Living in the Spirit- Part 4- Ultimate Delight

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“…so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God…For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.”  1 Peter 4: 2,6

It’s easy to hear the words to live “for the will of God.”  It’s great to know that we can and ought to “live in the spirit the way God does.”  It’s even better news to hear that the gospel is telling us this is attainable.  It’s not only saying it’s attainable, but that this is the goal and design of God.  It’s great to hear all this, but how do we get there?

I don’t get there by listening only.  Hearing, for the Jew, meant to listen and apply to ones life.  That’s why Peter has been telling us practical ways of applying our lives and thoughts and actions to living in the will and spirit of the Lord.  That’s why Paul and the other authors of scripture, guided by the Holy Spirit, shared the same, and showed what it looked like walking it out and what it doesn’t look like when we aren’t walking it out. 

The other day I got to share, “walk out,” and think about Jesus through the time he stayed back at the temple as a 12 year old youth.  And when his parents came back and finally found him, he was surprised that they didn’t know where to look for him and answered, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  Only, the original Greek doesn’t say that.  It says, “in my Father’s these,” a weird construction we don’t quite know how to put together at first.  But maybe it’s more than being in the house of God?

What if it’s more of something like, “I must be in my Father’s every moment, every move.  I must be in the midst of my Father and what He is doing and where He is.”?  What if it’s a fluidness matched by solidness to be lined up with the spirit of God wherever, whenever, whatever we are doing?  Skip Moen shared, “All of who I am is about what God wants.  The context of my life supplies the meaning.  Life is not about you.  It’s about abiding under Him and under the others we serve.  We know that it’s about everything we have, everything we are and everything we hope to be.  We know that it’s about perfect completion of His purposes.  And now we see that it’s about context.  What is the context of your life? Is it all about God?”  For Jesus it was and is.

I can’t help but ask, “What was Jesus’ gain by being there?”  I ask that because now I’m looking at His words in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”   What was Jesus’ reason, his driving force to do what he did? What was the “joy set before him” that he endured the cross for?  What if that joy had nothing to do with being crowned, or being seated at the right hand of God, or looking at my smiling face in heaven, or any of the things we imagine as wonderful rewards?  What if the joy set before him, was the joy of delighting His Father, the joy of delighting with the Father wholly again?  What if seeking first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness trumps all the things added to us?

In other words, what if delighting God is our whole motivation?  And what if, when that becomes my whole motivation, I find that God is my greatest delight?  What if that changes my desires by the power of His delight?  I mean, isn’t that why the Lord sends us His Holy Spirit, that I might know the delight of the Lord and live in that?  That I might, like Jesus, know my Fathers’ these?

God knows us.  Unlike Jesus, we don’t always say, “Yes, Father,” and do it.  That’s why Jesus told the parable of the two sons, the one who said, “Yes, Father, “ but never did it; and the one who said, “No, Father,” but then went and did what the Father asked.  It’s not our words that make or break us, it’s what we do with our Father’s request.

Another thing I miss if I don’t live in the will of God, is being part of His family.  Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”  There is no earthly family that has the closeness, love, and protection that there is in the family of God.  It goes beyond the color of our skin and our bloodlines.  It goes beyond physical boundaries.  It goes beyond the past, the here and now, and our future, into eternity.  Things can separate us from our earthly families, but nothing can separate us from the love of God.

And here’s the beauty of being in that family of God—it’s available to anyone who will believe in the “wholeness” of Jesus, of who he is, and why he came, and what he did, and that he is who God said he was.  Through Jesus, he gives us “the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  If I want to live by the spirit of God I must be born by the spirit His way, not mine.  I must let him change me.  I must submit to His ways, His life, His delight.

I’m led to think about that blind man, blind from birth, who Jesus healed.  And the leaders didn’t want to believe him.  And that amazed this unlearned blind man how they couldn’t see the great thing that had been done and that it had to be of God.  And he winds up teaching them the gospel truth!  “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does his will, God listens to him.”  That’s beautiful.  But it’s not saying the imperfect aren’t welcome or can’t come.  If you want to know what it means, find out what it means to worship God.

What does it mean to worship God?  Does it mean to follow some ritual?  Why did so many of the Pharisees and scribes miss out on getting it?  Why did this poor “sinner” find the truth?  How can I, a poor sinner, find the truth?

It starts with delighting in the Lord.  Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  I don’t delight myself in You, because of what I get from or in You.  I delight myself in You because I, like the blind man, have come to know that You are my shear delight!  I can delight in You like nothing and noone else.  You alone are worthy of my delight.  You are DELIGHTABLE just by nature of who You are!  The getting my desires of my heart part is just the bonus that comes from knowing You and experiencing You.  Delighting in You is where doing Your will in my life flows from.  It’s no longer a chore but a beautiful blessing.

When I delight myself in You Lord, everything else falls in place.  I will want to commit my way to You.  I will trust in You.  That is when I see You act time and time again.  You will bring forth my righteousness.  I will learn to exhibit Your justice.  I will be able to wait patiently for You.  I won’t have to fret over the evil in life because I know that You have overcome and everything is flowing in the direction You want.  Despite the evil, despite the persecution, despite the pain, I know that Your will is coming to pass and one day, in Your time, it will be completed both in me and in this world, and You are including me as part of that necessary process.

What’s the answer when things aren’t going my way, or even when things are absolutely against me?  “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”  (Psalm 37:7,8)  In other words, if I know You, Lord, I ought to live as though I do.  I ought to think as though I do.  I ought to respond as though I do.  And not just like I know You, but as though I am in You and You in me, as though Your Holy Spirit empowers me to live as You and bring healing and love, rather than a response from my flesh that harms and destroys. 

Believing isn’t just about agreeing with a creed, nor is it about obeying your commands.  Scripture says the demons believe, and sometimes they obey You too!  But there isn’t one demon who delights in You.  There isn’t one demon who allows You, with joy, to lead and direct the desires of their heart and the actions and responses of their lives.  There is not one demon who desires to line their emotions up with Yours.  Not one!  And there is not one demon who loves the fact that You are LORD of lords and KING of kings.  But I do.  And I love that You are my King and my Lord and I want You to have Your way in my heart and my life in every situation in my life and beyond forever!

