Clinging Tighter Than Our Lives

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“And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many…” Daniel 8:25

 
Did you ever imagine that peace, yes, PEACE, could be destructive? Could these words of Daniel written 2,500 years ago be important to us today? Should they make us stop and think? Should they cause us to be moved and to change our thinking and actions? Daniel saw this vision from God, heard it’s interpretation from the angel Gabriel at God’s command, and became weak to fainting and sick. And even after he got over that, the things he had seen still made him feel numb. And still he couldn’t put it all together. But here’s the point: He didn’t walk away unaffected. He carried those thoughts with him and they affected his whole being.

 
Maybe it would be beneficial to take time out to think about what Daniel was shown. His vision is about kings rising to power and then being overthrown by other kings with other kingdoms. This is actually a vision given right before King Belshazzar was overthrown and it tells of his destruction. So knowing that must have made Daniel uneasy. After all, he had already been through the destruction of his own kingdom, and seen the death and havoc it rained on those he cared for. Now to see that again? But this wasn’t just a vision of now, for David. It was a vision that stretched to the end times. How near were they?

 
Lord, You didn’t just give this vision to Daniel for people of his time to be aware. You gave this vision to Daniel so we could be aware today also. Because Your vision has not yet been completed. It is still coming to be. Even now, we are somewhere in that latter time of the kingdom. Even today we may be in the time of the king with the fierce countenance and understanding of stratagems.

 

What could that mean to have a fierce countenance? It could mean Hebraicly that your face, your personage exhibits strength, vehemency, harshness, power, or greed. It could be that you are hardened and that your self is puffed up in it’s own strength, like what happens with so many leaders. Here’s someone who is coming who will understand stratagems. Understand that stratagems can be conceit, tricks, and being good with lots of wordiness about philosophy and general principals.

 
But this leader, who will have power, well, it won’t be his own. I wonder then from whom this power is imparted to him? Who gives him this power to “destroy wonderfully”? That word for wonderful can mean miraculously. That’s pretty scary. I mean, Jesus came to seek and save and did and does so miraculously and we know that His power is of God. “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:56) So who comes to destroy them?

 
Jesus discussed this with His disciples and for our benefit. “The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) Who is the thief? It’s not God because God gave Jesus as the Good Shepherd. But there is also a thief at work trying to destroy God’s work by destroying His workmanship- the people of God, His beloved.

 
Well, let’s continue to search for who this ruler’s power comes from. Who is the thief of thieves? Peter warned believers, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” (1 Peter 4:15) Obviously, these characteristics are not of God, not a part of being in Christ. Jesus Himself accused some men of these characteristics and let’s see who He equated that with: “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

 
Think about it. What will it be like to be under a ruler who is full of the power of deception given from his father, the devil? Think about him or her prospering, pushing forward, doing his will. And what is his will? What is Satan’s will? He’s a defeated foe. How do they act? I think of Japan in the Philippines when they knew the Americans were coming back and they would be defeated. I have a friend who was there, living in Manila. His dad was working for the Japanese, (actually telling secrets about them to the resistance!) and the Japanese he was working with liked him and his kids. So one day, they told my friend’s father, “Get your family and leave because all the people will be gathered into the fields and slaughtered.” Defeated enemies can be terribly violent. This is the type of enemy that the devil is.

 
His aim will be to use this man to destroy God’s people, the mighty and holy ones of God. Who are these mighty and holy ones of God? That’s you and I if we are His. And how will this leader empowered by Satan do that? By his policy, the way he uses his intelligence and understanding, deceit and fraud and subtlety and treachery will be employed to its fullest. And people will be sucked in to this way of thinking. He’ll be puffed up in his own heart which will lead others to be puffed up in their own hearts. And get this, by peace he shall destroy many! Can you imagine that? We all cry out for peace and he will use peace to destroy. How is that?

 
The Hebrew word here for peace is shalvah. It’s about security. It incorporates abundance, peace, prosperity, and quietness. It’s what the world is looking for in itself but what can only really be found in God. So this leader, under Satan’s influence will give it to everyone the world’s way and deceive them into thinking that security in things and power, and abundance in wealth and possession, and quietness between people and nations is the goal of life. Now here’s the scary part. As a society, actually as societies all over the world, the majority are already buying into this way of thinking. Terrorism is at our door but we choose to believe the lie that all people are good. So we don’t act upon the facts but upon our false feelings. And it’s not just people who don’t know Christ. It’s among people who call themselves believers and yet don’t act like You. Instead, believers are clinging to the security of their government instead of God. We fight Islam with weapons instead of the power of God’s word and God’s love. We choose comfort and abundance and quietness instead of sacrifice. It’s not just the problem of those on the outside. We’ve allowed ourselves to become deceptively corrupted from Your intent. And it’s time that it made us weak inside and sick like it did Daniel. But does it?

 
One day You are going to show us that our beautiful big homes that we feel so secure in, have no security at all. Just let an earthquake or Tsunami or flood or fire come, and then what? Where will our security be? One day, banks will fail, or we will be robbed, or lose our job, or so many financial things will happen at once that we’ll wonder what happened to our abundance we were relying on. And what happens when something happens to my happy family and it’s not so happy and peaceful any more? Where will I be then? What happens when my quietness I have rejoiced in becomes loneliness? What benefit is that kind of peace?

 
Here’s the thing. Our peace must be in something Other than this. Paul shared, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21) Our peace must come through God in Jesus Christ. Our peace and our existence is only found in Him. And in Him we are given the ability to spread that peace to others, that’s that perfection He is bringing about in us to do His will, His way, by His power to make Himself known in those He created to be His vessels.

