From Pondering to Pain to Power

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“And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”  Luke 2:34,35

I can’t help reading these words of Luke and not thinking about his choice of words with her.  What words?  “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)  And then, those words happen again a little later, “And he [the child Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.  And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.”  (Luke 2:51) And why is that significant to me?  Because, Simeon, the prophet who has been waiting for God to reveal His Messiah, declares that this Jesus, this 40 day old baby is the One.  But it’s not just that.  It’s the way he talks about the sword piercing through Mary’s soul and that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.

Will Mary’s heart be pierced through because her son is crucified?  Or is it an even worse piercing?  For Mary, will it take the crucifiying of her son and his resurrection for her to fully understand that even though he was her son, He is not her son?  He is more.  He is God’s Son first and foremost.  And she must submit to Him just as she submits to God.  She needs Jesus more than He needs her.  Jesus is her salvation.  Is it a rude awakening when we realize our absolute need for You, Lord?  That I’m not the one who holds things together, but You are?  That even though I was chosen to bear You in my body, You didn’t just die for me, You died for all mankind? 

What of Mary’s heart on the day that she and the family came for Jesus.  And someone in the crowd announced they were there.  “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” He asked.  “And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, He said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’” (Matthew 12:48-50, Mark 3:33-35, Luke 8:19-21)    Now tell me that hearing that was not painful!

Imagine that you have birthed this child.  You’ve been told who He will be.  But you don’t totally understand how it will all play out.  Along the way, there are little glimpses of His glory, but most of the time, He’s just a kid, your kid.  At eight days old, he is circumcised just like all the other boys, and given his name, Jesus, as the angel had declared.  I bet things were uneventful up until his 40th day when they went, according to custom to dedicate Him to the Lord during the purification of Mary.  All the Jewish mothers went through the purification.  If they gave birth to a girl, there was a purification process, and another if they gave birth to a boy.  For the first born males, there was a special dedication where they were called “holy to the Lord.”  This was normal tradition.  But it wasn’t just normal tradition for Jesus.

For Jesus, this was the true fulfilment of what the “traditions” were set up to point to.  This was no longer symbolic.  Jesus was the first born Son of God.  He was truly holy to the Lord.  This was fulfilment of God’s will.  This was fulfilment of Scripture.  This was God bringing to light the Truth, no longer just pointing to the Truth by pictures and shadowy images.  This was the Daystar lighting up the Truth for us to see.

And the truth is that coming to the Truth hurts.  Why?  Because I have to be changed.  I have to let go of things I have always believed about me, about the world, about God, and take hold of the Truth instead.  I have to let go of things being mine or being my way.  I have to let go of control and hand it over to God.  I have to let go of my children and hand them over to God.  I have to stop hiding things inside and let them out and turn them over to God.  I have to stop putting things into my perspective and allow God to put them into His perspective for me.  I must be willing to lose what I thought was mine to gain what God has for me, like the truth in Jesus’ words when He tells us, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) 

Has this same sword ever pierced through my own soul?  Have you ever shown the real thoughts of my own heart?  Have I ever layed down all of who I thought I was, to let You make me all of who You created me to be in You?  Has the Truth ever hurt?  Or am I still to busy turning a blind eye?  Am I still just pondering in my heart?  Have I never let You give my heart understanding?  Have I never let You take the veil off my face, or remove the scales from my eyes?  I can’t change myself.  It will never happen.  But that’s ok, because You alone can change me.  So help me to lose my self so that I can find myself in You, empowered by You and alive in You.

Don’t Forget the Oil in Your Lamps

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Oil lamp picture from unknown source on internet.

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…”  2 Peter 1:19

Peter hasn’t finished reminding us and stirring us up to do something, to do appropriately what ought to be done with those things we remember.  I know these truths.  I have been learning and studying Your word as a believer for probably 40 years now.  Some people have known the Lord for less time; some for longer.  But what are we doing with what we know, with the Scripture we do know?  Are we acting upon it by faith?  Am I changed by what I know?  Is it reflected in how I treat others?  Is it reflected in my life?  Is it knowledge that has become experience or is it just tucked away in my brain somewhere?

The prophetic words in scripture and all of scripture was given yesterday so that we can live today because we have a sure hope of the outcome, that one day Christ is returning, and all prophecy will be fulfilled.  The ultimate joy of that fulfilment will be no more darkness and finally being fully in Christ and fully as He is.  Do I live for then?  Am I leading others to live for then?  This was Peter’s preparation for dying, preparing others for the coming of Christ.  Why?  Because we need to prepare our hearts and lives so they will be ready to receive Him.  This requires continual reminding on our behalf; continual stirring inside of us, because we, by nature, fizzle out so easily and get distracted.

