Full Circle= (Remember. Reflect, Recuperate,Rededicate, Redirect)

This morning after my S.O.A.P. reading, I found myself looking ahead to tomorrows passage just to see what was coming up and to ask the Lord to prepare my heart for what He would have me learn from it. I skimmed over the chapter and not once but twice a word jumped out at me. That word was Gilgal.  I began to think back to a time in my life when this word or maybe I should say the significance of this word became very real in my life and quite significant as well.

Gilgal is first mentioned in the Bible in Deuteronomy 11 where God is describing the Promised land that He will be giving His people. Interestingly enough, it is contains the declaration of God to the Israelites, 26 Today I’m giving you the choice of a blessing or a curse. 27 You’ll be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I’m giving you today. 28 You’ll be cursed if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God, if you turn from the way I’m commanding you to live today, and if you worship other gods you never knew. 29 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you’re about to enter, recite the blessing from Mount Gerizim and the curse from Mount Ebal. 

I find that very interesting, considering the topic of my last entry was about choosing blessing or cursing, life or death, so this is the result of something I believe the Lord is trying to say to me or teach me. If it is helpful to someone else that is great, but most of the things I write about are things that I am learning or that I feel the Holy Spirit is teaching me.  This is my outlet and if you will since we are talking about Gilgal…my memorial stone to help me remember.

Back to Gilgal.  One of the most known and important times in Gilgal is found in Joshua when the Israelites have been instructed to cross the Jordan River to enter the promised land. Here the Lord parts the waters of the river for all the people following cross the river on dry ground while the priests stand in the middle with the ark of the covenant . God instructed Joshua that one man from each tribe be assigned to select one stone from the middle of the river where the priests had stood and take it to the place the Israelites would camp that night. As they did what God asked, Joshua explained, “4:21 He said to the people of Israel, “In the future when children ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 the children should be told that Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground.23 The Lord your God dried up the Jordan ahead of you until you had crossed, as he did to the Red Sea until we had crossed. 24 The Lord did this so that everyone in the world would know his mighty power and that you would fear the Lord your God every day of your life.”  

In chapter 5, at this same time, all the men who were born in the wilderness were circumcised at Gilgal. Circumcision was a sign to them that they were set apart unto the Lord.  Here they remained in this new land until they were healed.  Also, at Gilgal, the Lord declared in Joshua 5:

The Lord then said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the disgrace of Egypt from you.” Therefore, that place is called Gilgal to this day.

What does all this mean?  For me, I am sensing that Gilgal is the place where Israel has come full circle, it is a reminder of God’s salvation of Israel from Egyptian slavery, from the wrath of the Egyptians who were chasing them and were swallowed by the Red Sea; a reminder of His protection and provision for their 40 years of wandering in the desert, where they always had food and water and their clothes and shoes never wore out; it was a place of laying aside the flesh and consecrating themselves to God; laying down false beliefs and false gods that they were exposed to during slavery and being rededicated to the one True God. I believe Gilgal was a fresh start, a clean slate. It was also a great monument and reminder because of the twelve memorial stones. Human beings tend to over time forget or allow all that our God has done for us become a distant memory. These stones stood and still stand as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites, we would do well to note and remember all God has done for us! What a stabalizing factor and comforting peace we could enjoy when the storms of life come blowing us over, if we take time to set up remembrances of the times He has seen us through hardships and difficulties or rescued us from them. When we regularly celebrate His presence and provision in our lives we are much calmer and peaceful when the storms of life blow over us, sometimes blowing us over.  I want to come full circle, celebrating fresh starts, rededicating myself to Him, remembering His presence and provision in my life, letting go of the difficulties and pain of the past but remembering His faithfulness and love as a reminder not to return there; choosing life and blessing over death and the curse!

Which Mountain Will You Choose?

Have you ever experienced a period of time where it seems everywhere you turn the same word or phrase keeps turning up?  Lately the words life, blessing, focus and the phrase “choose life”  seem to keep turning up and sometimes in the most unexpected places and at most unusual times. This has been going on for some time now and it is beginning to come together with some understanding.