 
Satan would have us believe that we are our own vessels, dropped here by chance to shape ourselves. But that is total deception and total emptiness. It’s deception of the worst kind because it’s willful maliciousness to turn our hearts to believe that and to disbelieve God’s purpose for us. This is such a tragedy! Jesus wept over it. In Luke 19:42 we hear His voice, “If you had only known today what would bring you peace! But now it is hidden, so you cannot see it.” Today, do I know what will truly bring me peace? Or have I chosen to let it be hidden from me and unattainable?

 
Jesus, You wanted us to understand this so badly. You kept telling Your disciples and by that, You keep telling us. “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you My peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly.”( John 14:27) And right before He would be taken captive toward the cross, “I’ve told you this so that My peace will be with you. In the world you’ll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) There is a different kind of peace, an eternal peace that overcomes the hardships and tragedies and heartaches and deceptions of this world. The question is, which peace will I cling unto? Will I cling to a self-serving peace that will be destroyed, that is a lie? Or will I cling to the Prince of Peace who will reign forever and invites me to the security of His presence throughout eternity?

 
Life’s not easy and peace won’t be found permanently in this world system. But I agree with Paul, that the “momentary” suffering I could ever experience here on earth could never surpass the peace of being with You eternally. And Paul’s not talking about light afflictions here. He knew of afflictions and suffering and persecution that led to death. And he believed it was all worth it to know You and to be with You, Lord, and so do I. So, let me conclude by sharing Paul’s words to us: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-17) So may we become weak and sick over the deception that surrounds us and use that to be appalled by it so that we rise up and cling tighter than our lives to the peace and security that is only found in God through Jesus Christ our risen, living, and intervening Savior and Lord.

Life Life versus Death Death

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(Memorial stone from the Middletown, NJ, 9-1-1 memorial by the train station near where I grew up.)

The one breaking through went up before them; they broke through, passed the gate and went out. Their king passed on before them; ADONAI was leading them.” (Micah 2:13)

Micah 2 ends on a really good note, a note of great hope.  But it doesn’t start off with such good feelings.  He opens, “Woe to those who think up evil and plan wickedness as they lie in bed. When morning comes, they do it, since they have it in their power.” (Micah 2:1)  And this is the warning we must all heed.  Just because this is a specific warning to Israel, that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t benefit by understanding and applying these principles to our lives.  As a matter of fact, if one were to look at our country today, and the thought processes out there, and the actions of its people as a nation, we wouldn’t find it so different from Israel then. 

This is a message of woe.  Woe was a pretty strong word.  In Hebrew it is hoy.  Hoy was used as an interjection and the word expressed over the death of someone.  It is that strong a word.  Now, I’ve been thinking about the Hebrew thinking behind words and that image of a protective fence that God sets up is just such a strong one throughout His word.  And I can’t help but think of that fence here.  And if I go back to verse 13 I think of it more along with the idea of sheep.  Only here, in verse 1, it’s the idea of people breaking down the safety of that wall and rebelling against it. 

It reminds me of a story shared by a Yanamamo believer named Bautista, who once was a Shaman, but was changed by the Lord, and he was invited to speak at an Ivy League college.  One of the professors mentioned how she and her family were not believers but had come to America and were well off, implying that it had nothing to do with God, as they were not believers.  But Bautista related a story of being in the jungle and how someone had gone ahead and built a shelter.  Now someone else may come along and reap the benefits of that shelter but they are still reaping the benefits of the original builder.  It doesn’t negate the one who built it.  America, he said, is like that.  The original founders built it under the protective umbrella of God.  All who come under that umbrella reap its benefits.  But, if enough people chip away at the umbrella, at that shelter, and tear it down, the benefits will no longer be there.

It’s like satan saying, “You won’t surely die.”  And it’s not that he twisted these words.  He negated them.  God had said, “You will surely die.”  Actually, in the Hebrew He said, “You will die die.”  I’d say that’s a pretty sure thing.  But satan said, “You will not die die.”  The point is, God is true, or maybe I should say, God is true true.  But satan wants us to believe that God is not true true.  Who will we believe? 

Woe to them that think up evil.  That’s like saying it’s death to those who think up their own ways opposed to You, God.  That’s what that thinking up or devising is talking about.  It’s the Hebrew word chase. It’s all about weaving and fabricating, or plotting things out your own way.  It’s a mental effort to use Your own imagination or reckon life your own way.  And that word for sin or iniquity is interesting too.  It’s aven in Hebrew.  It’s root comes from a word meaning pant, like exerting oneself in vain.  It’s not just wickedness but trouble, and emptiness, or mischief.  It’s related with idols and mourning and sorrow and unrighteousness.  We are right back to the garden, aren’t we?  It sounds like determining my own way apart from God still leads to death.  No, it actually still leads to death death, which couldn’t be any surer.

It’s death death to us to devise our own way. it’s also death death to us to plan wickedness as I lie in bed.  It’s more than a shame to employ my efforts, to work at, to habitually practice and commit what goes against Your will and Your way, Lord.  It’s way outside Your boundaries for us to be deliberately  choosing to spend our energies and thoughts on afflicting others, doing what You say is not good, displeasing You, distressing those around us, causing grief, and doing what’s wrong.  Someone may ask, “Well, who gets to determine what’s wrong?  Isn’t that up to each us?”  Nope.  Not unless you created you or you created me.  It seems to me that the Potter gets to determine those things and not the pot.  I mean, that just makes sense.

When morning comes, they do it since they have it in their power.  That word, power, is the word el.  Imagine that, the word used so often in naming God is also used for idols and the strength in man’s hand.  And it just goes to show how any power outside of God’s power isn’t power at all.  To these devisers and workers, they perceive what they have in their ideas as real power.  But it’s only temporary and leads to death death.  The power that God alone has and wants to impart to us and to them leads to life life.  I suppose it’s the difference between power and power power.