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To Untwisted Humility

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Photo credit to bibleplaces.com

 

“Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude: ‘Whom are you like in your greatness?’” Ezekiel 31:2

 
Maybe that’s a question we all ought to ask ourselves. “Who am I like in my ‘greatness’?” First of all, who am I comparing myself to? Am I really comparing myself to Greatness itself? Who am I lining myself up with? Do I think more of myself than I ought?
Maybe Pharaoh should have thought more about who he was comparing his greatness to. I mean, it wasn’t like he wasn’t great. Egypt had been a world power and then had been subjugated by Assyria but had made a comeback. Smaller nations looked to them as great again. The Expositor’s Bible says that verse 3, where it tells about the Assyrian, should be translated as “T’asshur,” which is the name of the sherbin tree, which was a cedar in Lebanon that was unrivaled among the other stately forest trees.

 
Egypt was like that great tree. But how did he get like that great tree? How did he get to be so great like this cedar in the garden of God that the others “could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his bough, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty”? Was he so great and beautiful for himself? If so, why is the picture of God’s garden? Was everything in God’s garden created for it’s own esoteric majesty? Or was it created from and for the majesty of something greater?

 
Who made Egypt great? Who made the greatness of the cedar? “I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him.” Who said that? God. God had made him, Egypt, so great that others noticed and envied his greatness. God did it. God made Egypt great because all greatness comes from God. Without God there is no greatness.

 
What happened to Egypt. “Therefore thus says the Lord God; ‘Because you have lifted up yourself in height, and he has shot up his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height; I have therefore delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen; he shall surely deal with him: I have driven him out for his wickedness.’” What was the wickedness? It was puffing up his own greatness and forgetting where all good things and therefore all great things come from.

 
Let me think about that. “His heart is lifted up in his height.” His heart. That’s not just about his emotions. That’s about his mind, will, and emotions. It’s the part that drives the way I think and the actions I take. It’s the me of me. Only here it’s the me not as I was created to be, but the me that I desire to make myself to be. It’s the me that I lift up, that I raise. It’s when I exalt myself, my ways, my will, my emotions above God’s. It’s a haughtiness and pride. It’s presumptuousness and pride. It’s setting myself up. Actually, Strong’s Concordance says the word ruym even means to breed worms. Yep, I think when this is my philosophy of life, as it was for Pharaoh, it’s truly creating a can of worms. And when you think about it, being a worm isn’t something to be proud of.

 
When David cries out, in words that expressed his heart and humbleness before God, in words that also spoke prophetically from the heart of the Messiah, we hear, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Here’s David, king of Israel, a worm? It’s a different word than ruym. It’s tola, and a more of a maggoty type of worm used to dye clothes scarlet. Think about that. Did David see himself as something great in himself? Obviously not at this moment. Shortly after this in Psalm 22:8 he continues, “He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver him: let Him deliver him, seeing He delighted in him.” God was his establisher and rescuer. And what of Jesus? I mean, come on, Jesus was the Son of God. You can’t get much higher than that? How did Jesus’ heart handle that knowledge? How did He handle that pat on the back, that commendation?

 
Let’s look at that question. How can I look at how Jesus, the Son of God, the Top Dog of top dogs, handled His authority and His power? How can I be put into a proper perspective of my own life from His? Paul thought about this. He shared his thinking with others. He lived by this thinking, this understanding and fellowship with Christ in God. As a matter of fact, he calls it encouragement in Christ. He calls it encouragement in Christ that gives comfort from love and that is all about participation with the Holy Spirit, affection and sympathy, completeness of joy, unity of mind and love. It’s devoid of selfish ambition or conceit. Wow, that’s just the opposite of Pharaoh’s problem, isn’t it? It counts others as worth more than myself and lifts their significance above mine, which must mean that I’m thinking about God’s significance more than mine.

 
It’s not like I don’t have concerns for myself. I still need food and shelter and love and other things. But it’s not just about me when I look through God’s perspective. I’m not alone. There’s this world with others in it affected just like me, with needs just like me, and maybe even greater. It’s bigger than me and better than me and interrelated with others. But it’s not just about us either. This whole encouragement is that it’s all wrapped up in God. And I can’t get the true gist of life without understanding how to look at it and understand it through the mind of Jesus Christ. If I don’t think like Him about it, my whole view of myself and others and the world and God will be distorted. So how did Jesus think about it?

 
Jesus, who was God, didn’t stop to think about whom He was like in greatness. Jesus kept His eyes on the greatness of God. His whole desire was to make much of God. And that is so fascinating. Why? Because He was God!  Here He was in the form of God, only He didn’t cling like glue to that as His claim to fame. His equality wasn’t what floated His boat. You know what He valued? God. He humbled Himself and emptied Himself. He lowered Himself to take on the form of a servant, of a man. Imagine that!  Jesus, God in human form, lowered Himself to come through the birth canal of a woman! That’s pretty inglorious and undignified if you ask me, I mean for the God of the universe? It’s an amazing process for us, after all, we’re worms, but God?

 
So here Jesus was, with us humans looking on, and counting Him, you know, God, as one of us. And we didn’t even realize the wonder of it all, the majesty of who was walking with us. But instead of being angry at us, instead of retaliating in His pride, He humbled Himself and became obedient to God the Father unto death, even that terrible death on the cross. Where was His pride? Where was His authority? Where was His heart? Obviously, not lifted up in Himself but lifted up in His Heavenly Father and lifting us up to Him.

 
So what does God, the Heavenly Father do? He highly exalts Him. He lifts Jesus up and makes Him the Height of heights. He makes Jesus the tallest tree, to which all else bows, whether of earth or of heaven. This is the attitude of the Lord. This is the attitude of the true King. This is the heart that God exalts, one who understands and lives in the humility of knowing Who we really belong to and Who is really sovereign.