Last night at Bible Study our topic was John 10:10, one that has been key in my life for the last several years. Before talking about it, we went back chapter 8 and began reading to get the full context of what was going on around this time.  In chapter 8 we see the story of the woman caught in adultery and Jesus telling her accusers, “whoever is without sin, cast the first stone.” One by one they all walked away because Jesus was the only on qualified as without sin. Jesus did just what His Father would have Him do. He said to her, ” I don’t condemn you either. Go! From now on, don’t sin.” Next Jesus speaks to the Pharisees about His Father. There is a good bit of contrast between the religious practices of the Pharisees and those things that are truly important to God and that are modeled by Jesus.  He points out the differences in what the Pharisees practice and the true desires of His Father for those who want to be His disciples. This debate or exchange of ideas which are opposed to each other leads to anger and the threat by some to stone Jesus but He slips away safely. As chapter nine unfolds Jesus heals a man born blind and an inquisition ensues. First Jesus is questioned, then the blind man, both tell the truth and their stories are the same. That is not good enough to satisfy the curious minds so the parents of the blind man are brought in. Fearing the repercussions of their words, they would only reveal: yes this is our son, and yes he was born blind. Then they told the people that he was an adult and could answer for himself. They inquire of the previously blind man again and when he answers him the same, he is thrown out of the synagogue. In His compassion of this man, Jesus reveals Himself to him and explains that:

39 Then Jesus said, “I have come into this world to judge: Blind people will be given sight, and those who can see will become blind.”GWT

The Pharasiees responded:

40 Some Pharisees who were with Jesus heard this. So they asked him, “Do you think we’re blind?”GWT

Jesus went on to explain:

41 Jesus told them, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be sinners. But now you say, ‘We see,’ so you continue to be sinners.GWT

Next we see the story where Jesus explains His role as Shepperd and how to tell the true Shepperd from an impostor. This is were John 10:10 comes into play; 10 A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I came so that my sheep will have life and so that they will have everything they need.’ GWT

Now the Bible makes it clear that Satan is our enemy and that he is the father of lies. Here we see his purpose is always to steal, kill and destroy. Whether it is our joy and peace or our very life, he is out to wreak havoc and destroy (bring about destruction and death) but Jesus came to bring life and every thing that we need for life! What a great assurance! Now as I am pondering the wonder of this once again the phrase “Choose life” returns to me and my thoughts go to the Old Testament and the discussions of the blessings and cursings discussed with the Israelites in the later chapters of Deuteronomy and God’s declaration:

Deuteronomy 30:15 See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 For I am commanding you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live[ and multiply, and the Lord your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess.(HCSB)

     From the both the old covenant and the new covenant expressed by Jesus Christ, we can see that God has given us a choice. In every wonderful event and in every tragedy, even in the most mundane things in our life we have a choice to make. We can choose life or we can choose death, we can choose blessing or we can choose cursing. We can not necessarily choose our circumstances but we can choose how we respond to them. When we choose life and blessing we always win in the long run!  My friend Katie Brown put it this way earlier today, “There are two mountains, only two, and we get to choose which one we will spend our time on. We want to choose life. If we find ourself on the wrong mountain, it is time to move!”  So the question I am pondering now is how will life be different if I make a decision to weigh every situation or circumstance on this scale before responding or reacting to it? Is it an accurate statement to say that when I respond, I am choosing life and when I react I am choosing death?
    I will bring these thoughts to a close by sharing my S.O.A.P. verse for today:
Mark 4;24 He went on to say, “Pay attention to what you’re listening to! Knowledge will be measured out to you by the measure of attention you give. This is the way knowledge increases. 25 Those who understand these mysteries will be given more knowledge. However, some people don’t understand these mysteries. Even what they understand will be taken away from them.”

As I thought about this scripture, I realized the more I pay attention to the Word without allowing other thoughts, worries, concerns or any other intruder to interrupt or distract me, the more God will speak to me through it and the better I will be equipped  with what I need to manage well and thrive in life. It will enable me to choose life. Wisdom and knowledge are in the Word and the Holy Spirit brings the understanding, but if I am burdened down by distractions, questions, concerns, etc.; I will miss out on part or all of what He is trying to teach me. Therefore, I must learn to set aside all the cares of this world when spending time with Jesus  and in the Word; hand them over to Him! Then I can focus on the whole of what He has for me each day! The choice between life and death is a gift from Him. We get to choose! Distractions are from the enemy and diminish our peace, our joy, our contentment, and our fruit! May the Lord teach us to choose life, laying down all those things that lead to death and destruction and allowing the mind of Christ to dwell richly in each of our lives!