Societies all over the world are beginning to implode upon themselves for this very reason.  They are usurping power and taking it into their own hands.  They are deciding truth based on their own thinking.  They are erasing and eroding away at God’s protective boundaries.  And the walls are crumbling.  And we are laying ourselves bare to destruction.  And all along we’ve been warned.  Biblical history and secular history are there to be our teachers but society chooses to rewrite both and suffer the consequences because they like holding power in their own hands instead of letting the One who knows how to use it, use it for our good.

But here’s the good news.  God is still gathering a remnant.  Just like in the time of Israel, there were some who held faithfully to Him and within His bounds, so today He is still holding on to those who will hold on to Him.  This is good stuff!  Actually, He tells Jacob and Israel, He will assemble assemble them!  And he doesn’t stop there.  He will gather gather.  How sure a deal is this!  He will be the One to put them together.  He will preserve and unite.  Like sheep in a pen or a herd in the pasture.  And it’s gonna hum with the sound of all the people He has gathered together that are His sheep, living in His protection, under His umbrella, within His boundaries, within His walls. 

The hope continues and gets even more exciting!  There is this one who breaks through and goes up before the sheep.  He breaks through, and they follow Him, breaking through with Him, and passing the gate.  This is the King and He passes on through the broken walls, through the gate, leading them and they are following Him.  This is the hope in Jesus Christ the Messiah who came and died for us for the glory of God and our well-being, so that we could be re-united with Him in our original purpose.  This is the hope of a risen Savior, of a King who is ALL POWERFUL.  This is the hope that one day, His boundaries will no longer surround us because He will have written them in our hearts and we won’t need external walls any more.  This is the beauty of trust and obedience and love. 

I don’t want to make my own walls.  They lead to death death.  I want to follow and obey and love the One who is able to one day, put His own will in the very depths of me so that my heart will rejoice in wanting what rejoices Him.  I can’t wait until that day that God will remove the struggle of wanting my own way versus His.  I don’t want to be god in my life or anyone else’s.  But I do want God in me.  And being a sheep is sufficient for me as this sheep intrinsically knows and understands Your heart, Lord, and lives it out in shear joy.  Imagine a sheep who didn’t need a pen to protect it because all the power and presence of it’s protector lived inside.  That’s what I see in this picture. 

I can be on either side of the sheep pen.  I can refuse its boundaries and choose my own.  But then, I need to prepare, because death death is coming.  But to choose to remain inside the boundaries until my Shepherd writes them inside me, is the far better choice, because with it comes life life.  See, the King has to go before.  John warned us, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.  Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 1:9)  I don’t want to fall into the trap of going ahead of my King. 

Life is a test.  Will I abide in God’s words and the words of Christ?  The proof is in the pudding.  If I abide in Christ and His words abide in me, the power of God will flow from me.  If I abide in the love of Christ, I will know the love of God.  I will keep Your boundaries just as Christ did because I will love them as I love You.  For the same covenant You made with Israel, You make with all those who are grafted in.  “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people…for they shall all know Me, from the least to the greatest.   (Hebrews 8:10,11)  Lord, be my King and lead me every moment.  Thank You for the warning.  May I live live in the continual protection and provision of You and Your boundaries.

“Follow Me.”

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Wherefore I beseech you, be followers of me.”  (1 Corinthians 4:16)

These are Paul’s words to the Corinthians, to believers who seemed to be following whatever teaching was on the breeze.  Now, I want to do something that I don’t know if I have the freedom to do.  But do it, I will.  What if You Jesus are using Paul’s words to tell us that You are beseeching us to be Your followers?  What if that was what Paul was trying to do?  What if he wasn’t really trying to get people to follow him but to get them to follow You like he was following You?

That seems logical to me because if I drop down four verses I see how Paul is saying that he will come shortly “if the Lord will.”  And what was he looking for when he came?  Whether or not Your power was in the words and actions of those who were puffing themselves up as teachers.  It seems that Paul was saying that there is evidence of following You and it’s not the evidence of our words but the evidence of power.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, (1:7) Paul reminds us that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”  I suppose I ought to understand what power is, then.  The Greek word used here is dunamis which means force, specifically miraculous power, ability, might.  But if we look at the Hebrew connection it’s more than about “ability, capacity, vigor, strength, and will.”  It actually takes more than one Hebrew word to tranlate dunamis.  In the Hebrew, it has to do with strength, wealth or an army.  It’s the influence one has on others.  It can be financial or numerical or military.  It’s also about “not lacking, not being deficient or not having poor quality.”  It has to do with our going out and our coming in or what causes our going out and our coming in.  In the same sense, it has to do with bringing forth vegetation and feelings.  That’s not all.  Another word for it has to do with ascending, taking away, and offering; and yet another about waging war, mustering for war, serving.  And all of these things wrapped up together bring forth the concept of power.

So what is power?  Well, part is that Greek mindset.  There is an idea of “capacity, strength and will” but it plays out in conjuction with everything else.  See, strength is in relation to our influence.  It’s more than physical.  Someone has influence over another.  It’s what was happening with the Corinthians.  What was their source of inluence, or rather who?  Who is my source of influence?  Because the strength of that source will flow to others and they will wind up relying on either my weak influence or the true influence of God.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Power was tied to sufficiency.  I mean, in those days subsistence was important.  If you didn’t lack food, shelter, and the basics, you had power.  Without them you were powerless and dead!  But the truth for believers is that our sufficiency goes beyond subsistence, or maybe that our subsistence has to be in a Person and not things.  We have to come to the point where we truly know that “we are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also has made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.”  (2 Corinthians 3:5,6)  The whole point in these verses as that we are enable wholly by You, God.  Our power comes from and in You.  That word for sufficiency, sufficient, and able in verse six are all related in the same base word hikanoo.  We are made able, qualified, or enabled through not the words written in a book, but through the life within those words and from the Person who shared them with us.  You are our sufficiency.  You make us able.  You are our Power.

