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ad·vo·cate
intercessor, consoler, comforter, helper

1 John 2:1 came to mind:

“we have an advocate with the Father …”

It was the word advocate that drew my attention.

An advocate is one who intercedes, who speaks for, who pleads a case to a higher authority. We do not have to argue our case for justice, because an advocate will speak on our behalf, will fight the fight for us.

To have one to plead our case is such a gift. Because, sometimes we need an advocate simply because we don’t have what it takes to speak for ourselves, to stand up for us when we are weak, when we are ill, when we are not at our best. One who will look at us and our condition and says the words and makes the decisions that we do not have breath to speak.

Someone who is willing to get dirty on our behalf.

I think we all, instinctively, look for such a person. One who knows us so intimately that they will speak and do for us when we cannot. Though we may come up empty in looking for such a one with skin, we do have advocate.

Who is our advocate? “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One,” (1 John 2:1b).

But, Jesus also refers to the Holy Spirit, “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14).

Jesus, the righteous, sinless, virtuous, good. He is our advocate, it is his spilled blood that has corrected us so that we can stand before the God of this universe as righteous, sinless, virtuous and good. In a sense his blood is the rose-colored glasses through which God sees us.

Jesus who, as Charles Spurgeon said:

“Jesus.” Ah! then he is an advocate such as I want, for he loves me and takes an interest in me. Jesus is the name of one who became man for my sake. He knows what sore temptations mean; he understands what trials mean, what afflictions mean. I am glad I have one who will be interested in my welfare, and will plead for me as a friend for a friend, and as a brother for a brother.”

No better advocate can be found than one who loves us, who is interested in us, who understands what it is to experience human temptations, trials and afflictions. Not only that, but he is one who will argue our case … to death, to his own death.

That is how much he believes in us! How much he loves us.

We have an advocate, and his name is Jesus.

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I know I don’t know it. When I am praying, I don’t know it. When I am making an important decision, I don’t know it. When I am looking at the future, I don’t know it.

God’s will … I don’t know it.

I have been thinking about God’s will quite often lately. As I have been returning to work after a bit of an absence. As hubby and I look at what a new business could look like. As I have been praying for healing. As I try to envision personal purpose in this life God has given.

Then, just yesterday, as I was driving I heard this quote, definition really, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

“God’s Will is
what we would choose
if we knew
what God knows”

and I have been mulling this over in my mind ever since.

I think we sometimes use God’s will and God’s heart interchangeably.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us of the importance of the Word of God in knowing his heart, “all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” If the Bible is, indeed the Word of God, to know it, to dig into it often, is the best way to know his heart.

But, his will … that, I think, is a different thing. His word does speak of his will:

We know that we have been instructed to pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

We know that God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Similarly, that “he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And our repentance, our redemption is of such value, he made the biggest of sacrifices for us, “for God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

And maybe that is the will of God that we need to keep our focus on. Maybe it is imperative that the goal of our lives be our repentance, be our accepting of his love in our lives? Maybe, if we keep our own focus on the value of his redemption of humankind, we would then see that his will is not just our redemption, but the redemption of all around us. Maybe it would mean that we would live our lives as a sacrificial offering to the one who saves us. Maybe it would mean that we so reflect our God, that others cannot but help to be drawn to him.

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As I get older, I have grown more and more fond of Paul. That once-Christian-exterminator, who was blinded by a bright light on a long a dusty road. The bright light, confronted (then Saul) personally and said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Three days later Saul was visited by Ananias, who had been beckoned by Jesus to open Saul’s eyes to the truth … The Holy Spirit arrived (because … Saul was praying for three days) and when Ananias said who sent him, Paul was cured from his blindness.

The rest, one might say, is history.

Paul, the great evangelist, the one who preached Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23), yet met Christ after the crucifixion.

Paul, the Jew, who preach(ed) in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 9:20).

Paul, who was once blind, declared, we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Paul, who as a new convert was rejected by Jesus’ followers (makes sense, since Paul/Saul had been wanting to kill the Jesus followers), was hunted by the Jews who had been his friends, he was imprisoned, and no, doubt lonely said, this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:5).