 
I don’t work in me to make myself anything of eternal value. Oh, I could raise myself in the status of this world, but it won’t give me status in God’s eyes. Only God can do that and I can only get there through submission and humility to Him. And if I am truly learning to be humble before my God, then my life will demonstrate humility before others. Pharaoh should have worked out his own salvation with fear and trembling, meditating on the God who delivered the Israelites in such a powerful way. But he, like many of us, ignored the truth, and was too busy working things out his own way, in his own strength.

 

We still live in a crooked and twisted generation, but today is the day that we can untwist and get back to what we were created for. Today is the day that I can be a light shining in a twisted world to show it how to untwist. Today is the day that I can uncorrupt my thinking and my living and humble myself before my Maker and follow Christ into the heart of God. And I can be a part of leading others to His heart and out of corruption. Why? Because it’s not about me. “For it is God which works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) I’m God’s workmanship, not my own. I’ve got nothing to boast in outside of Him. I wouldn’t even be here without Him. My prayer is that my heart- my mind, my will, and my emotions- would be conformed to Your heart. May You be exalted in my life and may my life boast of You before the world. May Your greatness be my glory.

Got Heart?

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Artwork credit to Brittany Cunningham.

 

“…say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, ‘Hear the word of the Lord’…Likewise, thou son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, which prophesy out of their own heart…” (Ezekiel 13:2,17)

 
God is warning of some scathing punishment here. What for? Because the prophets and prophetesses were living and leading “out of their own hearts.” They should have been living and leading with hearts in tune with God’s heart, but instead they were telling lying prophesies and teaching false superstitious beliefs. There’s a terrible problem when we choose to follow our own heart if it’s not under the influence of God. After all, Jeremiah tells us “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Well, obviously God can know it, and show it, and correct it if we turn our hearts over to Him.

 
Let’s not just think that we’re only talking about our feelings when we talk about our hearts in Scripture. Let’s remember that it incorporates our feelings, our intellect, and even our will. That’s the problem. We want to esteem our will, even above God’s will. We want our life and everyone else’s to be about our feelings, our thoughts, and our will. But it’s not. And we hate to admit that. We hate to think that there is something bigger and more to life than us and than now. But Jesus warned, “whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matthew 21:44) See, none of us get to stand on this stone like a pedestal for ourselves. Jesus is the only foundation in God who is counted worthy of pre-eminence. The rest of us are called to fall before him. That takes submission. And we can’t come to God unless we submit to Him, and let Him change our hearts and mold them to His and His alone.

 

Watchman Nee said, “Faith is the principle by which we receive life, while submission is the principle by which we conduct our living.” Actually, I don’t see a way to separate the two. It takes submission to demonstrate faith and faith to submit. Why was tragedy preparing to strike God’s people? Because they were living outside of “the realm of God’s authority.” The sad thing is that those who had been acting like the authorities, like the head, should have known how to submit before God and others because they were the “religious” leaders. But maybe the truth is that some of us have never really known submission. And maybe it’s just as important to learn today, as it was then.

 

The truth is that God is Authority over authorities. All authorities are appointed by Him. Therefore, every one of us is called to submit, first to His authority, and then to those authorities He has appointed. God pronounced woe on the foolish prophets of Ezekiel’s time for following “their own spirit.” That’s that word ruach, which is also used of the Holy Spirit, and the spirit that was placed in man when God breathed life into him. But without God’s Spirit, the spirit of man is powerless and empty. Without a spirit of submission, we are nothing. Without being trained in submission we learn nothing. Look at Jesus’ training. Understand the magnitude of the example that Christ set for us. He submitted under parents. He submitted under the religious authorities. He submitted under the hurt and sick when He stopped to listen to them and asked their desire. He submitted to the Father by humbling Himself voluntarily to wash the feet of His disciples, and to withstand the cross. He was God. Did God deserve this? Didn’t He have the right to fight back? But Jesus was submitted to the will and Spirit of God and not even His own will. This is what I must learn. My life and the life of those around me depend on how well I learn and live our this lesson on submission.

 

Nadab and Abihu submitted to their own hearts instead of God. They submitted to their own hearts instead of the instruction of their Father Aaron, the priest. Therefore they served up strange fire before the Lord and were struck down. Why was it strange fire? It was unrecognizable as a sacrifice because it was not what was authorized and it was not given in a submissive spirit. Nadab and Abihu had something in common with the prophets and prophetesses of Ezekiel’s day. They refused to take orders and disregarded authority. They obeyed their own hearts instead.

 

We can’t serve God our way. It doesn’t work that way. God is so much more than us, how could we ever determine what is acceptable? God is even our “originator” so it makes sense that He would be the originator of what is appropriate for service to Him. Come on. I’m only human but if you want to give me a gift that shows me You care, give me a gift that touches my heart, not yours. That’s how I know You care about me. Is it so far fetched that one must know God’s heart to give Him what is acceptable to Himself? After all, we can only serve Him through submission to Him. When I submit to His heart and will and intellect, I am accepted. But strange fire is serving from my own heart, will, and intellect and not thinking about God at all. Strange fire is serving without submission. It may be zealous, but it’s zealousness over me and not over God.

 

It’s not the gift that is important to God; it’s the heart of submission. Samuel reminded Saul, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22) How we handle God’s authority matters. It’s a heart revealer. We need to not be so concerned with leading everybody but be most concerned with following first. If I can’t follow God, I can’t lead. And if I know how to follow God, then I know how to be a complement to the others following God around me. Submitting to God means I learn how to submit to others. Am I more than my Master who submitted?

 

The work is not up to me; it’s up to God, and God works always in unity. Therefore, the work is up to us, to work together in submission before God and one to another. We are one corporate body with the heart of God, not many individual hearts all doing their own thing. That causes division. I need to get rid of any individualist mentality I’ve been harboring. If I meet God first and foremost as my authority, then I can submit to those under Him as authorities in Him. They are not just fathers, mothers, brothers, or sisters, but they are His chosen ones. I can’t serve God without submission.

