“…’Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’…” (Zechariah 1:3)
Zechariah is another prophet. He and the prophet Haggai (see yesterday’s post) are both trying to encourage the people to complete Jerusalem’s temple, but the people keep getting distracted by other things. Sounds a lot like when God calls us to do something, but OUR plans take over or we are sidetracked and veer off God’s path. Zechariah was there to herd the people back to finish what they started.
Kind of like me finishing these Bible posts for the entire Bible. I said I was going to do it, so here I am finishing what I was called to do. Now there are only two posts left until we’ve done them all! Whether they helped you or not I’m thankful to all of you who have supported me in this endeavor. I enjoyed this journey probably more than anyone else. 🙃And I do encourage everyone to read the Bible, especially if it’s something that is nagging you–that might be God calling!
Not only is it a great goal to read the whole thing, but it is also great protection against people who use the Bible as a way to spread hate and fear. If you’ve read it, you can set many people straight (including yourself) and possibly inspire with your knowledge of Christ as love and mercy. It is better than sitting back allowing the world to fester in its own lie (fear and hate), as I did for so many years, almost to the point where I started to believe the lie myself. Get back to building that temple inside of you! 😄
In what simple way is God calling you to act that would draw you closer to Him? For me it was spending a year to read and study the Bible. .
These are my own contemplative thoughts. If you disagree with the below that’s ok! .
Before Christ, in the Old Testament, under the old covenant, only priests were allowed near the altar, and they acted as the mediators between God and man. The book of Esther is symbolic to this as it describes her standing in the inner court in front of the king’s hall. The king sees Queen Esther just outside his inner court, HE FINDS FAVOR IN HER (a statement we read often in scripture when God’s relationship to his people is discussed) and holds out his scepter to her as a sign that it is ok to approach him. She moves towards him and touches the very tip of his scepter, a sign of her obedience and humility. To me her approach is like those hoping to come to God either for the first time or after a long hiatus. We have to approach with humility and an open heart, yet we do not have to be pure, or holy, or of a certain worldly stature. We are allowed to come as we are. Esther, who despite knowing she was doing something against the man-made laws of the day said she would approach the king to save her people the Jews from being slaughtered, “even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” In this statement she showed her bravery. This kind of bravery is what God wants to see from us, wants us to cut through all the worldly “laws” like our own expectations, guilt, rules, etc., right to Him. And He will find favor in us for this—we will become his special students in that moment, He will take us under His wing and show us wonderful miracles and bless us tremendously, especially show us how to find His kind of joy in this life if we keep our eyes open to Him. .
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Contemplative Vision by Juliet Benner is a book about contemplating religious art with prayer in mind and using it to expand our prayer life by gazing at the face of God through it, seeing His face and meditating about the art’s purpose/story, and the artist’s time creating it. The book discusses using art as a purpose to expand our faith and awe. For instance, the artists who create icons of Christ meditate on his face for hours while painting him. Just beautiful! .
Talk about a cozy book for the season! Prairie Avenue by Arthur Meeker is that! Prairie Avenue was a really fancy neighborhood in Chicago in the early 1900’s. This story highlights the world that goes on behind closed doors—really fancy ones—and in rooms—really fancy ones with large stone fireplaces and indoor gardens. Despite what we may see, trouble can brew anywhere and people can be in pain even though their life may look grand on the outside. Arthur Meeker highlights this kind of paradox and I highly recommend it! It’s one of my favorites and it is one of the few books I would read again. .
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)
I’m so glad I am ending my year-long Bible sessions with a letter from Paul. His work is such a pleasure to read, so beautiful and profound. I like Paul’s verse on hope, that we are called to it. Hope is a powerful feeling. It can take us from the depths of despair if we don’t have any to total elation if it is restored to us. Isn’t having Hope then like having God? Is God hope itself in addition to many other beautiful and good things? And along with the hope God gives we must carry gratitude. I think the two are inseparable. When we lay our hope in God’s hands, therefore surrendering our will, we make ourselves vulnerable and equally indebted to God when God delivers us from despair. Thanks be to God!
