How Much Life is in Your Bones?

Standard

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

Put Down Your Branch, Get on the Train

Standard

Photo credit goes to someone on the internet.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

On Life and Fulfillment

Standard

Photo credit to Stephen Cunningham.

 

“Then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations.” Ezekiel 6:9

It’s funny how we say this is an awful way for God to feel. But I wonder if we were married and loved the one we were married to with all our hearts and they “went a-whoring” and left us for others, how we would feel? And I’m not saying that anyone should run out and destroy their unfaithful partner. That’s not my point. Isn’t the truth that they have already not only begun destroying themselves, but destroying true intimacy itself? Aren’t they bringing turmoil into their own lives and into the lives around them? Aren’t they being caught up in twisted thinking that will one day lead to their own demise?

Had God’s people ever been warned? Had they witnessed the power of the true God versus the lack of power of the gods of other nations? Had they witnessed and been supplied by the provision of the true God? Did You, God, really cause their demise? Or were You there trying to continually call them back to the safety and provision of You?

The people were playing with what they shouldn’t be playing with, nations who didn’t care about them. They were making themselves vulnerable because they were no longer alert. They were allowing themselves to lose their identity in God, who was their strength, and falling into the lie of the nations that they were great of themselves. They were worshipping at empty altars that bring emptiness and desolation.

Paul talks of desolation, this word shamem in Hebrew, also. “For it is written, ‘Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; for more are the children of the desolate than the one who has a husband.’” (Galatians 4:27) What is this about? What is today’s reading in Ezekiel about? It describes “the inner barrenness of an unfulfilled life.” (Skip Moen) Shamem is about being desolate and amazed. It can mean one or the other or it can be both at the same time. It’s like looking around at the great desolation and destruction around you and being totally appalled and overwhelmed at the same time.

The reason judgment comes is because we refuse to live fulfilled lives. We were created to be filled fully with God, to bear His image throughout this world. This is true fulfillment, what we were created to be filled with, just like Adam when God breathed into him and he became a living soul. But we choose, yes we choose, to warp that image and defile it and create our own. We choose to live unfulfilled lives in these places of desolation, and we don’t even realize how appalling it is. But God does. He never intended us to walk in the wilderness. He hadn’t intended for Israel to walk there. They chose desolation instead of the kingdom. Aren’t we doing the same? And then we have the nerve to blame our consequences on God? And all You have ever been trying to do is to turn us back to our purpose, true life fulfillment in You.

The truth is that God doesn’t leave us alone in the wilderness. He was there for Hagar. He was there for the Israelites. He is there for us today, waiting to rescue us from emptiness and unfulfillment. We think self-sufficiency is the answer but the answer is in dependency on a God who is fully able. Think about it. Joseph couldn’t rescue himself from that pit his brothers placed him in. The Israelites couldn’t find their way out of the desert. Hagar couldn’t find water to keep her and her son alive. Moses couldn’t even lead a people on his own. The truth is not one of us is sufficient on our own.

Paul understood that. He was once a very self-sufficient man. But not once he met the risen Jesus. He shares, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God…” (2 Corinthians 3:5) God enables us in Him to do and to bear His image in this world, that we may fulfill our purpose in Him.

How could a barren woman have more fulfillment than the one with a husband? How did the desolate woman find more fulfillment? Because our fulfillment doesn’t come in our husband or in our job or in our position or in our ministry. Our satisfaction and fulfillment comes from God. This world is a wilderness and we have to learn to cling to God in the midst of it because clinging to the wilderness will always leave us empty.

Are you in an overwhelming place right now that seems totally desolate? Stop fighting God. Let Him come to You in the desolate empty place and let Him fill You. Run into His arms and let His ways become Your ways. Let Him redefine Your thinking and Your living by His standards, by His love, by His grace, and by His mercy. Let Him be the spouse that He promises to be to you and let yourself be His. Let go of the emptiness. Walk away from it and walk into His arms. You don’t have to stay there. You never did. He’s been waiting with open arms every minute of every day, right there with you, only you wouldn’t acknowledge Him or give Him the time of day. But He never stopped thinking about you or reaching out to you.

