Diminishing God

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“Wherefore, as I live, says the Lord God; surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable things, and with all your abominations, therefore will I also diminish you; neither shall My eye spare, neither will I have any pity.” Ezekiel 5:11

 

How often do we think of desolation of the Temple as coming from within? This is so easy to miss. When thinking about the destruction of the Holy Temple we think about Rome coming in and forcing a pig to be offered to desecrate the Temple. Or maybe we think of the final desecration of the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem before the last days, and an anti-Christ who does the same. But God is telling us in Ezekiel that desecration is closer than we think, that God’s own people desecrate the temple.

Isn’t that a terrible thought? The Jews themselves were guilty of defiling the sanctuary and bringing detestable things within its walls. The Jews themselves, yes, the people of God, were bringing abominations in. Really? Were they bringing pigs and things like that in? No. But they were busy bringing diminished ideas of God inside His own temple.

 

That word for diminished is gara in Hebrew. It means “to clip, diminish, restrain, keep back, withdraw.” Now listen to what Eliphaz said to Job, “Do you hear the secret counsel of God, and limit wisdom to yourself? (Job 15:8) That’s a good question. Do I hear God’s word and then think I can interpret it how I want? Do I really understand everything as I ought? Can I really know it on my own or do I need the Holy Spirit, the forefathers and other believers who have really dug in? Is this a process of becoming or do I know all right now? Can I decide for myself or is this something I live out in the community of believers? Would I really think so highly of myself as to “limit God’s wisdom to my understanding?”

Do I forget that though God comes to us individually and leaves the 99 for the 1 that is lost, the goal is to bring the 100 into the fold? Do I forget that the power of God exists in community, in unity with God and with other believers? Do I forget that I need accountability? Do I forget that I need others to help me see in myself what I’m blind to? Do I forget that the Holy Spirit will never teach me or lead me in a way that is against God’s words?

But that’s what happens when I diminish God and His word. Yes, God comes to people personally, but not for us to be our own people. He comes to us personally so that we can choose to become His people, grafted in as one, grafted in not only with each other, but grafted in with Him. Therefore, we live like Him and love like Him and respond like Him and make much of Him because He becomes our everything and all those who are held so dear to Him become dear to us.

When I think I am the gift of God, I make living about me, not about God and not about His people. I make my goals and my desires more important. I diminish God and make myself a type of god. I think I have the right to point out specks in other people’s eyes and not see the log in my own. (Luke 6:41) I bear fruit of my own liking and not of God, bad fruit instead of good, bad fruit that I somehow convince myself tastes and looks good. (Luke 6:43) I call God, “Lord,” but I don’t treat You as Lord because really I’m my own lord. (Luke 6:46) I hear what You say but I don’t do it because I’ve diminished Your agenda and glorified my own.

When I take care of number 1, you know, me, I desecrate Your Holy Temple because that’s not what You desire. Your command is to love God and to love others. Acts 4:32 expressed true “temple” worship, “and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” And that’s the truth that doesn’t defile. Everything I have or am is because God has given it to me or in me. The Temple belongs to God. The instruments are His, the design is His, how it works is His idea. My purpose is to fulfill His idea, not mine. My purpose in life is to be fit in like His divine puzzle piece. I don’t even have the ability to fit myself. To think I do is the greatest farce. This is God’s playwright, He wrote it, it’s His, and we’re His players, and that’s the best place to be, looking to Him as Director so we get it right.

Lord, I don’t want to diminish You by having an attitude that I have it all under control or even know what I’m doing. I want to live under Your direction and I want to be sensitive to the direction of those who have heeded before me and along with me. I want to remember that I’m not a lone player and that I don’t get to write the script, or my script, or any one else’s script, but that You are the Script Writer. I don’t want to look clean on the outside and be a nasty cup on the inside because I’m in control. I want You to be in control, because who in the world am I to even think otherwise? I concede. After all, the temple was just a model of something greater. And Jesus, You told us, “something greater than the temple is here.” And I’m more than willing, I’m desperately in need of surrendering to You because the one who created the temple is greater than the temple. I want You to be God. Don’t let me diminish You in my life or in anyone else’s life. Let me let You be God in my life and all those around me. You know, You’re gonna be God because it’s who You are and I or anyone else can’t stop it. But I can keep myself and others from seeing it. Lord, don’t let that happen. I want to see You as You are. And I want to be an instrument that allows others to see You in Your fullness also.