Thank you for staying with me through this journey of the Bible! Check out my story every day as I post my past posts of the books if you’d like a concentrated look or follow #fridaybiblepost!
True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness and turned many [to a union with God].” (Malachi 2:6)
There is no doubt that to know God better, is to finally have peace. I never knew true peace in my life until I began to intentionally spend more time with God. I begin every day with study and meditative prayer. I take at least two walks a day to be in nature (my dog needs it too). And these walks helped me get into a routine with prayer because I used my walk time for centering. As I did it more I loved it so much I now incorporate prayer into my study time too. This has made me more receptive to love and mercy. But there are no words that could convince anyone, you simply must try it. Get out into nature with the intention of seeing God, and increase your prayer life (can start simply with gratitude), and see what happens–I’m guessing your spirit will fly and true peace will be yours.
“Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it…” (Haggai 1:7)
Go up into the mountains. Go to the high places where God dwells—the high road, the humble road, the merciful road, bring back wisdom from this “place” and live in that wisdom and pass on that wisdom so the people will see God through the work of your hands and heart.
“Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you never again will you fear any harm” (Zephaniah 3:14-15)
The last books of the Old Testament are the writings of prophets. The first part of Zephaniah is filled with terror, but then there is, of course, hope with faith in God. I look at a lot of these prophesies for cities and nations on an individual basis, in other words, instead of cities and nations, the words are speaking of an individual, of me, of you. And this book reminds me a lot of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. God said he would not destroy the towns if there was a good soul to be found within the city. This is the same of us. If there is just one good bit of us that is seeking God, (love), then we cannot be destroyed, because God lives in us. God won’t allow our complete destruction because it would be like destroying God. God wants to transform us, and many times God uses the pain we carry to do this. Have hope for the good bits, try to increase them, and look to the God within you.
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:19)
Habakkuk awaits the ruin of the unjust Babylonians. He complains twice to God that he wishes God would act now and “destroy” them. There are a couple of points here. First, as we all probably know, God doesn’t work on human time. God’s time is a mystery, but I CAN tell you that when I recite my prayers very slow, they feel much different than when I say them at a “normal” speed. I think when we slow down, something perhaps we’re not used to, it surprises our Spirit and we can then easily sense the difference. Like the intellect is finally giving way to the heart—and that is a special feeling. Second, sometimes the ruin of something allows for the growth of something better, we just have to be patient and eliminate ALL of our worldly expectations and allow God to move us through the fire.
“You have increased the number of your merchants till they are more than the stars of the sky, but like locusts, they strip the land and then fly away.” (Nahum 3:16)
Warning: according to Grammarly, my post today sounds worried and sad. 😬
Here, like in my Bible post on Joel, we have mention of the locusts again, generations after Jonah warned them of their evil ways the Assyrian city, Nineveh, has forgotten God again. Nahum is a prophet who had a vision of Nineveh’s destruction and is sent by God to warn them. The city was destroyed fifty years after Nahum’s prophecy.
So (forgive my venting) here is my prophecy, sort of: In 2019 our economy was doing very well. Just about every cute and affordable home in my neighborhood (I live in a historic downtown) was bought and torn down to make way for large and expensive ones. What happens when the character and the spirit of a place die? When I look at much of my town now, I feel like life itself has been stripped away from this place and replaced with the synthetic, opportunistic goals of a dying people. The houses they build look so cold and dead to me. What happens when the economy tanks and regular folks like me can’t afford big houses like that or can’t afford to maintain them? Not to mention the environmental impact when buildings are torn down, discarded, and new ones are built in their place. What happens to the neighborhood, the city, the people?
Once the area is no longer suited to their investment needs the newcomers who are using these homes solely to increase their pocketbooks will move on. And who will be left but the people who had always called this town their home–but now my town is almost unrecognizable, ruined (in my opinion) by opportunistic people (locusts) such as these.