We can keep fighting a losing battle and trying to find fulfillment elsewhere. But it will always leave us empty and grasping for more. Or we can stop fighting and let the One who has always loved us, the One who created us, fill us full of Himself and we can live out our purpose in life and eternity. The choice is each of ours. Only, don’t get upset if you choose the consequences of self-fulfillment. It’s not like we’ve not been warned. The blame game is a losing game. Let’s take responsibility for our choices and let’s choose life and fulfillment.

Walking Together

Standard

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”  Amos 3:3

What a timeless truth.  I first remember hearing about Jesus when I was five years old.  As far as I know, that’s when we started attending church and I was enrolled in a small Christian school.  My fondest memories are about Jesus and especially how he loved the children and even rebuked his disciples that day and let the little children come to Him and be held and blessed.  And even as a little five year old, I knew one thing.  I wanted to walk with Jesus.  I wanted it so much that I dreamed about it, I thought about it, and I played games centered around it.  Maybe I was a strange little kid, but whatever the Lord had planted in my heart at that early age, impacted my life forever.

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”  What a pertinent question.  It defines those who belong to Christ and it defines those who refuse to belong to Christ.  It even defines our relationships or lack of relationships with others.  I mean, come on, look at what happens to husbands and wives who can’t be agreed.  Look at the statistics on the great extent of divorce and how they are ceasing to walk together.  What about broken friendships because of disagreement?  And what about all those relationships that never began because of lack of agreement in the first place?  Yes, this is true.  Just look at life.  The people who cling together are those who agree together. 

Now this is not just a wise saying.  This is a saying of greatest eternal value and great import for us.  As a matter of fact, our success and life and future depend upon understanding the depth and importance of this saying and applying it in our lives.  Because by this saying, God is saying that He, the God of creation and the God of the universe and the God of angel armies and the God who knows the heart of man, wants to be the One who walks together with us, the mere men and women that He created.  This God of awe and wonder wants us, created us to agree with Him.  He wants us to know Him that intimately and walk in His ways that intimately and bear His image on this earth that He created.  He has already agreed and stated that as His desire.  But there has to be agreement between both parties for there to be relationship, at least one that walks together.  I have to agree or I miss out on the relationship and the walk designed for me.

Here’s the other truth that goes with this.  “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing His secret to His servants the prophets.”  Why don’t people know how to do right?  Because they won’t agree with the One who is right.  Why are people surprised by the things happening in life around them?  Because they won’t listen to what the God who designed them for relationship with Him reveals to those who know Him.  And the truth is, that as You reveal to those who walk with You, they always reveal to the others around them.  And You continue to reveal Yourself through Your creation that is there for all to see.  Paul reminds us, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:18-20)  Every one of us is surrounded by evidence of God just by nature of life itself and all we see at work around us.  But You take that even farther and more personal to invite us into a daily walk with You where we can know You and Your thinking and not just know of You by the evidence You have left behind.

You haven’t just left evidence behind because You are still actively involved in holding all of nature together.  But it’s one thing to see Your handiwork outside of me and it’s another thing to BE Your continual handiwork.  Because You don’t just reveal Yourself and Your secrets and Your mystery to prophets or religious elites.  You reveal Yourself to any who would walk with You, to any who would turn and agree with You.  Look at Simon Bar-Jonah.  He was brash and arrogant.  But You saw someone different in him.  You saw Peter and when Peter saw You for who You really are and agreed with You and walked with You, he started to see himself as You saw him and His life was changed into Your image.  You revealed Your plans and Your heart to him and he lived them out.  And what of Saul the persecutor?  You saw Paul the apostle, who walked with You and agreed with You and lived You out in his life even though it lead to his death.  But even that lead to life eternal with You, with walking with You and agreeing with You forever.

And why would they choose to walk with You and agree with You like that?  Could it be because it was more than a flesh and blood thing but that You revealed the truth of Yourself to them?  Is it that God would make Himself personally known?  Would You let the secret out of the bag and into our hearts and lives?  Even if I’m not a prophet?  Even if I’m just me?

