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Bible Study, Meditation, Writing

Write Your Story Again

woman-writing-in-journalAs I was studying Jeremiah 36:1-32, I realized how encouraging this Bible passage could be to aspiring writers and storytellers. Many writers struggle with telling their personal stories, myself included, especially with how much of it to tell. What may help with that is a matter of perspective. Our stories are a vehicle used to tell the bigger story.

What’s the bigger story? The redemptive story of God’s love for us.

In writing our stories, we tell God’s grander story over again. We cease to be the main character of our own story. That can alleviate some of the mental and emotional pressure associated with telling our stories.

At some point or another, we’ve asked ourselves if our stories are worth telling and how much of it to tell, and most irking, if we should air our dirty laundry. Every story with a greater purpose is worth telling. And the dirt will always be there. Telling the story of love necessitates it. Being a crafty writer will help with how it’s told.

The prophet Jeremiah was instructed by the LORD to take a roll of a book and write all the words He had spoken to him against Israel and Judah, and against all the nations from the time of the current king’s father’s reign.

I know what you’re thinking! God’s words spoken against Israel, Judah and the nations? How can this story be of encouragement to a writer? Hang tight with me a little longer! God’s hope was that in retelling his words of judgment they would turn from their evil ways so that he could forgive them. God was basically saying, This is what’s going to happen if you don’t stop all the evil you’re doing, but if you do stop, I’ll forgive you.

Jeremiah obeyed and had Baruch the scribe write down all the words God spoke to him. He then instructed Baruch to go and read the words written in the roll to the people in the LORD’s house. Did you catch that? The LORD’s house! He was talking to the people of faith on a fasting day. You know, like the folk going to church who are really not being churchy. Now, non-churchy folks weren’t off the hook either. Baruch was to read it to all of Judah as they came out of their cities. The scope of ears to hear was wide.

After the reading of the rolls to all the people of Jerusalem and to all who came from the cities of Judah, three antagonists surfaced in this story –Michaiah, Jehudi, and King Jehoiakim. Michaiah was the first snitch that went to tell the princes, Jehudi was sent by the princes to fetch Baruch the scribe so he could read the roll to them, and the princes went to the king and told him all that it said. The king had Jedudi fetch the roll and he read it in front of the king and princes.

What did the king do? He had the roll thrown in a fire on a hearth burning before him. And no one was afraid of what had been done. No one flinched at this assault against God’s words.

The story hasn’t ended but I want to share a few points we can take away from this passage in preparation for telling our own stories.

Be obedient to God’s word to you no matter what.

Baruch was asked by the princes, “Tell us now, how did you write all these words—at his instruction?” (v.17) Baruch simply answered, “He proclaimed with his mouth all these words to me, and I wrote them with ink in a book.” (v.18)

It’s that plain. There’s no need to complicate this one. Our story can only take shape when we start telling it. But also let’s be patient with ourselves. It may take us some time to tell our story. Sometimes we have to let the tears run, wait, wipe away the tears, and extract deeper meaning from our experiences. But eventually it should be told.

Let’s trust that he who began a good work in us will complete it if we stay the process of living and telling.

Not all of our words will be hopeful but they can be helpful.

Jeremiah and Baruch were obedient to God’s command to write His words in a roll of a book. Sometimes what needs to be said isn’t pretty but God’s grace always precedes his judgment. In this passage, the judgment had not occurred. It was a warning. That’s God’s grace.

Like God’s words of judgment, our stories will not be told with exclusively flowery, fragrant words. Some of our words will be like picking at scabs. Some may not be ready to hear our words. But for some, our words will be timely and that’s why we need to tell our stories.

Every day that we have lived is a necessary thread in our story. The joys, the births, the sufferings, the deaths, even the dirt and the shame. Let’s not stuff them in our mental or heart closet forever. After we have processed our pains and weaknesses, let’s pull those memories out, dust them off and use them for good.

You will have opposition but you can’t be defeated.

Many will try to silence us in an attempt to subvert our story. This is what happened when the king burned the scroll. The enemy is afraid of the content of our stories because our stories will always have God as the protagonist and the victor. He doesn’t want God to get the glory. But God’s footprints and handprints will be seen in the journey of our lives when we tell our story.

Due to the content of what was written in the roll, the princes advised Jeremiah and Baruch to hide themselves. Sure enough, the king wanted them found but God hid them from the king. The Bible asserts over and over that He is our refuge despite the circumstances around us. Let’s be at peace with our story and the telling of it even when we feel the heat around us.

You will have advocates that will protect your story.

Only three made intercession to the king to not have the roll burned but he refused to listen. Those three were El-nathan (Hebrew: gift of God), Delaiah (Hebrew: freed by Jehovah), and Gemariah: (Hebrew: accomplishment). The meaning of their names alone is inspiring.

But our biggest advocates are God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three are really all we need. They will inspire us, teach us, and guide us, so that we may tell our stories.

Our stories can be a token of peace or a balm for a troubled or hurting heart. There is not one day in our lives that’s a waste, if we tell it in light of the bigger story.

Never stop telling your story over and over again.

The passage in Jeremiah ended with God instructing the prophet with these words, “Take yet another scroll, and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned.” (v.28) Not only did God ask him to write it again, he even added many like words.

As I was reading this in Jeremiah, it was as if God was saying, Listen, what I told you before stands! Many will try to do away with my word, burn them like the rolls written by Baruch but write them again and I will add even more for you to write.