Personally, I’m in this time of life where I just feel fizzled out.  Not because of service or work.  It’s just an over 50 thing.  And I am so glad to have Peter and others who stir me up and keep me remembering what’s important so that I can act on that and not be overpowered by my fizzled feelings.  I need to be reminded over and over again of God’s precious and very great promises.  I’m sure Peter did too, and that’s why he knew the need was great for other believers to be reminded.  He was distracted by the events around the capture and crucifixion of Jesus.  Jesus knew he would be.  Jesus even reminded him, “but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32) Jesus planted that in Peter so, later, at the right time, it would remind him, and he would do just that, turn again, and strengthen his brothers.  Isn’t that what Peter is doing now?  Am I so sensitive to God’s word and work in my life, that I am using it to not only be strengthened but to strengthen others?

Peter isn’t the only one who needs to pay attention to God’s word, especially His prophetic word.  We all do.  If the prophetic word was sure in the Old Testament Scriptures because it was given by God (and it was sure!), then how much more even now, in all the ways it has been confirmed since then!  That’s what Peter is saying.  He and others saw the confirmation of Christ’s glory at the transfiguration on the mountain when they also heard the voice of God confirming, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  This is the good news we have to look forward to, not only that Christ dwells in our hearts now (not just as a trophy but as a treasure to be applied, used and spent!), but that He is coming to destroy the darkness and make us fully his!

As it is right now, in this we live in a dismal world.  The Amplified Bible shares “And we have the prophetic word [made] firmer still.  You will do well to pay close attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dismal (squalid and dark) place, until the day breaks through [the gloom] and the Morning Star rises (comes into being) in your hearts.”  Peter is telling us there is an urgency here to not forget and to keep living according to what we know, despite the darkness and especially because of it.  John Piper shares, “It is night time.  The world is covered with darkness of sin and deceit and fear and greed.  (Colossians 1:12).  Everyone who inhabits this age of darkness is in danger of stumbling over some unexpected temptation or falsehood.  Our only hope to survive the night is to have a lamp going before us.  And Peter says the prophetic word, the promise of Christ’s coming, is that lamp.  And he pleads with us:  keep your eyes on it; don’t fall asleep; don’t turn away after some bewitching song in the night.  The hope of the coming of Jesus Christ is the lamp to our feet and a light to our path in a very dark world.”

“[P]ay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place…”  That’s like a lamp, not a candle.  A lamp contains oil.  The oil needs to be maintained.  It ought to bring back the parable of the ten virgins and their lamps.  Five were wise and took extra oil to fill them and five were foolish and took none with them.  When the call came at midnight that the bridegroom had arrived, all the virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.  That’s the outward show.  They cut the wick to just the right length so it would burn most effectively.  That’s good, right?  Sure, if you have oil to keep it burning, otherwise, it won’t matter how effectively your wick is trimmed when you run out of oil. 

What does that have to do with what we are talking about?  What is the lamp of my soul running on?  Am I filling it and refilling it with the promises of God in Christ?  Or am I just trimming the wick on the outside and ignoring the oil on the inside.  It’s easy enough to do.  I can make up a lot of excuses.  But it’s just foolishness if I’m not keeping my oil refilled, if I’m not prepared.  It doesn’t matter how tired I am.  That’s not an excuse.  It doesn’t matter how mad I am, how disappointed, how sad, how afraid, how worn out, or whatever.  It’s foolishness to not refill my oil in the word.  I’ll just burn out and have nothing left.  I’ll just be as dark as the world around me in the end.

I have to say, the next thoughts Peter shares are maybe a little confusing for me.  “…[U]ntil the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,” makes me feel like this is just happening, but it’s not.  But then again the Morning Star- Jesus- is already in our heart if we are believers.  So what does this mean?  It means, that it’s not fully completed.  Scripture isn’t fully fulfilled yet, just partially.  But there is coming a day, a day which will dawn like the most glorious dawn we have ever seen, when the Morning Star will return and we will be fully united!  This hope compels us, or at least it should.  This is why we walk in light as he is in the light.  This is why remembrance brings forth fruit and action.

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)  No more darkness!  And can you imagine, we will be like Him, like Jesus, the “bright and morning star.” (Revelation 22:16)  So be reminded and act appropriately upon what you know because “To him who conquers and keeps my works unto the end…I will give him the bright and morning star.”  (Revelation 2:28)  I would do well to pay attention and follow through.

Living for the Will of God, Part 3

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“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” 1  Peter 4:1,2

It’s a whole different story to live for the will of God than to live according to my own passions.  That’s why I need help understanding how to live in the the midst of persecution or any kind of suffering, whether it is mild suffering or the most extreme imaginable.  Passion acts without thinking.  Passion self-protects.  Passion can be controlled and motivated by fear, hatred, anger, bitterness, jealousy, etc.  But You want me to be controlled by You, by Your will, in every situation.  How do I get there?

