You Can’t Fake God Culture

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Photo credit to someone on the internet.

 

“And I said to them, ‘Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.’” Ezekiel 20:7

So here come the elders to “inquire of the Lord” by coming before Ezekiel. They sit down with him to “seek” God. It’s this Hebrew word darash. It means “to search,” “to seek,” “to examine,” and “to investigate.” God says, in Jeremiah 29:13-14, “And you shall seek Me, and find Me, when you shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you…” And that is great news. But something is not right here.

What’s not right? The elders have come to inquire, but God “will not be inquired of” by them. Didn’t You say that if people would seek You, they would find You? But how can they find You if You don’t let them seek You? Or was something missing here? Does everyone who looks, find? Or is there something about our looking that determines the fruitfulness of our finding?

You actually established a condition in Jeremiah. Let me flip flop it. When you shall search for Me with all your heart, then you shall seek Me, and find Me, and I will be found of you…Were these elders searching for You with all their heart? Remember, heart or lebab, isn’t just that mushy-feely thing that pumps blood and oozes out emotions. In Hebrew thinking it’s that part of us that feels, thinks, and wills. Therefore it’s the determiner of our actions and the truth of our actions. God knows our hearts, those desperately wicked things that we think are so clean and tidy, that we sit before Ezekiel like we’re all that, seeking God’s interests, when our lives have been anything but about God. And the truth is that God won’t let us fake our seeking Him.

God knows what is in our hearts and on our minds and the way our will is leaning, whether towards His will or not. He sees the secret rebellion that others may miss. He knows what our eyes are focused on, where our heart’s allegiance lies, how truly dirty we’ve made ourselves, and what we really worship. That’s why He alone can say, “Cast away every one of you the abominations of your eyes, and stop defiling yourselves with all these idols around you. I am the Lord your God. It’s Me. Know Me. Acknowledge Me. Stop faking it.”

See, the eye is from the Hebrew word ayin. It’s thought of as a fountain, a fountain that can flow with life or death. We can choose to have or be an evil eye or a good eye. I can be stingy or giving. I can be evil or good. I can choose my own way or God’s. That’s a dangerous thing if we choose wrongly. You would think the choice would be easy. I mean, who wouldn’t choose generosity, or goodness, or God, right? Well, obviously not the elders and obviously not me all the time either.

Do I think I don’t need this warning? Do I not have to be careful of the abominations of my own eyes? What things that are shiqquts- disgusting and filthy and idolatrous to You Lord, am I focusing my attention on? Oh, I’m not looking at bad stuff. I don’t do pornographic stuff. Well that’s good. But what I see about God and what I see God doing, do I really see and understand and obey? Because that’s a part of Hebrew seeing. A good eye is one that sees and acts appropriately on what they see. It’s the spiritual light of God flowing through our lives. Is it? Or is darkness flowing from me instead? Am I relying on my own strength or am I relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to allow me to see and understand and know and act upon what I behold of the radiance of Your presence? Or do I just sit before You with my inquiries designed after my own desires and plans? There’s a big difference.

It’s so easy to place the blame on God. But these elders had eyes to see. Their hearts led them to choose their paths. It was a matter of will, only it wasn’t truly Your will they were seeking. Their hearts weren’t panting after You like the deer pants for water. They wanted Your benefits but weren’t surrendered to You in the first place. They wanted Your benefits but weren’t devoted to the ways of the Beneficial One. They didn’t want to pay the price to be wholly Yours. They had things they didn’t want to let go of. They chose to hold them closer than You.

It’s a lack of humility.  It’s thinking that I can tell You, God, my Creator, what to do. It’s loosing touch with reality.  It’s coming to You like it’s our little pow-wow time and I’m Your equal. Well, I’m not. In all reality, I need You, I desperately need You. I need You because it’s so easy for my good eye to be taken over by my evil eye and for me to become a slave to sin instead of to You and get caught up in the evil impulse without even realizing it. Rashi said, “The heart and the eyes are the spies of the body: they lead a person to transgress; the eyes see, the heart covets, and the body transgresses.” Yes, even I need to be wary of the abominations, the detestable things of my own eyes.

So, now that I see that, do I really understand Your desire? Just a little earlier in Ezekiel 20 You let them know how they had fallen. You remind them and us of Leviticus 18:26, “But you shall keep My statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you.” This is not some new idea here. You warned against this antithesis to Your worship, this disgustingness that we could fill our lives with, this rebellion against You and our created purpose. What didn’t the Israelites understand? What didn’t they see? What don’t I see? Do I not understand what an abomination is? Do I not understand what idolatry is? What about them? What excuse do any of us have to not see and know and understand?

This is bad stuff. I better get it or it will be the ruin and death of me and those around me. Let’s look more at God’s words to Ezekiel. “But the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness: they didn’t walk in my statutes but rejected my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; and my Sabbaths they greatly profaned…because they rejected my rules and did not walk in my statutes, and profaned my Sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols…I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey My rules, and keep My Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.” Later God says the problem was “their eyes were after their fathers idols.” See, their eyes weren’t really on God. Where are mine really? Let’s stop and think about whether they really had a right after all this, to come and sit before God and ask Him what they wanted? Really? Because in verse 31, this is how they were busy living their lives: “For when you offer your gifts, when you make your sons to pass through the fire, you pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day: and shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, says the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you.” Come on, can I really run around and offer my children as burnt sacrifices before Molech and then come sit down before You? Who am I kidding? Where is my heart? It’s where my actions and thoughts are.

Now, don’t give me that lousy excuse that God’s rules and regulations are too hard and too many. Because the word for rules here is mishpat. And it’s not about something that governs our conduct. It’s not some enforceable measure over our behavior. It’s not something I do because some authority, God in this instance, makes me do it or else. God’s rules are about “exemplars.” This is the way that people live who are a part of God, a part of His culture. It’s why I can expect certain things of my Filipino friends, because their culture is so deep and important to them. Do you think someone has to make them be or act Filipino? Are you kidding me? They are so proud to be Filipino because of the beauty of their culture. Who has to force them to be Filipino, to be who they are? Are you really going to tell me, that if I realize who I am in Christ, God will have to force me to act like His? You have to be kidding!

Mishpat or rules here aren’t about morality. It’s about the character of God and life of God in Christ in us. Remember, God said, “As I live…” He is alive and His character and all that He is and does lives on and He designed it to live on in and through us, His created masterpieces. If I am in the culture of God, I act like God. If am in the culture of Christ, I act like Christ because I am His. His values become my values. What He embraces, I embrace. His behavior becomes my behavior. My life demonstrates my values. My God does not have to regulate my behavior if I value Him.

But abominations are those things that are offensive to the culture. I mean, if you are outside the culture, it won’t look offensive to you, but if you’re inside the culture it will. See, God defines our culture in Him. It’s His culture first. And He determines what is an abomination within His culture and community. If we can’t see that, our own choices will punish us and we’ll condemn ourselves.

