Vehement Exploits

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“…but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” (Daniel 11:32)

 
Here is the angelic being in the book of Daniel, telling of coming conquerors, and one who “shall return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land.” This is one who is busy doing wickedly, conspiring with those who despise God and His people, polluting the sanctuary and making it an abomination before all. And here is this word used, this word exploit, and I really wanted to understand it’s meaning, as to how strong this word was back then, because I see it being used for the faithful also not many verses down. Only, surprise of surprises, that’s not the word of the original Hebrew.

 
But let’s look at the exploits of this ruler for a moment anyway. I can’t help but think of how he is honing in on the people of God, focussing on oppressing their beliefs. And this is not gentle bullying.  It’s like what’s spoken of in Psalm 146:7-8,  (when we think of who’s doing the oppressing and how) “Who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.” These are the oppressed, the ‘ashaq of Hebrew thinking. It’s a guttural word. “Gerstenberger points out that guttural words like this one are almost always connected to some form of violent or aggressive action in nearly all Semitic languages.”(Skip Moen) This word, at it’s root, is connected with the words “destroy,” “deal violently with,” “slaughter,” and “quarrel.” It’s a threat against well-being and focussed on “negatively construed actions and states.”

 
This is more than “injustice.” It’s violent. It’s truly abusing and taking advantage of others terribly. It’s inhumane and godless actions towards others. God will judge the perpetrators for their violence. But who are the exploited, the ones violently mistreated? The righteous! The Lord, YOU, protect Your own. You vindicate us. We, believers, Your people, are the ones who will be found being exploited. We will be the hungry, the imprisoned, the humbled and blind. Have I ever experience this kind of treatment? Or am I too much like the world and not enough like You that the world would be offended by me as it was by You?

 
Am I rejected and exploited, then maybe I’ve found true success. Does Satan feel threatened by my stand? Is he trying to reak terrible and violent damage against me? Then I should know I’m doing just fine. God loves me and has given Himself that I might give myself away for Him. What am I doing with me? Is my life my own or is it truly Yours? What am I willing to do? What length will I go? How far shall I be spent? Will my dying to self be total?

 
By context or association, our interpreters of the King James Version translated the Hebrew asah as doing exploits. Well, asah is about doing in many senses. It’s how You brought the firmament into existence and how You enabled the fruit tree to bear fruit. It’s what You did when You took and formed Eve from Adam. It’s the serpent’s actions and choices in tempting man and woman in the garden. It’s the action and thinking in Cain taking the life of his brother. I suppose it’s more than exploits and sometimes less than but this is always about choices and actions that follow. And it’s about how greatly we can decide to do and live out that which seems to benefit ourselves yet violently disregards others, as well as God. Or, it can be about how greatly we can decide to do and be and live out that which delights God, so that it delights us, and benefits all those around us even though it appears to bring our own earthly demise.

 
See, the people of God, well, we don’t need man’s flatteries. We know You and we desire Your praise and Your presence. We know You. It’s all about yada. We know the vehemence of Your feelings for us. We know the measure of Your love and devotion. We know that You are going to vindicate us, more than MacArthur returning to the Philippines. We know Your passion. We know Your power. We know with our emotions, our will, and our intellect, every part of our being.

 
This is what You have always been about, God. “For I desired loyal love, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”(Hosea 6:6) What more loyal love has been displayed than Yours for Your people? What more loyal love has there ever been than the unselfish sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah upon the cross? If yada includes “an act involving concern, inner engagement, dedication, or attachment to a person,” (Heschel) then didn’t God first demonstrate that for us? If it “also means to have sympathy, pity or affection for someone,” didn’t God go beyond that?

 
Nations were rising up and doing things for their glory, creating life the way they wanted it to be, and doing whatever they wanted to without any dedication or attachment to anyone but themselves. The fruit of that tree is violence towards others who stand in the way. I mean just look at the first example of the one who first turned away from God and sought after his own ambitions- Satan. And what came of that? Violence against all who would side with God, the One who stands in his way. Our actions speak the volumes of what is in our hearts or the lack thereof. Great doing in opposition to God leads to terrible exploitation. It’s so sad that we would come to so emphatically do that which defies our very purpose of existence.

 
But there are people who know God, who experience His affections for them and reciprocate them. There are people who God engages with and are engaged with Him. These are those who do and create and live vehemently for the One they know because He makes Himself known in and through them. They live extraordinarily and they die extraordinarily. They suffer extraordinarily and they shine extraordinarily. They have strength that surpasses knowledge in the midst of persecution. They have understanding and teach others. They fall by the sword and by flame and captivity and spoil, yes, they fall but shall never be broken. Why? “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)

 
Therefore, don’t be afraid of prophecy and rulers whether here or to come. Instead, choose whose side you will be on. For those of us who choose You, Lord, You too will choose to be on our side and we will not have to fear in the midst of all this. After all, whatever man can do onto me is only temporary, not eternal. I want to boldly say and believe and live in the truth that You are my Helper so that I will not fear what man shall do unto me. I want You to be great in me. I want to cling to You all the days of my life here on earth and into eternity. Though I be violently exploited, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like deer feet, and will make me to walk upon my high places.” (Habakkuk 3:18,19)

Signets Don’t Live in the Dung

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Photo credit to doubleportioninheritance.blogspot.

