How Much Life is in Your Bones?

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“…for I know the things that come into your mind…” Ezekiel 11:5

Imagine that, God knows the things that come into every one of our minds. Every thing. Every one of us. How’s that for a thought to “chew the cud” on? How’s that for something to meditate on? Is that a scary thought? Is that a good thought? Is that a life changing thought?

Here God is, sharing another prophesy with Ezekiel. He shows Ezekiel two princes of the kingdom of Israel, Jaazaniah and Palatial. And God knows their plans and their counsel. And He says, “Thus have you said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind.” I’m wondering if they even said those things out loud or if God heard them before they were ever spoken. Aren’t You telling us God that You already know our thoughts before we even speak them?

I just can’t stop thinking about the truth that You know the things that come into my mind. And I want to really understand that so I can live rightly under its weight. Because it is a weighty matter.

First, is the fact that You know, You “yada” what is in my mind. You use that same idea in John 17:3 when Jesus tells us, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” It goes way beyond the facts or confessions of what we believe. This is about a knowing that is about intimacy in relationship with our Creator. It’s an embracing not only of Who You are but what You do. It’s engaging our life in partnership with You.

 

That begs me ask a question. What am I doing in that partnership? What is my part? I must know Your part to know mine. What are You doing? Are You waiting to escape the world before You do what You do? Or do You enter the world and do and create and change and transform here? If that’s what You do, if Jesus came to be about His Father’s business and it was here on earth, then isn’t my partnership to do Your will here on earth in the same way that my Jesus did? Did Jesus wait for the day He was back in heaven? Or was he creating restoration on earth? Am I supposed to be that kind of instrument? If I am really participating with God, if I really know You, wouldn’t I be doing what You do here? Didn’t Paul say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain”? Is that because heaven is the goal or is Christ’s fullness the goal and living is the way we reach that fullness when death comes? Does eternal life really begin when we start co-creating with You and follow Your footsteps, and accept the challenge?

Well, that’s how I ought to know You. But the problem is that God knows the extent to which we know Him. Without Him we are twisted co-creators who choose our own plan devoid of Him and even have the nerve to say it’s His plan. This knowing takes us back to Genesis 2:17, “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Did Adam and Eve not know right and wrong? Then how could God punish them if they didn’t know? But what if they knew and the choice wasn’t about right and wrong, but a choice about life -God, and death-not God? God is good, right? Therefore good is life because I know that God is life (I am the way, the truth, and the life…). Evil is death because evil is the opposite of good and death is the opposite of life.

Let’s think of the tree momentarily. “The Tree is not one way of life versus another way of life (God’s way). The Tree is death! It might look like it is living, but that is the deceptive quality of existence apart from relationship with God. The seduction of the Tree is that it mimics life.” (Skip Moen) The word for “knowledge” here is da’at, a derivative of yada. It’s about “knowing via the senses” and knowledge of a personal, experimental nature; or technical ability like what was needed for building the temple; or for discernment. The fear of the Lord brings forth wisdom, a related word. God is the possessor of da’at. He teaches da’at to us. But Genesis teaches us that da’at or knowledge devoid of God is death.

That’s what the Tree was. It was Adam and Eve’s choice to attempt life apart from their Creator, apart from God. That’s what Jaazaniah and Palatial were choosing and leading others to choose. That’s what I can choose if I’m not careful. This is what happens when I choose independence from the breath of life. How foolish to think anything else with breathe life into me, when it was You God who animated man. Anything else is “borrowed animation.”

Abraham Heschel put it this way, “Man’s sin is in his failure to live what he is. Being the master of the earth, man forgets that he is servant of God.” The truth is that someone, or rather Someone, owns my life and it’s not me. I was created to bear the image of God but I am not God. I can base my life on living according to the divine by walking in faith or I can choose to live apart from His voice. But to choose to live outside the divine is to choose death, no matter how beautifully the fruit is packaged.

Maybe Jaazaniah and Palatial and the others and I ought to ask ourselves some more important questions than, “What am I feeling? What do I want? What would make me feel better? What will make me happy and complete?” Maybe, before asking myself anything, I ought to stop and hear what God is asking me first and really think about it. “Can these bones live?” How’s that for a question? Look at white bones laid out with the flesh bleached off. Can they live? Well, can they? What about me? Where did my flesh come from and the blood that animates my bones? Can I live unless Someone gives me the breath of life? How does anyone or anything live, really? Maybe my answer should be like Ezekiel’s, “O Lord God, You know.” (Ezekiel 37:3)

And here we are back at knowing again. Only God is the One that knows like that, not any of us. “Only You know, Lord.” How long will we desiccate our own bones before we let You restore us to life? How long will I neglect myself by neglecting You? How long will I choose selfish things that waste me away? How long will I choose disobedience that leads to my own destruction? I don’t even know that, but You know.

 
I guess that can be a scary thought depending on how well I know You and how intimate and deep our relationship is. You care that much and You can give my dead bones and soul life, moment by moment, day by day, year by year. But if I’m not surrendering to You, how will this turn out for me? Palatial fell down dead at the end of the prophesy. I guess that means that just as You can give life to dry bones, so You alone can take life away from animated bones. Which side will I choose?

 
Did you ever think that the fall wasn’t about Adam and Eve’s nakedness? What if the fall was about people hiding the fact that now they were fragmented and broken? And I’m not just talking about a lost world. I’m talking about we, who call ourselves believers? Maybe we’re all more scorched bones than we like to imagine. Maybe it’s time we realized it so we could surrender to God and let Him animate us in Him. Maybe we’d be better off if we stopped hiding behind our flesh and our fig leaves and got behind You instead.

Ezekiel answers, “You know, Lord.” Restoration is in the hands of the Creator. We can absolutely know our depravity. That is the gift of the serpent. We know without a shadow of doubt that we have something to hide. But whether or not we will be restored is not something we are privileged to know on our own. For that we must rely on the Creator. He knows that outcome, just as He anticipated our inadequate “fig leaf” answer.

 
Yes, Lord, You know the things that come into my mind. You know what comes up, like going up stairs to another altar- maalah. You know what thoughts in my own mind rise up against and over Your thoughts. You know it when I don’t even realize I’m doing it. You know that perfectly, that completely, that deeply, and that intimately. And You do everything on Your part to try to help me to understand what I’m doing so that I can change my fragmented thinking and think and live life again.