Just look around us in the culture of this world. It’s so different than God’s culture. God asks again, through Jeremiah, “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Ba’al, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say ‘We are delivered!’- only to go on doing all these abominations?” Maybe we need to be careful of what we’re trusting in. Maybe there are more of us trusting in words instead of trusting in God. Maybe there are more of us who need to come to God on Your terms instead of on ours or the worlds and maybe then, once we start searching for the truth in You with all our heart, soul, mind, strength, and will, we’ll finally really find You and be found by You. Maybe it’s time to want Your culture no matter the cost so that we can really find You. Because there is no deliverance and no salvation in anyone else or anywhere else. Outside of Your culture, outside of You it’s all empty words with no meat. Salvation is a “dynamic relation” (Skip Moen) and if I haven’t got that dynamic relation that’s lived out in You overflowing culture through me, I haven’t got anything at all.

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Seek Me and Live

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“Seek Me and live…” Amos 5:4
Hear this. If you want life, seek God. I’m not just saying this. These are God’s words. These words are so important to hear and follow through on that You repeated them two verses later. “Seek the LORD and live, lest He break out like fire…” And knowing that we don’t get things sometimes, You restated it a little differently for our understanding in verse 14. “Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you…” See, I can’t seek good if I don’t know You, God. Jesus, You Yourself pointed out that “No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19) And if people were to see You as good, then they must equate You with God. If I am to be good, I must be identified with God but not just by name. I must be identified by You by Your character within me that is seen shining out. If I want life, I must seek You for real. I must seek You and not just Your “idea.” I must seek Your character and Your presence until I find You and You find me, because life is only found in You.
There is a reason that Jesus, the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  God invites us into Life and Life enters by faith as we trust in His way of Life.  Jesus Christ took our place and bore our sins upon the cross because only He was the righteousness of God, without sin.   He was God even though He was man at the same time. Now, who doesn’t want life? Who wants death when they can choose life?
Repeated things are important things, things we really need to grasp. Did you know that Proverbs repeats this thought, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”? And isn’t that what was going on in the time of Amos? And isn’t that what is going on in the world today? The people, Israel, who should have known right judgment weren’t choosing it. What does judgment mean here anyways. It’s the word mishpat. It’s the enforcement of government but the ultimate enforcement of government is under God and by His wisdom. Israel knew that. But they refused it. And it’s not like the nations didn’t know. At some point they refused it and adapted their own government and rejected God. That way seemed right to them. But the truth is that it leads to death.
Micah tells us what the Lord requires of us. He shows us what goodness looks like in Him and what it acts like in a person. It translates into obeying and living out and trusting His “mishpat”, His “government.” It’s loving mercy like He shows and showing it to others. It’s walking humbly with Him. That means submitting to Him and His ways and not making our own way.
Zechariah also elaborates on this. God’s word to Zechariah was, “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” That’s that word mishpat again. How do you “rule with true judgments”? Is it up to some political body? It wasn’t then and it shouldn’t be now. The power to rule rightly was personally given in the hands of a leader, or tribal chief, or a patriarch or king. These individuals are personally in charge and liable for rendering God’s directions. The essence of true religion and right leadership is in understanding who God is and “experiencing intimacy” with Him. Jeremiah 9:24 puts it this way, “but 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…” J. A. Thompson believed, “True religion consists in acknowledging the complete sovereignty of God in life and allowing Him to fill life with those qualities of steadfast faithfulness, justice, and righteousness which He possesses, in which He delights, and which He desires to find in His people.”
But instead of taking delight in You God, and Your rulings and ways and character, we turn them into something bitter and leave them altogether. It doesn’t seem to register about how good what You say really is. It doesn’t seem to make a difference to us that You are the One who placed the Pleiades and Orion in the night sky, that You alone make death something not to be feared because it ushers a new day in You. We don’t stop to think about the consequences of defying You either. How You can turn the day dark as night or call the waters of the sea and pour them out on the earth at Your will. We forget that the LORD is Your name and not ours.
Even when people raise up against people, they can’t do it without Your permission. You send people to warn and tell and teach, and yet, just like then, there are those who hate to hear and act against those who would tell. They keep the poor, poor and never give them a way out. They take away their livelihood. They meet their own needs and leave others without. Men revolt and offend against You repeatedly and deliberately and lead others to do so. They afflict those who want to follow You. Money means more than holiness. They ignore people’s real needs. They ignore the truth. Those who ought to speak up for the truth, stay silent. And when man has played enough at being his own judge of life, True Judgment will come.
I can pretend that I am all that, that I can decide right and wrong for myself, or that there is no real truth, that I can determine it according to my feelings. I can run around and play that game for a while. Because that’s all it is, a game. A really dangerous and hurtful game that goes against nature and against God. But the truth is, the Truth will come out. The real Maker of the stars and the planets, and molecules, and us will show Himself. He will enforce what He alone established as the only One with the right to enforce His will. And if I am not living already in the middle of His will, living in and according to and by Your mishpat, then I will be overcome by them.
I don’t have to be on the receiving end of Your judgment God. There is hope for us. There is time for turning; there is time for loving God’s ways and learning and living them. There is time for a relationship with the God who created us for a purpose. There is love and life and mercy waiting for us and calling to us. We can choose to hate the evil and love the good, and establish judgment at the gate, whether it’s at the gate of our house, or the gate of our neighborhood, or the gate of our town, or state, or country, or the nations. We can choose wailing and woe and have it our way. We can let judgment run down over us like waters that drown, and have God’s righteousness overcome us as a mighty flooded stream. Or we can let judgment run down over us like living waters giving life to all around. And like righteousness flowing mightily out to all that the mighty stream touches. The choice has always been left up to us. It still is.
The truth is that I can neither rule nor live until I submit to You. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:11, “It is a faithful saying: ‘For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him…’” What is this about dying just to live? It’s this word sunapothnesko. The sun means with, apo is like an exclamation point, and thnesko means “to separate soul from body- to die.” Jesus’ death MUST be connected with ours. What??? That old man that wants to rule things our way, we have to crucify him so that he will be extinguished. We can’t be risen with Christ unless we die first. “Paul knows that the miracle of resurrections, which is entirely in God’s hands, is preceded by an act of submission. That act of submission is in our hands. We decide to die. Until we do, God’s hands are tied. God does not resurrect the living, only the dead.” (Skip Moen) Once we choose to die to self, that decision ushers us into the realm of living with God. So anything before that time isn’t really living at all. It’s not enough to just seem alive. The walking dead seem alive, don’t they?  But they aren’t. And neither am I until I choose to die to self and be raised in Christ.
Life will never be found in our own way. Only Jesus has life in Himself and we can only find that true life, that real life if we are in Him and living in His life and light. Truth is truth, no matter what you say. And life is Christ and Christ alone is good. What will I choose for all the days of my life? Will I choose real life or do I just want to choose a temporary form of something that is a weak imitation of life? Well, I want to choose Real Life in Christ, even though it costs the death of myself and submission to You. I mean, wow, I’ve been resurrected! And I am looked after by the One in the whole universe who loves me and has the power to keep me more than anyone else. His words don’t just matter; they are Life itself.  I don’t know about you, but I am more than OK with that.