Our story doesn’t end until God says it ends. As long as we have breath, let’s write it and keep writing it!

 

Bible Study

May God Live

Treasure Chest1 Chronicles 29:6-9; Ephesians 4:11-16.

King David captured the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites, brought the Ark of the Covenant over from Kiriath-Jearim, trained Levitical singers and musicians and composed Psalms—all in preparation for the future temple his heart desired to build for God. As a leader, King David set an example. He gave from his own personal treasures and asked who was willing to consecrate themselves to the Lord. By this he meant, giving gifts for the construction of the temple. The leaders of the people responded joyously with gifts of gold, silver, bronze, iron—and even precious stones!

There’s no doubt that the metals were acceptable gifts, but notice in the Bible text that the precious stones were given to the treasury of the temple. They were especially guarded—entrusted into the care of Jehiel, the Gershonite. Being a Gershonite made him a descendant of Levi. The Levites assisted the temple priests. They were servants of the Lord in His temple with varied functions—singing, maintenance, construction, teaching and judging, to name a few. Let’s keep that in mind as we discuss the spiritual parallel to the physical temple.

The physical temple was a foreshadowing of the spiritual temple of the body of Christ (Church). Believers are now the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16). In Hebrew, Jehiel’s name means may God live. When we surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14) and allow Him to be our teacher (John 14:26) and our guide (John 16:13), in essence, we’re saying, “May God live” in us and through us and use us. When we build up the body of Christ, the fullness of God in His Son Jesus Christ lives in us through His Holy Spirit (Colossians 2:9)!

With that in mind, what do we have that God can use for the edification of the body of Christ? Our personal treasures are nothing less than the perfect gifts God Himself has given us (James 1:17). We are to give to the service of God what He has deposited into each of us—all of His precious gifts. Believers today are entrusted with natural and spiritual gifts to edify—build up the body of Christ, just like the precious stones in Jehiel’s custody. By using our unique gifting in service to God and each other, each member of the body of Christ helps to fortify it.

Not only has God given us charismatic gifts (1 Cor. 12-14) and service gifts (Rom. 12:6-8) but the ultimate gift of Christ Himself (John 4:10), the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18-20), eternal life (Rom. 6:23), natural abilities (1 Cor. 7:7), salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:8) and love (2 Tim. 1:6-7).

But listen, we can’t give what we don’t have—much less, joyfully. Lives running on empty—just getting by without the saving blood of Jesus and His power through the Spirit—isn’t an effective life (Acts 1:8). We’re breathing but not living the abundant life Jesus offers—a chest full of treasures waiting to be discovered to edify God’s people!

This is a repost of my Bible Study on Charisma Magazine’s website. Click LINK to view.

Bible Study

Bursting the Veil

unique-storytelling-wedding-photography-nature-photojurnalistic-retro-vintageHebrews 9:1-9; Judges 1:9-15

There is a hidden love story with an incredible “The End” in one of the unlikeliest of places in the Bible—in the first chapter of the book of Judges. Among the tale of the conquered Canaanites by the tribe of Judah after the death of Joshua, is a gem of a story that women will Ooo and Aah over and men will respect.

Long story short, Caleb offers his daughter Achsah in marriage to the man who conquers the city of Kirjath-Sepher. His younger brother, Othniel, wins the prize. End of story? Not quite. Once married to Othniel, Achsah urges him to ask her father for land. Caleb gives them a southern land but she also asks for a water supply and he gives her the upper and lower springs.

Are you at the edge of your seat yet? I know you’re not. A superficial reading of this story has probably left you huffing and puffing at the arranged marriage. Hang on! A closer look reveals a fresh perspective and the study of biblical Hebrew adds an astounding depth to its meaning.

Humor me for a few minutes. We’ve already read the text in a straightforward fashion. Suppose we read the story slightly different and substitute God for Achsah’s father Caleb and Jesus for Othniel, whose name means lion of God. Nothing less than spine-chilling! Jesus as the bridegroom puts His life on the line to redeem Achsah when He took possession of Kirjath-Sepher or city of the book. Debir, which means Holy of Holies, was formerly known as Kirjath-Sepher.

As the innermost sacred space of the tabernacle, the Aaronic high priest only entered the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement—no bells, no speaking and barefoot (Leviticus 16:1). When Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil dividing the holy place from the Most Holy tore in two from top to bottom, granting believers access to the Almighty God through Jesus’ substitutionary death (Matthew 27:50-51a).

With that said, here’s the icing on the wedding cake: Once married to Jesus, the church-bride Achsah enters God’s throne room and asks for a special favor from God and she’s given the gift of His Spirit with an unending flow like rivers of living waters. Achsah’s name means anklet or adorned, but according to Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary it also means bursting the veil. Only her feet covered with the gospel of peace, which is the Wordof God, would allow her to enter with boldness into the Most Holy place where the Shekinah Glory of God dwells.

Dare we as the body of Christ—the bride without spot or blemish—imagine what life would be like if we truly claimed our spiritual inheritance through Christ Jesus? We would be bursting through the veil to grasp the promises of God as abundant gifts wrapped and ready for a receiving heart; expecting more spiritual riches from our heavenly Father than what we’ve settled for. The end of this sweeping romance opens the door to a promised land flowing with much more than milk and honey.

This is a repost of my Bible Study on Charisma Magazine’s website. Click LINK to view.