 
You know the things that come into my mind. That word for mind is ruach. It’s that word that is used for the spirit or for breath or wind. I think back to when You breathed the breath of life into man in the first place and he became a living soul. It was the ruach that You shared from Yourself that animated him and every human thereafter. It makes me think of John 4:24 which states, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 
What is it to worship in spirit and truth? Usually the words hesed v’emet are used together, that’s loving kindness and truth. Emet, truth, is not about correctness. It’s about reliability, steadfastness, and trustworthiness. It’s what flows from God. It’s more than a character trait. It is His character. He established it. If we worship God, we act like that also because what flows from Him will flow from us. So, “to worship Him in truth is to do what He says”, because it is doing what He is and He lives in us. See, the loving kindness part is the action, especially directed at someone else. So to live in mercy and truth is to act out God acting in me in the world to others.

 
But here Jesus used ruach v’emet, spirit and truth. What’s the difference? Remember where I said that ruach means breath, spirit or wind? But it’s also about “power, value, aggression, mental activity, angelic existence, conscience and life itself.” In other words, worship is this all encompassing part of all that we are acknowledging and responding back to You appropriately. It’s the natural response of every human, and every created thing. It’s what is natural until the natural is broken or fragmented.

The truth is that Israel did not exist until God called Israel out of Ur through Abram and created a nation that knew Him. Adam and Eve did not exist until God created them and gave them life animated by His spirit. Palatial and Jaazaniah and Ezekiel owe their very being to this same God who created them and animated them by His spirit. And so do I. Now, the question is, what will I do with this knowledge? How will I live and who will I live for? Who will I give the credit for and of my life to? Is it mine to order or does it belong to the One who daily breathes His life into me, the One who animates these very bones and determines the days my flesh lives on them? I wonder if life is a treasure or a privilege? I think it’s a treasure, and when I realize the immensity of the love and power with which my Creator designed me, I think I’m best off letting Him direct my plans and letting Him animate my life. So, what do you think? Because God already knows, but what you think will determine how much life is in your bones.

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Put Down Your Branch, Get on the Train

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Photo credit goes to someone on the internet.

 

“Then said He unto me, ‘Son of man, have you seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, ‘The Lord doesn’t see us; the Lord has forsaken the earth.’” Ezekiel 8:12

 
So now this fiery figure of God comes to Ezekiel and takes him in a vision of God to Jerusalem to the temple. And as Ezekiel was told to look, he was shown the “image of jealousy in the entry.” But it didn’t stop there. God says, “There’s worse abominations to see here.” God brought Ezekiel to the door of the court and showed him a hole. Then He told Ezekiel to dig there and Ezekiel found a door. He went in, beyond the wall, I guess inside the wall, and found creeping things, and abominable beasts, and idols all portrayed on the wall round about. Not only that, there were 70 men and Jaazaniah offering incense to these idols.

 
As if all that wasn’t bad enough. Then God says, “There’s more.” He brings Ezekiel to the door of the gate and there are women weeping for Tammuz, a Phoenician diety. Let’s keep going. Now, to the inner court, between the porch and the altar, were 25 men with their backs to the temple worshipping the sun to the east.

 
God called it “putting the branch to their nose.” What in the world does that mean? I’m pretty sure it’s a Hebrew idiom. Some think it was a part of worshipping idols where the worshipper picked up a twig or branch and placed it over their face as to shield their face from the diety, like the sun. But to God it would be like sticking your thumb to your nose and sticking out your tongue in defiance. Whatever it was, it was gloating in your abomination before God. It was digging in your heals, and inviting violence into your own land and your own life. It was asking for God’s anger to be ignited, provoking the fire to burn.

 
You know, what we think we can get away with in the dark, eventually comes out in the open. What was hidden behind walls and in men’s and women’s minds and hearts is not hidden from God, and he showed it to Ezekiel. The truth is that God knows what is going on in the “chambers of man’s imagery.” What is that? Could that be more than what we do hidden in a room? Could that mean that God knows what is in the secret chambers of our imagination? I think so.

 
I guess we have this idea that God has nothing to do with the dark. Maybe we think that God, being God, can’t go into the darkness. But Psalm 139:12 tells us, “Yes, the darkness doesn’t hide from You; but the night shines as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” The truth is that You “form the light, and create darkness: [You] make peace, and create evil: [You] the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

 
There is no place that God cannot go and that God is not in control. You see into the “secret” places even of our hearts, way beyond our dark closets because nothing is hidden from You. The problem is that we get involved in labeling things our way instead of Yours. Isaiah said, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” The people of Israel had God, they had You, they had what was good. But they started to chase after other ideas of good, after other standards, and adopt them as their own.

 
But they are no worse than us. We sit back and say, “How can a good God allow evil?” What kind of God would create evil? Why even let that be part of the picture? Because we’ve labelled You as a good God based on our idea of goodness. We make You who we think You should be instead of who You ARE. The truth is that You are all that You are before we even understand it. Your goodness is even in how You create evil.

 
It’s there for a purpose. Just because I don’t see that purpose doesn’t mean it’s not for ultimate good. Think about it. God created the garden with the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil before Adam and Eve were created. Do you really think God created that beautiful angel of light who fell and made an “oops”? I can’t explain God’s intent with evil, but darkness is a part of the plan, and none of it, and none of the plan is hidden from God’s intimate knowledge.

 
Maybe there are too many multiple connections going on in my brain today. But I know this, it’s not You, God, who doesn’t see. We’re the ones who don’t get it. And maybe if we would be honest enough to admit it, and get off our high horses, and set our thumbs and our branches down from our nose, we just might start to see and get it right. Well, we can keep on thinking we’re getting away with the stuff we do in “secret,” we can even think it’s time to come out in the open because God won’t do anything, but Paul warned in Romans 2:5, “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”

 
Do you really feel badly for the branch wavers who provoke and tease and defy? Do you really think they haven’t been given ample time to listen and turn and repent? What about me? If I stand in front of an oncoming train and wave that twig in it’s face defiantly, who is going to lose? Didn’t I have time to get out of it’s track? Did the train invite my death or did I call it on myself? God says, “Therefore I will also deal in fury: My eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.” (Ezekiel 8:18) Is that Your fault, God? Or has the train whistle not been warning enough? It’s not like it just snuck up unaware. If I choose to ignore the warning whistle, over and over again, the train won’t have pity, and it will be my own fault.

 
There is a time for everything. There’s a time to see, and to listen, and to hear, and heed. There’s a time to seek pity and receive it. There’s a time to hear from God and to cry out to Him. There’s a time that God hears and it’s a reciprocal time. In other words, if we won’t hear God, neither will He hear us. Maybe it’s time to put down our branches and get off the track. It’s a much more glorious decision to board the train and go where it’s going, under it’s protection than to be run over by the train.