“‘In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will take you, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will make you as a signet: for I have chosen you,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  Haggai 2:23

Can you imagine being Zerubbabel?  Of all the men in the world, the Lord chose Zerubbabel.  You, Lord, chose to make him like a signet, the signature ring of the King.  But just the fact that You chose him, a mere man, out of what seemed like an insignificant tribe to the rest of the world, wow!  I’m so glad that You see things differently than the world and that nothing and no one is insignificant to You.

You speak to a residue of people.  Here are the “left-overs” of Israel.  And the residue is looking at the residue of the previous temple, the house of the Lord.  Some of the residue had seen the prior glorious house of the Lord, but this…  it was and would be like nothing in comparison.  Even it’s best effort would be less than the original.  But I think that You were telling Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people, to not concentrate on the glory of the building, but to concentrate on Your glory. 

It’s like You say, “Look at these left-overs, and then turn to me and see what I will do with them.  Come, enter into the work with me.  The important thing isn’t the left-overs you see, but that I am here with You in the midst of the left-over mess.  And I have a plan to guide You to change these left-overs into something glorious in Me.”  Your real words are, “Work: for I am with You.” And that word for work, asah, is the same word used in Your creation of the world shared in Genesis.  The literal translation would be “God rested from all His work which God created to make.”  The interesting thing is that after Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, after they chose something over You, You asked Eve and the serpent something on the same line of thinking.  You asked them, “What is this that you have done?” (Genesis 3:13, 14) 

What if there are different doors of opportunity to effect the world that You have created?  You know, a way that seems right unto people, but that’s not what You intended, because it leads unto death and separation?  Or other ways, other doors, that lead unto You and to life?  And what if You built all these doors into the world and You know the consequences of every door that we can choose, only we think we know, but we really don’t?  And so, just as You shaped the world and placed doors of opportunity and doors that lead to destruction, You have also given us the ability to shape the world You’ve placed us in.  Does that change the way Zerubabel, or Joshua, or the people of Israel, or I think? 

Why should that change the way we think?  Could it be that the choices I make shape the world around me?  Here You set before us these glorious possibilities.  You have such wonderful plans for us, to prosper us and give us a future in You.  But we choose to take those possibilities and grab onto little, scrappy actualities instead.  I want my possibility now!  I don’t want to wait.  And I grab for less.  I restrict You.  Can I restrict You, God?  Well, we know that it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit.

What if You created a world and formed it in such a way that we had opportunities to join in the forming?  It could have been perfect, but Adam and Eve chose to open doors their own way.  And don’t we?  And yet we complain at God for the evil in the world, when it was never Your choice.  Letting evil in is all by our choice but who wants to blame ourselves?  Isn’t it always easier and less hurtful to point the finger at someone else?  Who is performing the making and doing is important because there is only One who always makes and does what is purely Good.  I shouldn’t fool myself to think that I can make good choices without You.  It’s not the doing or making that’s the important thing.  It’s Who is doing and making that matters most.  That I can open my own doors isn’t the privilege of being human and made in the image and after the likeness of God.  Because unless I open the doors of Your desire, I tear apart that image and destroy the likeness.

Paul understood that the one performing the doing and making was the piece de resistance.  It’s not how it’s done.  See, it was one man named Adam who sinned and opened his own door his own way.  It was like a Pandora’s box he chose.  And his open door brought sin and death into our world.  So now, everyone has sinned, and the penalty for sin is death. (Romans 5:12)  Thank you, human beings, for your great contribution to the world as you and we choose to make choices and open doors of our own choice as opposed to the choice of the God who loves us and gave himself for us.  Pretty sad, huh?

Here’s another thing.  Three times here, You tell the hearers to consider this.  And I guess we usually think of considering as thinking about something.  And it does mean that.  But I wonder if our translation really carries the heart of what You mean when You ask us to consider something?  Why do I say that?  Because every time You say, “Consider,” it’s two words together from siym and lebab.  We’ve seen that God is inviting His people to join in His doing with Him.  Now maybe considering in Your eyes, God, is all about understanding our placement and purpose in the world by You, accompanied by our heart’s undivided intended devotion to You.  And maybe we really aren’t considering things properly if those two aren’t coming together in You.

See, Adam didn’t actually start in the Garden.  Genesis 2:8 tells us that the Lord God put the man whom He had formed in the garden.  Why?  Because He had a purpose for man in that garden.  That “put” or “placed” is that same Hebrew word siym.  It can mean “to appoint, to bring, to call, to put, to change, to charge, to commit, to consider, to convey, or to determine.”  Maybe that means that God is in charge of everything, even our geography.  And when does Adam’s story really begin?  Was it where he was created?  Or where God placed him?  What about us?  Was it all about Adam’s plans or Your plans, God?  And why would You place Him in the garden?  Was that the place of full relationship with You?  Is that where You could nourish man by Your provision, Your way?  And yet You allowed man free choice.  Adam could choose the door to the tree of life or the door to the knowledge of good and evil.  Maybe paradise on earth wasn’t such a safe place after all.  Maybe the only safe place has always been in You and choosing You.  Because even paradise can draw us away into disobedience and danger. 