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Dumb Sheep to Transformed Sheep

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Photo credit to funnypics.com.

“Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth.”  Genesis 7:2-3

Did you ever stop to think that all these pairs of animals walking two by two onto the ark could have a spiritual application?  But I think it really does.  I mean, why did You pick pairs?  Well, that’s a no-brainer, right?  So they could make babies and multiply their kind on the face of the earth.  But is this really just about animals or is this a picture of Your desire for Your children?

I was thinking about something I read last night.  It was talking about leadership, about shepherding.  And it was talking about how most of us in the church have gotten it wrong because we haven’t really been following Your example.  Because if we get back to following Your example, it brings me back to this two by two thing, to this being called and sent in pairs.  And maybe there’s a reason bigger than saving the animals from the flood.

So I go back in time to where You have gathered Your disciples, the twelve.  And they have learned from You and seen You and been witnesses to Your power and Your person.  As a matter of fact, they haven’t arrived all the way in learning everything they need to.  They are still learners.  But Mark tells us that You “called the twelve and began to send them out two by  two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

And that takes me back farther in time, even farther than the animals arriving on the ark in pairs.  It takes me back to Adam and Eve.  If You had wanted us to do things on our own, You would have stopped with Adam, that guy you formed and had name all the animals, that guy who was working and keeping the garden of Eden.  Here’s this guy You made who had everything at his fingertips except that tree of the garden, the one called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  It was just Adam, the animals, the plants, and a responsibility to take care of it all, and no weeds in the deal, just one warning.  I’m pretty sure Adam thought it was good.  But God already knew that wasn’t good for Adam.  There’s no way he could do it sufficiently on his own.

How do I know he wouldn’t be sufficient on his own?  God made a help meet for him.  That’s that ezer kenegdo.  God makes him one to stand beside him, actually face to face.  God makes him one who can sweep down and rescue him like God rescues Israel.  Because the truth is, none of us were created to be islands.  I guess I could think of it just being Eve that was that help meet for him, the warrior woman created to stand face to face with Adam and watch out for him so that he could be everything he was created to be.  But that face to face part just makes me think of this reflection of this image.  And it’s not the reflection of the image of Adam, or Eve, but it’s the reflection of the image of God in them.

Why would You make a help meet for him?  Could it be because he’s not the full image on his own?  Why did You create Eve?  Was she better?  Or did she just complete that image?  Does it take a man and a woman and what You created them both to offer to share Your image the best?  Notice I didn’t say that it takes man and a woman to offer what they want to share Your image best.  But what if this idea of Eve being that help meet, that ezer kenegdo, that warrior woman for man is because You really intended man to be that warrior man for Eve?  What if this help meet for him was intended to be recipricol?  What if You intended for these two that were created to stand face to face, to love and protect and honor and esteem each other like that, each as much as the other?  After all, Paul reminds us to do nothing through selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than ourselves.  We’re not supposed to look at only our own interests, but also to the interests of others, having the same mind as Christ, who”though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  And why did You do that, Jesus?  Is that because You were our Ezer Kenegdo, our Help Meet, from the start?  Well, that put’s a new twist to ezer kenegdo, that help meet idea, doesn’t  it.

Well, that’s a lot of jumping around so let’s jump back up to Luke 10.  Timewise it comes after You send the 12 disciples out by twos to proclaim Your kingdom and heal.  Why by two”s?  Do You want us to learn dependency on each other?  Could we be called to lean on each other as another form of ezer kenegdo?  Is there something vitally important about community and walking this walk in You together?  Just going back to the twelve, You told them not to take anything for their journey, no staff, money, bread, bag, and not even a change of clothes.  They would stay in a stranger’s house who would receive them.  And they did that.  They went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing, and staying with people and getting to know them.  And I suppose that gave people the opportunity to get to know them and see that there was something different about them.

Alright, so I’m only in Luke 9, still looking at the 12, and I haven’t made it to Luke 10 yet.  And I’m looking at these disciples, sent out in community, sent out to build community, and it’s Jesus’ time to share and preach and teach.  And all these people have come out into this far away desolate place just to hear from this Jesus these guys have been telling them about.  Their hearts want more.  And they’re even forgetting about their next meal and forgetting to look at their watches because here they are out in the wilderness, far from home, with nothing to eat, but they want to hear.  Wow, this method of Jesus’, sending out His disciples in community, it seems pretty effective.  It seems like hearts are searching.

