Just One

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“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30

 
“Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry?
Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die?
Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand?
 Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you damned?” Leonard Ravenhill

 
That’s pretty much the problem that stands out in Ezekiel 22. Of course, Lord, You declare to all what made the city a “bloody city” and You list her abominations. She had come such a long way from who she was created to be. She was Yours, but now she defiled herself from that image and looked like fake idols instead. Instead of caring for the stranger, they oppressed them. Instead of caring for the fatherless and widow, they vexed them. Instead of loving and adoring and seeking after Your holiness, they profaned it. They made fools of others and lacked respect. They were filled with lust and misused others for their own pleasure. Greed grew and generosity failed. They totally lost sight of You, God. Even the religious teachers and leaders were twisted in their thinking. So here they were, hearing the drowning cry and not reaching out to save them. They were drowning themselves and didn’t even know it. Here they were watching their people die, emotionless to the loss, as they were unwittingly dying themselves. Here they were watching men burn without pulling them from the fire because there they were in the middle of the fire with them but without realizing it. Yes, here they were, sitting at ease when the world was falling apart around them. But how can one help, if one is blind to the truth around them?

 
And I know that this is not just a message to be heeded in Ezekiel’s day so many years ago. This attitude matters today. I think of the words of Hanani to Asa, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him…” (2 Chronicles 16:9) So this idea of You, God, looking for someone to stand in the gap on Your behalf and on behalf of the people, is no novel idea. And it wasn’t like there weren’t Godly men in Ezekiel’s day. There was Jeremiah who was being tortured by being stuck in a pit and silenced. And here was Ezekiel, who we’ve already heard 22 chapters of standing for You. And there are probably others. But there is not one at this time who is able to build up the broken wall and stand in the breach before You to intercede on the behalf of those who have fallen and there is none who are able to turn the hearts of the people. Sometimes, all it takes is one person, one person like a Moses, or a David, or a Noah or a Job. Or one person like a Hudson Taylor, or George Muller, or a woman named Miriam whose real name I can’t share, or another named Isik.

 
And I don’t think this is about church leadership. I think this is about knowing You, God, and knowing You for real. It’s not about position, it’s about who we really are in You. It’s not about popping out pastors and teachers. Manson says, “O ye ministers of the Word, consider well that you are the first sheets from the King’s press; others are printed after your copy. If the first sheet be well set, a thousand more are stamped with ease. See, then, that the power of religion prevail over your own hearts lest you not only lose your own souls, but cause the ruin of others.” It’s true, the King’s printing press is at work. But it isn’t printing out professionals and workers and such. It’s printing out individuals after His own image to become His priests and His disciples and His representation on this earth. That has never changed. First and foremost I am to be modeled and made and molded after Your image. I’m not supposed to look like a pastor or teacher or missionary or whatever. I’m supposed to look like You, talk like You, think like You, act like You, be like You. How else can I stand in the gap?

 
But if I won’t let myself be copied faithfully after You and then I draw others to me, how many faulty copies, so far from the original am I guilty of? Why would I want people imitating me, instead of You? I want to point them to You. I want them to be printed off of the Master Press, not me. But I want to so order my steps that it will lead them to You. What good is a flawed master copy? What good is a watch that is out of time? Should others set their time by it and be off also?

 
The Lord reminds us in Chapter 14 that there isn’t a righteous person that can deliver the nation from judgment based on his own righteousness. Noah, Daniel, and Job wouldn’t even have been able to do that. Moses couldn’t even do it. When he stood in the gap for the people, it was based on God’s righteousness and image before the world. But here, in Ezekiel’s day, God couldn’t even find someone to turn the people’s hearts back like that.
Reading this sad truth that God could find no one to stand in the breach, made me wonder about Ezekiel. Surely Ezekiel was trying to stand in the breach! So it couldn’t mean that there were none who would stand for God. I’ve been reading 22 chapters of Ezekiel taking a stand. Stuart stated that it meant “that there were so few among the people who were righteous that the net effect was as if no one at all cared about God’s will.”

 

It’s not that God didn’t have faithful representatives. He had Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah too. But why were they so ineffective? Were they deficient? Or were the people just that defiant? And then I wonder if the faithful were faithful but not in the political positions necessary to turn a people? Like Hezekiah and Josiah who were kings and led people, as opposed to Jeremiah and Ezekiel who were prophets and instructed people. Maybe it matters if there is even just one king after God’s own heart.

