Diminishing God

Standard

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Born To Be Sent

Standard

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.  When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”  Matthew 1:18

Now, I’m still looking through the eyes of these words of Jesus, “As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.”  And today that is stopping me just a little farther in Matthew 1.  I’ve gotten as far as the conception of You, Jesus, as a baby.  And here is how it happened.  Let’s look at Luke’s account as he goes into greater detail.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.  And the virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:26,27)  Now, let’s just get that straight.  This woman Mary, who was considered as “married” already to Joseph (that’s the seriousness of betrothal) had never intimately been with any man, ever.

Let’s continue.  So Gabriel came to her “and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!'”  Oh my, I need to stop.  “O favored one.”  What does that mean when God sends an angel to say that to someone?  Does that mean that Mary was perfect and sinless and had won God’s reward and pleasure to bear His Son?  I looked up the word for “favored.”  The Greek word is “charitoo”.  Strong’s concordance  says it means, “to grace, i.e. indue with special honor:–make accepted, be highly favoured.”  When I read that, I see God bestowing His grace upon her.   I see almighty God induing her with special honor from Him.  I see Him making her accepted and highly favouring her because He chose to.  2 Chronicles 16:9 tells us “The Lord’s eyes scan the whole world to find those whose hearts are committed to Him and to strengthen them.”  Mary wasn’t perfect or sinless, but she was finding herself complete in Him and allowing herself to be made ready, full, just, peaceable, and perfected by Him.  So He came because she was waiting and expecting Him.

“But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.  And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’  And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be done, since I am a virgin?’ “  Good question, don’t you think?

“And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God.  And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.’  And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’  And the angel departed from her.”  (Luke 1:28-38)

So what does this have to do with following the thinking about Your words, Lord, “As the Father has sent me, even so am I sending you”?  Isn’t this about Mary?  Well, it’s all about Jesus, and about Mary, and about you and me and everyone who ever has lived or ever will live.  Because I have to ask myself, how did You, Jesus, come to be the Savior of the world?  See, You already were You.  Scripture tells me You always existed.  John tells us “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  All things were made by Him…”  You, Yourself, Jesus, are recorded in John 17:5  announcing these words, “And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”  So why is that important?

Because Father God sent Jesus God into the world as a baby.  He decided that Jesus had to be born.  Even though He already existed, He had to become as man.  The only way to truly become as man is to be born physically as a man.  So God, in Jesus, remained God, yet became man by being truly born.

Now think about that.  “As the Father has sent me, even so am I sending you.”  Jesus had to be born to become a “real” man.  What bearing does that have for me?  I am a man, well, woman, but physically of mankind.  Therefore I am physically and wholly human.  What if I want to not ony be human but enter into the family of God?  Is God only human?  No, before Jesus was even human, He was spiritually ever existent.  He was other than human.  He was so much more.  Therefore, to enter fully into relationship with God, through Jesus, I must be more than wholly human.  I, like Jesus, must be born into that relationship.  And I’m not the only one saying this.

Jesus, You were speaking with Nicodemus, a Pharisee (a religious leader), and here are the words You told him.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’  Jesus, You were sent to be born.  Why?  Because it was the only way You could really KNOW us.

How could being born make You know us?  Listen to Jesus’ words continued, “No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man [Jesus!].  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up[upon the cross], that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.  ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.'”  Just as You, Jesus, could only be made known to us through being born as one of us, so we can only know You by being born again, being born anew into You.  Just as You came to us by being made like us, we must come to You and be made like You.

Either way you look at it, whether Jesus being born as a man, or you or me being born again and becoming spiritually alive in Christ, spiritually united with God, a child of God–that’s miraculous!  But this is the only way that Jesus could be sent.  And this is the only way that Jesus will send me, if I come to Him and cry out to Him to be my life and to take my life and make it His and to give me new, true life.  I can’t explain it, it’s like the wind, but I know that if someone is seeking Him, they will find find Him, because He WILL make Himself known.

I love the way the Good News Bible puts Peters words in 1 Peter 1:23-25, “For through the living and eternal Word of God you have been born again as the children of a parent who is immortal, not mortal.  As the Scripture says, ‘All human beings are like grass, and all their glory is like wild flowers.  The grass withers, and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord remains forever.’  This Word is the Good News that was proclaimed to you.”  This Good News has been shown to You.  He was born for you and me and lived out His life and death and resurrection and life forevermore right before your eyes, all for you, in a way you and I could know and experience.  And unless we enter in through being born again into Him and of Him, He can’t send us.  Because He only sends us the ways the Father sent Him.

Am I following Your examples and Your ways, Lord?  Am I following You so closely that I understand what You require of me because I know You?  More than anything I want to know You, and I mean really know You, so that I can truly follow You and so that You can truly send me as You were sent.  Because I don’t want to misrepresent You.  I don’t ever want to make You less than You truly are.  May I see You as You truly are more and more every day, forever.  And may I resemble You more and more every day, as I continually surrender to Your work in me for Your glory alone

A One of a Kind Family

Standard

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.”  1 John 4:9

I was an only child for most of my childhood.  Actually, I was a lonely only child.  I wasn’t sad or mistreated, I was happy and imaginatively creative in my loneliness.  But I was lonely all the same.  And I saw other friends and cousins with siblings and I knew I was missing something special.  There was this relationship that they had that I wasn’t privy to, I wasn’t able to experience.  I had no siblings.  I was the only daughter…for a time.

