Pondering Divine Sunglasses

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“Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.” (Daniel 7:28)

 
So, some of those words aren’t words we use much nowadays, but it made me think about the intensity of feelings this dream left with Daniel. Daniel had a dream, a vision given from God, and it was pretty intense. It was so intense that he was “grieved in [his] spirit in the amidst of [his] body, and the visions of [his] head troubled [him].” So he asked one of the bystanders in the vision what it meant. He wanted to know the “truth” of it.

 
Four kings would arise out of the earth but the saints of the most High would take the kingdom and possess it for ever and ever. But there was a fourth beast with ten horns and another little one comes up with three of the first horns plucked up by the roots. And then comes the vision of the Ancient of Days with garment white as snow, hair like pure wool, a throne like a fiery flame, wheels like burning fire, and a fiery stream from before Him. Ministering around him were too many to be counted. And there’s more, but you can go back and read it and dig into it for yourself.

 
All I know is that this vision and it’s interpretation was not only hard to grasp so that Daniel needed help but that even starting to grasp it was terrifying to Daniel’s thoughts or cogitations so much so that it altered his whole mood. But he didn’t dismiss it. He kept the matter in his heart. Now, heart for the Hebrew (leb) isn’t just that organ inside that pumps blood or what we think of when we think of strong emotions. Putting something in your heart was about your feelings, your will, and your intellect. It wasn’t just about your thoughts or feelings. Your will is what you do. So, when the Psalmist says, “Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You,” he’s not just talking of tucking an emotion or memory away. He’s talking of tucking that emotion and knowledge in so deeply that it effects his will and actions. So too was this vision for Daniel.

 
Daniel didn’t just remember this vision as a vague memory attached to strong feelings. It now colored how he looked at events in life around him. It was as though God gave him a pair of divine sunglasses to think about things in the world. Daniel would now look at his world expecting to see, expecting to spot these kings, these events. Daniel was walking in faith because he didn’t just tuck God’s word away in some crevice of his brain.

 
I think of someone else like that. Her name was Mary and she was young and was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And she had no idea how it would all pan out, only that it would come to pass, because the angel sent by God had said so. There was that day that God chose to have Mary give birth to Jesus in that little sheep cave of a stable. And these shepherds see angels declaring “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12) And here was this multitude of angels praising God and saying, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” So the shepherds run to see this baby and tell of all that has passed. And other people wondered about those things. They marveled, like, “Wow! That’s amazing!” But Mary kept all those things and pondered them in her heart.

 
What’s the difference between marveling and keeping and pondering? The word for keeping is suntero. It’s when you keep something closely together. It’s remembering mentally and obeying. Mary remembered and held on to these words and happenings in a way that she would act upon them. Marveling is like standing by and watching a really cool air show, seeing some outrageous stunt or a crash, and walking away and living life as usual without it having any effect except to say, “Wow!” But not Mary. She pondered these things in her heart. That’s the word sumballo. It’s like she consulted these things. She considered them over and over again. She used these events to help her as she walked through life. These events became her divine sunglasses through which she saw and interpreted and acted upon life. She understood what Daniel understood, at least on seeing things through God’s perspective.

 
Even when Mary and Joseph “misplaced” Jesus and he had remained behind in Jerusalem dialoguing with the teachers at the temple, we see this attitude again. This is twelve years later for Mary. And Jesus has asked, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” And even though they didn’t understand it all at the time, as Jesus returned with them, Mary kept all these sayings in her heart. It painted and effected how she thought and how she lived out life.

 
I’m not a trained Bible scholar so I’m not going to get into hashing out Daniel’s dream here. But I do care about it and I care about Daniel’s character and how he handled the word of God, whether written Scripture, oral tradition, or visions. And I do care about Mary’s character and how she handled the same, including the life and actions of her own son, our Jesus Christ. And I do care what I can learn from their examples before me.

 
It’s such an easy trap to fall into to intellectualize God’s word, to hide it in my heart by just memorizing and being able to spout it out in a moment’s notice. But that’s not the same as meditating over it and asking God’s help to understand it His way and be able to live it out in my life His way. And Lord, You went so far to make it clear on how to live it, that You sent Jesus to demonstrate it in real life for me and for each person.