Now, as if that isn’t enough, power is also tied in to being able to “come and go.”  In the days of Paul’s authorship, they knew about slavery and about being a vassal.  Slaves and citizens under the rule of another power were limited in movement.  To have power is to be “able to move at your own will.”  Not only that, it includes the freedom to “express your own feelings.”  Think of how many citizens were nailed to crosses and impaled on spikes or burned at the stake because of expressing feelings contrary to the power in charge over the course of history.  Think of the many persecuted even today.  And with this power we must keep in mind the idea of war or warfare.

Well, those last concepts seem to make sense.  But what of this additional concept of power- to ascend, to take away?  The word for this is a verb and it’s about “sacrifices and offering.”  It’s about the power “to remove guilt.”  Did you ever think of the importance of this power, this power of sacrifice?  Maybe now is a good time to think about it, because God certainly thought about it in the power of Jesus Christ, and Jesus thought about it and demonstrated it.

So sure, many of us have lots of power.  We live lives where we are sufficient, where we have political freedom, where we have influence over others, and we are able to express our feelings freely, for the most part.  But we also have the “ability to have our guilt removed through sacrifice.”  I mean, how equipped is that?

But do I really realize what all this power bestowed on me means?  What did Jesus use His power for?  He used it for the benefit of those He came to seek and save.  He used all this power to find the lost and to save them and to make them His own.  How do I use the power that You give me as a believer, that power that comes from the life of the Spirit in me, that power that flows from the heart of God in Jesus Christ?  Am I only focussed on myself or am I, like Jesus, focussed on the lost and the hurting and the lonely and the broken?  Is my power for myself or is it a gift and a privilege, and a duty to share it with those who have not yet experienced it?  Is this power something that multiplies when it is shared or something to be horded?

Yes, I don’t think Paul wanted us or his people to follow him.  But I think that Paul wanted his people and us to learn from him that the only and true source of power lies in following Jesus.  Without knowing Him, without surrendering to His authority, without being adopted into His family and born of His Spirit, there is no power and we are but mere men.  Paul reminds us in Romans 8:37 that God’s purpose for us is to overwhelmingly conquer.  Why?  Because He is the Overwhelming Conqueror and the battle is His and it’s already a victory.  We just have to hold onto the ball until the end of the game.  And He’s passed the ball to us.  We’ve been made ready and equipped by the One who is the Source of Power.

Who I follow is important.  My life and my victory and the life and victory of those around me depend upon this choice.  It was important to You too, Jesus.  You commanded, “Follow me,” in over fifteen instances in Scripture as You walked this earth.  If a thing You repeat is important, than certainly understanding what it is to follow You is of major importance to me.  “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”  It only comes from following, from attaching, from being dependent upon, and from being enabled by You.  “Follow Me and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”  “If anyone whold come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve Me, him will my Father honour.”  “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you?  Follow Me.”  “Follow Me.”  “Follow Me.”  “Follow Me.”

You know, sometimes as “baby” believers we need to follow someone else as our example, someone else we can see and feel and touch.  But with maturity comes greater responsibility.  There has to come a day when we stop needing to follow Paul and we experience You Jesus for ourselves.  There has to come a day when we know You so well that we follow You, that we listen to You, that we know Your heart.  There must come a day when You are my heart’s desire and joy.  You have to be the focus of my emulation.  There has to come a day when I see that all this stuff that has to do with the power I need is right there and has always been right there in You.  And if I’m still following some other believer’s method or style, I need to fall on my knees and just start relying on You and accepting all that You have for me and stop disabling what You desire to enable in me.  You didn’t create anyone else but Paul to be a Paul.  You desired for Timothy to be his own Timothy in You.  You designed for Bong to be her own Bong in You.  You designed for Jessica and Gemma and Betty and Sharon and Carla and Mickie to be who You created them each to be, specifically different by design.  You designed Jack and Warren and Mike and Eric and Carl and Genesis to be who You created them each to be, specifically different by design.  But my question is, am I living in Your design for me or my own design?  What a shame it would be to be invited and have the ability to follow the King of the Universe, to follow the Jesus who saved me and the God who made me, and to not choose to follow Him intimately.  Oh, that I, that we, would learn to follow You all the days of our lives!

Who’s Your Daddy?

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“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”  1 Corinthians 2:5

“Who’s your daddy?”  That’s what coach Boone asked a prideful player on his team.  This was at a time when racial prejudice was high and the school system was desegregating their school in Alexandria, Virginia.  The young man came with his pride and request for his team mates and coach Boone refused the request, got in his face, and asked, “Who’s your daddy?”   Because to be on his football team, this young man would have to be under his authority, not his own, and not the authority of the world around him or even his parents.  When on that team, this young man was going to have to focus on everything this coach expected and demanded.  Would he start understanding that? “Who’s your daddy?”  His quiet answer was, “You.”  So, the question today is, “Who’s my daddy?”

In 2003, I meditated on 1 Corinthians 2.  And here are my thoughts and prayers from that morning.  Lord, let the only thing of importance be unto me Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Let Your Spirit and power be seen through and in me.  Don’t let it be just my words.  Oh, Lord, that my faith would never stand in the wisdom of men, but in Your power alone.  We are all fallible, but You are not.  Lord, You have shared Your wisdom with us who believe though those outside don’t understand.  Daily You reveal Yourself and Your promises to me by Your Spirit which not only seeks and investigates all hearts, but knows the depths of the things of God and shares them with me.  Lord, we as man don’t even know ourselves, except through Your Spirit.  How would we know You?  Open my heart to the things that You have freely given me.  Lord, I pray for spiritual discernment.  Teach me to judge all things.  I am not under the scrutiny of man.  You are my only judge.  Christ knows Your mind, oh Lord.  We may know it too because we have the mind of Christ.  I have the mind of Christ.  Let me live this truth.