But you just don’t plant or place.  You look at the “lebab,” and you know our heart.  This is Your desire for us that You share in Deuteronomy 6:5, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart [lebab], and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  This is all about singular devotion to God.  This is all about personal devotion to You.  Loving You with all our heart is about devoting all our will, of the whole me to You.  My soul is the unity of my flesh, and will, and essence.  And my might is absolute commitment, the muchness of who I am, to You.

So if considering the way You ask us to consider is refocussing ourself on You, it really makes sense that You ask us to look into our heart that You have placed strategically in this world for Your glory.  Am I living up to Your created purpose and placement for me?  Am I living up to Your plan and entering Your intended doors, or am I avoiding Your plan for me and opening my own doors?  Are my will, emotions, and thoughts lined up with Your plan and placement of me?  Now, Psalm 20:4 touches on this.  It says, “May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your counsel!”  Isn’t that great?  Well, only if our heart’s desire has been lined up with Yours.  Otherwise, granting us what we want according to our council is an opportunity to live out a curse.  Just look at history and the doors that have been opened according to man’s council. 

But if we stop to consider Your way, with all our heart leaned in to You, we find that just like Zerubbabel, You have chosen us to place us for a purpose for You in this world.  Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)  And Paul continue that thought, “For you see your calling, brothers, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty…” (1 Corinthians 1:26,27)  Why?  Because it’s all about His glory and that can only be seen in those who are called and accept their appointment.  Then You choose to use and glorify Yourself in those who surrender to You and open and enter Your doors where You are present.  And these, and only these, are those who are labeled faithful.  And it’s only the faithful who are able to reflect Your image and bear Your likeness in this world.

Many are called but few are chosen.  Why?  Because You are a bad and cruel God?  Absolutely not.  Why?  Because we choose by choosing other doors to not answer Your call.  I mean, how much more merciful do we want You to be?  Look at how many times, over and over again, You showed up for the unfaithful nation of Israel, Your child, Your people.  You kept saying, “Go through my doors with Me.”  But they didn’t want to.  They wanted things their own way.  And they got it.  And it’s the same with us.  I want to stop wanting things my way.  I want to come to consider everything as empty without You.  I want to come to the reality that Paul did.  I want to count it all dung compared to knowing You, Jesus, and living and walking and doing and being in Your presence.  I want to learn to suffer whatever loss it takes to obey You and follow through Your doors.  I’m not there yet, Lord, but I pray that Your Spirit will continue to guide me there and that my spirit will desire nothing more than total commitment to the God who has my purpose in life down pat. 

Forming His Treasure

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“I know that whatever God does will last forever; there is nothing to add or subtract from it; and God has done it so that people will fear him.  That which was is here already; and that which will be has already been, but God seeks out what people chase after.”  Ecclesiastes 4:14,15

Maybe it’s funny or unusual that I’m drawn to the writings in Ecclesiastes right now.  I mean, really, it’s not one of the most encouraging books.  Solomon, the author, actually seems pretty disillusioned with things.  All his wisdom, riches, and power have become “vanity of vanities” to him.  But there are these nuggets throughout that run deeper and give me hope in a life that sometimes doesn’t seem to make sense.

“I know that whatever God does will last forever; there is nothing to add or subtract from it; and God has done it so that people will fear Him.”  But I wonder if Solomon, the wisest man ever on earth, still missed some things?  Because here he was, looking all around himself and talking about how none of it would last.  And he was talking about his legacy not lasting after he was gone.  Some fool could follow and destroy everything he had worked so hard building.  And in the midst of thinking that way, he made this statement, “whatever God does will last forever.”  Well what does God do?  What do You do, Lord?  What have You done?  What are You doing?

Weren’t You molding Solomon?  Weren’t You building a kingdom?  Was Solomon looking at things the way You were?  I’m not trying to insult his wisdom here, but if this was written later in life while Solomon had been wrongly influenced by the beliefs of his Pagan wives, maybe Solomon’s “wise” perspective was just a little off.  I mean, he was still speaking wise truth, but maybe he wasn’t seeing the full truth himself.  Was God really doing a work outside of Solomon?  Was His work in the works of Solomon’s hands, in the physical kingdom, on the outside?  Is that the real work that You were doing, Lord?

Whatever God does will last.  That word for does is “asah.”  It’s also used in the creation account.  But so is another word “bara.”  These two words carry different weights.  Bara is the essence of “created” while asah is the forming of the stuff that was created.  So maybe the thing that Solomon and I have to focus on is what You are really working on forming?  Are You using all the created things in my life and were You using all the created things in everyone’s life, including Solomon’s to form and mold and shape each one of us into Your image?  Is that the important part that will last forever?  Is it not about the stuff but about the one You are forming and the one who is allowing You to form them?  Are we the part of creation that is supposed to last with You?

So here You are forming us, moment by moment.  And there is nothing in this world, no wisdom, no fortune, no power, no thing that exists on earth that can make us more complete, more formed than what You are doing in us.  You, God, are doing this work in us so that even when we lose everything, we and the people looking on see You and they think great things about You.  Or, if You bless me with much for Your glory, they see and are amazed by You again.

