How Much Life is in Your Bones?


“…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.


Writing on the Wall


Photo credit to Keith Patschka.


“Then Daniel answered and said before the king, ‘Let your gifts be to yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.’” (Daniel 5;17)

Today I’m thinking about seeing the writing on the wall. The problem is that most of us can see the writing on the wall but we have no idea what it means. There it is, right in front of us plain as day, but we are clueless to it’s impact for us. Sometimes we’re just as clueless as Belshazzar.

Belshazzar was king of Babylon. His reign followed that of Nebuchadnezzar. He’s also frequently referred to here as the son of Nebuchadnezzar. That’s a constant implication that he should have been more alert and have responded differently in his ruling than he chose to, considering the things that Nebuchadnezzar had learned about God before him. But let’s look back at the immediate story.

Let’s set the stage. It’s the beginning of the third year of Belshazzar’s reign. He calls a great feast with hordes of important people and lots of wine drinking. That can be a normal thing for kings. But then he decided that wasn’t enough. His pride got the better of him and he called for the sacred golden and silver vessels that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem. Those he would use to drink his wine and thank the the gods of his choosing. It was a way to mock God and say that He was no god. So they drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, and of iron, of wood, and of stone —all those idols made by men’s hands and imaginations, and mocked the God of creation who created their very hands and the intimate workings of their bodies that were able to sustain them and enable them to even appreciate the taste of the wine they were mocking Him with.

I’m wondering if Belshazzar was aware of what Daniel knew, that the 70 year reign of Babylon was coming to a close?  I mean, after all, he was surrounded with all these counselors who would be aware of prophecies about the kingdom. Daniel himself was the chief of the chief of counselors. But Belshazzar was a human being like us, and sometimes we choose to ignore the truth and choose, instead, what we want to believe. But you can only ignore the truth for so long. See, lies are like idols. They are not real and have no weight when push comes to shove. But truth, it always comes through in it’s time. Truth will always make itself known. You can’t hold it back. Especially when it’s God’s truth.

And that’s what happens. God shows up. It’s pretty terrifying. These fingers of a human hand appeared. It was just the fingers; not the rest of the body. And it was big enough for everyone to see. Now that’s a party stopper! And these fingers write on the plaster of the wall of the palace. The king is watching and his color changes, and he’s thinking, “Holy mackerel, what in the world?!” He was terrified, his legs forgot how to hold him up, and his knees clattered together. He called for the Chaldeans, the wise men to come in and interpret the writing but not a single one could. He even promised to cloth the one in scarlet and with a gold chain and make him third ruler. It didn’t matter. Everyone could see the writing on the wall but not one knew what it meant.

Belshazzar’s face was probably white as snow. His leaders were just as perplexed. It seems that the queen was the only one with a little understanding as to how to find the answer. I wonder if that was because her heart might have contemplated differently about the gods and things she had seen and learned about Daniel’s God? I don’t know, but of all the advisors she was the only one with the advice that would lead to the answer. “There is a man in your kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar your father, the king, I say, your father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers…”(Daniel 5:11) “ He is alive still and can show you the answer.”Why? Why can Daniel do this?

The queen actually lists 6 qualities or evidences of Daniel’s ability. Let’s look at them. The first was an excellent spirit. That didn’t just mean he had a great personality. That word for spirit is the same word, ruach, used for when God breathed His spirit into the first man Adam. This excellent spirit is the spirit of God Himself inside of Daniel that is over and above all spirits. This is the Only Spirit who is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20) The Holy Spirit of God Himself imparted wisdom and knowledge from above and of below to Daniel because that’s where Daniel sought his wisdom.

This Spirit of God imparted to Daniel that second quality of being able to rightly divine knowledge, wisdom, understanding, intelligence, and reason. I think it corresponds to how we relate our thoughts to the things around us like science and the things we’re conscious of. Maybe this is the practical and scientific application of what we know. And this most intelligent man above all others in the kingdom, retained his intelligence while retaining and promoting his personal belief in God in the midst of all he knew and in the midst of a foreign culture who didn’t know or want to acknowledge his God. Yet that knowledge and application of the inter-relatedness and power of his God in all of men’s affairs, was what led him to the top and brought him before the king of a whole nation as the only one with the answer.