And that made me think about how You, Jesus, being the only begotten Son of God, changed everything for me.  It made me think about how You answered the prayers of my childhood for a relationship with siblings even more deeply than they would have been answered had I always had siblings.  So I feel that I should look into Your onlyness for a little while today and what Your onlyness has done for me and for the world.

There is one specific thing above all things that demonstrates, that makes known to us, to me, the love of God toward us, toward me.  This only begottenness of You, Jesus.  In You, Lord, was manifested the love of God.  The word for “manifested” here is the Greek word “phaneroo.”  It means  “to make apparent, known, manifest.”  But I want to jump back and make a Hebraic connection.  God, You from the beginning were making Yourself manifest.  It’s the whole reason You gave Your words and Your prophets and the Torah; it’s the whole reason we have that “Old Testament.”  That’s the beginning of what You gave us in order to begin seeing You manifest Yourself.  It’s how You begin to make Yourself known and show Yourself to us.  It’s the start on knowing You we need until we come to Jesus who completes the picture for us.  Jesus, You aren’t separate, You are the completion of what You started.  You are the” continuation of the manifestation of God, this time in flesh and blood rather than in words alone.”  (Skip Moen)

So here is this revealing, this manifestation, this making Yourself known that You started and that You are continuing.  It’s not just a one time deal.  And it’s for us and to us and it goes even deeper.  It’s in us.  How do I get that?  Because it’s how we are able to live through You.  You are the channel and we have to be in Your channel.  That is intimacy, that is unity, that is ceasing to be alone because that is oneness.

You came and experienced every aspect of loneliness.  I mean, if I thought I was lonely, what about You?  You were the only begotten, that means that You were the only one born of Your kind.  You are the only One like You.  You were unique in every aspect.  There had been other only begotten sons, like Isaac, but none like You.  You have no equal and You alone can fully reveal God the Father to us.  Yes, You are the Unique and Specially Beloved Son.  And being that has eternally set You apart.

Being the Only Begotten Son, is why it was so hard for the disciples to get what You were sharing.  Because we humans are not unique like You.  Now don’t get me wrong.  You created each one of us unique.  But we are not unique like You.  We are so much more like each other than we are like You.  So who of us could understand Your heart?  Who of us could truly comfort You?  Who of us could truly be there to encourage You as much as You needed?  And I thought I was lonely?

In my book, compared to everything or anything any person who has been lonely has experienced, You were unique in Your loneliness.  Yet at the same time, You were the Answer to fill that loneliness.  Because it is only through and in You, that we can live in Your same realm, in the realm of glory that completes You.  Not that You need us to complete You, but You invite us into that completeness in You.  Because only man can be lonely, not God.  God is complete.  Man is not.

So You came and demonstrated that You knew what it was like for us to be human.  You knew my struggles and my lack of ability to measure up to Your uniqueness.  And even though I couldn’t fill the bill, You showed how much You loved me.  You came to make me able to fit the bill in You.  You came that I could place my life and being in Yours, and be completed in You, and understand You, and join in with Your desires of Your heart and be one with You.  And You didn’t just come alongside me, You came to live in me and allow me to live in You.  You brought true relationship, deeper than any earthly sibling can have.

So when I come to trust in You, to let go of my own ways and my past, and dive into You, then I enter into Your glorious commandments from the beginning.  But I enter in a deeper way.  See, at first you told us to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.    But now You have taken it to a deeper level that can only be completed in and with You.  “Love as I have loved you.”  This is the intensity of Your love.  This is the unity of Your love.  This is the deepness of Your love.

The Only Unique One sacrificed everything for me.  You were lonely, misunderstood, ridiculed, spit on, beaten, forsaken, and crucified all for love.  You purposefully did that for me, for each of us.  And because You did, I don’t have to be lonely another day of my life.  In You I will always have relationship and I will have the deepest relationship that exists in all of creation.

And here’s the extra beauty of that relationship in You.  That in You, I have brothers and sisters from the same deep, deep bloodline, who are united with me in You more deeply than any physical bond.  This is family.  This is life.  This is love.  This is God in Christ Jesus!

Lord, I am so eternally grateful that You loved me first.  I’m so appreciative that You understand what it is to be lonely and misunderstood but that You always knew what it was to be united with God and therefore never alone.  Yet for one moment, You truly had to experience separation even from Him as You bore every one of our sins and the weight of the full wrath of Your Father.  But You did that so I would never have to experience it.  I can choose You and give You all of me and experience a one of a kind unity, a one of a kind relationship.  I can be part of a one of a kind family, the family of God!  I can be so loved by the One who is so loved by the Father and I can love others like You love me.