Count Me In

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“Then Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily, I say unto you, except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.'”  John 6:53

So, I’m having a hard year.  I’m having a hard morning.  And the question in my mind is, “Who do I run to?  To whom shall I go?”  And I know the answer but I wanted to see if anyone else in Scripture ever felt the same way.  And that’s how I got to that verse.

Read the earlier part of the chapter for the background. I’m starting with this strange part of eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking Your blood, Lord.  Sounds wierd but You say it’s absolutely necessary if I want to run to You.  I don’t have to do that if I run to someone else, if I go to someone or something else.  But if I choose to go to You, I must.

You tell me that Your flesh is true food, and Your blood is true drink.  Food and water are two of the essentials of all living things.  I guess this means that Your flesh and Your blood are essential to my spiritual life.  I can’t live without them.  And they are true food and true drink.  What if true food and drink are to be consumed for our health and benefit, yet what if in the consuming true food and drink are never depleted?  See, that word for food is the same word used for rust when You tell us to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth where moth and rust destroy.  Doesn’t rust consume?  Am I eating food that will consume me?  Or am I eating food that will nourish me?

“He that eats my flesh, and drinks My blood, dwells in Me, and I in him.”  Lord, I want to dwell in You more than anything else.  Whatever it takes to dwell in You, I  want that, I’ll pursue it.  So what does it really mean to me to eat Your flesh and drink Your blood?

Actually, this comes at a more than appropriate time.  Here we are, approaching Christmas, the celebration of Your Incarnation.  John puts it this way, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)  Here’s that same Greek word for flesh, “sarx.”  What You did here changed everything.  Your coming and setting aside Your divinity to take on the form of man wasn’t a simple thing.  As Skip Moen stated, “[i]t is a way of life, intended to become the operating principle of all of the followers of the King of kings.  You and I are supposed to live incarnated.”

What in the world does “incarnate” mean?  According to Noah Webster it’s from the Latin “incarno” meaning “in the flesh.”  It means to “clothe with flesh; to embody in flesh.”  In terms of You, Lord, it was the act of You as Divine Lord assuming flesh, taking on a human body and man’s nature.  And when You call us to eat of Your flesh and drink of Your blood, superficially it sounds like a disgusting pagan practice.  But if I take the time to dig deeper and understand, what You were really asking is that we truly take on Your nature, that we allow ourselves to become incarnated in You.

See, my eternal life, that reward that I receive from eating and drinking of You, only comes when I absorb You into me.  I must choose to consume You, and all that You are, Your ways of thinking, Your ways of living, the Truth that is You, what we call faith, until it fills me, heart, body, soul, mind.  Only then do I know what it is to abide in You.  This is not a scary picture.  If I stay to understand, I see a picture of “full engagement, on feasting on the work and wonder of Yeshua.” (Skip Moen)  My faith doesn’t grow because I sit at the table with You.  My faith only grows when I feast on You.

Living incarnate is living with Your Holy Spirit within me.  It’s living like You, Jesus, by Your power in me.  See, You are the perfect image of what it looks like, and is like, and acts like when God indwells man.  So if You perfectly represent that for us, then You also give us the example of what it is to live perfectly human in God’s standards.  If that’s God’s standards for man, then that is Your standard for me.  Therefore, living incarnated for me, would mean that I live like You live.  And how can I do that without Your Spirit in me?  “What would Jesus do?”  is the right question but my only means of following through like You is to be in You.

No matter what thoughts assail me or what choices come before me, am I oriented toward acting in You?  I need to be more than informational.  My hearing must be accompanied by the doing.  In my choices am I seeking the benefit of others, because that was Your heart.  Is it mine?  You even sought the benefit of Your enemies.  What about me?  Are my interests God’s interests or is it self-interest?  Is seeking You my number one goal?  Is my fellowship with You my treasure?  How do I view suffering?  Do I view it like You, Jesus, for the joy set before me?  Do I understand and desire You to develop Your godly character in me no matter the cost?  Do I spend my time avoiding the discomfort or do I treasure the deeper fellowship with You?  Do I desire to spend time with others especially with You in the midst of that time?  Do I care about being a disciple and discipling others?  Who do I follow?  Do I follow other people who have You exuding from them?  Is it all about allowing You to transform my life and the lives of those around me and sharing how You are transforming?  Am I transparent?  Do I forgive and redeem like You?  Do I care more about love than correctness?  Do I care more about following You than the way it’s always been done?  Do I serve from a heart of love like You?  Do I look like You at all?

When You spoke this message, lots of Your followers turned away.  It was offensive.  You know, dependency is an offensive thing in our culture, but this is what’s being called for, total dependency on and in You.  This is calling for a radical change in my life and if I don’t or haven’t made that change in You, I haven’t got anything but lies.  So You asked Your twelve, “Will you also go away?”