Yes, today I still pray that I would live this truth, that when You look me in the face and ask, “Who’s Your Daddy?” I would not look with my head held down in shame, but with head held high and full of delight I want to answer “YOU!”  Paul was like that.  Here was a man, unlike me, who was a top-knotch scholar expected to be one of the greatest rabbis of his time.  But he didn’t approach preaching by using his excellent speech skills, power of persuasion, or all his stores of wisdom.  What was he declaring the power of God with?  What was he declaring the testimony, the witness of God with?  Jesus.

Paul decided, he determined, that nothing else mattered for sharing except to share the witness of Jesus Christ and the power of His crucifixion.  See, the crucifixion has this glorious supernatural outcome.  Everyone else who’s ever been crucified, well, they wind up dead and crucified.  But not Jesus, not You.  You wind up alive though crucified.  Now that’s something to declare!  The wisdom of man says that doesn’t happen and it can’t.  But the power of God says, “Look here, I can do what man can’t do.  I have done it.  I am alive.  I’m alive because I’m God and You can’t kill God.  And imagine if You are for me and You are mine.  Imagine the ramifications of that.”  Wow!  That’s the testimony of God speaking.  Blows the mind of the wise, doesn’t it?

But Paul goes on to say, “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”  What does that mean?  That word for weak is the Greek word “astheneia.”  That “a” is a negative in front of “sthenoo” which means “strength or power.”  Therefore, it means without strength or power.  It’s used for the sick people that Jesus healed who were sick in body and spirit.  When we are like that we can’t do it ourselves.  We’re helpless.  That’s pretty much our condition and Paul was saying it was his condition.  “I’m powerless.”  Admitting our weakness is the first step in getting over our addiction to ourself.  Think of all the things, like Paul, we’re powerless over.  I’m powerless to stop what rages inside of me, to stop doing what I don’t want to or ought not to, powerless to lift myself up out of the pit, and more.  We’re all there, just as Paul was.

But Paul doesn’t stop with weakness.  He also said they were together in fear.  What kind of fear?  Why?  I wish I understood.  I think Paul experienced fear in a way that I haven’t.  I mean, here in the U.S., I live a fairly sheltered life.  What do I know of real, every day, day after day fear?  I know that for Paul, not only was he handling false teachers rising up against him, but he’s experienced being stoned and being beaten many times.  Is that what he was afraid of?

In Hebrews 10:31, Paul tells us, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Really?  Both places here are looking at the Greek word from “phobos.”  The Hebrew word equivalent is yare.  Skip Moen puts it this way, “Sudden, sheer terror–life turned into flying shrapnel–is more likely the message.”  I think of those who have to confront evil every day as an ordinary part of their lives.  I think of the testimony I see in them.  Those who haven’t avoided all confrontation with evil, those who have had to face it in their weakness and rely on Your strength and power alone, they are the ones who know, I mean really know, the majesty, the testimony, the witness of Your good.

And as though weakness and fear weren’t enough, Paul adds trembling, and not just trembling, but much trembling.  The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon defines this trembling as a “trembling or quaking with fear.”  It also is “used to describe the anxiety of one who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfil his duty.”  Now, I don’t think that Paul was going through and fulfilling religious duty here.  But I do think that Paul distrusted his own ability, his own worthiness, his own skills of persuasion, his own heart.  And because he felt this way about his own weakness, and his fear, and his trembling; because they were a reflection of the dependence of not only his heart but his life on You, Lord, he could rely fully on His Daddy.

Therefore, he was the first to realize that his speaking and his preaching wasn’t of effect because he used all the right words or because he was charismatic or because he was wise or persuasive.  He knew that the power of his preaching was because the Holy Spirit was empowering his words, empowering his testimony of You, empowering the hearts of the listeners.  He knew that faith doesn’t come from man or from man’s wisdom or man’s understanding.  Faith comes from and is in the power of God.

The weak find faith.  They realize they need You.  They realize they are helpless, no matter how great they were in the world’s eyes.  The weak find strength in You.  The fearful need a Deliverer.  The one’s who live in fiery and fearful circumstances need a Rescuer.  They know what rescue and deliverance look like and feel like.  The one who trembles at his own frailty, his own disability, his own inability, is the one who looks to Another.

And Paul said, “I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”  Is this the life of faith that we as believers are living together?  Paul was with the Corinthians in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  Am I with my fellow believers in the same way or am I just doing my own thing, thinking I’m doing good, but not really experiencing life, and I mean real life, together with them and with You?  It’s so easy to live life in a comfort zone, but I wonder if that’s Your zone at all God?  Maybe I’m not really living as You intended until I experience You in weakness, and in fear, and in trembling, with my brothers and sisters in You.

“Who’s my Daddy?”  You.  But that also means that I have brothers and sisters out there.  And I need to be a real sibling to them.  There’s experiences in You we were meant to have together so that we, together, would have a greater and living witness in the world.

Logos, the Cross, and the Power of God

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“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”  1 Corinthians 1:18

The power of God.  I find that so intriguing.  I think everyone is looking for God’s power.  It’s all around us really.  But somehow, we can hear of it and see it right before our very own eyes and miss it.  Can you imagine standing right in front of the cross and missing it?  You know, if I had been there that day, I’m pretty sure I would have been there sitting and thinking that all had been lost.  Of course, maybe I would have been one of the scoffers.  But either way, no one really understood.  No one understood until…until the witnesses saw the power of God demonstrated by the risen Savior, the living Jesus Christ who showed Himself to them alive and well and above humanness and death!