 
Moses was one of those “gap men.” Psalm 106:23 tells us, “Therefore He said He would destroy them—had not Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him, to turn away His wrath from destroying them.” How could he do that? What if Moses understood what it was to be willing to accept the wrath of God for the salvation of those He loved and for the glory of the God He loved? What if this is the closest one can come to understanding the heart and compassion of God in Christ Jesus? What if this is how Jesus pleads for us, for mercy and malleable hearts and places Himself in the breach of God’s wrath for us? Do I really think that Moses stood there without any fear of God’s anger himself? Or what if he understood like Paul, when he said, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” How’s that for extreme standing in the gap? Wow!

 
Is this about intercessory prayer? God used this expression back in Ezekiel 13:5 also, “You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the Lord.” The Hebrew of “built up a wall” or “make up the hedge” is gadar gader. It’s all about building a wall “of security and assurance around a city or a life.” (Dr. W. A. Criswell) So, here is supposed to be a wall of safety, but there is this breach, this peretz. There is this hole that let’s harm enter the city. And when harm enters the city, it enters our lives. Nehemiah talks about removing the breaches or holes by repairing the walls. People stood in and did that. Isaiah calls God the “Repairer of the Breach.” God used Jesus to stand in the breach for us, to pour out His life for ours and for the glory of God, to offer us safety and security in Him. He intercedes on our behalf, yes, but He doesn’t only intercede in prayer. He intercedes by His life.
Think about it. Jesus did more than pray for His disciples and for us. Jesus showed us what God looked like walking on this earth. Jesus touched and healed and raised from the dead. Jesus suffered and yet loved those who persecuted Him. Jesus washed the feet of his followers. Jesus was patient. Jesus was zealous for God. He interceded with and through His whole life. That’s true worship.

 
What if You are looking for men and women and boys and girls like that? What if You are looking for people who will worship You with all of their being and stand in the gap for You and those around them? What if You couldn’t find any at that time because the ones that were, were actually being detained by the opposition? Like Jeremiah who was in a pit to die? Like Ezekiel who the people weren’t listening to?

 
God always seeks for one person at a time. Why? That’s how we must respond. He seeks for one to stand in the breach. He’s not looking for a ministry or an institution or a nation or anything like that. All it can take is one person. Persia took a Cyrus. Babylon took a Nebuchadnezzar. Greece took an Alexander the Great, Rome, a Caesar. Closer to home, America had a George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Oh, but those aren’t necessarily religious leaders, right? Maybe not the way we think of it but Scripture has God calling Cyrus his son that He raised up for this purpose and this time.

 
Now think about the individuals that God raised up that impacted whole countries for Him. What about George Muller, or Billy Sunday, or Martin Luther, or Charles Spurgeon. I think about the first believer from the Maldives and how God has used her to lead others of her people (a 100% Muslim country!) to Him as well as others where she is ministering. I think about Mother Theresa in India and the Dawsons in Venezuela and Timothy and Yvonne Kinyua in Kenya. They pray but that’s not all. They put their faith and prayers to their feet and their lives. They walk it out. They live it out. They take their lives and through them walk Jesus out to the people around them for miles and miles, whether it’s dangerous or not, whether it’s taxing on their bodies or not. That’s the kind of standing in the gap that You are looking for, isn’t it?

 
Think about it this way as Dr. W. A Criswell shares the account of Moses and God. “God said to Moses in that thirty-second chapter of [Exodus], ‘Now Moses, you stand aside, you stand aside and let My wrath burn against these people. I will destroy them out of My sight: and out of you will I raise up a nation to do My will’ (Exodus 32:9-10)” Wow! Wouldn’t that be great? Wipe out the people who are a problem and make me great, Lord! Only that’s not the heart of God, is it. But I am so grateful that Moses had the heart of God in his response. “And it was then that Moses stood in the breach and as you read, he interceded, saying, ‘If these people cannot live, I do not want to live. If You blot them out of Your Book of Life, blot my name out of the Book of Life.’ [Exodus 32:32] And God spared the nation for Moses’ sake. He stood in the breach. [Psalm 106:23]” And I don’t think it was just for Moses’ sake. I think Moses was thinking of God’s sake, of what the nations all around would think of God. And I think God honored that kind of thinking in Moses, that was concerned for God’s glory and God’s people more than he was concerned with his own comfort or rights or image. That’s that kind of person that You look for to stand in the gap. Am I that kind of person?