When we as speakers of English see the words wisdom and knowledge and understanding, we think on the same terms. But these are different words in Hebrew and Chaldean and retain separate identities of meaning. Daniel had understanding, soklthanu, intelligence and understanding. How is that different? It’s from sekal which means to consider. So maybe truly understanding the writing on the wall around us only comes when we truly consider things God’s way. This is where we sit down and take the time to look at something closely, and set our minds or our eyes to it with attention. But I think this isn’t just looking at things and sitting down with them and thinking closely about them. That could bring us into a multitude of conclusions, each his own. But this is considering, sitting down with God, and thinking with Him, close by His side, and setting our thoughts to Yours, Lord. This is the kind of considering that led Daniel to be able to read the writing on the wall.

God gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams. That was evidenced by the time he interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. But Daniel could also figure out the solutions to hard riddles or enigmas that others could not solve. No matter how concealed by obscure language, Danielle had the ability to figure out the hidden meaning. Proverbs 25:2 tells us, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” How do you find out something concealed by God? Do you seek it through false idols? Or do you go to the God who knows the answers? Daniel knew who to go to and God blessed him with the knowledge he sought from Him.

The last characteristic is that he could unravel riddles. The root of that is about freeing what has been captured. The King James Version says “dissolving of doubts.” Can you hear that? Some of our thinking and understanding and confusion over answers can cause us to be bound, to be knotted up. They can cause us to feel like Belshazzar. And we can be trapped and bound by those thoughts and feelings, feelings like guilt, pride, fear, insufficiency, worthlessness, superiority, anger, hurt, whatever. Or we can be set free by knowing the One who is the Truth, like Daniel knew Him. After all, Jesus declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18,19) This was the God of the Old Testament, the Isaiah 61 God, identifying Himself to the world in Jesus. This is the same God that Daniel worshiped and the same God who calls us to worship Him today.

So here is this woman, who seems to refer to Daniel more by his Hebrew name than his Chaldean name. And maybe that’s because she realized that Bel or Nebo weren’t gods who saved but Daniel’s God was. And you know, Daniel could care less about the scarlet robe or golden necklace or being third in the kingdom. Daniel just cared about God being made known. And he interpreted the writing. But before that, he reminded Belshazzar about the things he had forgotten or overlooked or chosen to ignore. Because Belshazzar should have remembered and acted upon those memories. Belshazzar should have remembered how all of Nebuchadnezzar’s power was given by the Most High God. He should have remembered what happened when Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was lifted up in pride and his spirit hardened to God, how he lived like a beast all those years until he remembered and knew that God rules the kingdom of man.

But Belshazzar was not like the queen. He had disregarded it all and lifted himself up against God. “Mene, mene, tekel, and upharsin.” Therefore, God had numbered his days and brought an end to his kingdom. He was weighed in the balance and found lacking. His kingdom would be divided and given to Medes and Persians just as had been foretold by Daniel according to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. And that very night, it came to pass. What did the purple robe, gold necklace, and third place in the kingdom mean to Daniel then? Nothing. It’s all emptiness if God isn’t in the heart of it. It was the end of Belshazzar and what a sad, empty end. But it was not the end for Daniel. The new ruler, Darius, noticed something about him and, get this, made him one of the three high officials. Belshazzar’s appointment didn’t matter. But God’s appointment does.

I want to be able to read the writing on the wall. I want my life to be totally guided by considering You and Your ways, Lord, all the days of my life. I want people to see something different in me that causes them to seek my two cents, my counsel on things. I don’t want it because they see me, but I want them to see something that leads them to You and to Your council. I want to be like a Daniel in this world today of so many gods. I want to live in Your wisdom, and knowledge, and blessing, and presence, and counsel. If kings won’t act like kings, I will. I’m not afraid to search Your ways and Your answers out, O Lord. So teach me to understand all that You are writing on the walls and floors and sky and people around me.

Unwrapping the Knowledge


Photo credit to Minden-Press Herald.


“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” Hosea 4:5

Not just any people, but God’s people are perishing, are dumb, are silent, are failing, are being cut down and undone utterly. Why? For lack of knowledge. I’m wondering if “lack” here is the best interpretation of the Hebrew beliy. I mean, the truth is that Paul tells us “that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:2) So there was no “lack” of “knowledge” as we think of these terms. It was there. They had it. So what was the problem?

You tell us the heart of the problem with your subsequent words, “because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you.” Therefore, I see, that one can have knowledge right there in their grasp and yet still not have knowledge. I can have a “form” of knowledge, yet it be totally worthless to me because I don’t acknowledge the knowledge for what it truly is.