Isn’t that what happened with Solomon?  Didn’t the queen come and glory in what God had done with him?  It wasn’t that she gloried in Solomon.  She knew it was of You.  There are people I have met, and they’ve been through really hard experiences in life, but Your hand is so glorious upon them, and You shine so brightly.  It’s not the stuff around us that is Your masterpiece.  That’s not the solid stuff, that’s not the stuff that is going to last.  That’s all perishing.  But what really matters and what will last forever is the workmanship of Your beautiful, glorious hands in Your people.  Solomon was the treasure.  Those who put their trust in You and let You have Your way in their lives, they are the treasure that lasts.  They are the ones who shine Your glory and instill the fear and reverence of God in others.  And they do it by letting You be You in them.

“That which was is here already; and that which will be has already been, but God seeks out what people chase after. “  Now, I’m not saying I get all this.  But it’s making me think.  And it’s making me ask You questions, Lord, because I think there’s a lot to this.  And I want to know what You want me to know.  I think this all relates to the fact that there is nothing new under the sun.  You, Lord, already established everything.  You have it all under control.  You know all the answers.  And the clincher is in the last part of that sentence where it says, “but God seeks out what people chase after.”  What are we chasing after?

What was Solomon chasing after?  Was he chasing after all those things on the outside bringing fulfilment?  Maybe You, Lord, are wanting me to ask myself what I’m chasing after?  Is it You?  Are You going to place things in my life to get me to figure out what I’m chasing after?  Do You care enough to get Solomon to focus on what he’s chasing after?  And me?  Would You take the time to show us the futility of the things we chase after when it ought to be all about You?

There is something interesting about that word for seek.  It’s the word “baqash” and it does mean to search out, but specifically in worship.  It’s about what we strive after.  Maybe this whole thing is about You getting us to really understand our own hearts and desires and strivings and to refocus them on the One who ought to be our Focus.  Yes, everything else is vanity.  But You are not.  And in You, our lives are not in vain.  In You our lives have meaning and purpose and eternity.  In You, we are the glory of God.

Peter reminds us, “You will have to suffer only a little while; after that, God, who is full of grace, the one who called you to his eternal glory in union with the Messiah, will himself restore, establish and strengthen you and make you firm.”  (1 Peter 5:10)  This is what You are doing.  We are the work of Your hands.  Solomon himself was the treasure.  I am the treasure.  And You continually care for us and shape us and mold us to Your glory.

So what was Solomon’s final conclusion?  “Here is the final conclusion, now that you have heard everything:  fear God, and keep His mitzvot (commands); this is what being human is all about.” (v. 13)  But there is this one thing.  Here’s the wisest man on the earth by the power of God, but He didn’t fully understand about Jesus yet.  But I know You, Jesus.  And when I hear these wise words and put them into perspective with You, I am able to draw the right conclusion.  And it’s not just about obeying commands.  It’s all about fulfilling our created purpose and living in You.  That’s what humans were created for, to live in You and to glorify You.  That’s the only satisfying purpose of life because You are LIFE.

Solomon has treasures for us, but he was missing some parts of the picture.  Listen as Paul explains it through Ephesians.  “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.  This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel…this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places.  This was according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him.”

Yes, His people are His treasure.  We are what You are doing, Lord.  We are the kingdom that You are forming and shaping as Your very own bride!  We people are the church.  Those glorious unsearchable riches are being invested in each one of Your children.  If only Solomon had gotten to see Jesus, it would have all fallen into place.  But that’s the good news for us.  We can see Jesus.  Yes, Lord, we can see You and know You.  You are not a hidden mystery any more.  If only I learn to worship and chase after You so You can reveal Yourself in me.  Because every part of beautiful You that You bring to life in me will last forever.  Keep forming me, Lord, I love being the eternal work of Your hands.

Requirements 101

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“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8

You have no excuse.  I have no excuse.  He has shown us.  God has set before us, right in front of our very eyes and lives, exactly what is good, exactly what His expectations are.  First He gave us His Word and His prophets.  Then we saw what is good in Your eyes lived out in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, God with us.  He has shown us, people.  We have no excuse for not seeing.

But what if I still act like I don’t get it?  What if I say, “What do You require of me Lord?  What is good according to You?”  Well, what is the answer then?  I suppose it all starts by acknowledging that You alone are good, by acknowledging that Jesus is the epitome of all things good.  If I want to know what is good, I must know Jesus.  If I look at Him and into Him, I will see everything that is good.  I will know what goodness appears like and acts like and thinks like in this world.

So once I understand that there is only One who is good and that goodness begins and only exists in God, in Jesus Christ, then the next logical question is, “What do You, Lord, require of me?’  That’s easy.  Goodness.  What is goodness?  Youness.  You require me to demonstrate You, in Your entirety in my life.  It has nothing to do with knowing about You or knowing about goodness or knowing about justice or knowing about mercy, or knowing about humbleness.  But it has everything to do with being “those things” for lack of a better way of putting it.  I must know You so intimately that I not only understand Your ways but Your ways become my ways because You are as integral a part of my being as breathing is.  Actually, You are more integral than even breathing.  Your character isn’t just a good thing to emulate.  Your character must dwell in me or I can’t exhibit Your character.