 
Give me a person of God, just one,
Whose faith shines foremost for the Son
Who covets prayer and time with God
And walks it out where ever He trods.
Give me a person of God, just one,
Who lives in the light of the Living One
Who bears the image of the Risen Son
And loves and serves and forgives wrongs,
Where God’s vision fills his heart with songs
That he sings and lives out all day long
So that it rubs off on the watching throng.
Give me a person of God, just one
To stand in the breach, though they be undone,
And I’ll show You a life strong in God’s grace
That’ll make a difference in every place.
Make me a person of God, that one,
Wholly undone in the Glorious One.

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Brother’s Keeper

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Photo credit to Brittany Cunningham.

“…[A]m I my brother’s keeper?”  Cain, Genesis 4:9

I wasn’t intending to think about Cain.  But here I am, yet only momentarily.  I’m more thinking about his attitude.  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Lord, You answered, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”  That “What have you done?” is ringing ever so loudly in my ears.  I wonder if it was ringing in Cain’s ears or if he just crowded it out?  Because the fact is that Cain and Abel, and me and every person ever created were created in Your image.  You made us in Your image, after Your likeness.  That means that we were created to be like You in character and action and belief.  We were created to represent You on this earth and over all the earth, one to another.  That’s why, Cain, you were supposed to be your brother’s keeper.  That’s why I’m supposed to be my brother’s keeper and we each are supposed to be our brothers’ keepers.  Because God, You are our Keeper, and we were created to be like You. 

“What have you done?”  Cain rebelled against the very essence of who he was.  “What have you done?”  He robbed himself of the glory of who he was created to be.  He became something he originally wasn’t.  He became deformed in a sense.  He despised his own purpose and the purpose of his own brother.  Here he was created to glorify God, to walk in His image, to be like Him and he threw it all away for what?  A life making his own decisions?  A life influencing others to live by their own choices?  A life not caring for others and not caring to teach others to care for others?  A life not valuing God and returning His glory to Him?  A life teaching others to disregard You, Lord, and esteem their own value instead? 

And what got me thinking about these things is reading Malachi.  It’s only 4 chapters so it’s doable in one sitting.  But Malachi, in my simple mind, is about the same kind of thought going on.  You, God, are reprimanding the priests, the Levites, who were chosen and appointed to take care of their brothers by representing You rightly before them.  But, like Cain, they were anything but their brother’s keepers. 

I think of what You invested in each of us.  I mean, here You are God of the Universe, Lord of hosts, and it’s not just so You can “lord” it over us even though You have every right to do so.  You invite us into this personal relationship with You, the Lord of hosts.  You invite us to be Your representatives.  That’s what Cain was supposed to be.  That’s what the Levites were supposed to be.  Not just because You made them, but because You are more than worthy of being represented in loving worship by those You have given life and everything to.  It’s not just a mandate.  It’s personal. 

Here’s what You asked the Levites, “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?’ says the Lord of hosts to you…” Paul, to the Romans, also appealed to his brothers, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  This is the relationship we were created for.  This is our purpose.  But let’s take it a step farther.  The King James Version actually uses the words “reasonable service.”  This is our rational, reasonable worship back to You, God.  This is what makes sense of our lives, when we respond in this way.  Anything else is messed up and we have to ask, “What have you done?”

Worshipping You like You require, like You created us to, and like You expect and desire and deserve is logical.  Yeah, it’s actually the Greek word logikos.  It makes wonderful sense.  But just like the Levites in Malachi’s day, we go around like Cain asking, “How have we polluted you?”  When all along we despise You and all that You stand for.  We disesteem Your character.  “Oh, how do I do that, Lord?  I love You.”  I do that every time I don’t value what You value.  I do that every time I don’t detest what You detest.

“’For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to My name, and a pure offering.  For My name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  Does that seem too much to ask of us, to make much of Your name?  No, not at all because it’s logical to make You great since You made us in the first place.  There’s not a moment in any day when You aren’t great whether we make much of You or not.  You ARE great.  It’s not just about saying, “God is good,” or putting up crosses, or Jesus’ name on billboards.  Your name is all about who You are.  It’s the essence of You.  You and Your character and all that You are and have been and will be is great among the nations and will be.  You created us to proclaim that with all of our lives as an act of living worship declaring with like character the glory of You among all the nations.  It’s what You called the Levites, the priests, to, and the nation of Israel, and it still applies to believers today.  Peter tells us, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…” (1 Peter 2:9)  We still have the same life purpose since the beginning of creation.  What are we doing with it?

