A New Year Invitation

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls…

Jeremiah 6:16a

I rang in the New Year with a migraine.

But I rang it in after a leisurely morning in the Word of God. I also rang it in at midnight with my husband and all three kids present, including our almost-18-year-old who went out to see some friends and came back in time to toast in the New Year with our family tradition: sparkling grape juice for them and water for this old girl.

So I managed to be awake(ish) at midnight with a heart full of joy despite any pain. Maybe even joy in defiance of pain. But not only because of my family.

I’m still nursing the same migraine today, medicated enough to keep me out of bed but make my thoughts rather difficult to string together. Still, even today I am filled with joy.

This is an abiding joy which would have been with me even if I’d rung in the New Year alone with my migraine and cut off from medication, family, friends, or any friendly face. It’s a joy I’ve been granted, which I’ve found buried in the Scripture records of ancient paths and growing in me as I’ve followed in the footsteps of those who have traveled the Good Way before me.

For this reason, perhaps, as I read in Jeremiah this morning, verse 6:16 captured my attention. However, there is a bit more to the verse:

…But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Jeremiah 6:16b

My friends, I don’t know what you are facing on the first day of 2019. None of us know what we may be facing tomorrow. In fact, we are never guaranteed tomorrow.

But we have today. We have right now.

Today I invite you to a journey of joy. It isn’t a pain-free journey, nor it is a fool’s journey though you may be called a fool for embarking on it. I invite you nonetheless. Come, ask for the ancient paths where the good way is and find rest for your souls. Walk it, and do not refuse.

I know some of you are dealing with the slow decay of cancer. Others deal with the no less malignant cancer of anger, envy, unforgiveness, self-exaltation, or even the twisted egoism of self-loathing. Leave them by the wayside and find rest for your soul.

Others deal with pain rooted in an unhealed childhood wound. Many have addictions of one type or another, whether to food, entertainment, alcohol, drugs, sex, or something else. If you’ve lived long enough with any of these, you’ve experienced already the law of diminishing returns. The fun is gone, only the endless grind of need remains and grows like its own ruthless, devouring cancer. But you can lay those aside, too. Find the good Way, the One you were meant to be addicted to, and find rest for your soul.

Some have rejected the very idea of God so bitterly you think you can never turn to Him now. People would laugh. He would laugh and refuse to accept you now. He won’t.

You are not the first mocker to find that His way is the one you’ve been seeking after all. Peter, Jesus’s disciple, denied Him at His arrest. I once did, too. But the Lord had mercy on us both. So join me in searching the ancient paths like Peter’s and the paths of our lives today for signs of the God we once denied and like me, find rest for your soul.

The Peter who denied the Lord later received the gift of His Holy Spirit and spoke with enthusiasm to a crowd in Jerusalem. You can read about it in Acts 2. But what is remarkable to me is this: The joy I speak of, the rest for your soul that is promised along the good way, is part of what is called by Paul “fruit of the Spirit.”

…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…

Galatians 5:23-24a

This fruit grows along the ancient paths and nourishes those who choose the good way, even when the way is hard and the night seems long.

But even on the darkest night in the midst of the most horrendous pain, joy can still light your way and peace be your comfort because you will never walk the good way alone.

Plunge – An Invitation For the New Year and Beyond

It’s true that I am immersing you in water so that you might turn from sin to God; but the one coming after me is more powerful than I — I’m not worthy even to carry his sandals — and he will immerse you in the Ruach HaKodesh  (Holy Spirit) and in fire. Matthew 3:11, CJB

Before I begin, allow me a brief(ish) disclaimer: This post is absolutely not a critique on the various denominational methods of baptism, nor is it a statement about what I believe to be correct. It is simply an observation based on my recent study of the ancient Jewish practice of mikveh and the literal translation of the Greek word commonly translated baptize in English.

It is never my desire to create division but only to share the breathtaking glimpses of glory given me in my journey with the Lord.

In a recent reading of The Complete Jewish Study Bible, Matthew 3:11 captured my attention and prompted a little word study of my own along with additional reading (in the CJB and other Jewish sources) about the Jewish mikveh or ritual bath.

Both the Greek word and the ancient Jewish practice refer to dipping or submerging, cleansing by immersion or submerging, or possibly even (according to Thayer’s), “to overwhelm.”

A brief summary of the note on Leviticus 14:1-9 in the Complete Jewish Study Bible relates:

Ceremonial washings are as old as the Torah itself…. The Bible draws a distinction between the holy and the profane. The waters of the mikveh teach the Jewish people a great deal concerning these truths. One Jewish interpretation of the mikveh relates it to an experience of death and resurrection, and also to reentry into the womb and reemergence…  To this day, men still immerse in the mikveh as a sign of their inward cleansing as they spiritually prepare for the Holy Days.

Here, I see a profound kinship and a symbolism behind the practices of mikveh and Christian baptism. And John the Baptist, according to Mark 1:4, was “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

For the moment, I am asking you to lay aside any personal preferences or traditions you hold dear and just think about the implications of being fully immersed in the forgiveness and Presence of God. Cleansed by this immersion. Renewed.

My friends, enemies, and anyone else who may stumble across this post, this is precisely what I am praying for in the year to come. I am praying that we will be immersed in repentance and in the forgiveness of sins offered through the life and work of Yeshua Messiah – Christ the Lord.

And if I may be a trifle blunt, I do not care what your baptismal methodology is, nor do I care whether you are hostile to God or ambivalent, whether you follow Him closely or have strayed, whether you love or despise Him, whether you accept Him or deny Him; in fact no matter where you are in relation to the Almighty, this invitation is for you.

In short, it is an invitation to go deeper with the Lord. To be immersed in Him. To take leave of dabbling in the shallows and plunge fully in or to submerge yourself even deeper into the infinite, unceasing Fountain of Living Water.

This invitation is for today, for tomorrow, forever.

As I sit today and look across the unknown expanse of 2018 – or even the uncharted territory of tomorrow – I cannot help but feel excited at the prospect of venturing even deeper into the wonder and majesty of the Most High God.

Again, whoever you are, I invite you to join me. Let’s not be afraid, for there are no depths beyond His reach nor heights beyond His measure.

Let’s not be overwhelmed by fear nor consumed by anger nor anything other than our Lord. May His Spirit overwhelm us as a torrent of life-giving Water; may His will consume us as utterly as fire consumes paper.

This year, if you have not yet begun to think of God, challenge Him to reveal Himself to you – and then watch for it.

If you know Him, ask to know Him better and to love Him more.

If you feel you have had enough of Him, I ask Him to flood your heart and spirit with His goodness and astonish you with His love until His joy and peace are yours.

And if you reject this invitation today, it remains open until the day you draw your final breath.

But as an old preacher once cautioned: Be wary of putting off doing business with God until the eleventh hour, for you might die at 10:30.

My prayer is for you to find Him – or to return to Him – today, tomorrow, and always.

…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
(2 Chronicles 7:14)

If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 58:8-11)