 

P.S.  I’ve read that this gesture can be interpreted by some as a very vulgar statement.  I wasn’t aware of that earlier.   I choose to include it, because those being addressed in Scripture before Ezekiel were being THAT rude to God and sometimes we are too.  Sometimes, we are THAT deliberately offensive.

Casting off the Good Thing

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Photo credit to Dr. Gemma Andrada.

 

“Israel has cast off the thing that is good…” Hosea 8:3
Oh, that’s sad, isn’t it? It’s so sad when people stop doing good things and stop doing what’s right, isn’t it? Is that what this is about? Is Hosea telling us that God is bringing judgment on Israel because they aren’t doing the good things He said to do? Is this all because Israel isn’t meeting the good requirement? Or is this about something more?
Is God looking for people who are concerned about being good performers? Are You, Lord? When Israel cast off the thing that is good, was it really about them or was it about casting off and abandoning the ONE THAT IS GOOD? Were they abandoning every thing that resembled You in their thinking and acting and honoring and desiring? And when we do that, does it make an impact on what our lives look like and the influence we have on others and on what influences our own lives?

 
Maybe it’s best to take the time to look back at what “good” is in the first place. And that search takes the seeker back to Genesis where You, God, saw the light, that it was good. Now, in calling light good, You first needed to see that light and You needed to be able to distinguish that it was good. This is just a thought, but maybe it’s worth thinking about. What does it mean when You saw the light? What does it mean for You as God to see? Is it just about looking and describing? Or is it more?

 
What about the story of Hagar, lost and alone with her son in the wilderness. And You spoke to her. And she identified You by this name: the God of Seeing, El Roi, and remarked concerning that name, “Have I even here seen Him that sees me?” But I wonder if there isn’t some subtle difference between this same word root raah used for Hagar’s seeing and for Your seeing. It’s related also to the description in Your name of roi. And I ask that because if You had never seen and identified Hagar first, would she have seen and identified You? I think not. So I think there is a greater depth and quality to seeing that You demonstrate that far surpasses our human thought of sight.

 
So did You just see light and describe it’s qualities? Or did You see so deeply into the essence of light that You knew all its purposes? I mean, after all, You saw even how to create it. And when You called the land Earth and gathered the seas and saw that they were good, were You just naming them? Or did You know something deeper about each? And creatures producing after their kind and not after another kind, is that because of seeing something deeper in them than just being or existing?

 
Think of God’s warning to Adam. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) Jesus said, “There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18) So, you might ask, where does Jesus get the right to say that? There is no direct quote in the Old Testament Scripture saying it that way.  Maybe it’s just as simple as seeing things through the right lenses.

 
The Shema, from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 starts with, “Hear, O Israel; the LORD our God is one LORD: and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the posts of your house, and on your gates.” And we, like Israel, have seen this all wrongly. This God of unity in diversity somehow became seen as a God who strips us of our being. But You, God, are the One who placed diversity into the world and into Your children. Only You place this diversity that is most glorified and only glorified when it shines according to Your making and Your purpose.

 

None of this was too hard or bad for us. It should have been our delight because You should have been our delight. Everything we do and are was to reflect what You are for us. You called us to a relationship of uninhibited love for You and from You. We should be giving You our whole hearts and souls and might and living that out before all around us. Your goodness should be like jewelry adorning us. But somehow our vision got impaired and we don’t see things Your way, the true way.

 
There’s an interesting thing I noticed about seeing. That word for seeing, raah, is also the word for evil, only it’s stressed differently. Two words, so close, yet so different. And maybe that’s important to see, that how I see You will make all the difference in whether I am good like You or make evil choices. Because You are Good. Therefore, to choose anything other than Your will and Your way is evil. That’s what You’re telling us. And You have the right to tell because You created us.

 
“I YHWH [the LORD] and none else, forming light and creating darkness; making peace and creating evil-I YHWH do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:6-7 translation: M. Buber) In most translations we won’t see the word evil, but calamity instead. It makes it too hard for us to see if we think You create evil. How do we explain that. But isn’t the truth that anything that is not of You and of Your goodness, is evil? Twist goodness and what do you have? Change the stress on raah, just a little, and it’s no longer good. Could that be what Israel had done? Could that be what we are doing? Could I be guilty of that?

 
Let’s think about Isaiah’s time and what he said. During the 4th Century BC the Babylonians had their astral gods. These gods were the creators of light and darkness. These same astral gods were the ones who produced the offspring that were the lesser gods causing good and evil. They determined the fate of men and to receive favor from them, they required appeasement. Isaiah blew that pagan belief away. God was totally different. He revealed Himself to Cyrus. He created without any help light and darkness and everything in the human sphere, everything that controls what we think of as peace and evil. It’s shalom- absolute well being contrasted with ra-evil. Tob or good is taken to a deeper level of shalom. It’s not about performance. Shalom and peace and well-being is from God and in God. Evil comes “as a result of resistance to God.”(Buber) But then there is that evil that we call adversity and affliction. God fashions that for His purposes and our good, though shalom shall rule. One day, there will be no form of evil from resistance or from adversity or affliction.

 
Maybe the Old Testament saints never had to call You good for You to be good. Skip Moen shares, “‘Good’ is not a separate category of qualities that are attached to the character of God. In ancient Hebraic thought, whatever God does is good because good is defined by what God does. God does not have moral qualities called ‘good.’ God is good since God Himself is the standard that determines goodness. There is no outside code of conduct applied to God to see if He measures up. Good is defined by what God does. Therefore, when Isaiah speaks God’s words and says, ‘creating ra,’ this also is part of the standard of God’s goodness. God cannot do what is morally reprehensible because what God does is, by definition, good- no matter what it appears to be from a human perspective.” Yep, we’re still suffering from the same problem as Hosea’s day.

 
Israel has spurned the good. That’s the same as saying, “Israel has spurned God.” See, it’s one thing to cry out, “My God, I know You!” and it’s another to really live as You are my God or that I really know You. We can choose our own kings and our own way without ever consulting You and just drag You behind us. Well, not really, but that’s how we can act. My silver and gold and job or kids or friends or lifestyle can become an idol and my own destruction because I just can’t see the truth because I just don’t want to see it. I can want to see things my own way and design my own good. But I’m not the Creator. What is good has already been designed and set. The standard is not mine to choose. But I am invited to live in the well-being of that already established standard by living in the presence of the One who is that standard.