You, God, have not changed.  You are still the same and always will be.  “…’For I am a great King,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and My name will be feared among the nations.’”  Am I doing my part to honor You?  I suppose sometimes we want You to give us direct commands like, “Thou shalt!” or “Thou shalt not!,” in order for us to acknowledge something.  But the fact is that since You invite us into relationship with You by creating us with this glorious ability to represent You and live in You, why do we need commands to do what we we were naturally created for?  Isn’t that an illogical notion? 

Malachi refers to something called a covenant with Levi.  You, Lord, say, “‘So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand,’ says the Lord of hosts.  ‘My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him.  It was a covenant of fear, and he feared Me.  He stood in awe of My name…’”  Who hears of the covenant of Levi?  But if I go back to Deuteronomy when the sons of Abraham are being blessed, I hear it and read of it.  I see the heart of it, this privilege of glorifying You given to men, to mere men!  “…[F]or they have observed Your word, and keep Your covenant.  They shall teach Jacob Your ordinances, and Israel Your law; they shall put incense before You, and whole burnt-offering upon Your altar.” (Deuteronomy 33:9,10)  You gave them a purpose, to be Your image and Your likeness before the nation and before all nations.  And blessing would come from that relationship with You.  It was more than about offering incense in a container or sacrifices on an altar.  It was about the aroma of true worship in prayer and life.

But the problem with the Levites, and Cain, and us is that sometimes, or all the time, we “’have turned aside from the way.  You have caused many to stumble by your instruction.  You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  Whose way am I teaching?  What kind of brother’s keeper am I? Here’s the logic: “Have we not all one Father?  Has not one God created us?  Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?”  Why are we faithless? Why am I?  Why do I choose my own way over what’s logically and inherently good?  Why do I choose falsehood over truth?  Why do I choose the unnatural over the natural.  Why do I rebel against who I was created to be and what I was created to be in You?  Why do I trade in the glorious for the inglorious?

You warn, “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”  Guard that breath of life itself that God has placed in you.  Protect it.  Pay attention to it.  This purpose of yours, follow it through.  This life of worship you were created for, live it.  Don’t settle for false worship.  Don’t be mislead by the lure of divorce.  It’s not logical.  It’s not what You were created for.  We were created to be united with the One who created us.  Everything in our life ought to resemble that purpose.  Anything less is illogical.

When will I delight in that purpose?  Because if I don’t, if I rebel against my purpose, then Jesus will come “like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.  Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord…”  I was created to “fine” like You.  Have I lost my “fineness”?  Do I have to be “re-fined”?  What is my worship like?  Is it anything like You require?  Is it anything like what You deserve?  Is it anything like what You demonstrate before me in Christ?

“‘For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed…Return to Me and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  I’m the one who changed from my original purpose, not You, O Lord.  You have remained the same.  I’ve robbed You of Your glory by desiring to be who I wanted to be or have life as I want it, when You created me for something more sublime.  But You don’t give up on us.  Thank You, Lord!  You tell me, “‘Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house.  And thereby put Me to the test,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.  I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear,’ says the Lord of hosts.  ‘Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  Is this just for Israel?  No, if I return in full faith and give the worship You deserve and require, I will see You be glorified in me and around me.  Who do I think the devourer is?  Is it just another nation?  No.  Peter tells us that we need to be “sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  ( 1 Peter 5:8)  If I want You to rebuke Satan in my life, then I have to live in Your image and be made into Your likeness.  I have to enter that covenant relationship on my part.  I have to worship with all of me the way You require.  And what of the vine and bearing fruit?  John shares Your own words, Jesus, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser…Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me…I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

This is such good news for me.  I can live out my original purpose.  I can be my brother’s keeper by honoring You, Lord, first in all I do.  My life can be all about worshipping You with every part of my being.  I can rejoice with my brethren and bring other brethren into Your kingdom.  I can be restored like those in Malachi.  “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another.  The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed His name.  ‘They shall be mine,’ says the Lord of hosts… ‘But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.  You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall…’”  I can receive healing.  I can go out into the world rejoicing like a calf leaping from it’s stall.  My name is written in His book.  I can esteem You with all my life.  I can live out worship in spirit and truth.  And You will turn my heart to be my brother’s keeper when my heart is turned to You. 