And this is not a one time deal.  I don’t just become Yours one day and then I’m finished becoming.  I become Yours and then I invest myself continually in You as You continually invest Yourself in me deeper and deeper every moment.  You require something of me.  Your gift is free because there is nothing I could do to ever earn it.  But it’s not free of responsibility.  You require something of me.  What is it that You require?  Well, it’s in that word “darash.”  It’s used in Hebrew study of the Scriptures as a drash.  It’s a verb that emphasizes “continued, deliberate searching.”  You require this of me.  And when this is what I give in obedience to You, then love shines forth.  I’ll know, and I mean really know, the Good One, not just what is good.

There are three things here that You are looking for in my life, that I ought to exhibit from within to without because I KNOW the GOOD ONE, and I want to do what is required.  I mean, that’s the least that I can do for You.  Knowing You, I am to follow You in doing justly.  The word for “do” here is “asah” and it’s this common word for making or forming.  The importance of the word is in who is doing the making or forming, in who is performing the action.  But what action am I performing or should I ask, what action am I allowing to be formed in me?  And who am I letting form that action in me?

I am to do “mishpat.”  Do what?  Justice.  Oh, OK, I can do good things and be fair and give people what they deserve.  Really?  Is that Jesus’ mishpat?  Did you know that it has nothing to do with legal fairness.  Oh, no, I can see that this is not going to be so easy after all.  Maybe this isn’t going to be so cut and dry.  “It is the word that summarizes the entire government of God.  It extends from grace to judgment.  It encompasses everything that God is doing to bring about the restoration of His kingdom on earth.  Mishpat is about my whole attitude toward life–an attitude that views everything in terms of God’s purposes.”  (Skip Moen)  Wow!  Justice just got a whole lot broader and unless I really know Jesus and understand how He thinks, how will I ever understand this concept?  I have to be immersed in the attitude of Jesus, of God Himself, to show true justice then.  I have to understand grace myself, before I can show God’s justice to others.  I have to understand Your government and I have to live in it and under it before I can be just and even be able to show an inkling of it in my life.  Do I know You deeply and personally enough so that my attitude in real life reflects Yours, not only about me but toward others?

It doesn’t stop there.  I am to love mercy.  I am to love it.  This word for love is from the Hebrew word “ahab.”  Examining it’s pictograph is pretty telling.  From the pictograph you can say that “ahab” says “those who make up the household or family behold the authority of the leader.”  Do You mean love has to do with letting the authority be in control?  Does it really have to do with obedience and allowing the Rightful One to be in full control over His house?  Is that love? So, love is when I behold You and as a result of beholding You, I conform to Your control and let You exercise it over me and around me.  I might not feel good about it.  I might wish You’d do it a different way, but I obey, even when I don’t feel like it.  Why?  Because I “recognize, acknowledge, and obey Your authority.”    I understand our relationship because I know You and I know myself.  So I learn to surrender to You because You I can trust to always be right.  Me, I can’t trust.  How do I know that?  Because I’ve come to know You and Your faithfulness and Your goodness.

Love is my active submission to You.  You are my Authority.  I do what You ask.  I don’t just feel merciful.  I DO mercy.  There’s a difference.  Mercy flows from Your Being because You are Authority, You are Love.  If I am in You, I am in Love, I am in Your Authority, and as You flow from me, Your mercy flows from me.  You don’t just think mercy, You do it, no, YOU ARE MERCY.

But loving mercy is more than loving mercy.  The Hebrew word is “chesed.”  The ESV translates it closer to “loving kindness.”  But since You, Lord, are more than just Mercy, so is this “chesed.”  Think of every way that God acts and it is represented in this word “chesed.”  Skip Moen states “Hesed is the action of reciprocal obligation passed on to others.  You can’t sing this word without obeying God and blessing others.  It isn’t simply one of the lyrics in a song.  It is a call to act as God acts.  Sing hesed with your feet and hands.”  It’s the song that Jesus sings, the one He sang out loud for all of us to hear and see while He walked on earth.  It’s the song He wants us to be singing and doing with all our lives.  It’s the new song You’ve written in our hearts, Lord.

Which brings us to the walking humbly part.  Because it’s the song of obedience in love turned into action that we sing and act upon as we walk through this life, I learn to walk humbly with You, or rather in You.  Here’s this Hebrew word “halak.”  It’s a tattle tale kind of word.  By the way we “halak”, by the way we walk, we can know if we are in You or not.  The truth of the matter is, if I claim to live in You, then I will more that talk Your talk.  I’ll walk Your walk.  I’m not just making this up.  Here it is in 1 John 2:5,6, “Whoever keeps His Word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.  By this we may know that we are in Him:  whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”

I say I abide in You, Jesus.  Therefore I ought to walk the same way You walked.  I’m not to spiritualize the way You walked.  I’m supposed to walk it.  This Greek verb, “peripateo,” is actually an idiom from Hebrew that is translated into Greek.  It’s that “halak” which is used to express a way of life.  My way of life is supposed to be just like Your way of life, Lord.  My feet ought to go and associate with the same kind of people You associated with.  I ought to be willing to sit down with the woman at the well,  I ought to be unafraid of touching the lepers.  I ought to surround myself with people in need of the love of Jesus no matter what “walk” of life they come from.  Because my walk in You ought to invite them wholeheartedly into Your walk.  It’s not at all about believing a philosophy or doctrine.  It’s about knowing You and living You out in my life.  What You do, I must do, if I am in You.  It’s not even about walking in the same direction.  It’s so much closer.  It’s like You seep out of me in this glorious way, and I am not complete unless I’m in the middle of where You are.