 
The problem then and our problem today is that we have forgotten our Maker and have busied ourselves with pretending to be makers ourselves. But all the pretending we do, won’t make it true. I want to remember that You are my Maker and the Maker of everything and everyone around me. I want to really see the way You see. I want to live in Your goodness, whether it brings laughter or tears. Because Your goodness isn’t about rules and regulations. It’s about an eternal relationship with You that starts in the here and now. You alone are GOOD. Everything about You. Who else would send Jesus to go through what He did for people like us? Who would suffer for someone who didn’t deserve it? And if my absolutely Good God accepted evil as something that You had to live through, then shouldn’t I accept the good with the evil? I just want to understand Your way, to see Your way, and to live in You Your way. May I ever pursue You and not my own way.

I’ve Been Judged

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Photo credit to someone on the internet.

“I said, ‘Please listen, leaders of Jacob, rulers of the house of Isra’el:  Shouldn’t you know what justice is?’” (Micah 3:1)

Here’s that warning again, shama, or hear and listen and do.  Micah is beseeching, not just asking.  Who is he speaking to?  He’s speaking to the leaders, both the government leaders and religious leaders of Jacob and Israel.  And we shouldn’t just think that this message is only good for Jacob and Israel and only good for those days back then.  This is need to know life information for today.  If we don’t learn from this life lesson of the past, it will unfold again right in front of us today, and again and again in the future.  Oh, wait!  It is unfolding in front of us from nation to nation today!

What do You, God, hold leaders responsible for?  “Is it not for you to know judgment?” (KJV)  “Shouldn’t you know what justice is?”  So I guess the question is, “What do You mean by that?  What do You consider justice or judgment?”  And how can we know it?  What does that mean?

Micah isn’t the only prophet helping us to understand this.  Zechariah shares, “Thus has the Lord of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’” (Zechariah 7:8-10)  What did this mean in ancient societies?  Well, first, the word for justice in Hebrew is mishpat.  It’s real meaning is about the administration of government but not just by man.  It’s about the administration of government according to Your rulings, God.  And that administration is given by You not to a political body but to leaders, who in Israel were the tribal chiefs and the patriarch or the king.  Individuals personally administered justice.  In other words, these individuals carried forth Your will and saw that the people carried it forth in their lives.  Well, at least that’s what they were supposed to do.  But whether they did or they didn’t do that, You held and still hold each personally liable for whether they carry through their decisions according to Your directions or not. 

The standard for justice isn’t whatever floats a judge’s boat.  It’s not whatever society wants or thinks they need.  The standard for justice is God’s word.  That’s what our leaders are to live by and rule by.  That’s the example they are supposed to be setting for us.  So the personal involvement goes deeper than with the rules of God.  It’s a personal involvement with You, God.  Personal involvement with You leads to personal involvement with what You love and uphold and against what You abhor.  Take away the personal involvement, and who gives a hoot about the rules?

What’s happening in the world today when someone wants their rights so much that they strip someone else of their rights even to the extent of thinking it’s ok to rob them of their life?  Where are the leaders speaking out against this?  Micah accuses leaders of hating good, and loving evil, of plucking skin off the people and the flesh off their bones and eating it.  Yuck!  But what are our own leaders inciting others to do in our world or in our country?  And why is this happening?  Because we’ve lost the personal knowledge of the compassion of God.

God’s compassion is a real thing.  His mercies are truly new every morning.  In Zechariah, the leaders had forgotten compassion, raham.  Skip Moen says that raham is, “an intense, deep personal connection comparable to the feelings a mother has for her unborn child in the womb.  Very personal.”  Now think about this.  Why are our leaders supposed to feel this way about those they rule?  Because this is the way God feels for us.  Is this what our leaders practice today?  Are we in leadership positions in our homes or churches or communities?  Are we practicing this kind of leadership?  Am I?

Jeremiah continues this thinking, “‘but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:24)  So here is another word to think about.  It’s in Micah and Zechariah and Jeremiah here.  It’s that word know.  What does it really mean?  We think of knowledge today and we think of knowing a lot of information.  But that’s a Greek idea and not the Hebrew idea here.  This is the word yada and if you want to understand true religion, you need to understand yada.  True religion is sake, understanding and yada, knowing.  Without both, you can’t have a right relationship with God.  And without a right relationship with God, You can’t do it right in the world.  Understanding is about really thinking and grappling and getting down to the really deep stuff about following Him.  It’s serious questions that lead to serious answers.  But searching out the answers till you find them isn’t enough.  We have to know Him.  How do I do that?

It goes from knowing about Him, about the extent and facts of all He’s done, including coming to earth as man and God, teaching, living, being crucified for the glory of God and our sins and redemption, dying, rising again, and reigning over all.  And it extends to the closest intimacy of knowing Him like when a man and woman become one through sexual intimacy in the wholeness of marriage and unity.  It’s not enough to understand who God is.  We have to experience who He is too.  Skip Moen states again, “the intimacy of deep relationship, the friendship, the honesty, the confrontation, the instruction, the familial bonding, are all part of ‘yada YHVH.  He’s your best friend, your protective parent, your mentor, your examiner, your guide, your lover, your comforter, your doctor, your judge” and more.  Maybe the problem why our leaders are failing and the people are following is because of what they are missing out on, this real relationship with One who truly cares.

Without giving You complete sovereignty in our lives we can’t be full of what You are full of.  How can we exhibit qualities like faithfulness, justice, and righteousness in their true form without knowing what their true form really is like?  I can’t just know about faithfulness, I have to convert my knowledge into action.  I can’t just know about justice, I must convert it into action.  I can’t just know about what’s right, I must do it and convert it into action.  But who is going to show me what these all translate into in our lives?  The One who is each of these is the Only One who can show me. 

I can’t become a doer of the word unless I personally know the Word first.  Maybe our leaders don’t know all this.  But I think, living in this country, and living in a world where every day nature screams out the glory and presence of God, I’m not going to say they aren’t aware enough to be held accountable.  The fact is that the true Judge of all mankind will hold us all, every one of us, up to His measure of justice, not ours.  If my life and rulings don’t look like His, then they aren’t.  I’m the one who needs to re-examine my thinking and my ways and change my understanding, not You, Lord.