Jesus Himself thanked God for this truth.  “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will.” (Luke 10:21)  And it’s not that the wise and those who think they know so much, can’t know.  The truth is that they choose not to know, they choose not to agree, they choose to walk their own way.  But not so those who see themselves as children who need a Father to walk with, who want that relationship, and see the value of agreeing with the One who knows and wants to share that knowledge. 

It’s a message of truth for all people.  An invitation to relationship.  And no matter how others feel about it, it’s a message that has no shame.  According to Paul, the Gospel of Christ and the relationship it brings, “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)  Why?  Because in it we see who God is.  We come to understand what righteousness is and that it’s only of and in God.  It’s all revealed and He is made known by agreeing and walking with Him and in Him.  That’s that part about “faith to faith.”  It doesn’t come without the agreeing and walking together.  Faith is more than belief in words and doctrines.  Faith is more than speech and ideas.  Faith is those truths lived out.  Faith is the agreement turned into the walk of our lives.  The “just,” the holy live by that kind of faith.  And the revealing continues into eternity because there is that much of God to be made known!

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2 that there was a secret and hidden wisdom of God that God had decreed before the ages.  Neither the earthly rulers or the heavenly rulers up to that time had  understood it or they wouldn’t have crucified Jesus.  But God had a plan for those who love Him.  And God reveals that plan to us through the Spirit, that Spirit that searches everything including the depths of God.  He searches the depths of our own hearts and the depths of God and makes them both known to us.  Only if we don’t agree with God, we won’t agree with His Spirit either.  And if we don’t agree, we won’t choose to walk with Him.  And if we don’t walk with Him, we won’t get to know Him and we won’t hear a thing He has to share.

It’s not like we don’t have a choice.  I can choose to listen to and agree with and walk with the Spirit of God.  On the other hand, I can choose to listen to and agree with and walk with the spirit of the world.  If I choose that, I’ll not know the “things that are freely given to us of God.”  And the truth is that the things and relationship that God wants to give, the people and angels of the past wished they understood, including the prophets and angels, but today, in Christ by the Spirit of God, we can be filled up with what was lacking, with the personal knowledge of revelation, that of a true relationship with our living God! 

This great mystery used to be available to a select few.  But now it’s available to all who will agree with and walk with the Lord in Jesus Christ, the hope of glory.  God is calling you and me out from the spirit of this world.  He’s inviting us to agree with Him and walk with Him.  We were created for that intimate relationship.  God created us to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery of Christ in us.

God was using Amos to remind us of this truth, to bring Israel and us into that relationship we were created for, to break the chains of false thinking and false alliance.  And it’s not that coming back or finding that place or being in that place in You comes without trials, but the truth is that You are worth the trials and You are greater than the trials.   I mean, after all, You went through the greatest trial to win us back to You, to show how much You wanted us to agree with You and walk with You.  If You were willing to walk through the fire of testing to win me back, then I think it is worth the testing of my faith that I might become genuine in my agreement and walk with and for You.  And if Your walk has become the most precious thing to me, then surely the walk of tested faith You take me on, shall be precious to You. 

Yeah, I wasn’t there when Peter and Paul were.  I didn’t get to see You like I always wished I had.  I couldn’t be reborn as a kid in Your day of walking back then.  But You are the risen Saviour.  And You invite me to walk with You today in agreement as Your disciple.  And like Paul, we are invited to be Your emissaries in this world.  I may not have his giftings, but then again, Paul didn’t have mine.  Maybe I’ll never be given the opportunity to heal someone, or cast out a demon, but You have revealed so much to me that I see Your truth shine out through balloon creations, and magic tricks, and object lessons, and clown skits, and umbrella dances, and words on paper and words that float through the air, and so much more.  And it’s not because I would have always seen these things.  It’s because in knowing You and agreeing with You and walking with You, Your Spirit opens You up in everything.  And I don’t have to be a Paul or a Peter or a Mother Theresa.  I just get to become who You really created me to be.  But I won’t ever realize that if I don’t agree with You and walk with You.