And frankly, if it’s really all about me walking with You right now, and every moment of my life, then I could give a hoot about whether I’m going to get a reward.  Because walking with You and the new fellowship it brings between us and others that are walking in You is the reward in itself.  See, YOU, LORD, ARE THE REWARD.  My reward is being in YOU!  You gave me this glorious life to live.  You gave me this even more glorious life to live in You and for You.  This is my purpose, this is what fulfills me, to live in You.  I was created for life.  Each of us was.  But not just life; we were each created for life in Christ, life in it’s utter fullness in the One Who Is Full.  This is my walk.  This is obedience.  This is love.  This is where joy comes from.

Joy comes in the walking.  I become a blessing to others through Him and I am filled with the joy of having fulfilled my duty to the One who is worthy of leading.  My reward is that I am included.  I am part of this!  I am part of what You, Lord, are doing.  The Holy One has invited me in to His work!  I get to do what He does.  I get to exhibit mishpat, hesed, and tsana yalak.  I get to be faithful!

And part of the faithfulness is walking humbly.  The whole phrase is “tsana yalak.”  That same word is used in Proverbs 11:2 in contrast to a word we dealt with the other day, Lord, –pride.  So this humbleness, this tsana, is just the opposite of what You identify as pride.  On the one hand we have “to be humble to walk” and on the other hand we have pride- “a presumpive arrogance that relies on human cunning, engineering and effort to secure personal status.”  You know, both are about what we do with authority.  Pride is all about self authority, but “tsana yalak” is all about God authority.  Only God authority lifts others up.  It’s not just letting You, God, rule over me.  It’s giving You rule over everything and everyone.  I can step back from a situation and let others decide their way because You really are in control.  You reign and You rule.  Not me.  So, when a door slams shut, I don’t have to fight it, because You are still in control.  I just surrender to You and wait for You to take action.  I look for the direction You want me to walk in each moment.  I invite others to walk with me, but I don’t force, because I’m not the one in charge.   

And the responses around me don’t change my response.  I continue to love the Lord my God with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength, and with all my mind; and my neighbor, well, I love them as much as the Lord loves me.  (Luke 10:27, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18).  I walk it out on all sides.  Under complete reign and rule of You, God, I act accordingly.  “Humility encompasses heart, soul, mind, strength, and relationships.”  (Skip Moen)  Anything less, well, then it’s not walking in humility, is it?

Yep, Micah 6:8, it’s a hefty requirement.  It’s a lot to measure up to.  And there is only one way I can measure up, because on my own, I fell short from the start.  But by the power of Christ in me, when I rely on You and live You out in my life, I can meet Your requirements because You have put them all inside of me.  It’s who You are and it’s who You are making me to be in You.  This is what life looks like when I abide in You.  Yes, this is life.  And this is where I want to be forever, right in the middle of You, with You, right in the middle of me, both of us, living You out in the middle of this world that needs You so badly.

Truth- The Most Glorious Adventure

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Photo credit to Abigail Vencil Photography.

(The one who saw this happen has spoken of it, so that you also may believe. What he said is true, and he knows that he speaks the truth.) “  John 19:35

It’s funny, or maybe not.  I tend to talk in rabbit trails and sometimes even my studies in Your Word, Lord, follow rabbit trails.  But I suppose if I want to catch that rabbit at last, I have to follow it’s trail.  Actually, I’m not really sure if it works that way for catching rabbits.  It’s probably more that they just hop around sporadically.  But I’m finding that following Your leading is always purposeful.  And though I may not see how it is all going to fit together at first, and though I don’t even know that where I started is going to lead to where I finish, it’s beautiful when it all comes together.

So, today all started with watching a video based on an anecdote that promotes that Albert Einstein refuted an atheistic professor about the existence of God.  I love anecdotes.  I write my own sometimes, with Your guidance, Lord.  But I’ve found that I need to check up on a lot of these sweet, lovely stories that say, “Mr. So And So said this.”  And often in the checking of this beautiful anecdote or speech, when I check into the validity of it being said by the person it’s been attested to, I find that often that is not the case.  And I ask myself, “What danger do I do as a believer when I promote something as truth and allow a lie to be attached to it?”  And most people are just trusting that others, maybe other believers, wouldn’t send something out that isn’t all true.  But I think it’s because we don’t verify for ourselves.  We haven’t been trained up to be like the Bereans.  We take it as a personal insult if someone doesn’t believe us.

I don’t see that happening with Paul.  In Berea, he presented the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As he and Silas presented the truth to the Bereans, in the synagogue, so get this- they were Jews, what was their response?  Scripture says, “The people there were more NOBLE than those of Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, EXAMINING THE SCRIPTURES DAILY…”  Why?  “To see if these things were so.”  What then happened?  “Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.” 

Did I get that?  They examined to find if what Paul was saying was really true.  And how did Paul and Silas feel about it?  Were they insulted because the Bereans didn’t trust them?  Absolutely not.  Because it’s not about trusting my word.  It’s about trusting Your Word, God.  It’s about each one of us searching to find the truth, even if it means checking out an internet story or video.  So how did Paul and Silas feel about the Bereans searching out the truth?  They said the Bereans were more NOBLE than the Thessalonians who didn’t even check it out to see if it was true.  So maybe if I want to be commended as more noble than the Thessalonians, I need to know how to examine things for the truth.  After all, You are Truth. 