Real Life or the Living Dead

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“Seek Me and live…” Amos 5:4

Hear this.  If you want life, seek God.  I’m not just saying this.  These are God’s words.  These words are so important to hear and follow through on that You repeated them two verses later.  “Seek the LORD and live, lest He break out like fire…”  And knowing that we don’t get things sometimes, You restated it a little differently for our understanding in verse 14.  “Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you…”  See, I can’t seek good if I don’t know You, God.  Jesus, You Yourself pointed out that “No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)  And if people were to see You as good, then they must equate You with God.  If I am to be good, I must be identified with God not just by name.  I must be identified by You by Your character within me that is seen shining out.  If I want life, I must seek You for real.  I must seek You and not just Your “idea.”  I must seek Your character and Your presence until I find You and You find me, because life is only found in You. 

There is a reason that Jesus, the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Because God invites us into Life and Life enters by faith as we trust in His way of Life, Jesus Christ, who took our place and bore our sins upon the cross because only He was the righteousness of God, without sin, for He was God even though He was man at the same time.  Now, who doesn’t want life?  Who wants death when they can choose life?

Repeated things are important things, things we really need to grasp.  Did you know that Proverbs repeats this thought, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”?  And isn’t that what was going on in the time of Amos?  And isn’t that what is going on in the world today?  The people, Israel, who should have known right judgment weren’t choosing it.  What does judgment mean here anyways?  It’s the word mishpat.  It’s the enforcement of government but the ultimate enforcement of government is under God and by His wisdom.  Israel knew that.  But they refused it.  And it’s not like the nations didn’t know.  At some point they refused it and adapted their own government and rejected God.  That way seemed right to them.  But the truth is that it leads to death.

Micah tells us what the Lord requires of us.  He shows us what goodness looks like in Him and what it acts like in a person.  It translates into obeying and living out and trusting His “mishpat”, His “government.”  It’s loving mercy like He shows and showing it to others.  It’s walking humbly with Him.  That means submitting to Him and His ways and not making our own way.

Zechariah also elaborates on this.  God’s word to Zechariah was, “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” That’s that word mishpat again.  How do you “rule with true judgments”?  Is it up to some political body?  It wasn’t then and it shouldn’t be now.  The power to rule rightly was personally given in the hands of a leader, or tribal chief, or a patriarch or king.  These individuals are personally in charge and liable for rendering God’s directions.  The essence of true religion and right leadership is in understanding who God is and “experiencing intimacy” with Him.  Jeremiah 9:24 puts it this way, “but 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…”  J. A. Thompson believed, “True religion consists in acknowledging the complete sovereignty of God in life and allowing Him to fill life with those qualities of steadfast faithfulness, justice, and righteousness which He possesses, in which He delights, and which He desires to find in His people.”

But instead of taking delight in You God, and Your rulings and ways and character, we turn them into something bitter and leave them altogether.  It doesn’t seem to register about how good what You say really is.  It doesn’t seem to make a difference to us that You are the One who placed the Pleiades  and Orion in the night sky, that You alone make death something not to be feared because it ushers a new day in You.  We don’t stop to think about the consequences of defying You either.  How You can turn the day dark as night or call the waters of the sea and pour them out on the earth at Your will.  We forget that the LORD is Your name and not ours. 

Even when people raise up against people, they can’t do it without Your permission.  You send people to warn and tell and teach, and yet, just like then, there are those who hate to hear and act against those who would tell.  They keep the poor, poor and never give them a way out.  They take away their livelihood.  They meet their own needs and leave others without.  Men revolt and offend against You repeatedly and deliberately and lead others to do so.  They afflict those who want to follow You.  Money means more than holiness.  They ignore people’s real needs.  They ignore the truth.  Those who ought to speak up for the truth, stay silent.  And when man has played enough at being his own judge of life, True Judgment will come. 

I can pretend that I am all that, that I can decide right and wrong for myself, or that there is no real truth, that I can determine it according to my feelings.  I can run around and play that game for a while.  Because that’s all it is, a game.  A really dangerous and hurtful game that goes against nature and against God.  But the truth is, the Truth will come out.  The real Maker of the stars and the planets, and molecules, and us will show Himself.  He will enforce what He alone established as the only One with the right to enforce His will.  And if I am not living already in the middle of His will, living in and according to and by Your mishpat, then I will be overcome by them.

I don’t have to be on the receiving end of You judgment, God.  There is hope for us.  There is time for turning; there is time for loving God’s ways and learning and living them.  There is time for a relationship with the God who created us for a purpose.  There is love and life and mercy waiting for us and calling to us.  We can choose to hate the evil and love the good, and establish judgment at the gate, whether it’s at the gate of our house, or the gate of our neighborhood, or the gate of our town, or state, or country, or the nations.  We can choose wailing and woe and have it our way. We can let judgment run down over us like waters that drown, and have God’s righteousness overcome us as a mighty flooded stream.  Or we can let judgment run down over us like living waters giving life to all around.  And like righteousness flowing mightily out to all that the mighty stream touches.  The choice has always been left up to us.  It still is.

The truth is that I can neither rule nor live until I submit to You.  Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:11, “It is a faithful saying: ‘For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him…’”  What is this about dying just to live? It’s this word sunapothnesko. The sun means with, apo is like and exclamation point, and thnesko means “to separate soul from body- to die.”  Jesus’ death MUST be connected with ours.  What???  That old man that wants to rule things our way, we have to crucify him so that he will be extinguished.  We can’t be risen with Christ unless we die first.  “Paul knows that the miracle of resurrections, which is entirely in God’s hands, is preceded by an act of submission.  That act of submission is in our hands.  We decide to die.  Until we do, God’s hands are tied.  God does not resurrect the living, only the dead.”  (Skip Moen) Once we choose to die to self, that decision ushers us into the realm of living with God.  So anything before that time isn’t really living at all.  It’s not enough to just seem alive.  The walking dead seem alive, don’t they?  But they aren’t.  And neither am I until I choose to die to self and be raised in Christ.

Life will never be found in our own way.  Only Jesus has life in Himself and we can only find that true life, that real life if we are in Him and living in His life and light.  Truth is truth, no matter what you say.  And life is Christ and Christ alone is good.  What will I choose for all the days of my life?  Will I choose real life or do I just want to choose a temporary form of something that is a weak imitation of life?  Well, I want to choose Real Life in Christ, even though it costs the death of myself and submission to You.  I mean, wow, I’ve been resurrected!   And I am looked after by the One in the whole universe who loves me and has the power to keep me more than anyone else.  I don’t know about you, but I am more than OK with that.

I’ve Been Judged

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Photo credit to someone on the internet.

“I said, ‘Please listen, leaders of Jacob, rulers of the house of Isra’el:  Shouldn’t you know what justice is?’” (Micah 3:1)

Here’s that warning again, shama, or hear and listen and do.  Micah is beseeching, not just asking.  Who is he speaking to?  He’s speaking to the leaders, both the government leaders and religious leaders of Jacob and Israel.  And we shouldn’t just think that this message is only good for Jacob and Israel and only good for those days back then.  This is need to know life information for today.  If we don’t learn from this life lesson of the past, it will unfold again right in front of us today, and again and again in the future.  Oh, wait!  It is unfolding in front of us from nation to nation today!

What do You, God, hold leaders responsible for?  “Is it not for you to know judgment?” (KJV)  “Shouldn’t you know what justice is?”  So I guess the question is, “What do You mean by that?  What do You consider justice or judgment?”  And how can we know it?  What does that mean?