So I guess I have to determine who I will walk with.  And if I want to walk with God, then I’ve got to walk with You.  Because I can’t know You unless I know You and I can’t know You without walking with You and I can’t know You unless I listen to Your Spirit and that takes agreement.  Because listening isn’t just listening.  Listening is doing and following through.  Here’s the sad thing, the truth is out there and available for every one of every nation, Jew and Gentile alike.  But so many will never know, not because the knowledge wasn’t available, but because they would never look and search it out.  How sad to miss out on the answer of life when it has always been within one’s grasp.  I want nothing more than to walk in agreement with You, Lord, no matter what it takes.

  

Hope Deferred

Standard

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”  (Micah 5:2)

Hope deferred.  Noah Webster defines the word defer as meaning to delay or to put off; to postpone to a future time.  Solomon thought about this too.  In Proverbs 13:12 he shared, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” 

That’s interesting.  Here that word is again being used in Song of Songs 1:4.  “Draw me after you: let’s run!  The king has brought me into his bedroom.” The word in Proverbs is mashak.  It can mean to draw, continue, defer, extend, forbear, handle, make long, scatter, and stretch out.  Here in Song of Songs, it’s the related word moshkeni.  It can also mean “to draw up, to raise, to extend, to draw in, to entice or allure, to draw out (as with a weapon) and to drag or seize.” They are different words, but related, and maybe that matters today.

I mean, here we have this woman who has been waiting.  She has kept herself pure and now is rejoicing wholly in her groom who rejoices just as much in her.  She has waited and now she gets to enjoy the reward of that wait, intimacy with the one she loves.  She calls her lover and at the same time she offers herself to him.  No one forces anyone.  There is “vulnerability and submission along with honor and glory” in love.  Lust, on the other hand, is about domination.  There is none of that here.  Intimacy is about love.  And this verse in Micah, about the ruler coming from Bethlehem is all about that type of love and that type of intimacy and how we miss out on it because we chase after others and other things.  It’s about a “God who loves through surrender and vulnerability leading to glorification.” (Skip Moen)

The story in Micah is about love twisted.  Israel should have been saying to God, “Draw me after You: let’s run!”  They should have been saying, “Draw me after You: let’s do life wholly together!”  “Bring me into Your bedroom so I can know You intimately and You can know me intimately, so that we can be one.”  But they were drawn to others and were void of intimacy with the One who truly loved them and could provide all they could ever desire that was wonderful and good and pure and true. 

Hope deferred leads to something; it leads to a sick heart.  It’s the Hebrew word chalah.  This means “to be rubbed or worn; to be weak, sick, afflicted, or to grieve, make sick…(be) diseased, (put to) grief, be grieved, (be) grievous, infirmity…be wounded.”   So hope deferred leads to this. Which makes me think if this Hebrew idea of hope, tocheleth, is a hope based on a specific expectation, or a specific Person, and if that expectation is twisted, this is what results.  But if our hope is where it was meant to be in our original design, in You, Lord, then our hearts won’t be sick, chalah.

Proverbs reminds us that when the desire, the ta’avah, comes, when what we hoped and longed for expected is here and we hold it in our hands or in our being, we will be delighted and satisfied.  Not only that, but it will be a tree of life.  Solomon is taking us back to the garden of Eden.  What happened when hope and desire were twisted then?  Adam and Eve lost the tree of life.  But God is telling us there is a way back to the Tree of Life.  There is a way back to Him.  There is a way that we can untwist our hope and desire and set it back on the One who rightfully deserves it. 

Sickness of heart comes from a distorted reality.  It grows as we grow away from who we were created and intended to be and to worship.  Sickness of heart comes from keeping ourselves from the One who gives us true hope and joy and fulfillment and life and love.  Sickness of heart is brought on by our own twistedness.  But God loves us so much that You add to our sickness of heart so that we might learn to yearn for You again.  When Solomon said in Proverbs 13:25, “The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul: but the belly of the wicked shall want,”  it’s the same thing going on here.  Either my hope is in You, God, who fully satisfies my soul, and I eat of You and want nothing more than to be engulfed by You and for You to draw me to You wholly, or my soul fills my life with things that disappoint and cannot satisfy.