The Psalmist in Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me.” But this is just the problem. The people of God turned their hearts to focus on worthless things and in so doing, treated their relationship with You as worthless and might I say, worth less. Your pleasure, Your will, Your image became to them good for nothing compared to the other things that lured them. They treated Your ways as garbage or trash and went after other gods who offered them things the way they wanted them. In treating You like garbage they fell into worshiping that which was garbage and that which couldn’t deliver anything but lies and harm.

That word translated as lack here is a strong emphatic word in Hebrew. It’s a pronouncement about the character of a thing and in this case, of a people. It’s usually about moral character. It’s about people choosing to “practice and promote disobedience to God and man” even though they have all the knowledge to know better and do better. But You look at their life and call it worthless, not because You see no value in them, but because they are depriving themselves of their own worth and their own purpose upon this earth. These people were choosing to defy God and practice and promote what was totally against Him. They would choose to defy their very purpose in creation. Now that’s a sticky situation.

So, what kind of knowledge was lacking or made worthless by the people? The knowledge of God. It’s the heart of all true knowledge. Solomon shared, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) That doesn’t just mean that we can know about things because we are afraid of God. It’s not just about a proper perspective on life. It’s about respecting and honoring God for who God is, for all the magnitude of who He is. And then it goes beyond respect and honor into a personal, intimate relation with Him as someone who is alive and cares and shows that care.

Do I know that God cares for me? Do I know the depths of Your caring? Later in Hosea, he will use the term “knowledge of God,” daath Elohim. And the truth is that knowledge in the Hebrew sense always means more than knowing with Your head or having a strong theological background. It’s all about being human, every range of it. Knowing, really knowing involves every aspect of the emotions, the will, and the intellect. The head and the heart work together. Head knowledge effects heart knowledge and, I suppose, vice versa. It’s not just cognitive. It’s not just rationalized thinking.

When examining the Hebrew word most often used for knowledge, yada, Heschel suggests it this way, “an act involving concern, inner engagement, dedication, or attachment to a person. It also means to have sympathy, pity, or affection for someone.” It’s the farthest cry from correct doctrine. It’s greater than obedience. It’s far greater.

“Hear the word of the LORD, you children of Israel: for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.” (Hosea 4:1) God’s broken heart is crying out to his children. We see Your heart in the image of the marriage analogy. How would our hearts feel if that were to happen to us? Wouldn’t we feel it? Well, God feels it too because it’s not just reading about a relationship, it’s an actual real living relationship with real live attachment and commitment and hearts involved. God feels everything, all the hurt, the humiliation, the sorrow, the betrayal, and more. He knows the consequences of His lover’s choice. He knows what she is missing and what she will receive instead. Her problem is she is lacking a heart knowledge. She doesn’t get it. She doesn’t know Him at all or she would never leave His side. She didn’t even know what she had when she was there with Him. How tragic.

Knowledge is not about information. It’s about reciprocal feelings. It’s about reciprocal sympathy. It’s about feeling the way God feels, understanding how God understands, loving as He loves, acting as He acts, enjoying what He enjoys. And it’s not even about us each doing it on our own. It’s about doing all this along with You, God. It’s about a relationship of enjoying You as much as You desire to enjoy us. Knowledge is knowing You intimately and enjoying You intimately and personally as much as You enjoy us. It’s delighting in You as You delight in us.

But Israel and Gomer aren’t the only ones not weeping over the intimacy they are missing. Many nations and many of us in the nations are not weeping over the love we’ve thrown away and wasted and lost. We’ve numbed ourselves to the pain of separation. We no longer agonize over You, who ought to be our dearest One. There is no heart for You. And that’s the saddest part.

And then we read and hear about the divorce rate skyrocketing today. But here we have the contrast of God’s love. Because He holds on to the people of His own choosing. He refuses to let them go and give up even though they don’t even care about how He feels. They make love to everything You hate, and yet You continue to love and call them back. They choose to become animals instead of the Beloved. But You don’t give up hope.

No, it wasn’t because Israel lacked information. And it’s not that we lack information either. It’s that we lack “sensitivity, empathy with God.” (Skip Moen) Are we any different? Do I feel what You feel, Lord? Do I share the same sensitivity? Do I cry with You? Do I agonize over what You agonize over? Do I care enough about You to be willing to die to more than myself? Do I care enough about You to be willing to just die to whatever I had to, even if it meant death itself? Because this Husband gives more than I could ever imagine. His life, through Christ, was spent for mine, not out of duty, but out of immeasurable love. He owed me nothing, yet gave everything. And this is GOD who did that. This is GOD. This is the ONLY GOD who has ever and would ever go to those extremes for the love and redemption of His people, His own creation.