Peter says that the Gospel was preached “even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” (1Peter 4:6)  Before we put our trust in Jesus, as our Lord and Saviour, we were all dead spiritually.  That’s why Jesus came, taught, lived, died, and rose again, so that we might live in the spirit the way God does. Because there is no way to please God other than by living in God and living by the spirit.  Jesus himself said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [flesh] and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)  He also said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)

But here’s the problem, it’s one thing to know what you should do and it’s a whole other thing to actually learn how to do it.  So how do I live for the will of God?  How do I not let my emotions control me?  How do I let the Spirit of God lead my responses?

Well, that’s what Peter has been doing, giving us some practical examples of what our responses should look like.  It looks like hopeful, expectant waiting and doing.  Paul says, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:25-30)   

That means that, because of the word of God, because of the good news, the gospel, I can hold onto everything that God has shared with me and taught me.  I can deposit my trust in Your promises as though it were an absolutely sure bank deposit that no thief can ever enter.  I come to know the truth, and then I act upon that truth in ways that show that I am living expecting You will do what You have said.  Maybe I don’t see a pain free future ahead because I’m suffering through cancer, or a divorce, or severe persecution, or the bad attitude of a loved one or employer, but I know Your promise of peace, no more sorrow, no more pain.  I know the promise of Your presence, of Your Spirit, of Your joy, and love.  All your promises begin to outweigh the pains of my flesh because I’m looking and hoping most toward You.  It’s how Paul, even in beatings, and stonings, and shipwrecks, and imprisoning could say, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)  His eyes were on You as the horizon he was reaching for.  And the only way to reach You is to live according to Your will.

And the wonderful thing is that You don’t tell us to live according to Your will and leave us helpless.  You place a deposit in us!  You give us Your Holy Spirit who helps us to know Your mind and to do Your will.  You intercede for us when we don’t know what to say or what we need.  You help us to understand Your word.  You never leave us alone.  Like a  song in church yesterday.  Let me share it and I’ll end just meditating on all these thoughts.

There’s a grace when the heart is under fire

Another way when the walls are closing in

And when I look at the space between

Where I used to be and this reckoning

I know I will never be alone

There was another in the fire

Standing next to me

There was another in the waters

Holding back the seas

And should I ever need reminding

Of how I’ve been set free

There is a cross that bears the burden

Where another died for me

There is another in the fire

All my debt left for dead beneath the waters

I’m no longer a slave to my sin anymore

And should I fall in the space between

What remains of me and this reckoning

Either way I won’t bow to the things of this world

And I know I will never be alone

There is another in the fire

Standing next to me

There is another in the waters

Holding back the seas

And should I ever need reminding

What power set me free

There is a grave that holds no body

And now that power lives in me

There is another in the fire, oh

There is another in the fire, whoa

There is another in the fire, whoa

There is another in the fire, oh

I can see

And I can see the light in the darkness

As the darkness bows to Him

I can hear the roar in the heavens

As the space between wears thin

I can feel the ground shake beneath us

As the prison walls cave in

Nothing stands between us

Nothing stands between us

There is no other name but the name that is Jesus

He who was and still is, and will be through it all

So come what may in the space between

All the things unseen and this reckoning

And I know I will never be alone

And I know I will never be alone

There’ll be another in the fire

Standing next to me

There’ll be another in the waters

Holding back the seas

And should I ever need reminding

How good You’ve been to me

I’ll count the joy come every battle

‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be

I can see the light

And I can see the light in the darkness

As the darkness bows to Him

I can hear the roar in the heavens

As the space between wears thin

I can feel the ground shake beneath us

As the prison walls cave in

Nothing stands between us

Nothing stands between

There’ll be another in the fire

Standing next to me

There’ll be another in the waters

Holding back the seas

And should I ever need reminding

How good You’ve been to me

I’ll count the joy come every battle

‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be

Count the joy come every battle

‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be

I’ll count the joy come every battle

‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be, sing it again

I’ll count the joy come every battle

‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be

I’ll count the joy come every battle

‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Chris Davenport / Joel Houston

Another In The Fire lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group

I checked out the song story behind the lyrics as well.  https://youtu.be/6xrE-JMAfMY

Walking with God in the Details

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Photo credit to http://www.shutterstock.com

 

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

 
Today I’m back in Ezekiel reading about the measurements and specifications of the future temple, the future house of God. Only here I am quoting Genesis. Why? As I was reading and thinking about all the specifics in Ezekiel and about how the details matter to You God and how Your details ought to matter to us, I couldn’t help thinking about Noah and how You equipped him to build the ark.

 
Here was the condition of the world and the condition of the hearts of the people of the world in Noah’s day: “And the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repents me that I have made them.” Why did it repent You or make You sorry You had made us? Because “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And that grieved Your heart because man, people like me, had so twisted who we were, by twisting our thoughts and our actions, that we no longer resembled what we were created for. And why couldn’t we resemble our purpose any more? Because we threw away the details. We wouldn’t pay attention to the Master plan. And get this. The Master Plan was someone we could know and respond to, like Adam and Eve or Cain or Abel. But like Cain, we turned to our plans instead of Yours and our lives became twisted.