Lord, You promise to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers,” when we start accepting our true purpose in You.  I want my relationship with You and under You to be the most right thing in my life so that You will bring every other relationship into right perspective.  I’m not just realizing today that You created me and each of us to be our brother’s keeper, but I am realizing that I need You to make me so much more than I have been.  Help me to be so committed to Your required worship that it becomes natural.  Let me so delight in You that I feel the way You feel and I see things the way You do.  Help me to think about You and Your ways so much that You inhabit my every thought and it comes out reflected in my life.  Continually remind me that I am my brother’s keeper.  Why?  Because You are my keeper and my brother’s keeper and I was created in Your image and in Your likeness.  This is who I am and anything less is unnatural.

From Brokenness to Image Bearing

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The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.  Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1

If this is the heart of God, spoken of in Isaiah 61:1 and reiterated by Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, as He walked upon this earth, then it seems to me that mission directly reflects the heart of God.  Only the heart of God is not something that changes and fluctuates from day to day.  So mission, for each of us, ought to resemble the heart of God ever day.  In the heart of God is where we find peace, shalom.  And the heart of God is not far away.

Paul was speaking to Gentile believers when he said, “In times past you were Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcised by those who are called the circumcised in the flesh made by hands because at the time you were without Christ, and aliens from the community of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”  How did He do that?  By the price He paid for us all on the cross, by loving each of us equally, by being our creator, by sharing His heart above with and for each of us.

Remember where Abram came from?  He didn’t come from Israel.  He came from Ur.  I suppose everyone who existed at that time was a Gentile.  But God called Him out to be His own and made him the father of His people, Israel.  This is still God’s heart, calling people out to be His own.  Calling us back to respond to Him.

It’s a calling back to the Garden of Eden.   “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”  This isn’t just about the creation of woman.  This is a picture.  Because God in Himself is sufficitent for man.  But God wants us to know how important unity and community is.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the supreme example of community, they are echad- a plural unity.  We are to be living in community vertically with our creator and horizontally with those who were created to make us complete.  But there is also an essence of vulnerability, and of humility.

Unlike God who is complete, we are not.  We are not complete without God and we are not complete without one another.  We are all broken, blind, and lame if we are honest before God and one another.  We all need fixing.  See, the interesting thing about this help meet that God created isn’t that it’s about some woman created to be Adam’s little helper and complete him.  It’s an ezer kenegdo, which is made up of two words.  Ezer is a word used for God sweeping in and delivering Israel all on His own.  Kenegdo is looking at something face to face like an equal.  So ezer kenegdo, help meet, is like the left wing of the plane is to the right wing, like my left hand is to my right hand.  Adam and Eve were created in such a way as to have each other’s backs.  This is community.

Is this how we are living this week as we are on mission?  Is this how we’re living each day at home.  Because the person next to you, or the stranger you are doctoring or whatever, was created to be part of having your back and you were created to cover thiers.  None of us can do that without God doing that in us, without learning to rely on Jesus, without letting His Holy Spirit teach us.  Why?  Because there is only one image of God and it’s not the image of man and it’s not about doing it our way.  Am I surrendered to God’s spirit that I resemble his image before those who need it?  And are you surrendered to God’s spirit so that You resemble his image before me because I desperately need it too.

Are You Ready?

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“…And even now you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?”  (1 Corinthians 3:2,3)

So I’m back looking over that older devotional journal of mine.  And I’ve read my meditations.  But now I want to reread Your Word again that I read that day.  And I want to meditate on it more.  It’s so pertinent.  It’s so absolutely necessary to not only understand it, but to live it.  It’s not enough to know doctrine.  It must become who I am.  It must become my life.  Why?  Because Your Word is not a set of rules and regulations and precepts to only follow.  These words You’ve given us are a part of You that You have given us.  It’s what You look like.  Your Word is alive because You are in it and it is of You and You are alive.  So, how alive is Your Word in me?  How alive are You in me?

That’s really the question that Paul is asking the Corinthians here.  “How alive is Christ in You?  How alive is God in You?”  The problem is that these believers weren’t acting at all like believers.  Anyone looking at them and their lives and their actions would have thought that they looked and acted just like the other “pagans.”  And that’s the problem.  Believers aren’t supposed to be the images of mere men, they are supposed to be the image of God.