I can run around in the midst of my own lies, living any way I want, but it would just be an utter waste of my life. There is absolutely nothing that compares to You and Your love God. Absolutely nothing. I can choose my own way and disregard You and start perishing today. Or I can regard You in Your fullness and know You better than I know myself. I can delight myself in You, the only God who delights Himself in me. And in that kind of knowing and experiencing and living it out, I can see the desires of Your heart come to life in mine as Your love blossoms in me. It would be a shame to be destroyed for lack of knowledge when you held that knowledge right there all along and never experienced it because you never even opened it up and looked inside.

Never Intended to be God


“This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, ‘I am, and there is none beside me:’ how is she become desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in!  Every one that passes by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.”  (Zephaniah 2:15)

Well, that’s not a very uplifting word this morning, is it?  Actually, if I think about it rightly and the rest of what God is warning through our friend Zephaniah, it can be uplifting because I can know how not to be on the wrong side of God’s judgment.  I mean, why were You so angry, God?  What were all these people, and even Israel doing that had to be put to an end?  What was it that a remnant of Israel would not do, or would turn away from doing?  What was it that a sampling of all the other nations would turn away from doing? 

Maybe the problem people were doing and still are doing today is a problem that starts in the heart.  It’s that place called lebab or heart in Hebrew.  It denotes the will, the emotions, and thought.  So here’s the problem.  Here was the will, the emotional attachment, and the thinking of the people: “I am, and there is none beside me.”  That’s awfully dangerous thinking.  It causes people to even rewrite reality.  We have that predominant thinking in postmodernism, which is prevalent in our world today.  “You want it?  Have it.”  “You feel it?  Do it.”  “You think it?  Then that’s truth.”  And culture thought it was so advanced but; it’s just adopted a failed archaic practice. 

And it’s not just that this is a practice that leads to failure whether living in ancient Biblical days or today or tomorrow, but it’s a spit in the face to You, God.  In Genesis, there is nothing but God and other than You, emptiness or void.  You create and You bring us forth from You.  You gave us everything we had.  And You gave us a choice to acknowledge who You are and what You had done by placing two trees in this garden where You placed us.  We could acknowledge You by eating of the tree of life or we could acknowledge ourselves by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  What a sad choice to have made when Adam and Eve had the privilege of actually walking and talking with You in the garden.  There was no separation.  I don’t think there was any question they couldn’t ask You and hear You answer.  I don’t think there was any thing or day they did not totally enjoy because there You were, present with them, enjoying creation and “being” together.  And yet, they wanted knowledge of their own.

It’s no new sin.  It’s the oldest sin in the book.  It’s also the sin that brings the greatest disappointment because it lies, “Then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods…”  The truth is, to think one something, does not make one something.  Just because I act like a god, it doesn’t make me a god. 

But the undeniable truth is that there is none that is like God.  Moses, through God, demonstrated that to Pharaoh by putting every Egyptian god to shame.  Each plague was so that Pharaoh and the people would know “that there is none like unto the Lord our God.”  (Exodus 8:10)  But even Israel had to be reminded and warned.  “if you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in His eyes, and give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your Healer.”  (Exodus 15:26)  And isn’t that still our problem?  We don’t want to diligently listen to the voice of the Lord our Creator and Healer.  We want to create our own reality.  We want to heal ourselves.  We want to do what’s right in our own eyes.  We don’t want to listen and heed Your commandments because we would have to change our thoughts and practices and feelings about ourselves.

In Leviticus 19, 14 of the 37 verses end with the people being reminded, “I am the LORD.”  In other words, “Why should You obey Me?  I am the LORD.”  “I know what’s right because I am the LORD.”  “I am the LORD and nothing or no one else is.”  To get that down pat, is to get life down pat.  To get that downpat, is to get my life in the proper perspective.  To get that downpat is to walk through the door of life and eat of the tree of life.  To get that downpat is to return to our original purpose.

Deuteronomy 6:4, the beginning of the Shema, is the declaration of this truth.  “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.”  He IS and He is the only God, the only One.  “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (6:5) 

The truth of the matter is that there is only one self-existent one.  God declared that to Moses in Exodus 3:14, not because no one knew yet, but people were forgetting and focussing on lesser things.  Maybe even Moses had to be reminded of Your self-sufficiency.  “I AM WHO I AM.”  And You are the only one who can say that.  People, like me, are products of our environment, our DNA, our learning, our nationality.  We are things that are so easily shaped and molded.  But not You.  You are who You are and You don’t change.  You aren’t reshaped.  You aren’t fickle like human beings.  You’re not molded by anyone’s thinking, or behavior, or Your environment.  That in itself sets You above us and makes You a fair and just God. 