Hope deferred.  It may not seem like it in the present, but it’s worth it.  The suffering that Israel went through was terrible but it wasn’t pointless.  It was for a purpose, to untwist twisted hope.  And sometimes hope is so twisted that it takes generations to reshape it.  Because here is the promise of hope in the midst of hardship for the people of God to wait for and look forward to, this ruler to come out of Bethlehem Ephratah, to rule Israel; “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”  Here’s the lover who has always been waiting to draw His people to Him in complete intimacy and will not give up on her.  Here’s this prophecy and many others that His people have and had and yet when the time came, when Jesus, the lover of their souls, fulfilled this prophecy, many who should have known, refused to acknowledge the truth.  They refused to submit, they didn’t want Him to draw them to Him.  They wanted to force Him to come their way.

The truth is that we still act the same way today.  It’s not that those particular children of Israel were so bad and worse than us.  We’re just like them, just as stubborn, just as twisted by our own desires and hopes that we’ve set up so that we lose sight of the truth which is only found in God, the one who created us.  The funny thing is that sometimes we think God looks so small compared to everything else going on in our lives.  What a misconception.  But the smallest things are often of the greatest importance and not so small as they seem.  Like Bethlehem, that everyone made fun of, “like, what good thing comes from Bethlehem?”  But then again, the King of the Universe was born there as a little baby, a little baby who came to deliver the world through sacrificing Himself for our sins as he deferred hope to just the right time.

Some things have to be deferred to the right time.  Like a caterpillar in its chrysalis has to go through the whole hard process or it won’t succeed in being a butterfly.  A woman has to wait until the right time for delivery or the baby may be endangered.  And so to Israel and even us, those who come to believe and be grafted in, can’t be returned or be grafted in until our hope is no longer twisted, but in the One who is Hope personified for us. 

What am I longing after?  What and who do I want to be drawn to and what and who do I want to draw to me?  Is my every desire toward You, like it should be?  Is it on You because it ought to be or because how could I think of anyone else?  Are You truly the One who is satisfying my deepest needs and desires?  Are You my delight?  Do I run to You and cling to You and care if You cling to me?  Do I want nothing more than to spend intimate time with You?  Can I get enough of You?  Because if I can, something is wrong, something is seriously wrong. 

In this world, some hope in You is deferred until I enter eternity with You.  But because You sent Jesus into Bethlehem to fulfill the hope of Your people Israel and the hope of mankind we can know that our hope is not deferred forever.  He has come!  And we can run to Him!  Run Israel, into the arms of the lover of your soul!  Run, Gentile, into the arms of the lover of your soul!  “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!’ When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’” 

And they did.  Because it’s not a secret.  God has made Himself known through His word and through Jesus Christ.  Come and see your Savior.  Hope is here.  Draw after Him and He will draw after You.   “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)  Jesus is “able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)  May our heart cry and our hope be “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Songs 6:3)  You know it’s not only our prayer, but it’s Jesus’ prayer too.  He asked not only for the disciples, but for those who would untwist their thinking and draw to Him, that “they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us…”  I want a lover who wants me just as much as I want him.  And maybe, the reality is, that Jesus, the Lover of our souls, loves us more than we could ever know how to love Him.  But, I want to learn to love back like that, and I want to be enveloped in His love as I learn.  Hope doesn’t have to be deferred.  It can be experienced in a relationship with Jesus Christ if I only submit and and respond.

The Bliss of Grace and Peace!

Standard

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 1:3

In a greeting, we wish people well-being.  Paul, wishes for grace and peace from God and Jesus Christ unto the believers.  Grace takes me from here to there.  Grace walks me step by step, day by day to the throne of God.  I love this definition of grace: “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”  I’m reminded of it in Your Word, here, Lord, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in me will continue it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Grace is underserved merit yet it is a continual process.  Grace came to me and saved me, sealed me with The Promise.  Grace continues to work through The Promise to continue the good work it began in me until it has brought me into a perfect and intimate relationship with You, Jesus.  Lord, I must realize that I shall not be complete or in my “perfected” state until both body and soul have been changed.  Like You, I must endure the flesh for a season as the flesh imposes upon me restrictions from complete intimacy with You.  Yet I now have power in You to control and guide those restrictions.  That’s probably part of the reason You prayed for us.