Micah isn’t the only prophet helping us to understand this.  Zechariah shares, “Thus has the Lord of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’” (Zechariah 7:8-10)  What did this mean in ancient societies?  Well, first, the word for justice in Hebrew is mishpat.  It’s real meaning is about the administration of government but not just by man.  It’s about the administration of government according to Your rulings, God.  And that administration is given by You not to a political body but to leaders, who in Israel were the tribal chiefs and the patriarch or the king.  Individuals personally administered justice.  In other words, these individuals carried forth Your will and saw that the people carried it forth in their lives.  Well, at least that’s what they were supposed to do.  But whether they did or they didn’t do that, You held and still hold each personally liable for whether they carry through their decisions according to Your directions or not. 

The standard for justice isn’t whatever floats a judge’s boat.  It’s not whatever society wants or thinks they need.  The standard for justice is God’s word.  That’s what our leaders are to live by and rule by.  That’s the example they are supposed to be setting for us.  So the personal involvement goes deeper than with the rules of God.  It’s a personal involvement with You, God.  Personal involvement with You leads to personal involvement with what You love and uphold and against what You abhor.  Take away the personal involvement, and who gives a hoot about the rules?

What’s happening in the world today when someone wants their rights so much that they strip someone else of their rights even to the extent of thinking it’s ok to rob them of their life?  Where are the leaders speaking out against this?  Micah accuses leaders of hating good, and loving evil, of plucking skin off the people and the flesh off their bones and eating it.  Yuck!  But what are our own leaders inciting others to do in our world or in our country?  And why is this happening?  Because we’ve lost the personal knowledge of the compassion of God.

God’s compassion is a real thing.  His mercies are truly new every morning.  In Zechariah, the leaders had forgotten compassion, raham.  Skip Moen says that raham is, “an intense, deep personal connection comparable to the feelings a mother has for her unborn child in the womb.  Very personal.”  Now think about this.  Why are our leaders supposed to feel this way about those they rule?  Because this is the way God feels for us.  Is this what our leaders practice today?  Are we in leadership positions in our homes or churches or communities?  Are we practicing this kind of leadership?  Am I?

Jeremiah continues this thinking, “‘but 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.” (Jeremiah 9:24)  So here is another word to think about.  It’s in Micah and Zechariah and Jeremiah here.  It’s that word know.  What does it really mean?  We think of knowledge today and we think of knowing a lot of information.  But that’s a Greek idea and not the Hebrew idea here.  This is the word yada and if you want to understand true religion, you need to understand yada.  True religion is sake, understanding and yada, knowing.  Without both, you can’t have a right relationship with God.  And without a right relationship with God, You can’t do it right in the world.  Understanding is about really thinking and grappling and getting down to the really deep stuff about following Him.  It’s serious questions that lead to serious answers.  But searching out the answers till you find them isn’t enough.  We have to know Him.  How do I do that?

It goes from knowing about Him, about the extent and facts of all He’s done, including coming to earth as man and God, teaching, living, being crucified for the glory of God and our sins and redemption, dying, rising again, and reigning over all.  And it extends to the closest intimacy of knowing Him like when a man and woman become one through sexual intimacy in the wholeness of marriage and unity.  It’s not enough to understand who God is.  We have to experience who He is too.  Skip Moen states again, “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 more.  Maybe the problem why our leaders are failing and the people are following is because of what they are missing out on, this real relationship with One who truly cares.

Without giving You complete sovereignty in our lives we can’t be full of what You are full of.  How can we exhibit qualities like faithfulness, justice, and righteousness in their true form without knowing what their true form really is like?  I can’t just know about faithfulness, I have to convert my knowledge into action.  I can’t just know about justice, I must convert it into action.  I can’t just know about what’s right, I must do it and convert it into action.  But who is going to show me what these all translate into in our lives?  The One who is each of these is the Only One who can show me. 

I can’t become a doer of the word unless I personally know the Word first.  Maybe our leaders don’t know all this.  But I think, living in this country, and living in a world where every day nature screams out the glory and presence of God, I’m not going to say they aren’t aware enough to be held accountable.  The fact is that the true Judge of all mankind will hold us all, every one of us, up to His measure of justice, not ours.  If my life and rulings don’t look like His, then they aren’t.  I’m the one who needs to re-examine my thinking and my ways and change my understanding, not You, Lord.

Judgment was coming for Israel.  And judgment will come for each of us too.  And I have a feeling that You hold leaders to a very high standard, you know, “to whom much is given, much will be required.”  John warned, “This is the judgment, that the Light [Jesus] has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”  You know, you don’t have to tear someone’s flesh off to be evil, poneros.  Poneros comes from “a group denoting poverty or need, has the senses 1. ‘sorrowful,’ ‘unhappy,’ ‘laden with care,’ 2. ‘bringing trouble,’ 3. ‘pitiable,’ ‘poor,’ ‘unfit,’ ‘unattractive,’ ‘bad,’ ‘unlucky,’ 4. ‘unsuccessful,’ 5. ‘plebeian,’ 6. ‘politically useless,’ ‘worthless,’ and finally 7. ‘morally reprehensible’ with the various nuances.” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament)  It’s everything that God knows is not good.  It’s what is “bad, unfavorable, worthless, unhappy, hurtful, futile, and evil.”  Later, Micah is going to share what God considers good.  “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Do you know that man here is every human being?  Every one can know and everyone can have a relationship with God.

When we do and say things that cause sorrow or dissension or unrest, it’s evil, short and simple.  When I set up people to fail, when I deliberately make someone else unhappy, when I cause someone to be unsuccessful, when I’m unattractive because of a wrong attitude, when I make life futile, or make people feel worthless, or when I’m disobedient, I’m guilty of evil.  What about when I’m all about being burdened about me and how I’m being treated instead of being burdened for others?  Wonder if that thinking leads to police brutality or to civilians shooting innocent policemen just like that? Self-pity can be a dark evil, can’t it?  Now the reprehensible isn’t so far away.  See what despising what God has created in His image can lead to?  It’s dangerous stuff that we’re overlooking here.  Maybe we ought to call evil what it is, evil.

It’s for all of us to know judgment.  It’s for all of us to understand and know You God and know Your ways and live by them because You are Light and anything outside of You and Your ways is darkness.  It’s really easy for us to turn to the dark side, just look at what happened to sweet little Anakin.  It tears me up throughout that whole movie where he keeps holding on to those dark thoughts and seeing where it takes him.  It’s so sad.  And that’s where many of us are turning today as we follow self-pity and our rights and our pride.  We’re entering a place of sadness and darkness and separation from God and separation from true fellowship with mankind.  Selfishness is much different than selflessness. 

God is inviting us to know and feel with Him.  He is actively concerned, He is pursuing inner engagement, true dedication to us, and attaching Himself to us.  He has genuine sympathy, pity, and affection for us.   He truly feels.  He feels hurt and humiliation and heaviness and hopelessness for us and with us.  With a heart that loves and clings and wants our greatest benefit, He watches as His beloved bride sleeps with others and doesn’t give a hoot about Him.  Man, that’s sad.  That’s awful, isn’t it?