Funny thing is that the disciples don’t realize all that’s transpiring.  And then Jesus invites them to be an even closer part of the community.  “You feed them.”  Well, that causes a quandary, doesn’t it?  I suppose if I had just been preaching this wonderful news and healing people of diseases and casting out demons, which I’d never been able to do before, you’d think I might think a little more extraordinarily about things.  But maybe not.  I mean, if I just “flew into Neverland on a pirate ship, you would think my view of reality would be a little more fluid”(from Pan).  But I guess we all miss the obvious when we’re not used to seeing it.

“You give them something to eat.”  “You be my hands and feet.”  “You be my mouth.”  “You be my love.”  “What do we have to give that would be sufficient?”  What’s the answer? “Me, by faith.”  So we obey in community.  If You tell us to have them sit down in groups of 50 each, well, we do it.  And then we wait and we watch, together.  And then we minister together.  We give them what You give us to give them.  We feed them.  And there’s overflow, and we get to see it and be a part of it and reap it’s benefits!  But only in community with You and each other.  And then we reap the benefit of seeing You.  It’s when we come to say and see and know that “You are the Christ of God.”

Oh, there’s more that happened in that chapter, but if you want to know, you’ll have to read it.  But it continues to help us to grow in the knowledge of Christ and in community.  And then after these things, and after more followers, more disciples have been drawn to You, You appoint 72 others and send them ahead of You two by two into every town and place where You Yourself were about to go.  You sent them into a harvest that was ready and waiting.  You sent them into a harvest with few laborers.  You sent them out to pray for more laborers.  It was a doable deal.  You had already sent out 6 pairs of disciples and now there were 36 more pairs to send out.

I think it’s kind of ironic that You sent them out “as lambs in the midst of wolves.”  I just heard again yesterday how stupid sheep are.  That sheep sometimes just fall down because they are afraid or they just start running and running and don’t even think about where they are going.  The comment was made that sheep are probably the dumbest creatures.  So You send out Your disciples as sheep?  As sheep in the midst of wolves?

What if living in community with You and fellow believers so alters this sheep that they don’t respond in the ways people or wolves expect them to respond.  What if these sheep are so in tune to their Master and so in tune to their brothers and sisters that they blow other’s expectations of them away?  What if we’re talking about some radical reactions of some kind of radically recreated sheep?  I mean, who goes out without money, knapsack, sandals, and doesn’t greet everyone on the road.  Who is that focussed?  Who is that obedient?  Who is that certain?  These dumb sheep.  Or maybe more so, these transformed sheep.

I think of Your command in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”  That’s what man and woman were created to do together.  That’s what the body of Christ was created to do in community.  Adam and Eve can’t be fruitful without true community.  And it won’t lead to filling the earth and subduing it in the Lord without living in community with You, Lord.  Animals may be a far stretch, but if they don’t follow out the purpose they were created for, in their own communities, they’ll go extinct.  And extinction could be a real danger for believers who don’t know how to live in community with You and each other.  We’re not called to build our own kingdom our own way.  We’re called to build Your kingdom Your way.  I want to get on board with You.  I want to live in community.  I want to partner with others to bear Your image more fully.  I want to partner with other brothers and sisters so that people see something different, something they would want to come hear more about, something they would forget they were hungry over.

I want to be like those 12 or like the 72 who returned with joy so excited about what You were doing through them.  But I want to remain even more excited that I am Yours forever and You are mine.  My name is written in heaven.  But not just mine.  Look!  Look at all my brothers and sisters names too!  Now that’s exciting!  And it’s exciting to think about the other names that will be added as brothers and sisters as I go out two by two (or even more!) with those already in the Book.  I’m not a dumb sheep any more, I’m a transformed sheep.  I want to walk in the community of other transformed sheep and I want to draw more dumb sheep into the fold so they can be transformed.  And that’s right in line with Your will so I can’t think of a better place to be than right there, in the middle of Your fold, listening to Your voice, and helping others to come so they can hear.

“Soaking In” the Grace of God

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“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything you are enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you; so that you come behind in no gift…”  1 Corinthians 1:4-7a

Can you imagine someone being thankful like that for you?  Can you imagine having someone in your life that really felt that way?  “I thank God always, every day, all the time for you and on your behalf!”  Can you imagine someone praying for you like that?  I can.  But I couldn’t always.  What a precious treasure.  And what a precious treasure to be the one thankful and praying like that for someone else and what God has done and is doing in them!