You were in complete intimacy with God in Heaven.  As man, You took on the restrictions of the flesh.  You know how it feels to long for physical and spiritual intimacy.  You can understand our longing.  You know what it is to be so busy in the world with the affairs and care of men that it would keep You from time with God if it could.  But You made time, probably after a long, hard, spiritually and physically draining day of expending Yourself for others, when sleep probably beckoned softly and sweetly.  Yet You turned her down for intimacy with God.  So I too, can order my day and make time to seek that same intimacy.  I can deny my physical weakness and receive strength through and in communion with You.  This is grace.

Peace.  The Greek word eirene has to do with “the absence of war” which leads to “health, well-being, and tranquility.”  But the Hebrew idea stems from the word shalom.  The Hebrew is all about relationships instead of conditions.  When I get relationships right, other things work out.  I mean tidyng my house all day doesn’t insure right relationships with my family.  Working to provide for my family doesn’t insure healthy relationships with them.  Throwing myself wholeheartedly into my ministry doesn’t mean I have a right relationship with You and those around me.

Peace is not about physical prosperity but richness in the Lord, confidence in the Lord.  This richness, confidence, and intimacy produced through the workings of grace allow me quietness and rest and patience and understanding knowing that You, God, are not only in control of my life but that You are in control of every situation and every life around me.  You expect, no, You daily perform in my heart and life what You desire at the rate and time You deem right for me personally.  And that goes for the others around me.   Grace is not a magic trick that all of a sudden appears and then is over.  It has a sudden onset through salvation, but then constantly works to mold, perfect, build, and lift up.   Peace takes me through all the changes in confidence and love with patience.  Peace helps me hold things together concerning others because I can remember the grace I was shown and given and extend that to them and myself.

Because grace is never disappointed in me but always looks to who I will be, I can have peace.  And I can look that way at those around me.  Grace retains the lesson of my sin, yet removes the stain of sin far from me so that I may be set free.  Peace is knowing this and extending it to others.  Grace holds no records of wrong.  Peace is experiencing that and extending it to others.

In John 14:27, Jesus comforted His disciples withthese words, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Here You were, Lord, preparing them for Your coming death.  You weren’t leaving them with a greeting to grant them happiness and prosperity.  You were preparing them for events that would turn their world upside down by leaving Your peace.  Now You were alive but You knew You were going to die.  And You were telling them, don’t be afraid.  Why could they not be afraid because You have left Your peace?  Because Your peace was an unending relationship, an unending intimacy with You.  They could only have that relationship when You finished Your mission.  You gave it to us and left if for us.  Unbroken fellowship with God given to us, left for us.  You gave “present-moment peace” to know and have the confidence that my relationship with God has been repaired!

Lord, teach me to truly live in Your grace and peace, not just to know about, but to joyfully live in the exxperience of Your intimacy with me.  And teach me to show Your grace and peace to others, because it ought to be a natural outflow.  Now, Lord, help me to follow Your example of loving and seeking communion with God so that our relationship is right because only then will I be able to set my other relationships right and put everything else into right perspective around me.  May I run to You continually in grace and peace.

“Garbage In, Hagios Out”

Standard

“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours…” 1 Corinthians 1:2

Lord, just as You spoke to the believers of Corinth, so You speak to me.  Just as they were called out to be Yours, so have You called me out.  So we were called out and meet together in You.  Through and in Christ I am sanctified.  He has made me holy.  I have been purified and consecrated, set apart as a holy vessel.  Because of what You have done, I am hallowed.  I am holy.

I don’t deserve what You have given me.  I have not done anything to warrant this position.  I am like a thief who came and stole the work of another and cherish it as my own.  It was none of my work, but all of Yours.  Nothing I can do will ever equal it and nothing that I can do will ever take it away.  I had no right to this gift of grace.  Yet Your love, selfless and limitless, chose me and called me in my detestable state, to be changed into Your likeness.