 

A submissive heart to God cares for the things of God. When Saul was chasing David, David cut off the skirt of his cloak. He didn’t hurt Saul yet it bothered his heart. Why? Didn’t Jesus say that the thought is the same thing as doing the deed? Watchman Nee shared, “What we condemn is not just murder; even the cutting off of another’s garment with a little knife is wrong and is rebellion. Backbiting, an evil eye, or a grudge in the heart may not be murder, but they are similar to the cutting off of another’s garment, and they proceed from a spirit of rebellion.” This was a funny situation here. David had been anointed as king. Saul had been anointed first and already was king. Saul was in rebellion to God. Yet David knew he was still the anointed king. David, not Saul, was submitted to God and waiting on God’s timing. He was sensitive to the heart and will of God. He submitted to God and to King Saul by honoring Saul’s kingship. Why? Because He was submitted to God first and foremost.

 

Peter tells us, “For this is thank worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.” could this conscience toward God be for the heart of God and in submission to Him? Could it be because I care more for the honor and glory and person of God than my own welfare? Is that what David understood? Is that how Jesus lived? Was this concept perfected in them through their sufferings? Are sufferings the test of obedience? Would I rather complain and show frustration than learn to submit?

 

Do I want to be apart of establishing God’s kingdom on earth? Then I need to learn submission. Jesus never opposed God’s authority. What about me? What about the church? What about the fellowship of believers? Is God going to find our works perfect? Or are we offering strange fire? A little submission is a far cry from perfect submission.

 

Obedience, faith, and submission all go hand in hand. Do I really know God and obey the Gospel? (2 Thessalonians 1:8) If not, I’m in rebellion. Am I disobedient to the truth? (Romans 2:8) Believing is obeying. And what did Paul say first upon believing? “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10) He believed, obeyed, and submitted to His authority.

 

So many of us have strong feelings. We may even have strong feelings about sin. But somehow we have no feelings about rebellion. Oh, maybe rebellion in someone else against us, but not of our own rebellion. I need to recognize my own rebellion toward God and the authorities He has placed in my life. I need to seek His heart in my submission to them just like Jesus did or Paul did.

 

Am I too busy chasing the desires of my own heart? Or am I more concerned with Your heart, Lord? Am I willing to fall upon the rock of Jesus in willing submission, or am I waiting to be crushed in my rebellion? How deceitful is my heart? Will I turn it over to You, the only one who knows my heart and the only one who can change it and give me a new heart? Through salvation, God enables us to have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16) In truth, do I understand that I am a servant? Therefore I am called to be obedient to those who God has placed as my “masters” and “serve with singleness of heart, as unto Christ; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” (Ephesians 6:5,6) Have I got a heart? If so, who does it belong to?

Authority and the Universe

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Photo credit to grand_universe_by_antifan_real1.jpg

 

“He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power…” Hebrews 1:3

 

Well, I’m still thinking about what it’s like in Your eyes, God, for me not to be rebellious. And today I’m thinking about more of what Watchman Nee shared about You. He takes me back to Hebrews 1:3, “He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power…” Now, to think that it’s just by His power and shear force isn’t the idea here, is it? Isn’t it “by the word of His power”? What does that mean? Does that mean by His authority? And in His authority, is His power demonstrated through His works?

 
Authority is crucial. This is telling us that God is the only authority in all the universe. To act otherwise, or to think otherwise is rebellion. I remember the story, that true story of the roman centurion who came to Jesus that day because his beloved servant was dying. And he knew what it was to be an authority over others. But he also knew what it was to be under authority. Because of that, he understood how Jesus only had to speak and it would be done. Why? Because he knew that Jesus had the authority from God. Therefore, he knew that Jesus had the power to go with it. And Jesus made this statement of the centurion, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:9) I wonder if Jesus would find that kind of faith not only in the world today, but in the church, the body of Christ?

 
Remember what Watchman Nee said? “Sin is a matter of conduct; it is easy to be forgiven of sin. But rebellion is a matter of principle; it is not easy to be forgiven of rebellion.” This is such an important lesson to learn. If I can learn this, I can learn anything. Satan fell to the principle of rebellion through self-exaltation. He violated the throne of God by trying to set up his own throne higher. The principle came before the fall. The principle was the cause of the fall. Rebellion was the song of his heart, rebellion against the authority of God. That’s why he was condemned. He refused to submit and still refuses. It’s a matter of principle for him. Isn’t it always?

 
Therefore he tries to make it a matter of principle for us too. That’s why he doesn’t want us to submit to Christ’s authority. If I do, then my principles will change. I can’t serve two masters and I can’t live with opposing principles. Maybe what I have to realize is who the kingdom really belongs to. Is it God’s or does it belong to a usurper? If it’s God’s kingdom and His creation then it is truly and only under His authority. No one can steal that from Him. Will I submit fully to His authority? Or will I run around as though the kingdom is of my creation? Isn’t that shear foolishness?

 
What does it mean to preach the Gospel? Isn’t that bringing others under God’s authority? To do that, don’t I have to be under God’s authority first? How can I establish God’s authority on earth, you know, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” if I don’t already know and submit under Your authority?

 
Isn’t that the whole issue? Isn’t that the principle being fought over daily? Who has the authority? Who gets to determine if abortion is right or wrong? Who gets to determine if I can slaughter others because they don’t hold to my religious tenets? Who gets to tell me what I can or can’t do? Who gets to tell me what is evil or good? Who has the right to control me?

 
In all the universe, who has authority? Is authority with me who has no ability to create something from nothing? Is authority with me, the created? Or is authority with God, the Creator and Sustainer? And if authority is with God, then I must choose to submit myself to His authority and uphold it.

 
Watchman Nee related the story of Paul and Ananias. Remember Paul? He was following his own authority and the religious authority but unwittingly rebelling against God’s authority. But on the road to Damascus, he met God’s authority face to face. He realized it. Instead of pressing on and continuing to “kick against the goads” he asked, “What must I do?” He submitted. And God sent him to a house to wait. Then we have one of the most powerful, intelligent men of his time (yes, that’s Paul), being ministered to by this small, insignificant brother named Ananias. Yet, Paul submitted to this brother. He was no longer ruled by self-confidence. He let Ananias be used to remove his blindness instead of holding onto it in his pride. In his brokenness, he was learning to submit. Have I understood brokenness yet? Do I know what it is to submit? Do I live as though I understand Your authority, God? How am I at submitting to those around me that You place in authority?