Being the Truth, it is Your desire and the Holy Spirit’s function to guide us into all truth, not just some.  All truth matters.  Darkness can’t dwell where there is light.  All truth matters.  1 Timothy 2:4 tells us You “would have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”  And 2 Timothy 3:7 reminds us that there is a danger of being “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  I can be a Berean or I can be a Thessalonian.  I can eagerly come to the knowledge of the truth or I can ignore the truth and keep learning what I want the way I want, and keep living in all the lies I want, and never really ever stop to see them as lies.

So that’s what started things off today, a beautiful message with a little lie tacked on.  Oh, wait, “little lie” is a part of man’s vocabulary.  But the Truth tells me every lie is DEEP, DARK SIN and STANDS IN THE FACE OF HOLY GOD.  It’s not just any truth that matters.  Your Truth, God, Your Truth, Jesus, is what is real Truth.  Nothing else matters.

Now, here is John, testifying of You, Jesus, that not one bone was broken on the cross.  Here he is, an eye witness to Your life and death on the cross, and soon to be an eye witness to Your resurrection.  And there is one thing that is all important to John, that what he is telling about You is TRUE and he knows that this is the TRUTH.  Because only by sharing the truth through knowing the truth can others believe.  And how do we know that John is telling the TRUTH?  When I go back to Scripture, Old Testament Scripture, it confirms it.  But I need to be a Berean for a moment to do that. 

My youngest daughter really desires adventure.  Her new motto that she is going to put on a throw pillow she is making is “Dare to Roam.”  I love adventure.  But seeking adventure without seeking the TRUTH is an empty exploit.  Daniel 11:32 says, “And such as do wickedly against the convenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”  Now the interesting thing here is that “exploits” is really an added word.  The actual Hebrew word is “asah” and it stops at “do.”  Asah “is a verb that usually means a deliberate action with distinct purpose.”  (Skip Moen)  It’s used in the way that God formed people.  Look up the list of what it means sometimes.  The list is really long.

And maybe how this relates is that I have to search out the Truth, always, in everything.  In the path on the adventures I take.  In the things I read and the songs I sing.  In the things I hear and the words I speak or write.  Because the Truth is the foundation.  To have that foundation in the Truth that is Jesus is to find my purpose.  So here’s the good news.  The people who take the time to seek out the truth and find it in Jesus and then continually seek truth in Him, they won’t be shaken by lies.  They will have this unshakeable foundation in You, Lord.  And everything that is in You, will come forth from them at all the times when it is needed.  The exploits they’ll do will all come from the purpose that You have designed for them and that You are bringing to pass moment by moment.  Living in the Truth is how we glorify You and You glorify Yourself in us. 

Finding the Truth, finding You, and then living in You moment by moment is the most glorious adventure.  And this is the adventure that You have invited us on.  And this is the adventure that You draw us to and give us the desire for.  Will I seek You out?  Will I respond to the Truth You have presented in You?  Will I receive it?  Will I search it out and come to truly believe?  Will You, the Truth, become Everything to me?  Will I choose to handle the word of Truth correctly?  Will my whole life show it?  Will I take that risk and make myself that vulnerable?  Whatever the truth is, will I seek that and obey that?  Will I?  Lord, may I fulfill Your creative and glorious purpose in me to let You perform Your Truth in me and through me.  May I live such a glorious adventure in Truth in You that others are drawn to seek Your truth and presence also. 

Taste and See!

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“I am the vine, you are the branches:  He that abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

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Now that’s a bold statement, Lord.  “Without Me you can do nothing.”  “Without Me flowing from you, you can’t do a thing at all.”  Without You flowing in me, I can’t do a thing at all.  Well, I could do lots of stuff and accomplish a lot of things, but nothing that would really matter in eternity.  But I want to look at this whole “allegory” thing here a little more closely.  I don’t want to miss anything.

You are the vine.  You are the base, the support, the life source that starts at the roots where the nourishment enters.  You are the stem and body from where the nourishment flows and is guided and directed.  Kill the vine and the branches die.  You are the life source for every branch.  The branch, each of them, is 100% dependent upon the vine for life.  It can’t live separated from the vine.  It only lives as it draws life from the vine, in unity with it.  Only the branch that remains unified with the vine will live and produce fruit.  Separate the branch from the fine and it becomes lifeless and unable to produce fruit.

The neat thing about branches is that they can be naturally growing from the vine or they can be grafted in.  Of course no branch can graft itself in.  The “vinedresser” is able to graft the branch in which then, over time, as it remains one with the vine, becomes one with the vine just as the natural branches were.  Thank You, Lord, that grafting is part of Your amazing work, because a Gentile like me is absolutely dependent upon Your ability to graft me in.

So, once a branch is part of the vine and it remains and continues in the nourishment of the vine, it will begin to bring forth fruit.  And today I wanted to look at the fruit.  I have a feeling I might wind up spending time understanding Your fruit tomorrow too.  But today, I looked up the uses of fruit in Scripture and it took me all the way back to Genesis.  I thought, well, there’s the beginning of fruit.  Maybe I can learn a little more about it’s purpose, it’s “essence,” how You, Lord, feel about it, how it matters to me.