Paul, the preacher, who said, preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2

Paul, who clearly lived with some sort of human struggle, yet, saw God’s plan even in that, three different times I begged the Lord to take it (a thorn in his flesh) away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Paul, who, at the end of his could declare with confidence (2 Timothy 4:7),

I Have Kept the Faith”

It is his declaration from Romans 1:16-17 that describes his purpose and his attitude towards it, in life. If, he was right, that this Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight, then it seems we ought to see this good news as worthy of dedicating our lives to sharing. For once we have been made able to see the truth of this Gospel, how could we keep quiet …

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

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I found this St. Augustine quote the same day that I was introduced to the daughters of Zelophehad. Somehow, until this point in my quest to know and understand God’s Word, I had missed their story … until now.

Theirs is a story of unfortunate loss that could mean ruin in the lives of these five sisters. It is also a story of petition, of courage, of exceptions to the rule/law, of righting wrongs. It is a story of redemption, of liberation, of equity at the hands of God.

The story is told in the book of Numbers (I will paraphrase, but click on Numbers 27:1-11 to read from the Bible).

The Israelites had completed their wandering through the desert and God told Moses to take a census. This census (of adult males) would help in land distribution in the Promised Land, for the various tribes.

As the census was being completed the five daughters of Zelophehad (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah) approached the tent of meeting. They walked and talked directly to Moses, the priest and the leaders … in front of all present (no doubt, all men). They had no (male) advocate to plea their case, so they told their own story, plain and simple. This tells me that they were thoughtful and clear communicators, with confidence that was given from a loving and wise upbringing.

And what did they plea? Inheritance. As their father had only daughters, there was no legal claim to inheritance for these sisters. Their father would have been recorded to have been childless and his line in history (that of the tribe of Manessah) would end with him (no legal claim to a part of the Promised Land … no home).

I love how Matthew Henry states, “though it was yet unconquered, untouched, and in the full possession of the natives, yet they petition for their share in it as if it were all their own already.”

Let’s divert … this just sounds like faith to me. They ask for what they do not see, yet they believe … in their hearts and minds … that this heaven-like Promised Land, is indeed promised to them! Even as women in this barren land. They believe that they have something to inherit, that God himself has set aside a piece of heaven for them. The only way for them to have such confidence is if they had grown up immersed in the stories, not just of the Promised Land, but of the Messiah.

Back to the story at hand. They petition for land in the name of their father, for, in their own words, “why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son?”

It is recorded that Moses did not discuss this with the other leaders, but that he “brought their case before the Lord.” He was not going to mess around with human wisdom, but went straight to the head honcho.

And God answered,

What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right.
You must certainly give them property
as an inheritance 
among their father’s relatives
and give their father’s inheritance to them.”

God affirmed them. He affirmed their plea, their right to ask exemption, their right to live as (equal) landowners among the Israelites who were male. He affirmed them with hope, with a future.

Before the suffrage movement, or women’s liberation, yet after hundreds of years of this law not being challenged, these brave and wise women asked … and they received.

Amen

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What accelerates your breathing?

What makes goose bumps form on your skin?

Causes difficulty swallowing?

Invites butterflies into your tummy?

What scares you?

Into every person’s life things will go bump in the night. Our fears are very individual, very unique to each of us. Some fears in childhood dissipate as we get older and mature, others (perhaps a fear of the dark) remain, but we learn to manage.

One person’s fear of thunder and lightening storms may be another’s delight. One person may love to climb to the top of mountains or towers, for the joy of looking below and another may grow dizzy just imagining it from below. Some are fearful of ever throwing anything out (hoarding), whereas others fear loosing the freedom of openness and space.

Some are paralyzed by their fears, others are energized and motivated by their fears.

Today is a celebration to fear … thus, we humans must, at least, revere it in some way.

As Jesus was with his disciples, after the last supper, but before his arrest. During this time he explained his coming departure, he encouraged them, he spoke words of hope to them, words to alleviate their fears. He constantly reminded them that they would not be alone, but that the Spirit, the advocate would be with them.