See, Israel wasn’t giving a hoot about her faithful Husband.  She didn’t have any feelings for Him like He had for her.  All her sympathy had dried up because she was all about herself.  And isn’t that the way our culture has adapted?  Where is sympathy today?  Where is it for God?  Where is it for others when it’s so easy to shoot and kill or destroy people’s lives because they don’t agree with us?  Maybe we’ve become less human and more like corrupt animals the farther we walk away from You, God.  And yet You still cry for our loss. 

Well, I want to feel the way You feel and I want to feel the way You feel about me, about You.  I want to love intensely and faithfully like You.  I want to understand and exhibit true sympathy.  I want to be real and really care and really act upon that caring.  I want to be like Micah.  I want to be of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might to not only declare sin as sin, but to live according to Your ways and according to You because I am Yours and You are mine.  And if the world chooses to walk another way, let me continue to stand for You, not because I’m a prophet or anything special, but simply because You are the only One worthy of standing and being Judge.  I just want to cling to You as tightly as You cling to me.  I truly can’t wait until the day that I become one with You because I’ve been judged as truly Yours in Jesus. 

What Does God Require?

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“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

All to often we want to jump to the conclusion before we even read the book.  But if we start at the end, we miss all the important stuff before it.  If I started at the end, I would miss the character development, I would miss the thickening of the plot, I would miss identifying with certain characters and despising others.  We weren’t meant to start at the end.

Beginnings are important places to start.  Actually, it’s more than just important.  It’s integral to the rest of the story.  It’s essential and the rest of the story depends on there being a beginning.  Because without the beginning there’s nothing to start off of and therefore no place to go from.

Now, You Lord, are the Ultimate Story Teller.  You know how to tell a story.  You know how important the beginning is.  You started Your story about us right there, right at the beginning.  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)  The beginning matters because the beginning is the foundation for the rest of the story.

In Micah 6:8, the beginning matters.  It’s the foundation of the rest of the verse.  I mean, I could start of with doing the things that You, Lord, require, like justice, mercy, and humbly walking with you, but unless I start at the beginning of that verse, I won’t have the foundation I need to do them.  See, the doing justly, and loving mercy, and walking humbly with You are the end of the story.  The beginning of the story starts with me looking at You so I can see and know what that looks like.

Here’s the beginning- “He has showed you, O man, what is good.”  See, Micah was being told to shout out to the people the controversy that God was having with His people.  And He wants Micah to speak out against the “strong foundations of the earth.”  God has a problem with the choices His people have been making.  He has a problem with the foundation they are standing on.  Lord, You are wondering how Your people can stand on any other foundation after all You have demonstrated to them, after all the times You have manifested Yourself to them.  How could they forget?

How could they forget the mighty works You did, Your voice that they heard audibly, Your righteousness that they saw and experienced?  What should Micah do to make things right with God?  Should he bring burnt offerings of calfs?  Will that make You feel better about the people’s decisions and hearts?  Will that change anything?  If they gave thousands of rams or ten thousands of rivers of oil, would that please You, Lord?  Will that have changed the people’s hearts?  Is that what You want from us?  Is that what You require, our gifts?  What if I even offered my own firstborn child for my sins, would that satisfy You, Lord?

No.  At this point, for these people, all these gifts are empty.  Every one of these is just an appeasement.  But aren’t You the One who established the sacrificial system in the first place?  And now You are saying that’s not what You want?  Or are You saying You want something deeper than a superficial sacrifice that is only an appeasement?  Isn’t that what the pagans gave their gods?  Didn’t they give a sacrifice so their god wouldn’t be angry and wouldn’t react in anger?  But what about Your people?  What do You require?  What is the purpose of a real sacrifice?

Well, first Micah tells us that You showed us already what is good and beautiful and precious to You.  Here’s the neat thing about that word “showed.”  It’s from the Hebrew word “nagad.”  Strongs says that You brought it right to the “front.”  You took what was good, like You, and made it “stand boldy out opposite” what everybody else’s good looked like.  You manifested it.  You demonstrated it and announced it by the very words of Your mouth to those who were standing present before You.  It’s been exposed.  It’s no secret.  It’s not evasive.

So what is it that You require of us?  That’s another interesting word there.  “Darash” is a Hebrew word used to describe a way of  worship.  It’s when You search something out.  It’s when You dig into Scripture and search out the meaning.  You seek the heart of God and you ask Him to make it known to you.  It implies diligence.

The problem is that we can wish for the good things with all our heart but then not be willing to pay the price for them with all our heart.  What I want and what I am willing to do for it don’t line up in this case.  You are telling me that should not be so.  You are telling us that You alone determine what is good.  My goodness doesn’t count for anything unless it lines up with Yours.  So Micah is asking me to reexamine my standard.  Does my standard line up with Yours, Lord?

The Jews would have understood what Micah was talking about here.  They understood that word “darash.”  It’s a part of rabbinic biblical exegesis.  It’s how the Jews have been studying scripture for years upon years.  Darash is part of Torah study known by this acronym, PaRDeS.  It consists of Peshat, which is the plain, contextual meaning.  The Remez is the allegorical meaning.  Darash is the metaphorical meaning.  Sod is the hidden meaning.  And none of the meanings ever “contradict the base meaning”.  I’m not just to look at You and Your Word superficially.  I’m to dig deeper into You, deeper into Your Word.  I”m to go beyond the plain meaning and look at the allegorical, the metaphorical, the hidden yet to be revealed.

Skip Moen explained this idea about PaRDeS.   “Darash is the verb of careful examination, searching, looking deeply into the text.  It is the verb for seeking God through the study of Torah (cf. Ezra 7:10).  ‘What does YHWH require of you?’ might be read ‘What does YHWH seek in you?’ or ‘What does YHWH find in examining you?’  What do you pursue with unrelenting commitment?  What do you consistently do that brings you into God’s presence?  What are you doing that restores His order?  Darash is the verb of continued, deliberate searching.  Darash is lifetime liturgy.”

Lord, You didn’t design an easy fix where we follow some prescribed ritual and can keep on heading in the direction we’re already heading.  First and foremost it’s about Who I know.  What I do will flow from that knowledge or lack of knowledge.  You have shown Yourself, but have I taken the time and effort to get to know You and understand You?

What do You expect of me, Lord?  You expect me to see the metaphor, the comparison between my life and the sacrifice You require.  How am I supposed to be like that sacrifice?  What are You really looking for?  That’s what You want me to think about.

And how can I fulfill Your requirements, how can I be good like You and in You if I don’t even understand the meaning of what You are searching for in me?  If You expect me to bring forth justice, I must know what Your justice looks like.  You tell me You’ve shown me.  What is justice, “mishpat” really?

Mishpat is “the administration of government.”  It’s not just how we “render, make decisions, administer, rule with true judgments.”  It’s not how some organization rules over us.  It’s always about the leadership that You, Lord, have appointed being personally liable not just for “rendering decisions but for rendering decisions according to [Your] directions.”  (Skip Moen)  So, if You are seeking this “mishpah” in me, it means that You are expecting me to administer Your “government” in my own life and to those around me.  It’s not up to my own decisions or my own rule or my own authority.  It’s all according to Your decisions, Your rule, Your authority in my life.  I’m Your instrument of government.  I can’t be Your instrument of government unless I know You.