In Genesis 1:11, You bring forth “the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind…”  I stopped to look at that.  The fruit tree yields fruit.  Is that important, this yielding?  The Hebrew word for “yield” here is “asah.”  It’s “a completely common verb for making or forming…There is nothing particularly exceptional about this verb.  It’s only importance lies in who performs the act, not how the act was done.” (Skip Moen)  And that’s what IS important here.  You, God, said it, and it was formed and the tree brought forth fruit.  Therefore, You are the One who brings forth fruit.  Let me hold that thought.

You had the earth bring forth the fruit trees and the fruit trees bring forth fruit “after his kind, whose seed is in itself.”  “His kind” is from the Hebrew “miyn.”  This word describes “something that shares common characteristics.”  Now, I’m going to pose a question.  Does the fruit bear common characteristics only with the tree?  Or, does it bear common characteristics with the one who brought it forth?  I think there’s an important combination here and the answer is both.

How did fruit benefit man?  “To you it shall be for meat.”  Fruit is for my nourishment.  Fruit is for my life.  I need food to live.  Fruit is my food.  But fruit is more.  I just had to dig into Your Word, get a little hungrier, devour it, and search it out.  Because fruit is amazing stuff.

Fruit was important enough to be pointed out in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.  There were commands about fruit and fruit trees.  What?  Why would that matter?  Well, what if fruit and fruit trees, and vines like grape vines that produce fruit, where created to glorify You through being a picture to help me understand You?  What if fruit isn’t just fruit?  What if every type of fruit I eat is a reminder?  What if every type of fruit I see is a means to draw me closer to You?  What if?  I wonder if Scripture supports that?

When the Israelites came into a new land, you commanded them to consecrate the fruit bearing trees and produce for three years before harvesting it.  Imagine that, You set fruit apart.  It was set apart as holy, or maybe in this case, so it would become holy and attached to You and noone else.   It was something that You referred to as holy and to Your praise.  So, if it was to Your praise, then somehow fruit was a picture of Your goodness.

Fruit was to be eaten and yield its increase.  That means it was for the benefit of pleasure and life, and to produce more, infinitely more.   It was to be gathered in and celebrated over.  It was a reminder of the provision and blessing of remaining in You, of Your presence and watch care.   You commanded us to care for the tree by sowing the field and pruning the vineyard and gathering the fruit.  It takes work on my part.  But You are the one who has given me all I need to do that work.  And You are the one who produces.

It shall be yielded, we eat our fill of it, and we dwell in it in safety. We are blessed as we obey our care of the fruit and You do the work for us as we just rest in You and receive.   Even the old fruit is sustaining.   You will provide the rain.   It is the Yours and holy to You.   It’s a sign and reward of Your love.  There is to be no forbidden mixing of seeds to keep fruit pure and holy.  The firstfruits are an offering back to You, Lord.  It’s blessed by You.

And that’s just a part of what You say about fruit.  Fruit tells us that You are the “only source of true favor…that abundant life depends entirely on [Your] goodness and faithfulness…[You are] the only one who can grant life.” (Precept Austin)  Fruit and Your Scripture, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, ” clearly states that [You are] willing to give life to all who trust in [You}.  But that trust is demonstrated in faithful loyalty to [You]….  Favor is not indiscriminate.  While the invitation to enjoy God’s favor knows no boundaries, the resulting reward requires reciprocal action… All of this was prepared ‘before the foundation of the world.’  This means that the relationship between invitation and reciprocal obedience has been in place since the beginning.  It didn’t change when [You, Jesus, were] born.  It wasn’t altered on the cross.  It’s exactly the same connection found in Abraham and in Paul…  And it will still be in place when the Final Judgment occurs.  The only question left is this:  how do [I connect this in my life]?”  (Skip Moen)

I cannot bear fruit unless I abide in You.  I cannot be separate from You and bear fruit.  Here’s another interesting thing I found out this morning about this bearing fruit.  The Greek word is “phero.”  It means to bring forth, to bear or carry.  Now, what really does the branch do to bear fruit?  The vine is really doing all the work and the vinedresser tends to that.  Because “phero” can also be thought of as bearing or carrying a ship with the wind carrying it along.  It’s the wind doing the work and guiding and empowering, not the ship.  This ship’s motor is the wind, not it’s own.  “Phero,” when used in the present tense as it is here, implies being continually “carried or borne along.”  ” The passive voice conveys the sense that they were not borne along by their own power but by an external source, in this case by the Holy Spirit.”  (Precept Austin)

Well, today, Lord, and every day hereafter, I want to learn to abide in You more and more deeply.  I know I can do absolutely nothing without You and I don’t want to.  I want to be totally and absolutely dependent upon You.  My fruit is rotten but Your fruit is more than wonderful.  It satisfies me and it satisfies others and it brings back praise to You.  I want to bear Your fruit.  So, continually teach me to be carried along and borne along by You.  Produce in me that which only comes from You.  Let me depend on You for my benefit , the benefit of others, and Your glory.  And, let every piece of fruit that I see, or eat, or hear about, be a continual reminder to me.  Oh, may I continually taste and see Your goodness!