Fear of being alone is a common human fear. One that has existed since things went awray in the garden.

Jesus speaks (John 14:1-4) to this fear of perceived abandonment:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

When I read these words,

” … that you also may be where I am

I feel an instant peace, an erasing of fear. My breathings slows, the goosebumps disappear, the butterflies fly away. This, this very message and hope is the good news of the gospel.

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Back in the spring a neighbor planted sunflower seeds in the gardens of many of the neighbors. They have grown tall and provided smiles throughout the summer.

Now it is fall …

Though still very tall, their stalks thick and strong, their heads are hanging, heavy with seeds that birds have begun to pick. Their petals drying into a crepey texture. The florets, who cover the seeds and provide the yellow or brown center color drying into weightlessness and blown into the air by the autumn winds.

Gotta say, as I stood looking at one the other day I found myself relating to this green giant in so many ways.

I decided to cut one down, for it was done in every way.

Though its florets had already all blown away, though it’s petals were a dry crepey mess, though it’s leaves were faded and sagging and, over all, it had seen better days …

it was heavy with seeds.

what possibility …

Those two words came to mind as I lifted the flower head from the ground.

Even now, in the autumn of a sunflower’s life, life remains in the seeds.

Within all of us are seeds that we sprinkle throughout our life. Some get planted, others blown away, other stolen by birds, some packed away in the dark. Yet, we all have the seeds to share, and we can share them right up until our final breath.

That is our only task, to share the seeds that give hope, possibility.

It is only God … ONLY God, who can make them grow.

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

1 Corinthians 3:7

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That is how it is written, in Sharpie, on my stainless steal refrigerator.

when i … then he

I wrote it on my cool appliance months ago, when I was (to quote Anne of Green Gables) in the depths of despair.

It had been a rough day (and we all have those to walk through). I had had an interaction with a professional that left me feeling misinterpreted, unheard and as though I was a system user. You could say it was a personal worst case scenario and I was feeling it all the way down to my bones.

So, I did what came natural … I sobbed my eyes out. Felt the depths of hurt with each sob that racked my body.

Finally, I had to do something else, for, though the tears falling were availing a sense of release, they were doing nothing for the tension I was feeling from my head to my toes.

So I went for a walk.

Now, if you were to see me walking that day, what you would have seen was a woman on a mission. I marched fast, each step landing on the sidewalk with great force. Eyes straight ahead, wide open, yet unable to really see anything, anyone else … for they were completely turned inward, focused on the pain I felt.

I remember trying to pray, but realizing that if God was to hear my heart, it would have to be through my inner groans, for my brain could not form the words, until …

I remember in my frustration to pray thinking I just needed something to repeat, to focus on … to get the focus off this agony, off … me.

when i … then he

Four words popped into my muddled mind and I began to recite them, over and over, for the remainder of my determined walk. I walked hard and fast and I spoke them the same, over and over. It was not the words, but their meaning, that propelled me, that, eventually, slowed my mind, my heartbeat, my pace. Those four words and my chosen humility in speaking their truth, not just with my tongue, but with my heart, my mind … brought me home (figuratively and physically).

The words I spoke, I rewrote into my circumstance, were words of faith. These were the words of the Apostle Paul. Paul was speaking of that thorn in his flesh, the issue that he had prayed and prayed and prayed that God would take away … but God did not take it away. Paul’s response is this:

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

So, I may have done a re-write here on scripture, my chant

when i … then he

written in scripture is actually

when i … then i

The thing is … I was chanting the words in faith, not in sight. Paul had been praying, and growing, and stretching in this area of a thorn, for years (possibly his entire life).

I was in the moment, feeling ever so weak, simply praying, in faith that God would be my strength, that he would carry me, would flood my body and mind with the Spirit of peace, that he would be my advocate of strength.

and He did.