I must act like I am fulfilling Your government in my life on this earth.  I also must love mercy.  What is that?  Am I to be compassionate?  I am, but that’s not what mercy, “hesed,” is talking about here.  Hesed starts with God.  One way to express it is to call it God’s lovingkindess, or maybe Your lovingkindnesses.  But that doesn’t even express it fully.  It’s Your love for Your creation before they ever even made any promises with You.  It’s in the fact that when You created us You had already chosen and committed to obligate Yourself to us.  It’s Your intervention and loyalty to a people who were not loyal.  It’s Your whole character.   

Look back at Psalm 136.   It’s all about Your hesed, Lord.  It endures forever. Because of it You do great wonders.  Because of it You created all of creation.  Because of it You made the lights in the heavens.  Because of it You smote the firstborn of Egypt and brought Israel out of captivity.  Because of it You demonstrate Your strong hand and stretch out Your arm toward Your people.  Because of it You divided the Red sea, You lead Your people through the wilderness, You smote great kings,  You provided a land as a heritage, You noticed people in their low estate, redeemed people from their enemies, feed all creation, and it never stops.  And what You did for Israel You are still doing for us today.  None of us deserve Your care, intervention, rescue, and provision, but You, because of Your lovingkindness toward us, love to treat us this way.  How do you describe hesed other than to say that this is all the ways that my God demonstrates His love and kindness to me.  And this is what You are seeking for me to exhibit back to You and to others.

Now, how do I walk humbly with You?  What does that really look like.  “Tsana yalak” is the Hebrew.  This word, tsana, is only used one other place in Scripture. It’s in Proverbs 11:2 and it’s contrasted with pride.  So humbleness is the opposite of pride.  But what is pride?  Is it thinking more of myself than I ought?  So is humbleness thinking less of myself?  Or is it something more?

Pride, “zadon,” is my getting my way and being “clever” about it.  It’s me relying on me instead of me relying on You, Lord.  It’s me taking over Your authority, Your government.  I’m not only in charge of my life, and possibly everyone else’s, but I’m also rebelliously disobedient and I am delighted in my own selfishness.  I know better than You.  I can do what I want to do.  Skip Moen calls pride “an attempted demonic coup d’etat of God’s right to reign and rule.”

But You call me to be humble to walk in Your ways.  Luke, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus set Your requirements You are searching for in me here:  “You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and will all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  So instead of committing to my own way, my own government, my own authority, I am deliberately, committedly placing myself totally under Your reign and rule.  And when You look at me, when You examine me, when You seek Your way in me, then You find what You are looking for in my actions and in all the aspects of my life.  You look and You see me humbled under Your mighty hand.  You see that my heart, soul, mind, strength, and even my relationships are placed under Your control and lined up with Your desires.

See, this Micah 6:8 requirement isn’t about being good or doing good.  It’s all about knowing You.  It’s all about living in You.  It’s all about submitting wholly to You and to Your authority and to Your lovingkindness and to Your government and to Your everything.  It’s all about You becoming everyting in my life.  I throw appeasement out the door because it’s not about making You happy.  My life is entwined in knowing You and being known by You.  How can I make a God happy who has everything and doesn’t even need me or anything I can give.  That sacrifice was for me.  I needed it, not You, Lord.  And in the sacrifice You wanted me to see how You alone had everything under control for me, how You alone had my best interests in mind, how You alone wanted to accept me unto You and make me like You.

How many years have we been looking at the prize all wrong?  My goodness is not the prize.  My justice or mercy or humbleness is not the prize.  You alone are the prize.  You always have been and You always will be.  And when You finally become My Prize, then I will start valuing the things You value because I will value You above everything, even above myself.  And here’s the good news.  I don’t have to wait for some future day for You to show Yourself to me.  That’s what Micah is saying.  You’ve already shown Yourself.  Will I take my eyes off of myself long enough to really look at You?  Will I search You out no matter the cost or commitment You are seeking from me?

Well, Lord, I want You to write Your whole story in me.  I want to search for You like there is no other treasure in the world.  I can seek all the good things there are in the world.  But there is One thing that is above all others, and that’s You.  All other goodness looses it’s luster compared to You.  Yes, would I sell all that I have to purchase for myself that One Pearl of great price?  Would I seek diligently like I’m searching for a hidden treasure?  Would I be so joyful for having found it that I would sell everything just to own it for my own?

Because those two responses matter.  And it doesn’t stop there.  Because You are going to examine my responses.  You are looking to see if I would sell everything for You.  You are pulling the net in full of fishes.  And You are sorting.  Will I be found full of Your goodness or will I be found full of my own rotten goodness?  Will I be gathered to You because I already clung to You?  Or will I be found lacking in You and cast away?

Lord, teach me total surrender.  I want to be wholly Yours because there’s no such thing as being partly Yours.  I can’t have two masters.  May my life, every aspect of it, totally line up with You.  Lord, I need You desperately.  May I be fully committed to You because You fully committed to me before I even ever knew You.  Yes, You are the Pearl.  You are the Treasure.  And I will seek You and Your way with all my life.

Requirements 101

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“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8

You have no excuse.  I have no excuse.  He has shown us.  God has set before us, right in front of our very eyes and lives, exactly what is good, exactly what His expectations are.  First He gave us His Word and His prophets.  Then we saw what is good in Your eyes lived out in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, God with us.  He has shown us, people.  We have no excuse for not seeing.

But what if I still act like I don’t get it?  What if I say, “What do You require of me Lord?  What is good according to You?”  Well, what is the answer then?  I suppose it all starts by acknowledging that You alone are good, by acknowledging that Jesus is the epitome of all things good.  If I want to know what is good, I must know Jesus.  If I look at Him and into Him, I will see everything that is good.  I will know what goodness appears like and acts like and thinks like in this world.

So once I understand that there is only One who is good and that goodness begins and only exists in God, in Jesus Christ, then the next logical question is, “What do You, Lord, require of me?’  That’s easy.  Goodness.  What is goodness?  Youness.  You require me to demonstrate You, in Your entirety in my life.  It has nothing to do with knowing about You or knowing about goodness or knowing about justice or knowing about mercy, or knowing about humbleness.  But it has everything to do with being “those things” for lack of a better way of putting it.  I must know You so intimately that I not only understand Your ways but Your ways become my ways because You are as integral a part of my being as breathing is.  Actually, You are more integral than even breathing.  Your character isn’t just a good thing to emulate.  Your character must dwell in me or I can’t exhibit Your character.

And this is not a one time deal.  I don’t just become Yours one day and then I’m finished becoming.  I become Yours and then I invest myself continually in You as You continually invest Yourself in me deeper and deeper every moment.  You require something of me.  Your gift is free because there is nothing I could do to ever earn it.  But it’s not free of responsibility.  You require something of me.  What is it that You require?  Well, it’s in that word “darash.”  It’s used in Hebrew study of the Scriptures as a drash.  It’s a verb that emphasizes “continued, deliberate searching.”  You require this of me.  And when this is what I give in obedience to You, then love shines forth.  I’ll know, and I mean really know, the Good One, not just what is good.