So as I was reading 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, I thought on these things that day in 2003.  And I prayed…Lord, help my brothers and sisters in Christ and I to be united in the same mind and purpose.  Let us guard against quarrels.  Teach me to esteem no man over another.  You alone are the reason we are who we are.  You are the only one who has the right to stand upon a pedestal.  Only You were crucified for me.  Only You baptized me with the Holy Spirit.  Someone may share Your glorious truth and Good News with me, but You alone are the only One who works in my heart.

And help me remember that it is not what I do, but what You do and have done through me.  You have not sent me to perform ceremonies, but to announce the Good News.  People are not won through the wisdom of my words.  That would make my words more important than what You did on the cross.  The cross and all that it means is what saves.  All I can do is share the Gospel.  You will do the work.  I need to allow and trust You to do the work in Your time and I must continue to be faithful to just continue sharing the Good News.  I can offer the truth but I cannot work in a person’s heart.  Only You are able to do that.  Even though the Good News seems foolish to those who don’t have You; who are dead in their sins, I know it is the power of God.  Teach me that the power is in the truth and what You have done in the cross, not in my wisdom or what I say.

It is the power of God.  It’s not about me.  I can’t do it.  You only ask me to be involved with You, to go where You are or have prepared the way, to follow Your leading.  If I don’t see results, I have not failed.  I can produce no results.  That is only in Your power.  I am only to be faithful to share the Gospel and faithful in my testimony.

And that’s true still, even today.  But it gets me to thinking about the preaching of the cross and the power of God.  See, this preaching of the cross, or “message about the execution-stake” in the Complete Jewish Bible, doesn’t tell everything.  That’s coming from that Greek word logos.  It’s that same logos that John uses when he tells us “In the beginning was the Word (logos) and the Word (logos) was with God and the Word (logos) was God.”  And just going back to that makes me think that understanding the cross goes much deeper than staring at the cross.  It takes me back to everything before the cross, everything up to the cross, everything on the cross, and to everything after the cross.  The cross is the whole idea, the whole notion, the whole ramification, the whole essence of the person and purpose of You, Jesus.

Just as the Word is the personification of who You are, Jesus, so is this idea of the preaching or message of the cross.  How can I look at just one instant and ignore all else that You are?  But this one instant is the culmination of all Your love, all Your sacrifice, all Your faithfulness, all Your judgment brought to its most visible head, its most apparent demonstration for those with dull eyes and dull hearts to see.  But if we look at this moment without seeing what came before and what came afterward, we’re left with a foolish, weak man on a cross.  But, when I see the Word from before time began, Who has stepped out of heaven to restore the broken relationship with man through the greatest of sacrifices, the Word who will bring all things to order, the Word who no one can kill, because He is the Word, then it is no longer foolishness, but the power of God Himself manifested for me, for us!

The preaching of the cross, the logos, the Word, is in the Hebrew Scriptures.  It’s the embodiment of Your divine will, Your divine attributes in the law and the prophets, the healer, the messenger, the “agent of the divine decrees.”  You are wisdom personified and the messenger of God.  It’s Your divine nature.  We see it in creation as You spoke the world and universe into being.  Like a word that is made up of putting individual letters together, You pull whatever things need to be pulled together to create and form things of meaning and value and purpose.  And the wonder is that before You there was nothing but a void, an emptiness.  So that means that when You call forth from You, Your Word, to create, You are taking of Yourself and expressing You in everything You create.  Scientifically they say that something cannot come from nothing.  So where did creation come from?  Where did I come from?  Where is my meaning and my purpose?

The meaning and purpose of everything lies in the midst, in the heart, in the Being of the center of the preaching of the cross, in the power of You, God.   In Luke 4:4, Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man does not live on bread alone.'”  That’s a reference to Deuteronomy 8:3.  Listen to the King James Version, “And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.  What if we really thought about that, I mean, really thought that over?

What would I think about?  That everything that comes out of God is with power.  Who else can speak a universe into being?  And then I have the nerve to treat Your words, God, as just words?  Here, You’re telling me that everything, and I mean everything, that proceeds, that flows from, that springs from Your mouth, from out of the  Person of You, from out of Your being, gives me life and power to live!  These aren’t just words as we think of them.  Not at all!  This Bible, this Book, these words in this Book, well, they aren’t just words and this isn’t just a book!  This is life!  No, this is LIFE!  Every word is of You.  Every word matters.  Every word that You uttered carries the power of You in it, from start to neverending finish.  I serve a God whose words are alive and active and more powerful than any two-edged sword!  This is real.  This is true.  Your Word is You and as I let Your Word express itself in my life, in me, in my heart, in my thoughts, then I am letting You express Yourself in my life, in me, in my heart, in my thoughts.  This is not foolishness.  This is the greatest power that ever existed and ever will.  This is the preaching of the cross and the power of God.  This is my Jesus!  This is my God!

Unspoken Power

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“The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’  And he himself believed, and all his household.”  John 4:53

Now, I don’t usually start with the finale, but today I am.  Because I’m still looking into that word “faith,”, “pisteuo.”  And in today’s account, it’s used twice of the same man.  And I figure, if we look at faith in this man, it can help us understand faith as it appears in our life.  But, I better get back to the beginning so the finale will make more sense.

Following the excitement in Samaria, You, Jesus, head for Galilee.  The Galileans welcomed You because they had been in Jerusalem during the feast and had seen what You had done there.  Now there were lots of cities in the region of Galilee.  And You went back to Cana, where You had turned the water to wine.  Now another city in the region of Galilee was Capernaum.  Just to put things into perspective here, it was about a days walk, 20 miles, from Cana to Capernaum.  It’s also a probability that this was one of Herod’s officials.  So, it was no easy distance.  Though I’m not sure if he would have had some mode of transportation more than his feet.  Yet, still, he went out of his way to see You, Jesus.  And, being associated with any of the Herod’s of the time probably wasn’t the purest form of religion, to say the least.