I love how Matthew Henry speaks to this passage (this experience with God in our weakness) :

When God does not take away our troubles and temptations, yet, if he gives grace enough for us, we have no reason to complain. Grace signifies the good-will of God towards us, and that is enough to enlighten and enliven us, sufficient to strengthen and comfort in all afflictions and distresses. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Thus his grace is manifested and magnified. When we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; when we feel that we are weak in ourselves, then we go to Christ, receive strength from him, and enjoy most the supplies of Divine strength and grace.

Matthew Henry Commentary

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Produce is ripening. The days are dry and hot. The sun still high in the sky … but we now begin to really notice it is setting earlier in the evening.

This mid summer, this quarter season signifies the beginning of harvesting.

Harvesting … the taking or bringing in of the fruits of our labor.

I have begun harvesting my tomatoes daily. Little cherry tomatoes, ripe and round and delicious for salads. The Romas, a perfect balance of sweet taste, firmness and more flesh than seeds. I am anticipating thick slices atop mayo on artisan wheat bread … maybe even today.

For weeks, months even, I have anticipated the harvest of these fruits. Gardening in our newer, smaller digs, in pots, has not been as successful as gardening in the past. Yet, these plants are full of growing, healthy, ripening fruit for weeks to come.

I think that mid summer harvesting is a plot of God. I think this is his way of reminding us to keep our eyes on the prize of the present. While we are harvesting and tasting the fruits ripening before our eyes we are present in this very moment. This is what it is to not just be content, but know it too.

Pause for a moment.

Close your eyes.

Breath in deeply, slowly.

Exhale, slowly and completely.

Now, let your mind search for fruit in your life. The fullness of seeds which have been planted deep into the dark of the soil. Seeds that have been watered, fed, cared for. Dry, lifeless seeds that have sprouted, grown tall, with leaves, flowers and now the fruit is ripening … the fruit of your labor … the fruit of faithfulness to the Master Gardener.

What is he showing you?

What is he reminding you?

He is faithful. The seeds planted in him will grow.

they. will. grow.

See that fruit!

Don’t get discouraged, dear soul, when the ground seems dry and absent of life. He is in the dark, dry places with you. This midsummer harvest, today, is to encourage you in the winter times, when the days are dark and lifeless. For today bask in the sunshine of the harvest, let it’s delights seep into your soul, know the joy of this contentment.

“And another angel … cried … Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.”
-Revelation 14:18

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By Ahuva Klein

Where I live, it is dry.

A heat dome (a new word for the local vernacular) last month resulted in over 800 heat-related deaths. If you walk around it will quickly become obvious that plants and trees have been dying in this heat in which they are not designed to survive.

Everything is dry!

There has been no rain in July, only 37mm in June … the first half of June.

It is dry.

With the heat dome and the dry conditions forest fire season is upon us. Every day I awaken to updates on the radio, the weather websites. Images of smokey skies, people in shelters and fire racing up tall trees and hillsides are the daily visuals.

The other day, while listening to a podcast about (ironically) Moses and the burning bush, it took on new significance in this hot, dry summer.

The story of Moses is told in Exodus.

Just the other day I wrote about the conditions into which he was born in the post, Hidden in Their Hearts. His destiny at birth, like all the other Hebrew babies, was a permanent water bath (drowning).

So, years later,

Moses,

born in love

given back to God in trust

was in a hard place.

He had been raised in the palace of the Pharaoh,

killed an Egyptian guard,

run away,

protected seven sisters from shepherds who hadn’t allowed them to water their flocks at a well (but … maybe he was the one who was really thirsty?)

was given one of those daughters, in marriage (a Midianite woman who thought he was an Egyptian … so maybe he was still struggling with his identity?),

and now he’s off wandering in the dessert with his (his father-in-laws) flock.

Though it would appear that he knew his location, I think Moses was lost. The identity he portrayed was not that of a Hebrew, but Egyptian. He held within him the unconscious memories of songs and messages and prayers of his mother who buried them into his lovingly nurtured heart.

I think Moses might have been as dry as much of the landscape of British Columbia is currently … ripe for fire to burn it to ashes, to dust. He was a man born to a purpose, one his mother knew was a purpose given by the God who saved him as a baby. Yet, here he was, tending sheep in the hot, dry desert.