Judgment was coming for Israel.  And judgment will come for each of us too.  And I have a feeling that You hold leaders to a very high standard, you know, “to whom much is given, much will be required.”  John warned, “This is the judgment, that the Light [Jesus] has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”  You know, you don’t have to tear someone’s flesh off to be evil, poneros.  Poneros comes from “a group denoting poverty or need, has the senses 1. ‘sorrowful,’ ‘unhappy,’ ‘laden with care,’ 2. ‘bringing trouble,’ 3. ‘pitiable,’ ‘poor,’ ‘unfit,’ ‘unattractive,’ ‘bad,’ ‘unlucky,’ 4. ‘unsuccessful,’ 5. ‘plebeian,’ 6. ‘politically useless,’ ‘worthless,’ and finally 7. ‘morally reprehensible’ with the various nuances.” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament)  It’s everything that God knows is not good.  It’s what is “bad, unfavorable, worthless, unhappy, hurtful, futile, and evil.”  Later, Micah is going to share what God considers good.  “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Do you know that man here is every human being?  Every one can know and everyone can have a relationship with God.

When we do and say things that cause sorrow or dissension or unrest, it’s evil, short and simple.  When I set up people to fail, when I deliberately make someone else unhappy, when I cause someone to be unsuccessful, when I’m unattractive because of a wrong attitude, when I make life futile, or make people feel worthless, or when I’m disobedient, I’m guilty of evil.  What about when I’m all about being burdened about me and how I’m being treated instead of being burdened for others?  Wonder if that thinking leads to police brutality or to civilians shooting innocent policemen just like that? Self-pity can be a dark evil, can’t it?  Now the reprehensible isn’t so far away.  See what despising what God has created in His image can lead to?  It’s dangerous stuff that we’re overlooking here.  Maybe we ought to call evil what it is, evil.

It’s for all of us to know judgment.  It’s for all of us to understand and know You God and know Your ways and live by them because You are Light and anything outside of You and Your ways is darkness.  It’s really easy for us to turn to the dark side, just look at what happened to sweet little Anakin.  It tears me up throughout that whole movie where he keeps holding on to those dark thoughts and seeing where it takes him.  It’s so sad.  And that’s where many of us are turning today as we follow self-pity and our rights and our pride.  We’re entering a place of sadness and darkness and separation from God and separation from true fellowship with mankind.  Selfishness is much different than selflessness. 

God is inviting us to know and feel with Him.  He is actively concerned, He is pursuing inner engagement, true dedication to us, and attaching Himself to us.  He has genuine sympathy, pity, and affection for us.   He truly feels.  He feels hurt and humiliation and heaviness and hopelessness for us and with us.  With a heart that loves and clings and wants our greatest benefit, He watches as His beloved bride sleeps with others and doesn’t give a hoot about Him.  Man, that’s sad.  That’s awful, isn’t it?

See, Israel wasn’t giving a hoot about her faithful Husband.  She didn’t have any feelings for Him like He had for her.  All her sympathy had dried up because she was all about herself.  And isn’t that the way our culture has adapted?  Where is sympathy today?  Where is it for God?  Where is it for others when it’s so easy to shoot and kill or destroy people’s lives because they don’t agree with us?  Maybe we’ve become less human and more like corrupt animals the farther we walk away from You, God.  And yet You still cry for our loss. 

Well, I want to feel the way You feel and I want to feel the way You feel about me, about You.  I want to love intensely and faithfully like You.  I want to understand and exhibit true sympathy.  I want to be real and really care and really act upon that caring.  I want to be like Micah.  I want to be of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might to not only declare sin as sin, but to live according to Your ways and according to You because I am Yours and You are mine.  And if the world chooses to walk another way, let me continue to stand for You, not because I’m a prophet or anything special, but simply because You are the only One worthy of standing and being Judge.  I just want to cling to You as tightly as You cling to me.  I truly can’t wait until the day that I become one with You because I’ve been judged as truly Yours in Jesus. 

An Uncommon Vessel

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“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life–is not from the Father but is from the world.”  1 John 2:15,16

Some masks totally hide the identity of who is behind them.  Batman’s whole face is covered and his voice is different from his “nonhero” character.  Spiderman’s face is totally hidden.  But then there are characters like Zorro who only where’s a mask that covers his eyes.  And of course, he is so brave and his “alterego” is such a pacifist.  But I still think it’s funny noone can recognize him.  I mean, you can even see the color of his eyes.  It’ s like what the Green Lantern’s girlfriend says, “Do you think I wouldn’t recognize you just because I couldn’t see your cheekbones?”  Funny what deception makes us think people see or don’t see.  Funny what deception can do in our lives.

Pride is a great deceiver.  It’s one of those masks over the eyes.  And people who really know us, well, they know the truth.  But we can fool others.  And we can so easily fool ourselves into believing whatever we want to about ourselves.  And we can not even realize that we’re even wearing that silly mask of pride.  Oh, wait a minute.  Did I say silly?  How wrong of me.  I should have said evil.  Oh, wait, was that too strong?  Well, let’s look into pride in God’s Word, because I want to understand pride as He sees it.  I want to know the danger of pride.  I want to know where pride leads.  And I want to know how to be free of pride.

So let’s go to Psalm 10:4.  The Psalmist, who was inspired by You, Lord, says, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not see after God:  God is not in all his thoughts.”  Hmmm.  Seems as though being wicked and pride go hand in hand.  Oh, well maybe that just means someone who did a bad thing.  Maybe that doesn’t mean evil; maybe it doesn’t really mean wicked.  Well, Strong’s concordance says it means “morally wrong; concretely an (actively) bad person: condemned, guilty, ungodly…”  I think that’s pretty strong.  Still not sure?  Well, here’s what Skip Moen, a Messianic believer who understands Hebrew from a Jewish perspective shares about this word “rasha” from another verse that David speaks in Scripture, “The word means those who are guilty because of their actions or because they have been condemned.  They act in ways that are contrary to God’s character, hostile to the community and intent on producing chaos.  God opposes such people.  These people live a life style that is incommensurable with God’s revealed nature.  But they are not eternally lost.  They can repent.  They can be restored.  They can change direction—if they confess and return to the ways of the Lord.”  So here is where pride has us starting; that’s the condition of our heart and life when we baby pride.

But what is pride?  The Hebrew word for pride is “gobahh.”   The concordance tells us it means “elation, grandeur, arrogance.”  But realize it’s not just arrogance over others.  It’s arrogance over God.  The wickedness is in that pride leads a person to live in some particular way that is not lining up with Your revealed nature, God.  In other words, pride says, “I know better, God.  I can do that my own way.”  Paul uses another tense of these words elsewhere in Scripture, “hyperephanoi.”  The “hyper” part means “above,”  “beyond,” or “over.”  In this case it would imply “what appears or shines.”  And instead of shining about the reality of God’s character it’s shining about “the reconstruction of God’s world in order to shine light on ourselves.”  Guess who the limelight is on?  It’s not on You, Lord.  So it’s all about a life that revolves around the wrong source.  Instead of my life and actions revolving around the Source of Life, it revolves around me.  And I’ve given me this capital m without even realizing it.  And I don’t even realize I’m addicted to my own glory.