 
“God’s greatest demand on man is submission.” Think about that. It’s also the hardest, isn’t it? And with submission comes obedience. But neither will happen unless I get self out of the picture. I suppose submission is a principle but obedience is about conduct. Therefore, our obedience could be selfishly given. But obedience in submission is about living in the spirit. It’s about expressing and responding to God’s will and not mine.
The best example is to look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. If I want to see true submission to God’s authority and to understand obedience in submission, here it is. Sometimes we tend to emphasize that Jesus came to earth to pursue the cross. But that’s not true. Jesus came to pursue the will of God. The will of God led Him to the cross. He got to the cross because He was fully submitted to the authority of God. His full submission gave Him the right to be the sacrifice on the cross. Any lack of submission on His part would have nullified the efficacy of the cross. The efficacy of the cross was in the submissive obedience of Christ to the authority of God.

 
What was the most important thing to Christ? Was it the cross? We hear Him ask “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” But He waited and listened for the will of God. To Him, the cross was not absolute, but the will of God was. It had nothing to do with His own will. Obviously, He was agonizing over the thought of going to the cross. But He knew it wasn’t about His own preference. “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” If the cross was God’s will, then it was His will also. Is my will the principle I live by or am I making His will the principle that I live by?

 
What did Jesus mean when He said, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38)? Or when He told His disciples again in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”? Is that about suffering and sacrifice? Or is it really about denying self and coming under the authority of God by full submission to His will no matter the cost? Does it mean that God’s will becomes my will and that I no longer have a will aside from His? Does that mean that my feelings don’t matter if they don’t agree with His will? Does that mean that His authority, His principles, His desire, and His will mean more to me than my own feelings, my own desires, and my own life? It did for Jesus.

 
Watchman Nee shares, “A will is the representative of an authority. Hence, when submission comes from knowing God’s will, that submission is a submission to authority. If there is no prayer and no willingness to know God’s will, how can there be submission to authority?” Jesus demonstrated His submission in the garden. When He knew God’s will, He immediately submitted, “Arise, let us be going.” (Matthew 26:46) Because of Christ’s submission to God’s authority, the cross is the center of the universe. It’s the utmost example of upholding the authority of God (His will) above everything.
Learning to submit to God’s authority is not something to be taken lightly. It means everything to my walk as a believer. Do we forget to listen to Jesus’ very own words? “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) I have to do more than verbally and mentally acknowledge You as Lord. I have to submit to You as Lord of my life and all life. It’s not just to be used as a respectful title, this Greek word. It means to be supreme in authority, controller. If Jesus is my God, then I let Him be my God. If He is my Lord, then I let Him Lord over me. If He is my master, then He is truly my master. If this is who You are to me, then it is who You are all the time, every day, every moment.

 
If You really are Lord of me, then I don’t just do Your will because I’m following mandates. It’s really about this word I love, poieo. It’s like the art that flows out of an artist or the poem that flows out of the poet. It’s the will and pleasure of the Father that comes to flow out of me because You flow through me. If I say that You are my Lord and my will flows out and I call it Your will, it still isn’t Your will, but mine. Overturning Your authority is attempting to overturn You and it shows I don’t know You at all, because how can You be overturned? You are God. Acting on my own authority, my own will is rebellion and Scripture says it’s like the sin of “witchcraft, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry” ( 1 Samuel 15:23) because it’s rejecting God’s authority. Imagine what it would be like to have Jesus look at me and tell me He never knew me because all I ever did was do things my way instead of His? Imagine Jesus calling me lawless and telling me that I purposefully engaged in and ministered in wickedness. That’s what I’m doing when I don’t submit. That’s what I’m doing when I don’t hand absolute authority over to God.

 
I can’t have a true relationship with God without being truly submitted to His authority. Don’t be fooled. You can’t come to Jesus to get out of hell, if you don’t come to Jesus to live. Unless God’s authority becomes my life blood, I haven’t got life at all. Once I touch His authority, once I begin to understand it’s necessity in my life, then I can be conformed into His image, and then He can begin to use me as His instrument. This is when I begin to resemble Him as His very own child and not until then.

 
Working and living outside of God’s will isn’t a bad thing. It’s a tragic thing. It’s Satanic and we shouldn’t keep taking it so lightly. It’s the difference between life or death, blessing or damnation. Jesus wasn’t joking when He said that only those who do the Father’s will can enter the kingdom of heaven. Think about it. Think about Jesus as He walked on earth. Think about each situation. Think about the boat as He slept in the middle of the storm. Think about the kiss from Judas. Think about the agony in the garden. Think about disciples misunderstanding. Think about people saying mean things. Did Jesus account His response to His feelings? Did He just rotely shoot off a Scripture truth? Or did He know the heart of God, and did He seek the heart of God, before He responded? Is that how I respond to Your authority? Is that how I seek to know how You would want me to respond? Do You really control me or am I still letting my feelings and rights and hopes and dreams cling to control? Does my heart need to cry out, “Witchcraft! Stubbornness! Idolatry! Turn back! Turn back!”?

 
Whose side am I really on? Am I clinging to God’s authority and living in it and find comfort there no matter the circumstances? Or am I clinging to Satan’s rebellion. See, two things go hand in hand here: “believing unto salvation and submitting to authority.” I can’t separate the two or I’m not saved at all. I don’t get to trust or obey; it must be trust and obey. Sin is lawlessness and lawlessness is disrespect and disregarding God’s authority. It’s a matter of heart and attitude. Will I submit them both? Where am I? Whose side am I really on? What drives my conduct? Will You know me, Jesus, when I come before You, or will You not recognize me as Yours at all? I can know the answer now. I can know based on my submission to Your will each and every day. I can know by the life that flows out of me from You when You are truly Lord of me.