There are three things here that You are looking for in my life, that I ought to exhibit from within to without because I KNOW the GOOD ONE, and I want to do what is required.  I mean, that’s the least that I can do for You.  Knowing You, I am to follow You in doing justly.  The word for “do” here is “asah” and it’s this common word for making or forming.  The importance of the word is in who is doing the making or forming, in who is performing the action.  But what action am I performing or should I ask, what action am I allowing to be formed in me?  And who am I letting form that action in me?

I am to do “mishpat.”  Do what?  Justice.  Oh, OK, I can do good things and be fair and give people what they deserve.  Really?  Is that Jesus’ mishpat?  Did you know that it has nothing to do with legal fairness.  Oh, no, I can see that this is not going to be so easy after all.  Maybe this isn’t going to be so cut and dry.  “It is the word that summarizes the entire government of God.  It extends from grace to judgment.  It encompasses everything that God is doing to bring about the restoration of His kingdom on earth.  Mishpat is about my whole attitude toward life–an attitude that views everything in terms of God’s purposes.”  (Skip Moen)  Wow!  Justice just got a whole lot broader and unless I really know Jesus and understand how He thinks, how will I ever understand this concept?  I have to be immersed in the attitude of Jesus, of God Himself, to show true justice then.  I have to understand grace myself, before I can show God’s justice to others.  I have to understand Your government and I have to live in it and under it before I can be just and even be able to show an inkling of it in my life.  Do I know You deeply and personally enough so that my attitude in real life reflects Yours, not only about me but toward others?

It doesn’t stop there.  I am to love mercy.  I am to love it.  This word for love is from the Hebrew word “ahab.”  Examining it’s pictograph is pretty telling.  From the pictograph you can say that “ahab” says “those who make up the household or family behold the authority of the leader.”  Do You mean love has to do with letting the authority be in control?  Does it really have to do with obedience and allowing the Rightful One to be in full control over His house?  Is that love? So, love is when I behold You and as a result of beholding You, I conform to Your control and let You exercise it over me and around me.  I might not feel good about it.  I might wish You’d do it a different way, but I obey, even when I don’t feel like it.  Why?  Because I “recognize, acknowledge, and obey Your authority.”    I understand our relationship because I know You and I know myself.  So I learn to surrender to You because You I can trust to always be right.  Me, I can’t trust.  How do I know that?  Because I’ve come to know You and Your faithfulness and Your goodness.

Love is my active submission to You.  You are my Authority.  I do what You ask.  I don’t just feel merciful.  I DO mercy.  There’s a difference.  Mercy flows from Your Being because You are Authority, You are Love.  If I am in You, I am in Love, I am in Your Authority, and as You flow from me, Your mercy flows from me.  You don’t just think mercy, You do it, no, YOU ARE MERCY.

But loving mercy is more than loving mercy.  The Hebrew word is “chesed.”  The ESV translates it closer to “loving kindness.”  But since You, Lord, are more than just Mercy, so is this “chesed.”  Think of every way that God acts and it is represented in this word “chesed.”  Skip Moen states “Hesed is the action of reciprocal obligation passed on to others.  You can’t sing this word without obeying God and blessing others.  It isn’t simply one of the lyrics in a song.  It is a call to act as God acts.  Sing hesed with your feet and hands.”  It’s the song that Jesus sings, the one He sang out loud for all of us to hear and see while He walked on earth.  It’s the song He wants us to be singing and doing with all our lives.  It’s the new song You’ve written in our hearts, Lord.

Which brings us to the walking humbly part.  Because it’s the song of obedience in love turned into action that we sing and act upon as we walk through this life, I learn to walk humbly with You, or rather in You.  Here’s this Hebrew word “halak.”  It’s a tattle tale kind of word.  By the way we “halak”, by the way we walk, we can know if we are in You or not.  The truth of the matter is, if I claim to live in You, then I will more that talk Your talk.  I’ll walk Your walk.  I’m not just making this up.  Here it is in 1 John 2:5,6, “Whoever keeps His Word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.  By this we may know that we are in Him:  whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”

I say I abide in You, Jesus.  Therefore I ought to walk the same way You walked.  I’m not to spiritualize the way You walked.  I’m supposed to walk it.  This Greek verb, “peripateo,” is actually an idiom from Hebrew that is translated into Greek.  It’s that “halak” which is used to express a way of life.  My way of life is supposed to be just like Your way of life, Lord.  My feet ought to go and associate with the same kind of people You associated with.  I ought to be willing to sit down with the woman at the well,  I ought to be unafraid of touching the lepers.  I ought to surround myself with people in need of the love of Jesus no matter what “walk” of life they come from.  Because my walk in You ought to invite them wholeheartedly into Your walk.  It’s not at all about believing a philosophy or doctrine.  It’s about knowing You and living You out in my life.  What You do, I must do, if I am in You.  It’s not even about walking in the same direction.  It’s so much closer.  It’s like You seep out of me in this glorious way, and I am not complete unless I’m in the middle of where You are.

And frankly, if it’s really all about me walking with You right now, and every moment of my life, then I could give a hoot about whether I’m going to get a reward.  Because walking with You and the new fellowship it brings between us and others that are walking in You is the reward in itself.  See, YOU, LORD, ARE THE REWARD.  My reward is being in YOU!  You gave me this glorious life to live.  You gave me this even more glorious life to live in You and for You.  This is my purpose, this is what fulfills me, to live in You.  I was created for life.  Each of us was.  But not just life; we were each created for life in Christ, life in it’s utter fullness in the One Who Is Full.  This is my walk.  This is obedience.  This is love.  This is where joy comes from.

Joy comes in the walking.  I become a blessing to others through Him and I am filled with the joy of having fulfilled my duty to the One who is worthy of leading.  My reward is that I am included.  I am part of this!  I am part of what You, Lord, are doing.  The Holy One has invited me in to His work!  I get to do what He does.  I get to exhibit mishpat, hesed, and tsana yalak.  I get to be faithful!

And part of the faithfulness is walking humbly.  The whole phrase is “tsana yalak.”  That same word is used in Proverbs 11:2 in contrast to a word we dealt with the other day, Lord, –pride.  So this humbleness, this tsana, is just the opposite of what You identify as pride.  On the one hand we have “to be humble to walk” and on the other hand we have pride- “a presumpive arrogance that relies on human cunning, engineering and effort to secure personal status.”  You know, both are about what we do with authority.  Pride is all about self authority, but “tsana yalak” is all about God authority.  Only God authority lifts others up.  It’s not just letting You, God, rule over me.  It’s giving You rule over everything and everyone.  I can step back from a situation and let others decide their way because You really are in control.  You reign and You rule.  Not me.  So, when a door slams shut, I don’t have to fight it, because You are still in control.  I just surrender to You and wait for You to take action.  I look for the direction You want me to walk in each moment.  I invite others to walk with me, but I don’t force, because I’m not the one in charge.   

And the responses around me don’t change my response.  I continue to love the Lord my God with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength, and with all my mind; and my neighbor, well, I love them as much as the Lord loves me.  (Luke 10:27, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18).  I walk it out on all sides.  Under complete reign and rule of You, God, I act accordingly.  “Humility encompasses heart, soul, mind, strength, and relationships.”  (Skip Moen)  Anything less, well, then it’s not walking in humility, is it?