 
But then comes this beautiful verse. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Maybe I’m wrong, but I see that as saying when God looked at Noah and examined his heart and life, He found within Noah a spark of something beautiful to God. What was it? What was that beauty in Noah? That Noah still held on to the presence of God in his life. That He remembered the stories and clung to the God he knew.

 
In this corrupt world of Noah’s time, He was just and perfect. What? Noah was a perfect man? Not in the sense that we think of perfect. He was “entire.” He was full of integrity and truth. He was without spot and undefiled. He was whole. He was perfect in God’s eyes because His heart clung to God and followed Him. He walked with God. Come on now. Look back at Adam and Eve. Isn’t that what we were created to do? Aren’t we to be walking with God every day of our lives? Hasn’t He designed us to know how and to do it? If a man without a written instruction book can figure out how to do that and do it, then what’s our problem? What’s my problem?

 
So Noah walks with God. That means that he cares about and acts upon what is on God’s heart. And God includes Him in what He’s doing. And here come all these measurements as God instructs Noah on how to build this ark, this first of it’s kind, this giant boat in this place where there isn’t even water to float it. But Noah doesn’t stop to say, “Hey, God, why are You giving me all these details? What’s up? Do I really need this? Is this important?” I think for Noah that this is a no brainer. He already knows that God’s way is the right way and the only way. He already lives like every detail matters because it does. And because He’s already living in God’s will, God is already protecting him and preparing him from the coming judgement. Not only that, but God is making Noah a beacon to others, an opportunity for others to walk with God instead and rejoice in God’s plan and in His details.

 
This has nothing to do with Noah’s abilities. He was just a man who walked with God. Because he walked with God, God walked with him. God gave him everything he needed to be His representative on earth. That’s what we were created for, to be God’s vessels on earth, to shine forth the power and love of God. And God does that work in us. Noah couldn’t build the ark without God. God gave Noah everything he needed from the detailed measurements, to the physical provision, to the skill to do so. And it didn’t stop there. God was the One who sealed Noah and his family safely inside the ark.

 
Which takes me back to Ezekiel. Chapter 41 starts with, “Afterward he brought me to the temple…” Doesn’t that sound like people walking together again? It does to me. It sounds like God is walking Ezekiel through something special here, something worth thinking about and valuing. And like Noah, if Ezekiel hadn’t already been walking with God, he would have missed this. And it’s not like this is just any building that You are showing Ezekiel. This is the temple that will one day be where every believer can walk into Your presence in Jesus Christ. This is the reality of You come to earth.

 
God’s word and instructions are all about being invited into an intimate relationship with our Maker. He gives us the details so we can participate fully with Him. They matter. As we participate with Him, we get to come to see and know things about Him. Building the ark wasn’t some mundane task that Noah was expected to do. It was amazing participation with God and amazing protection and salvation and deliverance. But if Noah had not participated with God? If Noah had disregarded the importance of the directions?

 
And what about Ezekiel. He didn’t get to build the temple but He paid close attention and then He declared what He was asked to declare so that this would be words of future encouragement. One day God is going to bring every one of those details to pass. Just like Noah had to wait for that appointed time before the ark was complete, so Ezekiel knew that the appointed time would come. So we can know also. What does this temple tell me? That God is coming, here to earth, to be with us. Jesus is coming back. Jesus will reign in His full capacity and I can look forward to that.

 
And since Jesus is coming back, we ought to be busy letting people know so that they can be ready for that appointed time. How do we get ready? We respond to God’s word by participating with Him in what He says. We pay attention to the details. Sometimes we hold onto it and ponder it in our hearts like Mary did until it was time for it to make sense. But all along, we obey. Listening isn’t listening unless the appropriate action to the listening follows. If I want God to be close then I ought to be close enough to His word to know how to be close to Him. And the only way to be close to Him is to participate with Him.

 
That’s why Jesus came. He redeemed us so that God’s glory could shine in us again. He redeemed us so that we could be reunited with God and participate with Him again in the way we were created to. Grace is there, always. But we won’t find it unless we find the One who offers it. Noah found grace because He walked with God. He found where grace flowed from and clung to Him. Ezekiel found grace because He walked with God and clung to where grace flowed from. What about me? May I cling to the One that grace flows from and walk with You in obedience and in intimate relationship by loving all Your words and allowing them to have their way in my life.

How is Your Heart Set?

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Photo credit to Fine Art America.

