jam packed with goodness they are starting a new blog this year that will preview even more interesting perspectives on what you will be reading in the following week.  This week the first post is entitled: Genesis & Ancient Cosmic Geography
 
The artwork is amazing and if you are interested in copies of the posters there are several options available.
  • The outline of Genesis on a premium quality, hand torn paper made by our team is available for $50.00. Purchasing this premium item from them supports future projects.
  • Signing up as a new monthly supporter at $10 or more a month will get you a free coupon code to order one of these quality prints.
  • Finally, showing their desire to spread the Word they make all of the images available for free and can be printed for personal use without restriction.
    I have heard some talk that someday a coffee table book may be created with all of the prints.   Genesis Poster Link
Feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested and if they are on FB they can participate in our discussion at Liz’s Facebook: Bible Project 2017 Challenge
 
Happy New Year!
 
Disclaimer: I to not work for or represent The Bible Project but simply love their efforts to spread the Word and want to share it with others! 

Who is your enemy?

Middle Places Archive

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…”  Matthew 5:44 KJV

Who is your enemy?

When I was a child, I was sexually abused by an extended family member.  

I don’t know when it began. 

But I know when it ended – the day he died, when I was ten years old. 

I remember hearing the report that he had suffered a heart attack and was gone.  I went back out to play in the woods near my home, feeling nothing.  Suddenly the emotions welled up within me, and I sobbed until there were no more tears.  I got up, walked home, and for almost five years remembered nothing of the abuse.  

When I began dating, the memories came back in flashbacks and nightmares.  My mind had completely shut out the abuse and fused a string of normal, healthy times into a seemingly coherent set of happy childhood memories.  I was frightened and confused by the flashbacks, but as I began to accept them, they fractured my idealized childhood.

I was ashamed and alone. 

I knew I was the victim, but I was afraid of the reaction I would get if I told anyone in my family the truth.  My abuser had threatened me and lied to protect himself, and I now believed those lies.  I convinced myself that he was dead, and it was in the past.  I buried the pain.

But as a result, every area of my life suffered.  I rebelled against everything and broke all the rules.  In time I hit rock bottom and my world fell apart.  I wanted to die, and I cried out desperately to God.  

God met me there.

In that moment, the Holy Spirit descended and wrapped me like a blanket.  Nothing had changed in my circumstances, and I was faced with the consequences of my actions.  But from that day forward I would never doubt or question the peace that surpasses understanding because I experienced it, the night God met me in my pain.

Eventually I told the truth to my family.  Just as I expected, everyone around me was wounded by the emotional debris. 

Some were angry, others afraid.  Some just could not cope with the truth.  One cousin felt guilty… I was not the only one. She had offered to babysit but was too afraid to tell my parents the truth about who he really was. I’m not sure anyone would have believed her anyway.

I was more fortunate than most and my mother, deeply grieved by the abuse, set her pain aside to help me to get the counseling that I needed. 

Telling the truth was terrifying. 

But when I did, I learned the power of salt and light to clean and disinfect a wounded heart.  I learned that forgiveness is not a onetime event, but a continuous process and even a benchmark of a healthy life.  Forgiveness was difficult because the object of my rage and hurt was already dead.  I couldn’t confront him to experience healing.

Instead, I was given a very helpful coping exercise.  I was asked to visualize my abuser.  This was a very difficult step because facing him even in my heart and mind was frightening.   I was then asked to choose between two buttons. 

The first button would simply incinerate him.  Before my eyes he would cease to exist.  My personal rage begged for this choice but it was not assuaged. 

The second button would cause him to be spiritually broken, to truly realize his sin, repent and be forgiven by my SAVIOR, Jesus.  

It took me a long time and much prayer before I could press the second button even once. 

I would later learn that once was never enough.  I still face emotional repercussions of that abuse.  The rage returns. 

Each time, I must go back through the exercise until I am able to press the second button. 

Each time I am asked by the LORD to forgive, to love my enemy. 

Not for his benefit, but for mine.

My abuser was not my only enemy. 

My fear and insecurities were also enemies which I must daily hand back over to my SAVIOR, Jesus.  

The emotional armor I created to protect myself was also an enemy.  It had two parts.  An anesthetic shield and a sword of rage.  

They both had to be removed so that the wounds could drain and be healed. 

It is tempting to take up again that comfortable shield that numbed the pain.  It slips on easily and fits like a glove.  It clings tightly to my heart and mind, but it tears the flesh and reopens wounds when I try to remove it in times of peace… when I attempt to feel again.  

Pink Floyd expressed it very well in “Comfortably Numb” but that is another post…

Suppression of my anxiety, hurt and anger created a well of personal rage, raw unprocessed emotion.  Nurturing these emotions I often allowed them to boil over and scald those I perceived as a threat.  Too often innocent bystanders were wounded in the overflow.  

Refusing to release this emotional armor was poisoning me.

I despaired of ever moving on with my life.  Sometimes, I still do but have learned that I must daily exchange my anesthetic for a Shield of Faith and my rage for a Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.  

My personal rage is different than the righteous anger related to the crime of my abuse.  Writing this post, sharing my story, this is righteous anger over something that angers God.  The abuse of the innocent.  It brings healing to me and hopefully to you, the reader.

Part of the happy childhood that co-existed with the abuse included my acceptance of Jesus Christ as my Savior.   

But the abuse did not end when Jesus came into my heart.   

I see and hear pain that others overlook because I have been there.  

While I was still an enemy of God…

HE had mercy on me…

through the death of his own Son…

HE made not only my forgiveness possible but HE chose me as His own child.

Because of HIS Grace I can forgive my own enemies, too.

The forgiveness God requires of me is yet another gift to me.

It frees me from the chains of the past and allowed me to experience the abundant life promised in His Word.

Who is your enemy?