Zephaniah was accusing the people of making themselves gods.  They were saying, “I am, and there is none beside me.”  They were trying to be copycats and rob You of who You are.  But You’re the real deal.  Just because we think or say something, it doesn’t make it truth.  But when You speak, it is always truth.  “I am He, and there is no god beside Me: I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:9)  If we as people, would only start understanding this.  If we would only fill our heads with this true knowledge, life would be different.

God speaks to Isaiah, You ask all those who have been called by Your name, that You created for Your glory, that You formed and made, to come and gather and listen as witnesses.  Your desire is for us to know and believe and understand that You are He. “Before Me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior…I am He; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”  Is it sounding like the same old problem?

But You have been trying to turn us from this old problem.  Only, we don’t like to let go of what’s old and familiar.  You’ve been doing a new thing and we don’t even perceive it because we won’t even look.  You’re making a way in the wilderness and bringing forth rivers in deserts but we just want to wander in the wilderness and drink sand.  Isaiah’s words tell us that wild beasts, jackals and ostriches see the water and drink, but not us people.  The water was created for us to enjoy in You and we won’t even acknowledge it.  You formed us to be Your glory and to declare Your praise, but we want to declare our own.  We’re the ceramic pots boasting about creating ourselves.  How ludicrous!  You want us to call on You, but we want to call on ourselves.  We ignore You and satisfy ourselves.  The truth is, it’s not working.  We are the most dissatisfied generation ever. 

So many have chosen their own way and yet are torn inside.  They “promote” love, yet are filled with anger and hate at those who don’t copy their standards.  People would actually choose lies, than verify truth.  What is truth?  We think that’s such a wise question.  But to ask the question and leave it unanswered as a philosophical conundrum is foolishness.  To deny it because you don’t want to know it, is not an appropriate response.  Denying something doesn’t make it not exist.  God is God though we deny Him.  Truth is truth, though we deny it.  And the truth of God in His own words is, “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.  Put me in remembrance; let us argue together; set forth your case, that you may be proved right.” (Isaiah 43:25,26)  Do you really think you will be proved right before God?  What arrogance!  Not even Job was proved right before You when he set forth his case before You.

But here’s the good news.  We don’t have to keep thinking like this.  We can remember that You alone are God.  You are the One we must run to and find our sufficiency in because You are the only sufficient One.  We can acknowledge that You created us, You formed us.  Your desire is to redeem us.  And in Your redemption, I don’t have to be afraid because I have a God who calls me by name and makes me His.  (Isaiah 43:1)  Yes, You are the LORD, and beside You there is no savior.  “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  ( Titus 3:3-7)

The good news for me, Lord, is that I was never intended to be god.  The good news is that You always have been and will be God.  I can always depend on that.  And just like You offered Yourself to be God the Protector, Healer, and Savior of Israel, You invite us into that relationship too.  But I have to make a choice.  I have to give up any idea I have of being god in any area of my life and see that as absolute foolishness.  And I must choose to relinquish all my control over to You as God.  I must choose the door to the Tree of Life and abandon the door to the tree of knowledge.  Because for me, it’s more precious to intimately know, trust, and rely on the God who loves me and created me, than to possess all the knowledge of the world.  If that kind of knowledge leads to death, I don’t want it and I don’t need it, Lord.  But if trusting in Your knowledge leads to life, then I want to learn to see things and act upon things Your way.

Opening the Box


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“[L]ooking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”  Hebrews 12:2-3

I’ve been thinking about this Hebrew word and idea behind “tsedaqah.”  In a nutshell it means righteousness.  But I think our English translations of a lot of foreign words just don’t do them justice.   Sometimes our English just simplifies things too much.  And I’m not so sure that real words are really so simple after all.  I think the words I speak and the words I live ought to be rich with meaning and depth of life, or they are just empty words, full of gibberish.  Well, tsedaqah is not so simple and not at all full of gibberish.

Yesterday, we began setting up for a four day medical/dental mission in the Philippines.  It was a long day of travelling, 10 hours by bus.  It was a really early morning of waking up and packing up and moving out, 2 AM.  It was a day of confusion, setting up in a different hospital, language barriers, searching for equipment.  It was a day of being tired and worn and wanting to just rest, but needing to continue on.  It was a day of new foods for some, new sights, new experiences, some of which were quite inconvenient.  It was a day full of opportunities for “tsedaqah”, for righteousness.