 

“…Because your heart is lifted up, and you have said,’I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas;’ yet you are a man, and not God, though you set your heart as the heart of God.” (Ezekiel 28:1)

 
I wonder how it felt for Peter that day that Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance for me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man”? (Matthew 16:23) Not long before that, Peter had been commended on how God had revealed to him that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. But now, “Get behind me, Satan!”? Ouch, that stings. It probably stings more for Peter who really cared about You God than maybe it stung for the king of Tyre. But if I were to put myself in the place of either, whether Peter or the king of Tyre, I would say that the king’s blow was even more of a sting in reality. I mean, Peter was thinking like Satan when he thought like every man thinks instead of thinking like the Spirit. But the king was not only thinking momentarily like Satan. He had taken Satan’s stand and taken God’s glory and claimed it as his own, and claimed God’s seat of authority, and made himself god in his own heart. Pride does that in a person.

 
Let’s face the facts here. The king of Tyre was one wise guy. You tell us that Yourself, Lord, “you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; by your wisdom and your understanding you have made wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; by your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth…” But let’s stop to think for a second. Where does wisdom and understanding really come from in the first place?
Here’s a scriptural hint about where wisdom and understanding come from. “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore…” (1 Kings 4:29) Even before that, Moses was speaking of God’s statutes and rules and doing them and said, “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and our understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”

 

Why would following statutes and rules of God show wisdom and understanding? Because, in Moses’ words, it would show that God was that near to them “whenever we call upon Him.” God is the one, after all, who forms every man, woman, and child.
Genesis 2:7 uses the Hebrew verb form yatsar for formed. The words of the verse say, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Later in time, You tell Jeremiah about his origins as the person he is. “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) God uses this verb, yatsar or formed, to not only describe how He forms the details of a person’s life but of how He fashions Israel itself. According to Otzen, “this verb connects human craftsmanship with divine activity.” Part of the problem is that we forget where and who our abilities came from in the first place. After all, had I not been formed first, I wouldn’t be forming these words on these pages right now. And neither would the king of Tyre have been orchestrating all his wonderful plans if he hadn’t been wonderfully planned first.

 
But maybe yatsar isn’t just about independent being or just being made and formed into something. Maybe yatsar is more specific and more relational than that. Skip Moen calls it a verb of partnership with God. I love his thoughts on this so let me share them here. Remember, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” On this Skip shares, “The clay isn’t inert. It responds to the potter. For Man to be Man, there must be a response to the divine action. For Israel to be Israel, there must be a response to the electing God. Yatsar is a relationship verb. When God “forms” the dust, He doesn’t just pile up whatever can be gathered with the sweep of a hand. He establishes a relationship with this “stuff,” and it is the relationship that identifies the uniqueness of this creative act. Yatsar is the God-human verb of the story.”

 
Genesis is the explanation of origins. It’s the origins of man. Skip continues, “God’s relationship—His choice, purpose and selection— is the essential factor in formation. Without the relationship, nothing exists…God’s fashioning activity and His infusion of the breath of life is the reason human beings are what they are. Removing the relationship inherent in the forming or withdrawing the infusion of the breath of life means that Man returns to what he was before these actions occurred. He returns to the dust. He ceases to be. In other words, there is no inherent quality, no spark of the divine, no ontological substance residing in Man so that he lives independently of the action of yatsar and the infusion of the breath of life. Man exists in relationship with His creation, always. His breath and his body are entirely dependent on God. Perhaps Paul captures this Genesis thought when he wrote, ‘in Him we live and move and have our being.’…you do not exist without dependence on God. If you think or act in ways that deny this dependence, you are simply deluded— and a fool.”

 
Pride deludes. The king’s heart was lifted up because of his riches. He totally forgot or ignored who formed him to be this way, Who gave Him the wisdom and understanding in the first place. He was so deluded that he thought of himself as god. A man or an angel can say and believe all they want that they are God, but it doesn’t make it so. I don’t know what angels came from before You made them, God, but I know that man came from dust and goes back to dust outside of You. But in You, what is formed and responds to You remains in You.

 
I’m still thinking about Peter that day Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” But there wasn’t a long story shared to go along with that. I wander though, if just saying that would have brought people back to Ezekiel’s words and the longer back story pronounced over the king of Tyre? And I wonder how Satan, or rather, Lucifer at the time, could forget where he came from and who formed him? I mean, at one point Lucifer wasn’t until God made him. It’s the same for me. It’s worth lamenting over the foolishness of forgetting this, over being deluded like that. Imagine the most beautiful, wise angel thinking he could be more beautiful or wise than God, the one who anointed him with that beauty and wisdom in the first place for a specific purpose!

 
And now I come to thinking about David after he sinned with Bathsheba and Nathan comes to him. See, David had been anointed, just like Lucifer, for a special purpose in God’s creation, just like each of us in whatever way God has decided for us. And Nathan says to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and It is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul.’” (2 Samuel 22:7) We’re each called to holiness, not its evasion. Each of us has a purpose formed into our individual beings that only we can fulfill and only we will be responsible for avoiding.
Lucifer was that angel. The king of Tyre was that king. Peter was that man. David was that man for that time. I’m that woman for now. Sometimes I’m just like Satan too, just like Peter was and David and the king of Tyre. Sometimes I think I deserve what’s not mine to take. It might be a rest from leading because I deserve a break. It might be love, where I would walk into something I know I shouldn’t. I can rationalize with the best of them and decide to let my brightness shine brighter than it really is.