If we go back to the beginning, in Genesis, we see that man and woman, anthropos, were created in the image of God.  Therefore, it seems to me, that the purpose of any man and any woman is to bear that glorious image.  But I think that this is more than a mirror image that is just supposed to reflect the looks of it’s host.  “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them…And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”  (Genesis 1:26,27, 31)  See, we were created in the image and likeness of God.  We were created to be His living models in the world, before all of creation, angelic, human, and animate and inanimate.  This is Your purpose, God, for us.

But then the problem arises.  We were created for this purpose, but we chose another.  We were created to reflect the image of God in all of our being, but like Satan, we wanted our own image to have meaning and significance on it’s own.  We wanted it our way, not Your way.  Instead of glory in Your image, we chose a faulty image, a broken image, our own way, the way of the created instead of the Creator.  We chose sin.  We chose self.  We chose a false idol.  We chose lust.  We chose to turn away from Glory and to turn to ourselves.  We chose wrong.  Oh, so wrong.

This is sin.  But notice what sin really is, it’s denying who I was created to be.  It’s denying the glory of God in my life.  It’s turning away from glory.  It’s choosing to turn away.  It’s choosing to deny the truth.  The truth is that humans were created in the image of God, to be true reflections of God in this world.  Humanity, therefore, isn’t being fleshly.  True humanity is being Godly, resembling His image.

Paul is calling the Corinthians and us to repentance, to return to God.  See, repentance isn’t about our humiliation.  On the contrary, it’s about being reaffirmed in the image of our Creator.  Repentance is about returning and realizing who we were in the first place.  It’s all about coming back to You, God, and accepting and reclaiming our image in You.  It’s about realizing who I’m really like.  Sin put a crack in that image, a really giant crack.  When people see us through sin, they no longer see a glorious God.  They no longer see humanity as God designed it.  So, I suppose “sin makes us less than human.”  Scripture tells us that all homosapiens have sinned.  That makes every one of us “less-than-human,” well, except for Christ.  Skip Moen continues, ” Doing what I want instead of doing what God wants reduces the image of God in me, and consequently, reduces my humanity.  Of course, the world doesn’t present being human in this way.  The world suggests that being human is an ontological fact of my existence.  I am human because I am homo sapien.  But the Bible has a different point of view.  Man was formed human because Man was invited to participate in the divine image – an image that is the dynamic interplay of actions that reflect God.  Sin does not reflect God.  It reflects rebellion against God.  Therefore, sin is the antithesis of being human.  To repent, to return to the image of God, is to recapture my own humanity because unless I have an open, cooperative, obedient relationship with Him, I do not share His image.”

Now let’s go back to what Paul is saying, because he could be saying this to us.  This is my paraphrase.  “Hey, I couldn’t talk to you like you understood the spiritual, supernatural things of God.  I had to talk to you like all you understand was fleshly stuff, stuff that mere men think about and understand.  You should have understood the things of God, but you were immature and simple minded.  But that’s not what you should have been.  I’ve been feeding you like babies and even now you have no idea how to handle real food.  I suppose it’s not just that you don’t know how to eat and chew real food.  It’s that your digestive system doesn’t even have the power to do it.  But why not?  You’re old enough to digest real food?  What’s keeping you from maturing?”

What keeps us from maturing?  What keeps us from our true and full identity in You, Lord?  Sarkikos.  I just want what I want.  It’s all about me.  It’s not about You, it’s not about Your image, I’ve made it all about me.  I envy, I strive, I argue, because I want it my way.  I choose to live like a mere man instead of like You.  I choose to follow mere men instead of You.  I choose to acknowledge mere men instead of You.  I look for satisfaction in mere man and not in You.  I look for love in mere man and not in You.  I look for acceptance in mere man and not in You.  I look for approval in mere man and not in You.

But the truth of the matter is that every human was designed and endowed to be a colabourer in You and with each other.  We were created in Your image to build Your kingdom, not our own.  Each of us is Your handiwork.  Each of us is God’s building.  No single brick makes a house.  And when bricks and stone are made by hand, which is what You are doing, Lord, then they need to be cut and chizzled and ground to fit perfectly in the right place.  It’s the grace of God that called Paul as a wise masterbuilder in charge under Him to help us understand how God was fitting us together.  But even that is initiated from the grace of God, given to each us, the grace of the wise Master Masterbuilder, who knows how each of us fits.  And only You know, Lord.