Yep, Micah 6:8, it’s a hefty requirement.  It’s a lot to measure up to.  And there is only one way I can measure up, because on my own, I fell short from the start.  But by the power of Christ in me, when I rely on You and live You out in my life, I can meet Your requirements because You have put them all inside of me.  It’s who You are and it’s who You are making me to be in You.  This is what life looks like when I abide in You.  Yes, this is life.  And this is where I want to be forever, right in the middle of You, with You, right in the middle of me, both of us, living You out in the middle of this world that needs You so badly.

Faith, Take the Jump

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“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform.”  Romans 4:19,20

Well, You still have me thinking about Abraham, Lord, and what faith looks like, or what faith acts like.  When You say, “He staggered not,” it makes me think of a drunk person wandering around directionless and unsteady on their feet.  Unfortunately, been there, done that.  But that’s not the idea of the original word here, although maybe the whole problem in being drunk is a total lack of discernment.  And faith is all about discernment.

The Greek word for staggered is “diakrino.”  It has to do with separating thoroughly, withdrawing from, discriminating, judging, and doubt too.   Seems like a wierd combination.   But this word tells us what Abraham didn’t do with God’s promises so that I know what Abraham DID do with them and I know how Abraham handled them.  According to Scripture, how did Abraham handle the promises of God to him?

Well, God told him some unbelievable stuff, like that he would make him a father of many nations.  What’s a nobody supposed to believe about that?  I mean, who was Abraham anyway before God chose him?  Did the world even notice him?  I wonder if Abraham ran around saying, “I’m gonna be a father of nations, did you hear that?  Wahoo!  Father of nations, that’s me!”  Um, I don’t think so.  I think he probably thought, “O.K. God, if that’s what You want.  Don’t see how that’s gonna happen.  But if you say so, I’ll do whatever You say and wait for it.”

Here’s something interesting about this idea and this word.  It’s used in 1 Corinthians 4:7.  Listen, “For who made you differ from another?  And what do you have that you did not receive?  Now, if you did receive it, why do you glory, as if you had not received it?”  “Diakrino”-“made you to differ”.  You mean maybe Abraham was made to be different and made to be set apart to shine for God’s glory?  And maybe, just maybe we were made to be different and made to be set apart to shine for God’s glory?

There’s this Hebrew word that is the parallel of “diakrino.”  It’s “mishpat.”  According to Skip Moen it “encompasses the entire concept of law and justice from conception to execution.”  He says it’s best expressed by this question, “Who sees mishpat in you?”  In other words, who sees the promises of God being lived out in my life so much that it renders me “distinctively different than those who are not followers”?   God gave Himself to Abraham.  Abraham received God.  The world saw something different in Abraham.  But it was all from God.  And people knew that what Abraham had was from His God.  What about me?  Do I allow You to work in me in such a way that people see I’m different and that my difference is You, Lord?  Am I receiving what You are giving and am I walking in it?

He could have chosen his own way instead of yours.  He could have said, “This waiting and uncertainty is too much; it’s taking too long.”  He could have gone back to Ur and to what he knew.  But he never did.  There were a couple times he made some not so great choices along his walk in faith, like pretending his wife was his sister, but what if that was actually considered faith by God because he was still heading in the direction God had started, doing the best he could to stay on the path?  I mean didn’t God protect His promise, even though Abraham’s choice unwittingly endangered it?  But did Abraham ever stop believing God or did he keep walking in the path God had set him on?

What if Godly wisdom, Godly discernment and judgment, is about when we make our decisions based on Your Word, Lord?    James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peacable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”  Maybe “diakrino”, and “mishpat” are all about living and walking in an “unwavering commitment to the truth of God’s word.”  Skip Moen adds, ” Decide unwaveringly according to what God demands.  ‘Buy the truth and do not sell it,’ is the way Solomon would say it.  Make no decisions except those that are firmly rooted in God’s instructions.  And never compromise.”

So does that mean that Abraham never struggled with doubt?  Because sometimes I often struggle with doubting whether I heard correctly.  But it’s more that I doubt myself.  I don’t think I doubt You, Lord.  Does it really matter what my thoughts tell me on some of these really rough days, if I still decide to act according to Your promises?  Didn’t Paul have that struggle?  Isn’t that interesting.  If I jump ahead three more chapters in this letter, I’ll find Paul sharing this same trouble in his own life.  Bet Abraham experienced it too.  So, I may be battling cognitive doubts, but if I continue walking the way You are leading me, Paul tells me, “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to them which are in Christ Jesus, who WALK not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” 

Do I get that?  Abraham messed up by lying about Sarah.  It’s never right to lie.  But he was still staying right where God told him to be.  Show me where he was ever condemned by God for that decision.  Show me.  I don’t see it.  God, You covered him, even his flaws, because he was walking in Your promises the best he knew how.  Now that doesn’t give me the right to lie, but it does tell me that You’re the One who has the plan downpat, not me.  But as long as I’m trusting in You and abiding in You and walking according to Your plan for me in Your word, according to Your promises,  I’m covered by Your righteousness, I’m covered by Your salvation, I’m covered by Your plan for me.  That doesn’t give me license, but I am a recipient of mercy and grace and love and more.

Doubt only becomes sin when it leads to my failure to act.  But the fact that I must contend with doubt just gives me every opportunity to act in faith.  I have a doubt, so what, I act upon Your promise and Your word anyway.  Sorry, doubt, I trust God, not you.  Your name only gets the little “d”, my God’s name gets the big “G.”  Did You condemn the father who cried out “I believe; help my unbelief!”?  No, You cast the demon out of his son.  He acted in faith even when his mind couldn’t fathom it.

I think our problem in the western world is that we have been trained to be so logically minded.  But believing doesn’t have to be logical.  I really appreciated this analogy that Skip Moen shared.  “In the Hebraic world, the process of believing is much more like learning to swim.  Hold your breath and jump in the water – and see how you like it.  Your mind might be screaming that floating is impossible.  You weigh more than water.  Your mind tells you that you won’t be able to breathe.  Your mind is shouting, ‘Danger!’  But you can’t learn to swim by thinking about it.  You have to get in the water.  You must do before you decide.”  And isn’t that the same with faith?  Do I really believe until I start walking it?  Didn’t it just start with one step?  And that first step will lead to many thereafter.

Well, Lord, I didn’t start out fully persuaded in You.  With every step of faith I took in You, with every time I just dove into Your waters, You have been faithful.  So every time I trust Your promises, I am rewarded with You!  Every time I dive in as You tell me, You keep me afloat and You teach me to swim and I’m lovin’ it.  And like Abraham, You are enlarging my family, so I’m not swimming alone.  And You give me the opportunity to encourage others to dive in and love Your waters too.  Thank You for making us strong in You as we choose to walk in You step by step, moment by moment.  Lord, I want to walk in You more and more every moment.  I want to choose Your promises every time.  I want to handle Your promises rightly.  I want You to be visible in me.  Lord, work Your faithfulness out in me every step of the way.  I want You more than anything.