 
Yep. I’m the one that will need forgiveness. I’m the one who will suffer because of my pride and my delusional thinking to give more credit to myself than I deserve, or rather to just be busy taking the glory from You, Lord. That happens when I think more about me and my hurts and pains than I think about Your glory and Your brightness and Your wisdom and my dependence upon You to understand any of it. And that makes me the one who will harm those around me by my lack of participation with You in my God ordained purpose.

In Man of Fire Denzel Washington asked, “Do you think God will forgive us for the things we’ve done?” Well, I know the answer is yes. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Don’t forget though, that the innocent pay a price for the guilty who are forgiven. Jesus paid the price for us. Probably 1/3 of the angels paid the price for Lucifer’s sin. I’d say that guy who had his ear sliced off by Peter payed a price, even though Jesus was gracious enough to put it back. And what about the others who ran away because they had thought like Peter that they could control things, but it wasn’t really theirs to control, was it? And how many people payed the price for David’s delusion? Or for my delusions when I follow them?

 
I was just thinking, that Jesus’ words aren’t so mean after all. He was just reminding Peter to get in his proper place. Before we sin, we need to get behind Jesus instead of in front of Him. I need to be under You, God, and in You, and behind You and just let You be God and remember that I’m not. So Lord, don’t leave off reminding me, even if it sounds like an insult. Let me remember that when You tell me, “Get behind me, Satan,” it’s for my good and it’s the place I was created to flourish in. If only Satan listened and could get behind You again. May I never forget to respond to Your relationship with me and acknowledge You as God and me as Your beloved creation formed by You for Your purposes and not my own. And may I joy in my position in You and joy in You being God and not me.

Chaos or God

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“This is a lamentation and has become a lamentation.” Ezekiel 19:14

 
Life in itself is hard stuff. It’s emotional. Life without God is even harder and even more emotional. We’ll all go through lamentations, times when all we can do is beat on our breasts, but we don’t have to become a lamentation ourself. God’s desire is that our joy would be full, not for us to become a lamentation. So what happens to change that?

 
We take what was designed for good in us and twist it to our own desires. We forget where our strength and our fortune came from and we manage our own lives. Instead of letting Christ be our guide, we guide ourselves. Instead of loving like Christ, we take matters in our own hands. We adopt violence as good. We devour those around us and see nothing wrong with it. But even people around us can see the problem.

 
That’s what had happened with Israel and its strong princes that God had raised up. They cozied up next to the pagan nations and became like them instead of like the Lion of Judah. So the stronger nation put a stop to it. God humbles those who won’t humble themselves and He can use nations, or life circumstances to do so.

 
And whose fault is it? Is it God’s fault? Really? He didn’t force us to respond this way. He didn’t force us to respond outside of His will. We’re plucked up because of our taunting. We didn’t appreciate what God wanted to give us, what He was giving us, His hand stretched out to us. And now we’ve wound up in the wilderness, dry and thirsty. Somehow, we’ve even managed to burn ourselves and our fruit is gone, as well as our strength. And we’ve become a byword, a lamentation. Now where is our glory?
Actually, our glory is the same place it’s always been, in God. We have no glory of our own. If we want to shine, You must shine in us and through us. Outside of You we have no light. In You there are Psalms; out of You there are lamentations.

 
What is a psalm anyway? One Hebrew word used for psalm is mizmor. Skip Moen shares, “The word in Masoretic script means, “a song of praise, a psalm.” But the Paleo-Hebrew carries the message, ‘Chaos cut off from chaos secures the person.’ How in the world can this tell us anything about a song of praise?” He reminds us that Hebrew is a language of remembering. Each psalm isn’t just about itself but takes us back to the first psalm and reminds us. The first song is Exodus 15:2 where Moses sings his song of praise to God after the victory over Egypt. What happened? The chaos of oppression of Egypt was cut off by the chaos of the water and God secured his people.” After all, when we really think about David, do we remember him for being king or do we remember him mostly because of his thinking and feelings that were expressed over God?

 
God wants to fill us with psalms, not lamentations. Actually, we were created to be psalms, not lamentations. The Pulpit Commentary shared, “True poetry has its fountains in deep emotion. Thus a living religion naturally finds expression in song, and the spiritual experience of men is uttered in psalms. That religion which is satisfied with the cold statements of intellectual propositions has not yet touched the heart, and is no living experience. There is a fire of passion in true devotion…The Book of Lamentations may be taken as the reverse of the Book of Psalms. Psalmists celebrate the emotions of true religion; the “Lamentations” is a dirge sung over those who have been unfaithful to their religion.” That’s something to think about. Only, maybe we need to take out that word religion and replace it with relationship with God. It seems to me that a Psalmist is someone who knows God and experiences Him and can’t help but bubble over with Him. Actually, our relation to God “is so intimate and vital that it should rouse deep feelings” in our hearts followed by appropriate actions.