Now here’s the caution.  Am I taking heed to the building process?  Am I letting the right One form me?  Am I yielding to a foreign builder?  Am I taking over the building process myself?  Who is really building my house?  Do I think about that moment by moment each day?  When I am faced with decisions, when my heart cries one thing and my spirit another, am I thinking about who my Builder is?  Am I yielding to my fleshly desires and allowing something to be added to my life that makes me an unfit stone?  Or am I surrendering to the Master’s chisel and allowing Him to remove that which would keep me from a perfect fit in the body of Christ?

Maybe my work isn’t about what I do.  Maybe this work, this labour is about how I yield and how I allow You to form Your image in me.  I can add more of You to it or I can add more of me to it.  Because I don’t think You are the One laying a foundation of hay or stubble to be burned in the fire so nothing is left of it.  But I might do something like that.  And the truth is that You tell me that the truth of building will be made known, it will be manifest for all to see.  There’s a day, and not necessarily the day I stand before You, but a day which could be today on this earth, where I’m going to be made manifest, where people will know what image I really take after.  Am I ready for that day?

Am I ready for fire?  Because, whatever it takes to make me fit is what You will do.  And if You have to bring pain and suffering to burn away the chaff, to chizel the malformed pieces of stone that are me, You will do that.  What is my work?  What is my labour?  What if it is to live life in Your image, every moment of every day?  What if that is what really counts?  What if whether I wake or sleep, that is my purpose?  Do I have anything in my life that is contrary to that purpose?  Is my flesh controlling me in any area or are You in every area?  Am I the human I was created to be, fully reflecting and exhibiting You and Your power in my life?  Or am I less than human?

Am I ready?  Am I living in Your purpose for me?  Am I living out the image of God?  Or, am I about to be exposed?  Maybe now is the time to examine every area of my life that is setting forth a false image.  I want to fulfill my purpose.  I want to live in the image of my Maker.  And I don’t want to tarnish my Maker’s image because I know how much He loves me and how much He has done for me and I deserve none of it.  Lord, by Your power, make me ready.  I want to live in Your image, wholly, not partly, because there’s no such thing as a partial image of God.  In Isaiah 30:15 You said, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But Isaiah said that Israel was “unwilling.”  I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t want my own way, and even when I do, I really want Your way.  I want to be one who returns and rests in You, who returns and rests in who You created me to be.  And Lord, if I’m not as ready as I think I am, then make me ready.  I mean if You can help a father’s unbelief, You can certainly help me be ready to receive and ready to live to Your glory and in Your image.

A True Light to the World

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Photo credit to my friend Lois Pannabecker.

“You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.”  Matthew 5:14

Really?  I am the light of the world?  Now, I’m just thinking about these statements that You made, Jesus.  “You are the salt of the earth.”  “You are the light of the world.”  And here’s the thing.  These people did not have a saving knowledge of You yet.  Some were already trusting God by faith, but none of them really understood about You and how You truly fit the picture yet.  So this really amazes me.  How could they be the salt and light of world if they didn’t already know You?  To me, it’s like You weren’t commending them.  How could they be commended for something they couldn’t be yet because those things come from abiding in You?  But You were encouraging and empowering and reminding, saying, “Hey, guys.  You were created for a purpose.  You were created to be the salt and light of the earth.  This is who you are.  This is who I made you to be.  This is who I am empowering you to be.  Come to Me, listen to Me, follow Me, live in Me, and I will fulfill My purpose in you.” You are telling us who we were created to be.  The question is, am I living up to Your purpose for me?

“You are the light of the world…” What does that really mean for me?  Is being the light about being someone that people see doing good things?  Well, if so, there are a lot of wonderful humanitarians out there doing far more than I’ve ever been able to do.  Are they the ones lighting the world?  Not according to You.  Because there is something different about this light and to understand I think I first have to ask myself, “What is the purpose of light in itself?”

What is the purpose of light?  I googled it.  Awesome thing is that the Lord took me to a blog where someone who loves physics (which I know nothing of) was sharing exactly about this question in my mind.  Jeremy Statton shared, “You can’t smell, touch, or see light directly. It is energy. Electromagnetic radiation.  When the electromagnetic radiation collides with an object, a portion of the light is reflected back towards your eyes. When this reflected portion collides with your retina, you see the object. You never see the light traveling through space. Only how the light changes after it hits something and reflects.  The purpose of light is to reveal the properties of the objects it collides with.”