It’s more than not nice.  It’s more than bad.  It’s an abomination to God.  Oh, that just means that You, God are displeased.  Really?  No, it means that You, God, hate it.  You detest it.  Those are really strong feelings against it.  Here’s the other related word used, “huperairomai,” which means “to lift above.”  Only this time in Scripture it’s in this present passive tense which implies that something, this arrogance, this pride “is done to me.”  I am it’s victim.  “Sin, residing in my natural self, takes hold of the opportunity to make an ego case out of my encounter with the living God and attempts to convert glory to God into glorification of self.”  (Skip Moen)  Job realized a crucial point we all need to realize, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”  (Job 1:21)  Do I know what that means, Lord?  I came into this world without a “hidden agenda.”  I have no strength.  I am at my best that way, the way the Lord created me to be, just like Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:25.  “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”  They were dependent upon You, Lord, in all Your glory and power and reality.  No pride.

So, here’s the basics of what the deformity of pride does in my life, if I allow it to victimize me.  I will not see after God.  You, Lord will not be in all my thoughts.  Why?  Because my delight won’t be in pleasing You and in Your ways but in pleasing me and my ways.  But let’s keep digging deeper.  If I don’t let pride victimize me, You will hide me in the secret of Your presence!  but if I let pride victimize me, I’ll be bound in the “strife of tongues.” (Psalm 31:20)  I wonder if that is bitter words and arguments.  Maybe that’s tied up with having to be right and having to be number one.

Psalm 36:11 tells me that I need Your protection from pride in my life just as much as I need Your protection from wicked people against me.  Psalm 59:12 tells me that pride will cause me to sin with my mouth and with the words on my lips.  Pride will cause me to curse and speak lies.

Now, I want to say something here, that I can be just as guilty of falling victim to pride and getting lost in it as anyone else.  And I want to state that this is not just a nonbeliever problem.  This is David and Job and Paul and me that needed God’s intervention.  Believers need to guard against pride continually.  And that’s the perspective that I’m looking through here.  Let me explain.

This may seem like a digression, but I pray it’s a Holy digression.  My dear friend, Jessica, once told me a story about when You, Lord, first called her into missions.  And she had been a dentist with her own practice, even two practices.  And one day someone came to her and wanted to give her a monetary gift but she answered, “No thank you, I don’t need that.”  But a friend who had been in missions longer came over to her and shared this, “Jessica, when someone offers you a gift, you need to accept it.  This is God’s way of giving them an opportunity to join with Him in blessing others.  When we refuse their blessing, their gift, we are refusing them the opportunity to obey God and blocking their blessing.”  Ever since that day, she has looked at it differently, and since she shared with me, so have I.

But I have a loved one who professes Christ in their life.  And that person will give to the needs of others.  And they are in need.  But this person gets angry every time it is suggested that they let the body of Christ serve them.  This person is angry when the body of Christ gave and returned it and said, “I don’t need that.”  This person will not let the body of Christ help.  Why?  Well the latest reason was stated like this.  “I don’t want a group of people here doing their own thing.  I want one person that I can tell how to do it my way.”  Pride is a lonely lifestyle.  My friend Jessica has friends all over the world.  She never tried to find them,  but God has provided them.  This other relative, lacks help, or has one person every now and than, because they’ve blocked off those that You, Lord would bring en masse.

Psalm 73:6 says, “Therefore pride compasses them about as a chain; violence covers them as a garment.”  Did you know that this person now gets angry and holds grudges?  They didn’t used to.  But now they do.  Do you know it’s effected a relationship, well, more than one?

Proverbs 8:13 tells me that if I fear You, Lord, then I will hate these things:  evil, pride, arrogancy, the evil way, and a froward mouth.  I need to feel about pride the way you do.  Did I notice that pride was right beside two of EVIL things?

What else does pride bring?  Proverbs 11:2 tells me that pride brings shame.  Isn’t that what happened to Adam and Eve when they took up their own agenda instead of Yours? But if I guard myself, and cry out to You to keep me humble, I can wisely discern when pride is trying to creep in.  I don’t have to be a victim.  I can be victorious.

Pride brings contention because then I am not one in mind with You.  If I am one in mind with my own mind, I’m alone.  I have to argue my point.  I have to be right.  Someone else is always wrong.  Peace is only present when I am right.  But with You advising, when I submit to the mind of Christ, I don’t have to be right, and I don’t have to convince, because that’s all in Your hands.  All I have to do is obey and love.  I can walk away and pray and keep loving someone who doesn’t agree.  But in pride, I can’t do that.  That’s what Proverbs 13:10 tells me.

Pride is foolishness.  It causes a professing Christian to say, “That preacher is whiny.”  “I don’t like the way that Christian artist sings.”  “Jesus isn’t King of the Gentiles.”  “They are such idiots for not seeing.”  “Internet is evil.”  “We can only serve alongside people who believe exactly what we believe.”  Check out Proverbs 14:3.

Pride leads to one place.  Destruction.  Your going to fall.  I’m going to fall.  Who ever becomes it’s victim, is going to fall.  It’s inevitable.  Unless you repent, unless I repent, unless I turn from my WICKED way and turn back to Your way which is letting You have Your way.  Not only that, but it effects my spirit.  (Proverbs 16:18)  It will bring one down or low, depress us.  It will make me sink, humiliate me, and debase me.  (Proverbs 29:23)

Don’t think that no one else notices.  Anyone who is close with us can see it.  But people will hear of it.  They’ll see.  Even if I don’t.  Arrogancy shows.  Pride shows.  Haughtiness isn’t easily hidden or covered up.  You don’t try.  By the time it gets like this, you’re proud of it.  It’s like a badge of honor.  Only, from the outside looking in, it doesn’t look or feel so honorable to others.  And it’s root is a heart issue.  (Jeremiah 48:29)

It’s a terrible heart issue.  Jeremiah refers to it as terribleness.  It’s when I don’t even realize I’m being terrible, I’m thinking terribly.  I’m the most deceived.  My terribleness in pride has deceived me.  I’m it’s victim and I don’t even know it.  And it started in my heart.  It started when I took back my heart and it became my own instead of Yours, Lord.  I decided to lift myself up instead of You and instead of others.  But it’s a dangerous place to be, on the top when You weren’t created to be there.  (Jeremiah 49:16)

Don’t think that pride isn’t the worst sin, because it’s right in the midst of the worst of the worst.  Think of the most sinful cities in the Bible.   How about Sodom?  What was her sin?  “…pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her…”  Notice what was listed first.  Pride.  I wonder if “fulness of bread” meant decent wealth and provision, and if abundance of idleness meant complacency?  I wonder if pride leads me to care for myself and to not share like You share, so I waste my  God-given resources on my own pleasures and complacent about the things where You are calling me to join in with You.  Instead of being abundantly generous and reaching out to those in need, I don’t even have any idea of all You are doing around me.  (Ezekiel 16:49)  “The poor and the needy, who cares?  Tell them get a job.”  Only, You care, Lord, and You call me to care and join in with You on doing something about it.