There’s more than one way to soak these words in.  I can soak them in for myself.  And I should.  I need to.  Because if I don’t understand these truths for myself first, how can I help others to understand?  In 2003, I soaked these words in that way.  Here’s my meditations:

Thank You, Lord for the grace of God which has been given me by Jesus Christ.  You make me thoroughly and wholly wealthy in my speech and thought, my reasoning and motives, in doctrine, my word and works, and in all knowledge, so that the evidence of Christ is established in me and has brought and is bringing results.  I shall never lack grace from the moment of my salvation unto the day of the revelation, the full revealing of You, Jesus.  (As a thought today, You showed me grace in drawing me to You even before salvation!  It was all a part of Your ongoing saving!)  You shall establish me unto the end so that I will be without fault when I come to stand before and with You.  This is the work You have begun and have promised to finish.  I should learn to look to what You are doing in me and what You will do, rather than dwelling on what I have done wrong.  Instead of living in regret, I should be living in hope with the comfort of grace.  Oh, Lord, give me a true intimate knowledge of Your grace, true understanding of my heart, soul, and mind; not just a book knowledge.  I don’t just want to know about grace, I want to know and experience grace.  I want to be able to offer the same grace to those whose lives come in contact with me. Help me to utilize and realize the wealth of grace You have given me.

So I soaked these words in for myself.  And I started to understand how understanding them, knowing them, experiencing them as a reality in my life, would effect what I have to offer others.  See, being a believer, being a Christian, isn’t just about what You do in and for me.  It’s about what You do in and for me so that I can by Your light to others.  What You do in me is not just relational between You and me, but it’s intended to develop relationships between You and others by me being a channel of You to them.

How grateful am I for the others that are even beginning to listen to You?  How grateful am I to see others sit at Your feet for the first time or the “umpteenth” time?  Do I thank You, Lord, on their behalf?  Because maybe they don’t realize yet what a wonderful thing is beginning.  Maybe they are caught up in problems and even as believers, they are forgetting to be thankful and rejoice in You.  But what if I remember?  What if my remembering reminds them?  What if my remembering encourages them because it reminds them of how much You are remembering them and how much You are delighting in them just being Yours?

Those praying for me aren’t praying for me because I’m so perfect.  Oh, they know I’m far from that.  Some of them know my every failure.  But here’s what they are praying for, just like Paul, that You, Lord, are the mighty One step by step having Your glorious way in me!  They are thanking You that I am Yours and You are mine and that You are at work in me and evidences show.  That’s the grace of God!  That’s the grace of God in me!  That’s what I must rejoice about in others.  You know, I might not even see the evidence sometimes in their lives, but I can pray and thank You, God, on their behalf, because of who You are.

I can and must be thankful that You, God, are the one who enriches each one of us in You and in Your ways.  Whether it’s Paul or some new believer who has never even heard of You, You are the One doing the work and enriching us.  You enrich us in You in what we speak and share and how we speak and share.  You enrich us in knowledge, this true knowledge of You that comes from something deeper than book knowledge, that comes from experiencing You and seeing You manifested in our lives and our time with You and our prayers and our thoughts.

See, it’s all about the testimony of Christ, of You, in us.  And here You say that the testimony, or the evidence of You is confirmed in us.  And because You are confirming it in us, and others are seeing and being influenced by that confirmation, You are so delighted and just keep on working Your work in us.  It brings You pleasure to make us more like You.  As You do, we’re not lacking any gifts we need for the work You place ahead of us, for the people You place in our paths, and for the circumstances You place in our lives.  I can’t fall short or be deficient because as long as I am trusting in You and obeying and following You, You will never fall short or be deficient and it’s all about Your work in me.  I only fall short when I don’t submit because You can never fall short.  And this is the work that You are doing in each of us, every one of us who surrenders to You and to Your will in our everyday, moment by moment lives.  And we’re called, by example here, to rejoice and encourage one another by remembering the work that You are doing.

There are times when we have to look at ourselves and listen and obey Your voice for our lives and our correction.  But we can’t just stay there.  Maturity is learning to walk with others, to help them listen and obey Your voice, to rejoice with You in them and their walk with You.  Maturity is realizing Your hand not only over my life, but over the lives of those around me.  May I, like Paul, learn to always thank You, Lord, for the work of grace that You are doing not only in my life, but in the lives around me.  May I ever lift them up before You in prayer and thanksgiving to You.  And may that be as encouraging to them as it is to me.