 
I know by Daniel’s actions and not just his words that he truly believed and acted upon that belief. Had he been one of the 12 spies sent into the promised land, he would have been a Joshua. Like the Psalmist who shared, “In God I have put my trust: I will not be afraid of what man can do unto me,” (Psalm 56:11) so was Daniel. And Mary was learning the same in a world not favorable to women at all. And each of us has the ability and the wonderful opportunity to learn what it is to truly trust in and rely on a God who cares and is intimately involved with us, a God who sacrificed His only Son for those who had turned from Him and denied His way to follow their own. I mean, how great a love is that?

 

Maybe if we took time to ponder and hide that down in our hearts so that it could take effect and reshape every bit of our being, maybe then our lives would resemble what they were created for- to be Your image bearers, Lord. So today, Lord, let Daniel and Mary and Your working as a living God be our example and may we let You change our thinking and our actions until we are Your spitting images in a world that needs to not only see You and be amazed, but needs to know You and be changed.

Setting Captives Free

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And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:  that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3:14,15

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Lord, it’s actually two other verses that persuaded me to choose these verses this morning.  One verse came right after You spoke of Your temple, Your body being torn down and then being raised after three days.  John 2:21,22 shares, “But He spake of the temple of His body.  When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.”  Hm, that means they didn’t fully understand and believe at the time that You first told them.  That’s interesting.

Now the second verse or verses are tough ones, Lord.  It comes after You tell us that You didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save us.  And then the sad part comes.  Some people will still receive condemnation.  Why?  John 3:19, 20 goes on to share, “Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone that does evil hates the Light, neither do they come to the Light, because their deeds would be reproved.”  So there are two things going on here, and I want to look at both today.

But first I’m going to look at the context of the events, the story going on here.  You are sharing with Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  Nicodemus is really trying to take a real look at You.  But he’s not ready to do it openly.  He knows there would be ridicule and maybe even expulsion involved among his peers and community.  But he is curious enough and I think seeking enough to at least take the risk of coming to You at night.  Good for Him.

It’s interesting that Nicodemus refers to You as Rabbi, which can be a title that means master and not just teacher.  But he wasn’t to that point yet.  And he wouldn’t have been the first ruler to have used that term not meaning it at all except for polite appearances before the people.  But I think that Nicodemus at least did see You as a teacher from God.  And he even said that “we know You are a teacher come from God.”  Hmm, who is that we?  And why did they know You were from God?  “[F]or no man can do these miracles that You do, except God be with Him.”  Wow, pretty powerful stuff here.  These religious leaders, including Nicodemus could clearly see Your evidence and Nicodemus admitted that they knew.  They just wouldn’t admit it.

And then You throw Nicodemus for a loop.  You tell him it’s not enough to see the way man sees.  It takes more to really see and know.  To see You, Jesus, we have to be born again.  What in the world does that mean?  Well, if we don’t understand what that means, that’s not a surprise because neither did Nicodemus, who would have been a really intelligent man and highly knowledgeable of Scripture and everything about God.  And I think that even a look came over Nick’s face.  Because, Lord, You tell him, “Marvel not about this being born again.”  This marvel, “thaumazo” in Greek, means “to be struck with astonishment.”  this is something for which there is no natural explanation.  Something You can’t explain even by amazing physics or rocket science.  You just can’t explain it.  And this is Nick’s reaction to Your words.

So these words filled Nick with awe.  And right now I have to share someone else’s thoughts on this type of awe.  “[T]he first step in transformation is awe, not conviction.  Unless we are confronted with a God whose power forces us beyond the limits of our understanding, we will have no need to listen to His instructions about life.  We have to be pushed to the edge before we admit that life is much, much bigger than we can control.  When we are filled with awe, there is nothing left to do but glorify God, and that starts the process of walking toward Him.”  And this is the point that Nick has come to.  This is a point each one of us must come to in order to truly begin our journey with and to You.

You, Lord, go on to remind him that the Spirit isn’t explainable at all.  It’s not something we can see or predict or explain.  But It’s effects are fully visible and It’s strength is incomparable.  And still Nick doesn’t understand.  Why?  He’s a religious teacher, straight from the religion of Jesus’  (Your) people, so what’s up here?  And then, Lord, You give this, well, weird answer.  “Truly, truly (In other words, this is double important here!), I say to you, we speak what we do know, and testify what we have seen; and you don’t receive our witness.”  Who is we?  As far as I know, it’s only You and Nick here.  Were you referring to You and the disciples teaching?  Or are You referring to the words and testimony of Yourself through the Trinity?  I’m leaning on thinking that this was the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working together here because all three have to come together in us for us to be able to see and to know these things of You.