 
The people of Ezekiel’s day had ceased having emotion for God. They left off feeling for Him. That’s sad. Why? Because Jeremiah says, “You will say this word to them, ‘Let my eyes flow down with tears night and day, and let them not cease; for the virgin daughter of My people has been crushed with a mighty blow, with a sorely infected wound.” It’s sad when we have a God who weaps over us and we have no heart response in return. Our perfect God, who isn’t subject to the sways of passion, does have passion. How do I juggle the glory of God with a God who feels? My God is so glorious and righteous and unchanging that He can handle all His emotions rightly, unlike me. But could you imagine a God without emotions? Or a God with emotions that were so fickle like that of the Greek and Roman gods?

 
But here we have this God, full of glorious emotion. We have this God who created us in His glorious image, to be emotional about the things He is emotional about and yet to hold those emotions in check under Him. It’s a heart connection, straight to the heart of God. It’s a living Psalm. Zephaniah tells us, “The Lord your God in the middle of you is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over you with singing.” The Psalm starts in God. The Psalm is found in God. The Psalm resides in God. This is where joy is found. This is where rejoicing originates. This is where rest is. This is where love is. This is where salvation is. This is where might is. It’s all found in the middle of God, in the middle of His sovereignty, in the middle of His majesty and glory and righteousness and emotions.

 
This is why God uses that marriage metaphor so frequently in Scripture. God is intimately connected both to Israel first, and to His people of other nations who have placed their trust in Him. God is connected with us, He suffers with us, He redeems us and empathizes with us. If you don’t think so, You haven’t contemplated Jesus’ life. God’s covenant with us is greater than a moral covenant. I should hope that my covenant of marriage with my husband and his with me is more than a moral covenant or our marriage has nothing but emptiness and sorrow to look forward to. It ought to be an “outcome of overwhelming and compelling love” (Skip Moen) just like God’s covenant with all His people.

 
So, how do I respond? Do I choose my own way and disregard this God who passionately loves me? Do I keep following my own path until my feelings for God are dulled and null and void? Will I let myself stubbornly resist until I have dug my feet in so firmly that I bring myself to the point of no return? Will I not learn from Ezekiel’s warning? Would I choose to be a lamentation instead of a psalm?

 
But don’t forget, all were not lost in Ezekiel’s day. Listen to Lamentations 3:1-2, “I am the man who has seen affliction because of the rod of His wrath. He has driven me and made me walk in darkness and not it light.” That’s terrible, isn’t it? But what if walking in darkness reminds me of my need for the light and my desire to be in the light? Well, then it’s a blessing, isn’t it?

 
In reality, God is our filter. Remove God, and anything goes. Remove God, and chaos ensues, darkness invades. Remove yourself from God’s hand of mercy, and chaos reigns. That’s what darkness is, life outside of God’s mercy. He doesn’t have to inflict it on Israel or Egypt or us. All we have to do is walk away from His protection. Then life just becomes what it is without Him. If I want to know affliction, I just need to step outside of His will or step into a place where others are living outside of His will. Living life without God brings affliction. Life without God is hell. Don’t you realize that the worst thing about hell is that you’ll be forever separated from the love of God there? Forget the fire and gnashing of teeth. Forget the presence of the demons it was created for. It’s for those who choose to remove themselves from God’s hand of mercy and from His presence. And that’s what you get, what comes with the absence of God.

 
That’s what many Israelites got in Ezekiel’s day. It’s what many people run after today. Don’t be fooled. If you think life is hell, it may well be that you are already on the road walking away from God’s hand. But while you live in the land of the living, it’s not too late to return and surrender to the God of the living who loves You and feels for You and invites You to live in Him and with Him and through Him in this life and into eternity. Hell wasn’t created for you. You don’t have to choose it. You can choose to be a psalm instead of a lamentation. Skip Moen sums it up this way, “A man without God is pointless.” But our suffering can point us to God. It can help us understand the pain of others. Don’t be fooled to think that He can’t and won’t use suffering in our lives to draw us closer to Him. After all, am I more than my Master, Jesus, who suffered for me? Yes, we have been called into this chaos so that God’s “chaos”, His love and power and might can overcome. It’s our choice. Who will rule me? Chaos or God?

Strange Fire

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“‘Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness,’ says the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 14:14)

 

The Lord is still pronouncing judgment on His people. Now, some of the leaders of Israel were coming to “inquire” of him before Ezekiel. And it appears as though God was asking, “Why? Why are they bothering?” Is that a strange question for God to ask? Or would that make sense if God new that all they wanted to offer was “strange fire” anyways?

 

Here is a God who knows man’s heart better than man knows it. That means that You, God, know our feelings, our intents, our thoughts, our motives, and how our will is inclined. And here is what you had to say about these leaders, “…these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face.” So, if these men weren’t coming before God to submit and agree with Him, why were they coming? That’s what You were asking. “Should I be inquired of at all by them?”