Now, hold that thought.  “The purpose of light is to reveal the properties of the objects it collides with.”  From what I just read, who is doing the seeing?  I am doing the seeing.  That radiation collides with my sensory perceptions by being reflected off of something else and I receive that reflection.  And the interesting thing about being a light of the world is that first I have to receive the reflection from the One who is the Light of the world.  And when I’m hit by that Light, when I see that Light for who He is, that reflection is so powerful that it reflects back from me and changes my image.  It reveals the properties of God first to me, but then, in it’s powerful reflection again off of me, it reveals my true properties.  But this reflection is so powerful that it changes my properties to reflect His own as I surrender to His power.

Jeremy continues, “Sometimes when this phenomena of reflected electromagnetic radiation hits our retinas, something even more amazing happens.  Sometimes the light reflects beauty.”  Well, that’s exactly what it does.  First, light had to originate somewhere and it did.  John tells us, “This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”

Light and how it works is so important.  It’s right there at the beginning of all creation.  Listen to Genesis 1:1-3.  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  Well, what was that like, I mean, before the beginning?  “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”  Hm.  Now God is light, but apart from Him everything else is without form and void and dark.  It’s all purposeless until He gives it purpose.  And He does.  “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.'”  That’s important.  This is everything to how I can ever be a light to the world.  This is the beginning but it doesn’t stop here.

Now I jump ahead to John chapter 1.  He shares about Jesus and who He purposes us to be.  “In the beginning was the Word [you know, in that beginning we just read about], and the Word[that’s Jesus] was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God [just in case we missed that point the first time].  All things were made through Him [ this is more than by Him, it’s through all that He is, through that powerful reflective ability that only He has], and without Him was not any thing made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  BAM!  That’s it!  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  Can I repeat that enough?  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

“You are the light of the world.”  How?  When Your life Jesus is in me, then You are my light.  Then and only then can I reflect Your beauty to a darkened world who does not see.  In You and You alone is life, including my life.  And it’s not just for now.  It’s for now into eternity.  It’s life everlasting.  It’s life as You intended, as You purposed for me.  “You are the light of the world” is an invitation to living in You and in Your light, in Your reflection that changes me into Your image in a world that needs to see You and know You and experience You.  “The light shines in the darkness [it has from the beginning], and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Mr. Statton didn’t stop there at the beauty of light and seeing it alone.  Because this is what’s so amazingly beautiful about God, “As if that wasn’t enough, the beauty doesn’t stop there. Our sensory cortex sends a signal to another portion of our brain and we feel something. The light finds the beauty and sends portions of itself back at you so that you can see it. And feel it. And love it. The beauty exists independent of light, but it is the light that illuminates beauty for our eyes to see and then for our hearts to enjoy.”  I can see my child’s smile, I can see my closest friend’s joy, and it warms my heart and it is the most beautiful thing.  But God lets me see Him, and feel Him, and love Him, because I experience His reflection.  I can enjoy God.  He wants me to.  He desires for me to.  He delights in me delighting in Him.  “Delight Yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart.”  When I delight myself in You, Lord, You become the desire of my heart.  And You’ll always delight in giving me more of You.

It was never about my brightness but about His likeness.  I must reflect His beauty, His glory, His power, His love, His compassion, His righteousness.  Jesus is not in black and gray and white.  He’s beautiful and light reflects that beauty.  Am I reflecting that beauty?   Am I finding the goodness of God in every situation, in the things of my life and bringing them out to enjoy and allow others to enjoy?

” You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. ” (the Message)  Can I take my eyes off everything else and keep myself focussed on His beautiful reflection?  Can I see His reflection adding worth and value to those around me?  Am I reflecting His beauty and value on others and everything around me?  That’s the kind of light that You can’t hide on a hill.  That’s the kind of light that no darkness can put out.  That’s the kind of light that never loses it’s beauty.  That’s the True Light.  That’ s the Light that shines in the darkness and has overcome it.  That’s the glorious light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  See, the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  But just as God sent Jesus to be the light of the world, so You, Lord, are sending me.  May I reflect Your glorious image more and more every day that those who are blind may be healed and rejoice in the beautiful sight of the glorious image of God.