But this official has this son who is at the point of death, so he comes to You.  And maybe it wouldn’t be so out of the ordinary to find a great rabbi and ask them to pray for your son.   But he didn’t just ask you to pray.  He asked You to come back the 20 miles he came to Cana to see his son and heal him.  That reminds me of the woman with the bleeding issue.  “If only I could touch the hem of His robe, then I would be healed.”  “If only You would come and touch my son, then he would be healed.”

So what was Your response?  “Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”  Huh?  Are You reprimanding the official because he wants You to come perform a miracle?  I mean, because if You don’t perform a miracle in his son, the boy will die.  But maybe there is a difference between believing in a Jesus who needs to touch someone and believing in a Jesus who just has to speak the words.  Men and women need to touch other people to have an effect on them.  Men and women lift up prayers on the behalf of other people.  But men and women have no direct authority or power outside of God.  What about You?

You can choose to touch someone and bring them healing.  You spit in mud and rubbed it on a blind man’s eyes.  Why?  I don’t know.  You can heal any way You want to.  You can enter the room.  You can say, “Talitha, arise,” and a little girl will come to life as though she were just waking up and getting up for the day ahead.  And You can say, “Your son is healed,” and it is already a done deal.  No going, no touching, no effort, just a thought and it is accomplished without even having to be spoken.  I mean, You didn’t even speak healing over his son.  You just stated that it was already done.  “Go home, he’s alive.”

I wonder if that matters, the fact that You didn’t have to speak it and the fact that You did not have to go?  I don’t really wonder.  I know it matters.  Because nothing is harder for You than anything else.  And actually, nothing is hard for you at all.  When Sarah laughed at the thought of having a child in her old age, in the time of “impossibility,” it was already done.  There is no such thing as an impossibility to You.  The only thing You can’t do is sin, and that is because You won’t sin, because it would be outside of Your character.  Listen to Jeremiah 32:17. “Ah, Lord God!  It is You who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by our outstretched arm!  Nothing is too hard for You.”  How did You make them?

The heavens and the earth were made by Your great power and strength and authority.  You didn’t reach out Your arm because You had to mold and shape.  Your arm is a symbol of Your power.  So why did You speak things into existence?  You didn’t have to.  Was it to show us that You are the One with that power and authority?   Are Your words for us?  Because You really don’t need them.  But I do.  Maybe You spoke things into existence so I could just know that You are the One with the power.  So that I could know that You are the God of all flesh.  Is anything too hard for You?  I don’t think so if You are able to create something from nothing.

Now, back to the officer.  He asks You to come back with him to heal his son.  You tell him about needing signs and wonders to believe.  He seems pretty unnaffected.  He asks again, “Come back to my house with me.”  And You simply reply, “Go home, your son lives.”  Well, maybe the official had listened to Your words.   Because Your Word tells me that he believed the word that You spoke to him and went home.  He went home believing that his son was alive and he hadn’t even gotten to see a miracle or even gotten to hear You say, “Boy, arise!”

But what did he believe at this point?  Because it really matters what we believe and what we believe into.   At this point, his actions point to the fact that he believed that Your words were true.  He believed that his son was alive.  And on the 20 mile trip back home, a servant met him, and told him, well, affirmed the good news that his son was alive.  But the official had to ask something.  “What exact time did that happen?”  “Yesterday, at the seventh hour.”  That was the exact time that You, Lord, had sent him home to his living son.  So here it is, tomorrow, and where he had believed in words spoken the previous evening, now he believed in more.  How did his belief change?

Maybe at first he believed what he wanted to believe.  He wanted to believe his son was healed.  So he clung to those words in belief.  But it’s really easy to cling to words without clinging to the speaker of those words.  It’s really easy to cling to words and promises without really knowing or understanding the speaker or the promiser.  But something happened on the way home.  The official started putting two and two together.  This “man” Jesus, who never even spoke healing over his son, let alone, never even seemed to intervene in any physical way, had just declared it already done.  And His declaration had been more than enough.  Just His declaration was truth.  And it was immediate.  His son was not still healing.  He was whole and made whole at the moment of the declaration.  Just an unspoken thought on the mind of Christ was that powerful!

He wasn’t just believing in the healing of his son now.  Now he believed into the person of You, Jesus.  He was understanding Your power and Your person.  And his excitement filled his whole household and his whole house believed.

What am I believing?  Am I just believing in Your words?  That’s a start.  Or have I come to place my trust into the Person that Your words tell and show me that You are?  Have I come to know who You are and what You are, based on the truth and power of Your words?  Am I trusting in the power of Your words, the power behind Your words, the power beneath Your words in my life?  The power and work is there before You even speak.  Is that where I am yet?  Because that’s where I need to be.  I need to be in You, where You are working and creating and dividing and making me more like You while You speak and while You are silent.  Because there is never a moment when You are not being God.  This is what it is to experience You.

This Kind of Faith

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And Jesus said to him, “If you are able to believe, all things are possible to those believing.”  And immediately crying out, the father of the child said with tears, “Lord, I believe!  Help my unbelief!”  Mark 9:23-24 (The Interlinear Bible)

What I believe is always a choice.  People make different choices about what they believe every day.  And what we believe, what I believe effects my actions that follow.  I mean, I even have to make choices about what I believe when I read different translations of the Bible.  And it’s not that I can’t glean something from each of them, but some I can glean more from.  Like today’s Scripture.  Today’s Scripture gave me the choice to dwell on these interpretations:  “As far as possibilities go, everything is possible for the person who believes,” (GW) or “If you can!  All things are possible for one who believes,” (ESV) and the verse I shared above that most closely matches the Greek.  (I know that because I used a Greek/English interlinear Bible, not because of my “vast” Greek knowledge.)  So I have to sit down with You, Lord, and think “What are You really trying to tell me and get me to understand?”  And I have to make a choice in what I believe.