Love Your Wife Again

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Photo credit to Alamy.

 

“Then the LORD told me: “Go love your wife again, even though she is loved by others and has committed adultery. Love her as I, the LORD, love the Israelites, even though they have turned to other gods and love to eat raisin cakes.” Hosea 3:1

 
This is such an amazing life story that is being shared through Hosea. Just in this one verse there are so many questions to be asked and things to think about. And I wonder if we need to look back at Hosea 1:2.  We hear the the LORD speaking to Hosea and saying, “Go, take unto you a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry; for the land does commit great harlotry, departing from the LORD.” Now, here is the thing. Did Hosea just run out and choose any old prostitute out there? Or had Hosea chosen a woman that he was attracted to and wanted to bestow his love upon, only to come to find out that this would be a part of her nature? This is a question I have been posed with and I think it matters.

 
Because if Hosea was to take a wife of harlotry unto himself then that must make me think of how he would be choosing children of harlotry, because the children weren’t to be produced until after the marriage. Therefore, if the children yet to be produced would be children that choose harlotry after their conception and birth, then it would appear that the wife would be one that chose harlotry despite her marriage relationship after it was consumed. But why does that matter?

 
It matters because Hosea already loved Gomer. When he had set his eyes upon her she was not a harlot. That expression “a wife of harlotry” is from the Hebrew words “esheth zenunim.” Skip Moen, who has more knowledge of the Hebrew than I do, says that if she had already been a prostitute, the Hebrew words would have been “ishah zonah.” But using esheth with the adjective zenunim tells us more of what she became according to the desire or propensity of the leaning of her heart. Gomer became a harlot by choosing unfaithfulness. She had this hidden propensity when she married Hosea, but God already knew her propensity and told Hosea to keep on with the marriage and go with his heart because God could use this for His glory. This was the perfect picture of what was happening with the hearts of Israel in their relationship with God Himself. While claiming Hosea as her husband, Gomer desired other men. And raisin cakes aren’t at all about the snack of choice. That’s what one ate when one was involved in the fertility cults. Gomer’s originally hidden heart was already deeply entrenched in unfaithfulness though Hosea was entrenched in love and faithfulness from the start.

 
Isn’t it funny that this talk of unfaithfulness makes me think about what faithfulness looks like. And if esheth zenunim is connected with idolatry, adultery, and unfaithfulness, it makes me think of another combination of Hebrew words which is quite the opposite, “esheth hayil.” Esheth hayil is that valiant woman that is found in Proberbs 31:10 and Ruth 3:11. And the truth is it’s not true of “everywoman.” This is a woman who has “risen above others.” (Jacqueline Vayntrub) Only Jacqueline feels she’s unrealistic. I think she has done more than rise above others. I think she has learned to rise above herself. And I don’t think she is unrealistic. I think I have seen her represented in women who choose the good of God and the good of others before themselves. I see it in women who desire the joy of God as their heart’s desire. And they are not perfect but they are in the perpetual process of being perfected. They weren’t born here. They made many choices that brought them to Proverbs 31 or Ruth 3. And they were not easy choices. They were self-sacrificial and hard choices. They were the kind of choices that Jesus made for us. It’s the kind of love choice that Hosea made for Gomer and God made for Israel and us. It’s the kind of choice any man or woman can make for God and those under their influence.

 
Gomer was presently incapable of love. Why? Did Hosea or God make her that way? No. She chose false love instead of true love. She chose unfaithfulness instead of faithfulness. What she valued was a lie and so she couldn’t understand the depth and breadth and height of the love that was just waiting to be lavished upon her. The sad thing is that we have a tendency to do the same to God. Gomer is not the only one.

 
This isn’t just a story of Hosea and Gomer. This is a love story. This is a story of the measure of God’s love for His bride, His people. He loved us before we ever loved Him. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven.” (1 John 4:10) Hosea didn’t just run out and grab any prostitute. God didn’t just run out and grab some sinful, idol worshippers. He loved us before that was who we were. He loved us before our hearts turned away. He loves us through the turning of hearts. And he loves us all the way back to the return of our hearts to Him. But until we come to the realization of the immensity of Your love for us, that You loved us first so much, then how can we know how to love? You set the example. And just like You showed us what love looks like through Christ’s life and death and resurrection and obedience and joy and excitement, You showed us what love looks like through Hosea’s faithfulness to Gomer.

 
Here was Gomer, unfaithful to a faithful husband who loved and desired her. Hosea had fallen in love with her. He wanted the best for her. He was her friend, yet she looked to others. But Hosea didn’t let His love die. Why not? Didn’t he have every right to? Only by man’s standards. But that’s not the way that God loves. You give up Your rights and choose instead to love fully. And that’s what we’re called to. We’re called to give up our rights and our will and our pride to shine forth a picture of You in this world that gives hope and light and love and joy where this world is lacking. You are faithful to Your slaves. Gomer was purchased back for the price of a mere slave. But instead of despising Gomer or us, You lavish us with Your love. If only we would see and understand and accept it.

 
There is so much more to this story. There is so much relation to today and to our lives if only we would ask You to help us see. There are so many ways we need to change our thinking, so many ways that our thinking has been warped by this world we live in. Lord, let us stop reading stories and realize that we are reading the truths of life, that this all relates to today and to my heart right now. Help us to understand the depth of Your love for us and help us to live in that love and not be lured by lesser things that will never satisfy.

Being Mindful of Our Choosing

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Photo credit to someone on the internet.

“Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7

Have you ever felt truly let down by those around you?  Have you looked around and seen people who should have been standing up for one another, tearing each other down?  Have you seen people who should have been doing right, doing wrong?  Have you been surprised by the response of someone else?  Has a friend or co-worker turned against you?  Are you feeling lost and perplexed?  Don’t be surprised.  You’re not alone.

This was all going on in Micah’s day and it still goes on today.  He even shares, “Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.” (Micah 7:5,6)  That’s pretty sad, isn’t it?  So are we to trust no one?  No, that’s not the point.  But our ultimate and final trust should not be in other people but in the LORD.