And then You told Nick that You would need to fulfill Scripture by being crucified.  That just like the Israelites who had pursued their satisfaction in something other than God and had received the penalty by being bitten by the snakes and were now in danger of dying, so are we.  We’re all in danger of dying and separation from You because of what we have chosen, not because of what You have chosen.  Just like You gave people a way to live in the desert by only turning and looking upon a bronze serpent, You came for us to turn and place all our trust in You.  But some people refused to look at the serpent, and some people still refuse to turn to You.

But in Your measureless love, You stand here before us, before all men.  You stand here calling out, showing Your evidences of love.  You throw us life line after life line in order to save us.  And those that respond to the life line are brought to safety and eternal life and relationship and wholeness and forgiveness.  But if I were drowning, why wouldn’t I reach out and grab the life line?  Why would I refuse?  If I were dying in the desert and could look at a snake and live, why wouldn’t I?

I don’t know.  Maybe it’s my pride, my fear, my desires, my lusts, my need for approval.  Who knows but You, Lord, and myself if I will really stop and let You show me my own heart.  You don’t condemn man.  But sometimes man accepts condemnation for himself instead of freedom.  Sometimes, we have become so attached to our own way, we choose not to change.  Sometimes, we would rather hate than let go of the pain.  Sometimes we don’t want to admit who we really are, what we’ve really become.  Sometimes we don’t want to let go because the truth hurts.

Well, it does hurt.  Correction hurts.  Disease doesn’t feel good.  Sin is ugly.  Nobody wants to think they look ugly.  So we avoid the doctor.  We decide not to look in the mirror.  We don’t stand on a scale.  We avoid certain people.  And we condemn ourselves.  We refuse healing.  When all along, healing and wholeness was waiting there for us.

Well, that brings me back to my first point because I think I’ve already looked at the second.  At first the disciples didn’t understand about Your body, the temple, being raised, until after the crucifixion and they saw it happen and You brought to their minds Old Testament Scripture and Your words.  Then they understood.  So, sometimes, like Nick, we don’t get it right away.  But now we’ve heard the truth.  We need to turn from all these things we’ve been trusting in, leave them behind, and turn to You in faith.  We need to cling to You, the One who came to save us, to save me not only from my sins, but from myself, and unto You.  In You there is new life, whole life, and beautiful Light that gives me the power to be part of You and to partake in what You are doing so that what I do sheds light on others.  So there is hope.  There is hope for me if I don’t understand, if I don’t get it.  You can bring it all together for me.  You can give me understanding.  You can give the answers my seeking heart needs.  You are the Answer.

Now, there is always hope for the one who seeks.  “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.” (Matthew 7:7)  Now isn’t that the most beautiful truth you have ever heard!  And these are Your words, Jesus, straight from Your mouth to each of us.  And You never lie!  Never!

Oh, let us never lose sight of You.  No matter the depth of the pain or suffering I go through, let me look to You to lift me above the pain and suffering, or to just bear me through.  Don’t ever let me wallow in my sin.  Let the pain of embarrassment be so much less than the joy of the cleansing and the freedom in You.  Let the acceptance and love I receive from You abound so much more than any praise from man.  And may I come to the point of so embracing Your correction in my life that I joyfully come before You honestly and with an open heart continually so that You may ever draw me nearer to You.

Lord, I am truly amazed.  I look back at my life and without the power of Your Holy Spirit, I wouldn’t get it.  I wouldn’t understand the first thing about being born again, of knowing the presence of You in my life.  I look back and I see Your hand in my life.  And I see times as a child, and a teen where You were giving me the information I needed to have.  And then I see that day when it all came together.  When I had enough of the right truth.  When the Holy Spirit brought it all home, and brought me home to You.  And there is no explanation except that You are an amazing God who loves us.  And my prayer is, that even those people who have a tendency to turn their back on You because of their pain, or anger, or wrong treatment, or sin, or addictions, or pride, or whatever, would just stop long enough to get a little glimpse of You.  And that in that glimpse, it would be just enough for them to be awed.  And that You would start an amazing work in their lives.  May the wind of Your Holy Spirit blow strong and free and set the captives free.