 

These leaders who should have lived lives of submission were anything but submitted, they were anything but obedient. They had set up their idols in their hearts. Do I know what that means? There is actually a New Testament warning against allowing this in my life today. “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21) So, what’s the danger of idols? When I worship an idol, I’m attempting by whatever it takes, to try to shape the world according to my own will and my own desires. Think about it. Why would I placate a god? So that it treats me the way I want to be treated. Idol worship is a way to manipulate and control the world around me. Idol worship is the opposite of submission. It’s antagonistic to God.

 

But I would never worship an idol.  Really? The minute I try to control things and take God out of the picture I become an idol worshipper. My desire becomes my idol. I become my idol. My desire becomes my stumbling block. I become my own reason for falling. And I don’t even realize the perversity of it; I don’t realize how twisted my thinking and actions have become.

 

I can’t help but think about God only delivering Noah, Daniel, and Job. And why? Because of what their lives demonstrated, by the righteousness that they chose to live in, that came from the depths of their souls and flowed out into real life. It was the righteousness that flows from God and emanates from Him and they chose to uphold it. It wasn’t forced upon them. In a world where they were allowed to choose who to submit to, they chose to submit to Your ways, God. They chose to be under Your manipulation rather than manipulate the world around them. They trusted You more than themselves.

 

Maybe we think we can come up with and create our own righteousness but that’s a total lie. Psalm 103:6 tells us that “the Lord performs righteous deeds and judgments for all who are oppressed.” But that doesn’t just mean that God does good things. The Hebrew ‘ose(h) tsedaqot is about making righteousness. See, everything that He does is righteous. He is the originator of righteousness and anything righteous came from Him first.

 

And then we come to Psalm 106:3 which says, “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” How can we do that? Well, I certainly can’t do it without submitting to the righteous One. And I certainly can’t do that if I make something else my idol. It would seem that if I want to do this, I would need to be in constant communication with the One who is Righteousness. Doesn’t God tell me that I can speak with Him any time? Even in the midst of my sin, doesn’t He tell me to come to Him and confess my sins? Can’t I respond to Him anytime? Can’t I answer Him? Can’t I converse with Him? Or am I just coming to try to placate Him and manipulate Him?

 

 
Was it that the elders couldn’t come before Him? Or was the truth that they would come before Him but without any desire to communicate? Their answers were in their idols. Their hearts had already chosen sides. They were in control and there was no way they would surrender that control to God. When we stop communicating with God it’s like we remove ourselves from reality. It’s like we already refuse to exist.

 

 
Maybe if these elders were more like the poor widow, their story would have been so different. Luke 21:2 tells of Jesus watching “a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins” into the temple offering. The coins had little value. Each coin was worth maybe 1/4 of a penny. So how could Jesus say that she had put in more than all the rest of the people? Could it be because she placed more than coins in the offering? By that act, was she placing her submission in this God that she trusted utterly would care for her even though she had given everything? Was she done with manipulation? Was she ready to submit under the hand of her mighty God who is truly able to save? Is that kind of faith what dominated her life?

 

 

What does the story of this widow tell us? Remember, a widow in Jesus’ day had no human support, no property rights, and was left to fend for herself. Who would take care of her? She could choose to manipulate people or she could submit to and rely on God.
But that’s not all this tells me. This tells me that Jesus, that God, notices those in need. Of all the people He saw her. It wasn’t about her 100% donation. It was about her righteousness demonstrated by her heart of submission. Let’s think about this. Deuteronomy 15:7-8 tells how when we see someone struggling, “ you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.” Why would He say that? Because His righteousness is a righteousness that notices and meets needs.  As a matter of fact, righteousness is “more valuable than worship rituals.” Micah reminds us, ”With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” And Hosea reminds us, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” And Proverbs 21:3 declares, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” So let’s not think it was the widows sacrifice. God noticed the heart behind her sacrifice. Without that, her coins would have left a hollow reverberation.

 

 
Do I notice the things the Lord notices like that? Do I act upon them like He does? Do I just want to placate God? Or am I submitted fully to Him clinging to His care for me? Do I have any idols in my heart that I need to repent from and tear down and utterly destroy? Am I somehow choosing to separate myself from You, Lord? The truth is, I am responsible for me. I alone can choose whether to live dependently in and under Your righteousness or by my own false self-righteousness. I can choose my idols like the elders. Or I can choose You. Each choice comes with it’s foretold consequences. It’s not like we haven’t been educated. Maybe it’s just that some of us refuse to be taught. I want to learn, Lord, from You and of You. I don’t want to hold on stubbornly to my idols. I want to hold on stubbornly to You. You give us the means to deliver our lives by righteousness in You. So let me be found in You displaying that righteousness which is of You and not of me.