Micah follows these thoughts with this statement, “But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”  The truth is that men and women fall short.  Men and women sometimes break promises.  But that’s not the worst part.  Sometimes, men and women choose to live life their own way, outside of God’s directions, and that just turns things topsy turvy because then people lose respect for their fellow people.  When you take God and His ways out of the picture it becomes an every man for himself mentality.  And when every man is for himself and not for God and others, he’ll do whatever it takes to uphold himself at the expense of those around him.

It’s sad, but it’s true.  It can happen on a mission team where just one person won’t submit in love.  Instead they choose to dislike someone else on the team.  They cling to that dislike so that every time they look at the other person, they see something to be despised.  They spread that feeling around to others on the team.  Division erupts.  People don’t show up for missions because of who is on the team.  There’s a heart of contempt and gossip.  There’s no desire to make restitution and work it out.  Where there should be pain because of a broken relationship, the one party chooses bitterness and to pass it on to other team members. 

It’s funny, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable of the hell of fire.  So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.  Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:21-26)

So, if this is what You said, Jesus, why don’t we live out Your words?  Why do we stand back and watch while others who profess to be believers murder their brothers and sisters in their hearts?  Why don’t we stand up like Micah?  Or, even worse, why do we choose to let ourselves murder in our hearts and minds those who were created in Your image?  Isn’t that like murdering You and Yours?

I think of all the times we coat our thoughts and deeds over with some kind of justification.  We’re good at making excuses.  It was there in the garden, it was in Israel in Micah’s day, and we still fall pray to it today.  We excuse ourselves and blame You for not doing it right.  At least Eve blamed the serpent as having deceived her and accepted her part of the blame in eating.  Adam actually blamed You God, for giving him the fouled up woman that he listened to, and then accepted part of the blame.  Isn’t that how it goes?  “If only they had done right, I would too.  Therefore, I’m justified in my wrongness. You should have kept them in line so I didn’t have to.”  Oh, really?

The way I read the story after the fall, Adam refused to trust Eve and respect her decisions, and Eve felt that lack of trust from Adam and looked for someone else to turn to who might trust her and respect her decisions.  You’d think we’d learn already that doing things our way screws everything up.  But humans are hard-headed and hard-hearted.  We’d rather often choose mistrust, bitterness, revenge, disrespect, manipulation, denial, justification, and control over love, forgiveness, repentance, and renewed relationship.

Here’s the truth, when You, God, said to the woman, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you,” and to Adam, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life…,” (Genesis 3:16,17) it wasn’t a curse on Adam and Eve.  You were simply stating the consequences of their choice.  Because they did this, this is the consequence.  And since that is the truth and that is the case then to me, that also means that God is saying to Adam and to Eve and to the Israelites and to us that if we choose Him and His ways, we can return to living a better life, the one we were created for.

Eve was deceived by a serpent.  She maybe thought she could love Adam better by knowing more.  It’s still misplaced trust.  She can’t love Adam better outside of God.  Adam knew.  He wasn’t deceived.  He made a choice- God or Eve.  He chose Eve and then regretted it and was angry at God.  It was a break in trust.  Any time we put our trust in any one or anything over God or other than God, we set ourselves up for a tragic fall.  But the good news is that we can choose rightly.  Like Micah, I can determine that “I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”  And even if I fall because of my enemy, “when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.”  The truth is, even in my righteousness I don’t sparkle one little bit next to God without His light shining through me.  I’m a sinner and I’m only made clean by You, Lord.  Like Job learned, and Micah, it’s worth bearing Your indignation because we know who we are and what we’ve done.  But I can bear it because You promise to plead my cause and execute judgment for me.  You promise to bring me out to the light and I’ll see Your vindication. (Micah 7:9)

You never had to vindicate me because I was guilty, just like Adam and Eve, and Micah and Job, and every person who has ever lived.  It wasn’t Your duty.  There was no clause that You had to do this.  But You did and You do.  You sent Jesus who was delivered up for our sin and raised for our justification.  Only Jesus’ sacrifice of holiness on the cross is a sufficient act of righteousness to meet the requirements and bring us back to relationship with You and our fellow man. 

I’m so glad that Jesus didn’t act like us.  If He had, He would have asked to be excused.  “Why should I die for them?  I’m holy.  I haven’t sinned.  How do they deserve this?  What about my rights?”  But He didn’t worry about His rights or what He deserved.  He didn’t even count it as an excuse to be equal to God.  But He humbled Himself for the glory of God and to save His people.  He didn’t entrust Himself to any person because He knew what was in man.  (John 2:24,25)  Instead, He loved us and bore God’s indignation for us because He trusted God first and foremost. 

What about me?  Who am I trusting?  Have I misplaced my trust?  Does it need to be returned to it’s rightful owner?  It’s my choice.  I can choose who or what to trust.  But I will pay the consequences of my choice.  I want to say like Joshua, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  But even though I make that choice, what if my relatives or friends or neighbors choose not to?  What then?  I will choose to trust You, Lord, because only You have the words of eternal life and Your words are life itself.  I choose to live and trust Your words and live and trust You.  Keep me ever mindful of Your words and my choosing.

Hope Deferred

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“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”  (Micah 5:2)

Hope deferred.  Noah Webster defines the word defer as meaning to delay or to put off; to postpone to a future time.  Solomon thought about this too.  In Proverbs 13:12 he shared, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” 

That’s interesting.  Here that word is again being used in Song of Songs 1:4.  “Draw me after you: let’s run!  The king has brought me into his bedroom.” The word in Proverbs is mashak.  It can mean to draw, continue, defer, extend, forbear, handle, make long, scatter, and stretch out.  Here in Song of Songs, it’s the related word moshkeni.  It can also mean “to draw up, to raise, to extend, to draw in, to entice or allure, to draw out (as with a weapon) and to drag or seize.” They are different words, but related, and maybe that matters today.