See, the silly thing is that pride makes me think I have power.  But You are the One that brings things to pass.  “How many people have you lead to the Lord?”  Really?  Isn’t that easy to get prideful over?  Who is really leading?  Aren’t You, Jesus, leading me as You lead those around me to You?  I’m so learning that every good God thing that happens in my life is so because of You and just because I surrender to You.  My closest friends aren’t because I’m such a good friend.  It’s because You are so good in me and for me and in them and for them.  My gifts being used to encourage others wouldn’t be gifts if You weren’t enabling them.  Any power I have is only because of Your power being exhibited in me.  Take that away and I’m just a puffed up empty power tower.  (Ezekiel 30:6)

Pride lifts up my heart for me instead of for You and for me instead of for others.  It puts everything in a wrong perspective.  Actually, remember, wrong is taking this too lightly.  It puts everything into an evil perspective.  It’s the same perspective that Satan had when his heart was lifted up and he wanted to be on the throne instead of You, Lord.  So His mind was hardened in pride.  And he wants to entrap our hearts and minds also.  I wonder if pride is one of the hardest sins to break free from because of that hardening of the mind?  Once I let pride take hold, it opens me up to partake in so many dark ways and think I’m right.  And this is the shame, because we were created to rule on this earth with You.  But when pride takes over, You have to depose us.  Because the throne was never ours.  Our glory is only in You and if You aren’t in me, well, I no longer have any glory.  (Daniel 5:20)

The hardening of pride in our hearts and minds is a dangerous thing.  Pride will keep me from turning.  I can stand their and look into Your face and still not see You for who You really are.  I can stand their and be confronted with my sin and I won’t see it for what it is.  And because of the pride, I won’t return to You, my God.  Why?  Because You have ceased to be recognized as God in my heart.  I’ve made a new image and, well, You just don’t fit that image any more.  I’ve stopped seeking You, because I found my own way.  Now how sad is that?  (Hosea 7:10)  How sad is it when the pride of my own heart deceives me?  (Obadiah 1:3)

Now, pride doesn’t just come out in puffing ourselves up against You, Lord.  That’s terrible enough in itself.  But when I let my pride control me then I start finding fault with Your people.  I will find myself starting to back away from true fellowship because everyone doesn’t agree with me.  I will start seeing that disagreement as a reproach on them.  Well, it’s not me that needs to change.  They are all wrong.  Pride is a lonely path.  (Zephaniah 2:10)

Pride is a lonely, evil path.  It’s listed right in the midst of sins like “thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye (greed), blasphemy, pride, foolishness…”  (Mark 7:22)  Jesus said that “all these evil things come from within and defile a man.”  “Defile” is from the word “koinoo”.  It’s telling us that God cleanses.  He makes something common into something uncommon, no, even better, He takes what is nothing and makes it Godly- pure, righteous, true, powerful, beautiful.  I have one thing, sin.  It’s all that is legally or rightfully mine.  Naturally, I’m everything in Mark’s list.  It’s all I have to offer.  Isn’t it absurd to take pride in that?  Because here is what You, Lord, let me do.  You let me offer all that pride and junk called sin to You.  You take my pride and junk and sin in the power of Jesus Christ, and instead You give me everything that is in You.  How fair is that?  Who else would do that for me.  I gave You wretchedness and You give me riches and glory.

Now here You have gone and made me something I never was.  You make me holy and shameless and guiltless and able to do righteousness and truth.  You give me Your power and You perform Your works in me.  You make me beautiful instead of evil.  I didn’t do any of it.  You did it all.  You have ever authority in my life.  None of it is of me.  It’s all of You.  What right do I have to take any of those areas back and taint them with what I no longer own any more?  What right do I have to make myself “common” again?  You have altered me.  Why would I let that old stuff creep back in?

Lord, I’ve seen what pride has done in someone else’s life near me.  I’ve seen and experienced what it does to relationship.  I’ve seen it drive people away, and cause great pain.  I’ve seen it cause discouragement and doubt.  I see it rear it’s face up against Your ways without even realizing it and while calling God’s way.  I’ve also been guilty of letting pride slip in and deceive my own heart and I know that none of us is immune to it’s dangers.  But I also thank You that You give us discernment to see into our own lives and I am so grateful to the brothers and sisters in You that You surround us with that have eyes to see the things that we don’t, and have Your heart to be honest with us even when it hurts.  I am a continual work in Your hands.  And I can be confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in me WILL continue it until the day I am with You and You have completed it in You!  Lord, search my heart continually, and open my eyes to see if there is any evil way in me, especially the evil way of pride, that I might cast it aside and turn back to You.  I am so glad that You alone have the power to make me an uncommon vessel for and in You!

Not Just a Puncture Wound

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And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Matthew 6:13

We are all being led somewhere.  Some of us are leading ourselves.  Some of us are letting the world or others lead us.  And some of us are letting the Master of the Universe lead us.  Now, I’m here today because I believe this is where You have led me, Lord.  I was praying for someone and asking You to give me wisdom in praying and You put Your prayer in my head.  This is what You used when Your disciples asked You to teach them to pray.  And this part is what is standing out this early morning in me.

I want this for me and I want this for the family I’m praying for.  And it’s not that they’re doing bad things or being tempted per se.  I mean, not if I think of temptation like we usually do.  But what if temptation isn’t as obvious as I think?  What if temptation goes deeper than I think?

Skip Moen likened temptation to a puncture wound.  Think about it.  A puncture wound doesn’t seem so bad.  It covers itself back when the damaging instrument is pulled out.  There’s not much blood.  It hurts when it happens but then seems OK.  But let me tell you something, you better have your tetanus shot up to date.  You better keep an eye on it because there is probably an infection within coming up.