But let’s go back to the story for now.  You, Jesus, were walking back to your disciples.  They were surrounded by a throng of people.  I don’t think at this point it was a happy throng.  I think the scribes there were arguing loudly with the disciples.  I think the common people were worked up.  Everyone was pressing in on the disciples.  I get this sense of oppression and have a feeling that at this moment, the disciples were feeling rather overwhelmed and at their wits end.  But isn’t it always like You to enter when we are finally coming to the end of ourselves.  

Why all the ruckus?  A father has brought his son to the disciples.  His son has a real major problem.  It’s more than your ordinary problem.  He’s possessed by a demon.  It’s a violent demon that is intent on harming the boy.  The Greek word used for “tearing” him carries these meanings :” break, wreck, crack, to sunder, shatter, disrupt, lacerate, and convulse.”  So imagine this boy convulsing that violently and foaming at the mouth.  And the father says it’s wasting him away.  The Greek here means to dessicate.  It was like he was being dried up and totally drained of anything that represented himself- no emotion, no intellect, maybe no more self.  This father was loosing his son.  This demon was taking him over.  And he wanted his son back.

But the disciples couldn’t help.  Even though they had been anointed to cast out demons and heal people, they were insufficient here.  And Jesus, You show up at just the right divine moment.  Funny thing is, the people are probably fearful at this boy with his demon and then You show up.  And Scripture says they were immediately amazed when You show up.  Ekthambeo, “great amazement” actually means to be thrown into great terror or amazement.  And this is the people’s response to just seeing You.  So maybe the question is being posed, “Who do I fear?”

So, why couldn’t the disciples cast out this demon?  Was there a problem with what they feared?  Well, here You step in and You put Your finger on the problem.  “How unbelieving you people are!  How long must I stay with you?  How long do I have to put up with you?”  Well thank goodness that one of Your eternal characteristics is longsuffering, patience, because You certainly need it with us!  The problem was that they were “apistos.”  They were without faith.  They didn’t believe.  They didn’t know what to believe.   They didn’t know who they believed.  And they didn’t have the power to believe.  And it wasn’t that the disciples hadn’t been given the power, but they didn’t know how to use that power.  They didn’t recognize the function and enormity of the power they had from You.

You command them to bring the boy to You.  Even the demon recognized You.  He started to tear the boy more violently.  And this has been going on for a long time.  Because I don’t believe he’s a child any more.  I believe this is a young man or youth who has been tormented since his childhood.  This demon has been throwing him into the water and fire to try to destroy him.  And now this father has heard of You, Jesus.  And he’s come to Your disciples.  And in that crowd, amongst all the “legal” arguing and panic, he cries out to You.  In a riotous crowd, this father gets your attention.  

“If you have any power, have compassion on us, and help us!”  That’s his plea.  And that’s important.  Because, just now, the disciples and everyone else were powerless.  This is the word “dunamai” which stems off of the word “dunamis” which is the awesome miracle working power that is inherent in You.   This man is looking for someone with the real power.  And You are It.  

Your answer is really important too.  “If you are able to believe…”  There’s that word again, “dunamai.”  If you have the power to believe…  Well, where does one get the power to believe?  Where does that power come from?  The father knew right away where the power came from.  “As soon as he heard that, he cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”  Jesus, You alone are the source of our power, of power itself.  

“If you are able to believe, all things are possible to those believing.”  It’s not even believing that my son will be healed.  It’s not believing that my friend will be healed or my provisions met the way I think they need to be met.  It all starts with believing that You have the power to do whatever needs to be done.  It’s all about believing that You are the source of all power, that You are the Answer, that You are the Only One with the power to get the job, every necessary job done.  It’s about knowing that Your power is greater than the demon’s.  Your power is greater than that of the disciples.  Your power is above every power.  If I believe that, then there is no end to the opportunities You will have to show Yourself powerful in my life.  Why?

Because it doesn’t matter how much the demons yell and flare around me.  I’m watching You lay Your hand on the situation and lift it up.  In the midst of mayhem, my eyes are on You and how You are touching the situation and the demons are drowned out and become insignificant as I watch You raise my son in newness of life.  

I can’t help but think about when the disciples asked You why they couldn’t cast the demon out.  And You answered, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”  And I’m wondering if that has nothing to do with what kind of demon but everything to do with what kind of power comes forth from us.  What if it means, “This kind of power can come forth only by prayer and fasting.”  So what’s so important about prayer and fasting?

Prayer isn’t just talking to You.  It’s listening.  It’s taking what I’ve learned and sharing it back with You and working it out.  Sure, it’s asking You to intercede, but it’s also where we come to grips with what we really believe about You.  And fasting is when we become desperate for You more than for the physical.  It’s when You become our food and water.  It’s when we individually step aside and into You to eat of the bread and drink of the wine that is You.  This is when our relationship becomes the most personal with You.  And that’s where the power is found.  In You.  When our source of power is You, You come forth and show Yourself.

I want to say, “You wouldn’t believe how personal this is today and how well orchestrated this message is today, even about prayer and fasting and power and fear.”  But the truth of the matter is that You would believe, because You orchestrated it.  And I pray that I would learn the lesson to seek You as though my life and power depended on it.  That I would live a life characterized by time spent with You in prayer and fasting.  That I would live a life characterized by fearing You above everything.  That I would live a life characterized by Your power flowing through me.  I want that kind of power because I want that kind of closeness with You.  I want to know You that well.  I want You to be that close with me.  I don’t want to be faithless.  I don’t want to be powerless.  Because You live inside of me so how can I be powerless?  That would be an oxymoron.  So let me live, I mean really live in You.  This kind of faith, this kind of power can’t help but flow from You.  And You live in me.  So, really, if I’m living out what I believe, this kind of power can’t help but flow out from me.  I believe.