I had nothing to give, yet You clothed me in Your righteousness.  You cover and daily fill me with Your grace.  I am not who I was because of what You have done for me and in me.  Lord, teach me to know and comprehend this intimately.  Without this, I could not be Your ambassador.  With this I am whatever You call me to be.  Each moment I am Your child.  I must learn to live as who I am in You.

You have called me to be sacred, blameless, most holy in Your eyes.  You have changed my savour from putrid to blessed.  I have been invited and appointed.  When I answered Your invitation, You appointed me.

What entitles me to this?  My invocation for You.  I have and will always appeal unto You.  I shall call upon You through eternity.  You have become the air I breathe.  You are my heart’s beat.  You are the blood that circulates through my veins.  You are my coming and my going.  I called upon You in humble entreaty and prayer.  You have given me Your surname.  I guess You’ve made me Your bride and we now may be intimate.  I am Yours and You are mine.  We are one, yet You are the head.

Well, that’s most of my meditation from March 15, 2003.  And it gives me a sounding board.  Because there’s a little more that talks about my relationship with You, Lord, through adoption.  But I wanted to focus on that marriage concept, feelling it was even more intimate.  But then I hit this thought, that Your relationship with me and mine with You should be reflected in my relationships with others.

So that’s where I am today, learning how a saint, a hagios, lives in relationship in this world.  Funny thing is, we often think that being a believer means we’re better or above some things.  Here’s the “humor” in that.  These Corinthians that Paul was calling saints, these hagios, well, they acted like anything but that.  They were a mess!  They were guilty of incest, perversion, quarrels, illness, heresies, and spite.  And Paul calls them saints.  Was he joking!  These people?

See, sanctified and saint are related.  A saint is a sanctified one, someone that’s been made holy.  The Greek is hagiazo.  If we find the Hebrew equivalent we go to kodesh.  Where the Greek hagiazo means set aside, separated”, the Hebrew kodesh is much richer.  Let me share Skip Moen’s explanation.  “Kodesh is not merely about moral or ethical behavior.  It is about God taking possession of us.  It is about surrender, dedication and consecration.  In Heschel’s terms, it is about awe and wonder in the presence of God.  We are mistaken if we think that holiness is a synonym for morality.  It is not.  In fact, in Hebrew kodesh has no Hebrew synonyms.  It is a cultic term for total abandonment to God based on actions initiated by God for God.  Moral and ethical behaviors are by-products of kodesh, not the purpose of kodesh.  This is why it is possible to be a “good” person and still not be hagios-kodesh.  And this is why it is possible to be a mess and still be hagios-kodesh.”

Look at this mess of people in Corinth.  Did God take possession of them?  Yes.  Did He call them into His presence?  Yes.  Did God initiate the invitation?  Yes.  Did they answer?  Yes.  Did God call them unto Himself?  Yes.  Does sanctified mean that they became perfectly pure and holy in moral character in one instant?  No.  Is sanctification the natural by-product of God’s work in His children’s lives and hearts?  Yes.  Doesn’t Paul tell us so?  “Being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)  What we see as messes, You, Lord, see as works in progress.  And since You are the One doing the work, You see the finished product.  You see the saint in us because Your work will be finished.  You see the holy one in us because Your work doesn’t fail.

So how does this change my perspective of Your marriage relationship with me?  Wow!  You picked up this piece of garbage, this total mess in the desert.  You invited me in to be Yours and swore You would be mine.  There wasn’t anything I could do to change myself.  All I can do is surrender to You.  You did it all and You are doing it all.  To understand this fills me with awe for You.  It’s overwhelming. Skip puts it this way, ” We are nevertheless a mess.  But God only works with garbage.  Garbage in- hagios out.  It’s a miracle.”  So if that’s the case for how You treat me, then how do I treat the other messes around me?  Do I see in them the product that You, Lord will make them?  Or am I stuck looking at the mess?  Lord, give me Your perspective of others, that I might take the garbage in love that You could bring out the hagios.