Temptation is like that.  It sinks a barb in and we think we’ve handled it for the moment.  But it may have gone deeper than we think.  There could be thoughts we haven’t handled or doubts that we haven’t noticed.  Think of a situation you are praying for.  What if it doesn’t turn out the way you want?  What will your response to God be?  Will you be angry?  Will you curse God?  Or will your response be like Job’s after he lost his wealth, all his children, and his health?  “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him…”  Don’t tell me he wasn’t inflicted with many barbs of temptation.  I mean, his wife told him, “Curse God and die.”  I think temptation comes in all forms; even in the form of trials and difficult situations that test our faith.

I mean, who would think that suffering would tempt me?  But it does, doesn’t it?  Doesn’t my pain, whether in sickness or job loss or family problems sink deep?  And my faith may look strong on the outside but what about the doubts or thoughts being harbored on the inside?  Am I handling them rightly?  See, it’s so easy for me to think I’ve got everything covered when it’s an “outward” difficulty.  But I can’t forget that even though something attacks me on the outside, I’m not just waging a “battle of the flesh.”  Am I taking care of the spiritual warfare that is going on within?  Am I letting a stronghold creep into my heart?  Or am I attacking every thought, every doubt that’s raising it’s ugly head against Your truth, Lord, grabbing it, identifying it, and utterly destroying it?  If I’m in You, Jesus, Your divine power is there to enable me to do just that.

Paul knew we’d go through this.  So he powerfully reminded us “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:13)  The Corinthians that Paul was talking to were going through some hard times and situations.  But what they were doing was fleeing to idols instead of You.  “Well, I’m not going to flee to an idol!”  Really?  What if I come into a hard situation, and I don’t “agree” with the way You are handling it, Lord?  Do I continue to trust You even when I don’t understand and can’t make sense and hurt like there’s no tomorrow?  Or do I trust in my own reasoning, my anger, my justification, or whatever else?  Isn’t it “funny” how I turn to myself as an idol without even realizing it?  I didn’t even realize what that puncture wound had done.

But Paul is telling me that when the tough times and decisions hit me, that You will get me through it.  You don’t snatch me out of it,  Your ultimate way of escape is for Your provision of strength and power for me to ENDURE it.   You know everything about me.  You know my limits.  And You know what You created me to be able to handle better than me.  Which means that every thing that happens in my life, no matter how terrible, is do-able and do-able well in Your power.  You give me the power to overcome in every situation.  I just need to act and think in belief, in agreement with You and Your word.   Because You have recreated me and renewed me to “endure living in a broken world.”  See, Your idea of enduring is from the Greek word “hupophero.”  It’s  the idea of  bearing “up under pressure.  It does not imply removal of the opposing force.  It implies the ability to resist that force, to bear the load.”   Because the whole point is, in You, I never have to bear the load alone.  And the fact is, that You bore the heavier load already for me when You went to the cross.  And look how You overcame.  So, I’ve got that same resurrection power behind me, if I’m in You.

So, prayer empowers me when I pray rightly.  Prayer should be me remembering who You are and what You are doing and Your promises to me.  I obey.  Every thought.  I follow Your path, even if it’s just in my thinking.  I handle the wrong thoughts, by capturing them and slaughtering them.  The truth is, I don’t need any devil whispering temptations to me.  I’m my own idol easily enough.  My desires kick in too easily.  I need every reminder of You.  And I must act upon those reminders immediately.  I must not ignore You or Your instructions.  I have to grab on because they are my weapon that will take me through and make me an overcomer in You.  I need to drop my pride and ask for directions from You.  I don’t want to wander off, and believe me, wandering off is very easy for my active mind.  “Lead me not into temptation.”  Don’t let me wander off Your path.  You would never lead me off, it’s me who wanders.  Help me!  But all the help is right here.  I have all I need in You and in Your word, if only I will rely on it and act upon it and guard it and do it and think it and live it.

So, Lord, deliver me from evil.  Evil is from the word “poneros”, from “ponos”, which means toil, to labor in pain under intense demands.  The Hebrew equivalent word is “atsav” “describing the toil in sorrow that accompanies the Fall.”  So what if evil isn’t just bad deeds?  What if evil includes the effects of sin, like death and pain and hardships?  Why?  Because I live in a broken world and evil is all about that brokenness.  Evil is about the lack or absence of God.  It’s all about independence from Your authority.  I live in a broken world that doesn’t acknowledge You as God.  But what about me?  Am I refusing Your authority in any situation?  Do I want to make this situation my own?  How’s my worship?  Because if I’m refusing Your authority, I’m going to lose in the area of worship.  I may win my way, but I’ll also win emptiness, because I’ll lose my intimacy with You.

No matter how hard this evil in the world is around me, in You, I can get under it’s weight and stand strong.  I’m stronger than Atlas, bearing the world on his shoulders.  When I respond rightly in You, I have Your strength strengthening me, and You hold all of creation by just the power of Your word.  You don’t even have to raise a pinky.  Atlas has to use his muscles.  Not You.  Evil hurts.  It stands in the face of You.  But evil is puny compared to You.  And You’ve got my back.

Paul wasn’t the only one trying to get me to understand this truth.  So did John.  And he used that word “poneros” too.  He reminded, “I have written to you fathers [spiritually matured believers], because you have known Him that is from the beginning [Jesus].  I have written to you, young men [believers in their earlier walk], becaue you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the Evil One [Satan and sin].”  The truth is that Sin is rampant.  This world is filled with it.  But in Christ, when I know Him, I am strong.  I am “ischuros.”  I am powerful, mighty, valiant!  In You, I’m empowered to tear down strongholds.  But it’s better, Lord, if I don’t let them get built in the first place.

Lord, no matter what happens in my life, to me, or the people around me, I want to keep a right focus on You.  I want to apply Your word rightly in my life and in my mind.  Bring to mind and point out everything I need for each moment.  And keep me constantly seeking You in Your word and in prayer and in fellowship.  Because I’m going to face hard, evil things.  But I abide in You.  And that’s where I want to stay, abiding in You.  And I want to make sure that Your word abides in me.  And you’ve already told me that I have overcome the Evil One.  And that means that I’ve already overcome every evil thing that gets thrown at me, because You have already empowered me in You.  So let me live in the middle of Your authority, Your control, Your power, always giving You the glory no matter what.  Let me remember that Job lost everything but You were still worth more.  Let me believe that though You slay me, yet will I trust You.  Let me believe that You are my salvation.  Let me trust in You for my justification.  Just don’t ever withdraw Your hand from me and don’t ever let Your dread make me afraid.  Let me hear Your voice, always.  Let me obey.  Hear my voice when I cry, and direct me to what I need to hear and obey.