I mean, here we have this woman who has been waiting.  She has kept herself pure and now is rejoicing wholly in her groom who rejoices just as much in her.  She has waited and now she gets to enjoy the reward of that wait, intimacy with the one she loves.  She calls her lover and at the same time she offers herself to him.  No one forces anyone.  There is “vulnerability and submission along with honor and glory” in love.  Lust, on the other hand, is about domination.  There is none of that here.  Intimacy is about love.  And this verse in Micah, about the ruler coming from Bethlehem is all about that type of love and that type of intimacy and how we miss out on it because we chase after others and other things.  It’s about a “God who loves through surrender and vulnerability leading to glorification.” (Skip Moen)

The story in Micah is about love twisted.  Israel should have been saying to God, “Draw me after You: let’s run!”  They should have been saying, “Draw me after You: let’s do life wholly together!”  “Bring me into Your bedroom so I can know You intimately and You can know me intimately, so that we can be one.”  But they were drawn to others and were void of intimacy with the One who truly loved them and could provide all they could ever desire that was wonderful and good and pure and true. 

Hope deferred leads to something; it leads to a sick heart.  It’s the Hebrew word chalah.  This means “to be rubbed or worn; to be weak, sick, afflicted, or to grieve, make sick…(be) diseased, (put to) grief, be grieved, (be) grievous, infirmity…be wounded.”   So hope deferred leads to this. Which makes me think if this Hebrew idea of hope, tocheleth, is a hope based on a specific expectation, or a specific Person, and if that expectation is twisted, this is what results.  But if our hope is where it was meant to be in our original design, in You, Lord, then our hearts won’t be sick, chalah.

Proverbs reminds us that when the desire, the ta’avah, comes, when what we hoped and longed for expected is here and we hold it in our hands or in our being, we will be delighted and satisfied.  Not only that, but it will be a tree of life.  Solomon is taking us back to the garden of Eden.  What happened when hope and desire were twisted then?  Adam and Eve lost the tree of life.  But God is telling us there is a way back to the Tree of Life.  There is a way back to Him.  There is a way that we can untwist our hope and desire and set it back on the One who rightfully deserves it. 

Sickness of heart comes from a distorted reality.  It grows as we grow away from who we were created and intended to be and to worship.  Sickness of heart comes from keeping ourselves from the One who gives us true hope and joy and fulfillment and life and love.  Sickness of heart is brought on by our own twistedness.  But God loves us so much that You add to our sickness of heart so that we might learn to yearn for You again.  When Solomon said in Proverbs 13:25, “The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul: but the belly of the wicked shall want,”  it’s the same thing going on here.  Either my hope is in You, God, who fully satisfies my soul, and I eat of You and want nothing more than to be engulfed by You and for You to draw me to You wholly, or my soul fills my life with things that disappoint and cannot satisfy.

Hope deferred.  It may not seem like it in the present, but it’s worth it.  The suffering that Israel went through was terrible but it wasn’t pointless.  It was for a purpose, to untwist twisted hope.  And sometimes hope is so twisted that it takes generations to reshape it.  Because here is the promise of hope in the midst of hardship for the people of God to wait for and look forward to, this ruler to come out of Bethlehem Ephratah, to rule Israel; “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”  Here’s the lover who has always been waiting to draw His people to Him in complete intimacy and will not give up on her.  Here’s this prophecy and many others that His people have and had and yet when the time came, when Jesus, the lover of their souls, fulfilled this prophecy, many who should have known, refused to acknowledge the truth.  They refused to submit, they didn’t want Him to draw them to Him.  They wanted to force Him to come their way.

The truth is that we still act the same way today.  It’s not that those particular children of Israel were so bad and worse than us.  We’re just like them, just as stubborn, just as twisted by our own desires and hopes that we’ve set up so that we lose sight of the truth which is only found in God, the one who created us.  The funny thing is that sometimes we think God looks so small compared to everything else going on in our lives.  What a misconception.  But the smallest things are often of the greatest importance and not so small as they seem.  Like Bethlehem, that everyone made fun of, “like, what good thing comes from Bethlehem?”  But then again, the King of the Universe was born there as a little baby, a little baby who came to deliver the world through sacrificing Himself for our sins as he deferred hope to just the right time.

Some things have to be deferred to the right time.  Like a caterpillar in its chrysalis has to go through the whole hard process or it won’t succeed in being a butterfly.  A woman has to wait until the right time for delivery or the baby may be endangered.  And so to Israel and even us, those who come to believe and be grafted in, can’t be returned or be grafted in until our hope is no longer twisted, but in the One who is Hope personified for us. 

What am I longing after?  What and who do I want to be drawn to and what and who do I want to draw to me?  Is my every desire toward You, like it should be?  Is it on You because it ought to be or because how could I think of anyone else?  Are You truly the One who is satisfying my deepest needs and desires?  Are You my delight?  Do I run to You and cling to You and care if You cling to me?  Do I want nothing more than to spend intimate time with You?  Can I get enough of You?  Because if I can, something is wrong, something is seriously wrong. 

In this world, some hope in You is deferred until I enter eternity with You.  But because You sent Jesus into Bethlehem to fulfill the hope of Your people Israel and the hope of mankind we can know that our hope is not deferred forever.  He has come!  And we can run to Him!  Run Israel, into the arms of the lover of your soul!  Run, Gentile, into the arms of the lover of your soul!  “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!’ When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’” 

And they did.  Because it’s not a secret.  God has made Himself known through His word and through Jesus Christ.  Come and see your Savior.  Hope is here.  Draw after Him and He will draw after You.   “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)  Jesus is “able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)  May our heart cry and our hope be “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Songs 6:3)  You know it’s not only our prayer, but it’s Jesus’ prayer too.  He asked not only for the disciples, but for those who would untwist their thinking and draw to Him, that “they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us…”  I want a lover who wants me just as much as I want him.  And maybe, the reality is, that Jesus, the Lover of our souls, loves us more than we could ever know how to love Him.  But, I want to learn to love back like that, and I want to be enveloped in His love as I learn.  Hope doesn’t have to be deferred.  It can be experienced in a relationship with Jesus Christ if I only submit and and respond.