After all that craziness, I’m wondering what any of us had to boast about yesterday and what in the world that has to do with righteousness?  Well, maybe looking at Jeremiah 9:24 can help me think about that a little more.  ““[B]ut let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord. “  Before I look at how I or we could use yesterday as an opportunity for righteousness, I need to know what You, Lord, consider as righteousness.  And if I follow throughout the whole of Your word, I see that it’s deeper and richer than just doing good things and obeying the rules.  It all has to do with knowing You and understanding You.

This understanding is the word “sakal” and it’s all about really grappling with knowing.  It’s not a simple kind of take-it for granted knowing.  You really have to take the time and effort and struggle of searching out the knowledge.  No one else can search it out for me.  I’ve got to seek understanding You like that.  And I’ve got to “know” You.  That’s “yada” which is a word I can get excited about.  But for today, it’s the essence of truly experiencing relationship with You, Lord, and experiencing Who You are.  Skip Moen puts it this way, “He means that the intimacy of deep relationship, the friendship, the honesty, the confrontation, the instruction, the familial bonding, are all part of ‘yada YHVH”. He’s your best friend, your protective parent, your mentor, your examiner, your guide, your lover, your comforter, your doctor, your judge and a host of other close connections. Understanding who God is is not enough. Understanding who He is and experiencing intimacy with Him is the essence of true religion.”

The next truth here is that this Lord we can know and experience is the One who “exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness.  Your the standard for all three things.  And they are wrapped up together in You.  God demonstrates all three qualities, behaviors to each of us.  And You don’t just demonstrate this out of duty or because You must because You are God.  You, Lord, actually delight in these things.

Now, I’ve got this box at home called a tsedaqa box, it’s a box for placing offerings, charity in.  And charity is not just about good works or helping people in need.  At least not God’s word for charity.  It’s all about the demonstration of real love.  It’s about a demonstrations of true compassion.  It’s a demonstration of shear delight.  But it only truly becomes those things when it is grounded in faith and trust in God, through His tsedakah, Jesus Christ.

See, for the joy, the delight set before You, You became my tsedakah, on my behalf.  You were my offering that would not only shower me with lovingkindness forever, that would serve justice in my place, but that would make things right before me and God and empower me to live rightly in the Lord moment by moment.  Hebrews 12:2-3 reminds me that I am to be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.   Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. “

Well, yesterday was a day that made it easy to become weary and fainthearted.  But when I think about that tsedaka at home, that offering box, I’m reminded of You, Lord.  And if You can faithfully go through all that You endured for me and my reconciliation to You out of a delight in loving me, even to the point of Your bearing the wrath of God under my sin, well I certainly can trust You to use the circumstances in a crazy disorganized day to teach me how to be an offering like You for the sake of others and the love of You.  Because if I act upon it with Your attitude filling me, if I act upon it and think upon it with a delight in my heart and spirit for Your righteousness, for the joy of all that yada, yada, yada, well, then I really start learning what it’s like to love like You and to walk in You and to live in You.  And then I really start experiencing the love You have for me, because I am experiencing, though on a much more minor level, the extent that You offered Yourself for me and the cost You paid.  And when I know You delighted in me and didn’t count Your suffering as more valuable, but me as more valuable, well, it makes me take on a whole new light of what my right attitude and actions ought to look like and how my heart ought to feel about it.

So, Lord, lots of stuff seemed to go wrong yesterday.  But maybe it really all went exactly right.  Because it gave me a chance to open up that special box and look inside.  And instead of seeing money to do good things with, I saw a Savior who is Good.  Instead of seeing things as just bad circumstances, they were opportunities to understand and experience You.  So, I always have this choice.  I can choose to be a tsedaka, and offering of righteousness and delight in the circumstances You place before me if only for the opportunity to experience You more intimately, or I can offer up things my own way and miss out on intimacy with You and wind up complaining and dissatisfied instead.  May You give me the heart to deliberately pursue You even when it’s hard and delight in Your leading and coming alongside me.

It’s funny.  I’ve been trying to get this devotion into words for days.  Even lost my last entry.  But I’m so grateful for the word “tsedakah” that You layed on my heart and mind.  I’m grateful that years ago, you had me start learning about it and participating with You.  And I’m grateful now that You’ve even opened up my understanding to a deeper level that is even more beautiful because of what it shares about You.