“the angel of the Lord appeared to him (Moses) in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.” (Exodus 3:2)

Moses was seeing the impossible. A tree, on fire, yet the tree was not destroyed. That would catch my attention!

Then he said something that reminded Moses who he was,

“I am the God of your father, 

the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (v. 6)

“the God of your father” … in this statement and the following fathers of the Jews, God reminds Moses of his identity, of who he is, of the whispers of his mother, buried in his heart before he could understand. This is the beginning of his rebirth, the beginning of his life of really living. This is his holy ground moment.

As God tells Moses his plan to save the Israelites through him, Moses gets doubtful (the dry bones of doubt). And he says, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (v.11)

Now, if I were God, I would be rolling my eyes (like a parent) and saying, “did you hear me? were you listening? I just told you who you are!”

But God, still burning in that still full of life bush, is much more patient and compassionate (v.12).

“And God said, “I will be with you.””

And this is the God I serve. He reminds me who I am and then he reminds me that

He.

will.

not.

leave.

me.

alone.

Yet, Moses still has doubts …

I think what is happening here is fascinating because there’s a bush on fire, but it’s not destroyed. God is speaking to Moses, telling him who he is, that he will not be left alone and it is Moses who is brought to ash in the face of this fire.

His life so far has been one of confusion and feeling lost and lacking attachment to anything and anyone. There have always been whispers of identity within his soul, yet they have always been out of reach, a jumbled mess. Now, in the midst of an isolated desert, the God of his people, God himself is challenging him to abandon his fear. To make the faith of his fathers HIS OWN FAITH. He has a choice to make … the choice we all have to make … do we chose to live the life God has for us?

And who shall I tell them sent me? This is Moses last question and the answer, though perhaps odd and indefinite to us (and to him) is nothing short of definite,

“I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.”


I am … no beginning, no end. Reliant on nothing and no one.

This is the God who creates, who never leaves our side, and, later in this story of Moses being willing to follow and obey God, we get to hear God’s ultimate promise, to the Israelites and to us all …

I will redeem you

Redemption is the result of obedience, of trust. It is the result of our ashes being born into new life. Only God can make new things out of the rubble of our dry and thirsty lives.

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It is forest fire season where I live.

With this in mind, I thought it was interesting that the podcast I listened to on my walk the other day was about Moses and the burning bush.

The story of Moses and the burning bush is in Exodus 3, but the story of Moses begins in the previous chapter.

The life of Moses began with a mother who loved him. She knew what his destiny was, for Pharaoh had ordered that all Israelite babes to thrown into the Nile and drowned.

So, rather than do what every mother wants most to and hold him close, she chose to take her chances and let God determine his fate. She placed her newborn into a waterproof basket and set it in the Nile RIver.

Where other neighbor babies died a violent death, she chose to lovingly trust her God. She released her son from her hands and control to the only one that she knew who loved him more.

I think one could say that she gave him over to the river of life, by trusting her son to her God.

Her trust in her God resulted in her having him (temporarily) returned to her, to nurse him … with pay from the Pharaoh’s daughter!

Reminder:

God does not just give us what we need, he often gives extravagantly!

So, this mamma gets her son back, but she knows that it is temporary. She knows with every sunrise, every hungry cry, every coo and smile that her days are numbered with this child, this flesh and blood.

When we know that our time is limited, we do not waste our time!

What do you think she did with her son?

What do you think she spoke to him?

If it was me … if the son in my arms had been returned to me because of my God, who I had trusted …

I would tell him of God.

I would sing songs of worship.

I would pray over his future.

I would thank God.

And, I believe, that is what she did.

For her son was saved, his life was delivered from the cultural ‘sin’ of having been born into the race so despised in that time, that place.

God saved her son, so she would hide words of wisdom and love of God in his heart.

And that is the calling to all mothers,

To bury the word of God in the hearts of our children,

Then,

to release them

trusting the God who once placed them in our arms,

with them.

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