Well, Peter expressed my words for today.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that You are that Christ, the Son of the living God.”  To whom shall I go, Lord, but You?  I can do better than just running to You.  I have run into You.  I live in You and You live in Me.  It’s not superficial.  No matter what, I am persuaded just as strongly as Paul, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus my Lord.  Why?  Because You were incarnated for me so that I could be incarnated in You.

Now, John 10:28 just came to mind.  “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”  Well, what if You, Lord, aren’t holding me in Your hand, You know, with me in Your palm and Your fingers clasped around me?  What if that’s not the picture?  What if the true picture is seen in the light of Your nail pierced hands?   What if by faith, because I have consumed all that You are and because I have taken You in me, then You have consumed me and taken me inside of You.  What if I exist within the blood flowing through Your hand?  What if that is what my relationship incarnated in You looks like?  How then can anything pluck me away?  Lord, let me live like that, that closely with You.  May my behavior be that of one whose heart beats with Yours.  Whatever it takes, take me there.  Count me in.

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Consumed in a Song

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“Sing unto the Lord, all the earth; show forth from day to day His salvation.”  1 Chronicles 16:23

Singing.  That’s the word that You, Lord, layed on my heart today.  Why sing?  What’s so important about singing?  If singing wasn’t important, then why is the word “sing” used in 102 verses in Scripture?  As a matter of fact, the very first verse that uses the word sing is Exodus 15:1.  The Israelites had just been delivered out of 200 years of pain and slavery and miraculously crossed the Red Sea and watched God defeat Pharoah’s army before their very eyes.  “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spoke saying, ‘I will sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea… ‘”  And I’m thinking that singing is not just a suggestion but that singing is a necessity in my spiritual walk with You, Lord.

Now, I can’t help but look back and find out if the Hebrew idea of singing was just like ours or if there might have been something else to it.  And I found some things that don’t suprise me one little bit.  The Hebrew word for sing is “shiyr.”  And in most instances it has to do with worship.  Sometimes, in Hebrew, you can look at the letters and the original pictograph formed by those letters in a word, and even that pictograph tells you something about the word.  Skip Moen shares that picture, “The pictograph tells us that the word is about deeds or work that consumes the person. In other words, singing “eats” you up. It takes away what you were feeling and moves you to another experience. It is the divine transporter. This is why the Hebrew world considers singing to be praying.”  Hmm.  Let me think about that.  Singing=praying.  I need to hold that thought.  But let’s keep going.

Why did I even begin on this search this morning?  Because I wanted to see when You, Lord, thought people should sing and why we should sing.  Because what about those times when I am so filled with pain that I don’t even have words?  How can I sing then?  But what if those are the times I need most to sing?  What if that is the time I need most to worship You with someone else who has the words that I can’t find?  What if that’s the time I most need to be reminded that You triumph gloriously and I need to confirm that with my own mouth, with my heart, and with my emotions?

The Siach Safre Kodesh which is “stories of wisdom, biographies of famous rabbis, and Torah discourses”  shared this thought, “There are three ways in which a man expresses deep sorrow: the man on the lowest level cries; the man on the second level is silent; the man on the highest level knows how to turn his sorrow into song.”  And Abraham Heschel, an American rabbi and leading Jewish theologian and philosopher of the 20th century, in Between God and Man believed “true prayer is a song.”  My question is, how many times have I thought of singing in terms of sorrow and pain?  But that seems to be where the Hebrew roots of singing came from.

And I’m thinking that makes sense.  Think of all the spirituals that arose out of slavery in America.  Was it their good circumstances that birthed those songs?  Or was it something deeper?  Were those songs a prayer, a cry out to God, that lifted one another up?

If I go back to 2 Chronicles 20 I find the true story of Jehoshaphat.  And the Moabites and Ammonites and others were raising up against Israel.  And all the people of Israel came before You and cried out to You.  And You told them to not be afraid because You were going to take care of it and they would triumph in You.  And before they received the outcome, before the victory, here’s what they did.  Jehoshaphat appointed singers to the Lord!  You know what their job was?  To praise the beauty of His holiness as they went out before the army.  And as they went they would continually say, “Praise the LORD; for His mercy endures for ever.”  And God used their singing.  It was beautiful worship.  In their lack of strength, in their pain and distress, they stopped thinking about all that.  They put their minds and hearts and worship in Him.  And this is what happened.  “And when they began to sing and to praise” the Lord set ambushments against their enemies.  Notice that.  It wasn’t after they sang and praised.  It was when they began.  Maybe singing in the midst of pain is a sign of faith and worship.

I can’t help but think of Paul and Silas.  There they were sharing the Gospel and now their clothes are being torn off of them and they are being beaten and whipped.  And it wasn’t just a little.  Many stripes were laid on them and they were thrown in a nasty, smelly, dank prison and their feet fastened in stocks.  How is that for pain and sorrow and suffering and heartache?  But what did they do?  Did they remain bound by the pain and sorrow and suffering and heartache?  Or did they take that pain and sorrow and suffering and heartache and lift it to the Lord in song?  In the midst of the pain, while the wounds were raw, they prayed and sang praises unto God, unto You, Lord.  And what happened?  The prisoners heard.  And You acted just like with Jehoshaphat.  You sent a sudden earthquake and released them from their chains and were glorified before the prisoners and before the jailor.

What if I don’t sing?  Let that not even be a thought.  I must.  Because it’s not my song.  It’s Your song, Lord, and it’s the song You have placed in me and it must come forth.  As Psalm 40:3 says, You have put a new song in my mouth, even praise to You, my God: and as many hear they shall see and fear, and shall trust in You.  It matters if I sing to You and for You, or if I don’t.

There are times when all I can do is fall at Your feet without words because I hurt that much.  But You are bigger than the pain in me.  In every believer You have placed Your song and Your Holy Spirit will help me sing that song.  He will give me the words.  He will bring them back to mind.  And as I am faithful to sing what He gives me, I will experience the presence and filling of the Comfortor.  And when I can’t express it because the pain is so deep and the words won’t come and all I can do is cry or when even the tears won’t come, maybe then I need to run to others who have found the song and let that minister to me.  Maybe, as I listen to the words You gave them, I might just find myself being transported to You, and I might just find myself singing with them.  And maybe that won’t equal all the words I feel.   But walking in faith comes one step at a time, or, one song at a time.

I suppose I have to ask myself, does the pain hurt more than I miss that closeness with You?  I think we’ve all been there.  We’ve all experienced pain.  Some of us had to learn the value of singing in the Lord.  For some of us, singing just is part of who we are.  And some of us, well, we haven’t learned the value of singing yet.  But I want to learn to not wait for the good days to come.  I want to sing in expectation.  And I want to sing not because my circumstances are good but because I know the goodness of You, God, even in the midst of tragedy.  It’s not easy.  Walking in faith isn’t easy.  But it’s worth every hardship and every tragedy.  I want my focus to remain on You no matter what so I will be influenced by You and so that influence will make a difference in those around me.

Pain and loss hurt.  They hurt terribly.  And it’s a part of life that doesn’t necessarily go away.  I just have to learn how to fit it into Your picture, into Your plan.  And surrendering it to You doesn’t take the memory away, but it puts everything in perspective, and it brings healing.  Paul and Silas didn’t stop hurting when they sang.  But they rose above the pain in the midst of the pain.  They lifted themselves up to You and let You carry them in song.  I want to follow their example because there are things in this life I just can’t handle on my own.  I need You as much as they needed You.  And I don’t want to let pain defeat me, because I am more than a conqueror in You.

Skip Moen shared some more of prayer and song.  He said, “The reason prayer is transformed into song is because words fail me. My hurt runs too deep. My trauma is too strong. I can’t say what I can’t do, and what I can’t do is find a way out. So, I learn to sing praises to my King and my song “eats” up what would destroy or consume me and gives me peace…I know what it means to hurt right down to my soul.”  So, the question is, will I allow You to consume my pain?  Scripture says that You are a consuming fire.  Do You just consume sin?  Or do You consume anything that wants to keep me from You?  Lord, I want nothing more than to be consumed in and by You.

I suppose I always thought that was a reference to You burning things up, Lord.  But there is this other part of consuming that has to do with eating, with ingesting.  This word, “akal” is also used in Ezekiel 3:1 where You tell Ezekiel, “Son of man, eat what you find, eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.”  You didn’t say take a bite.  You said eat this whole scroll.  Taste if fully.  Then go do what it says.  But let’s keep going.  What did Ezekiel do?  “So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, ‘Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.’ Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.”  Maybe that’s what happens when I choose to sing in the midst of pain and suffering.  Maybe singing isn’t a suggestion but an imperative.  Maybe I must sing.  Maybe I must sing, Lord, so that I can taste and experience Your sweetness in my mouth.  Maybe I must sing so that You can fill my stomach and my body with Your sweetness.

Lord, no matter how deep the pain, give me a song.  And let me not hold that song in my heart.  Let me sing, even if the words squeak when they come out because I cry as I sing.  Let me sing, even if I fall to my knees and don’t know what to say.  Give me a song.  Even if it’s someone else’s song.  Just give me a song from You because You never stop singing.  Even the angels before Your throne continually sing praises to You.  Who am I to not sing?  Don’t let me lose that beautiful flavor of You.  And don’t let me neglect to share that beautiful flavor of You with those who would hear my singing.  Because maybe my song will give them words to sing, and lift them above their pain and sorrow.  Lord, just give the songs we need to sing.  And sing with us.  I can’t wait to see what You do.