“Life is Like a Box of Chocolates…”(F.G) or a Bag of Balloons…

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“Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?”  Acts 4:25, Psalm 2

So, today’s a sidetrack but not a sidetrack.  Life happens in the midst of our devotions and meditations and diverts us, not from meditating, but sends us deeper into prior meditations.  So that’s where I’m dwelling right now.

Not long ago, I was memorising Psalm 2:   “Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine vain things.  The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take council together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us.’  He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.  Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.  ‘Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.’  I will declare the decree: ‘The Lord has said unto me, You are my Son; this day have I begotten You.  Ask of me, and I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.  You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’  Be wise now therefore, O you kings: be instructed, you judges of the earth.  Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.  Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.  Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

At first read, maybe that sounds depressing and harsh.  I mean, it talks about the Lord dashing the heathen to pieces and breaking them with a rod of iron.  That’s harsh.  That sounds “Old Testament”-ish.  It doesn’t apply today, right?

Well, maybe we haven’t been reading it rightly.  Because this is the same scripture that the new believers referred to as they were rejoicing following some of their first persecution after Peter and John healed a man by the power of Jesus (Jesus-that one that God was ultimately referring to through David’s words, the one He has set on His holy hill of Zion).  So, I want to see where Peter and John and the new believers go with this.

Peter and John had been heading to the temple in Jerusalem, and on their way this day, there was a man crippled from birth laying outside one of the main gaits for entering the temple, the Beautiful Gate.  There he was, asking for alms, because that was the only way he had of making a living.  Peter and John, didn’t just have compassion on this man but they listened to the Holy Spirit on how to show that compassion.  They had no money to give him.  They had something better.  Peter didn’t just see this beggar man.  He fastened his eye on him, and John did as well.  There was something greater going on here.  Then they told the man to heed them, not just look at them.  So he did, but only expecting money.  But, that wasn’t what he got. 

“Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”  And Peter took him by the right hand, lifted him up, and he lept and walked and entered the temple with them praising God.  Everybody saw.  So why didn’t everybody believe?

Sometimes, we all get so caught up in anger and in imagining and striving toward things that are just vain, just empty.  We get so caught up, we can’t see the truth in front of our own eyes.  The truth is that there is Someone reaching out to us who is able “to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” (Ephesians 3:20)  If only we would let that power work in us…

Life is like a bag of balloons.  Well, that’s rather “Forrest Gumpish, isn’t it?  But I’m a balloon twister sometimes.  And my whole bag of balloons is really useless unless I fill them with air and form them into balloon creations.  What good is a bag of balloons that just stays a bag of balloons.  Here in the heat of the Philippines, they will just degrade before long.  Then what good were they, unless I let them be filled with air and shaped and molded and allow them to bring joy to others.

God’s whole goal is for us to be “filled with the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19)  Our problem is that we’re too busy occupying ourselves with things that just keep leaving us empty.  We keep our imaginations and thoughts and strivings on things that can’t fill us, and never will.  The truth is, knowing the Son is the only way to know the Father.  Knowing the Son is the only way to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”  (Psalm 2:12)

One of the things these verses from Psalm 2 and Acts 4 reminds me is that there are hard things in life.  But even in the midst of difficulty, God’s fullness in Christ brings power, prayer, and praise.  Look at Peter.  Look at John.  Look at the lame man.  Now see the glory of Psalm 2 for yesterday and today and forever:  “Lord, thou art God, which has made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:  who by the mouth of your servant David has said, ‘Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?  The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.  For of a truth against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever your hand and your counsel determined before to be done.  And now Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word, by stretching forth your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of your holy child Jesus.”  And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:24-31)

Do I believe that God is in control of every circumstance in my life, even the bad?  Do I cry for escape or is my greatest prayer for boldness to proclaim the wonder and power of God?  Who am I like?  Where are my thoughts focussed?   Lord, may my thoughts be focussed on you no matter what kind of chocolate I pull from the box.

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The Same Way of Thinking Part 1

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“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”  1 Peter 4:1-2

Christ suffered in the flesh.  I’m supposed to think the same way as You, Jesus.  What does that mean?  Paul banked his whole being on this thought and encouraged us to do so as well.  “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (Philippians 3:8-12, 14-15) 

Being human, being in the flesh, means suffering, whether I am a believer or not, but especially as a believer.  Why?  This flesh is not my forever home.  This flesh is wasting away.  I know that.  I was a baby once.  I was a toddler.  Then I was a child, a teenager, a young adult, and now, not to0 far off of being a senior.  We all age.  We go through aches and pains.  We wrinkle.  We can’t do what we could when we were younger.  Why spend my life satisfying what can’t be satisfied in this life?  Why live feeding an appetite that will never be full?  When living for God in Christ satisfies our deepest longing, when that was what I was created to do, why not live for God with all of my being and count everything else as loss that doesn’t matter, to gain what truly does?  The good news is that God, in Jesus and by the power of His Holy Spirit, helps me to think like this, like Jesus.  Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because of His suffering, and because of His new life, I can know God personally and experience His power, which empowers me just as it did Jesus to walk in Him, to live in Him, to suffer in Him.

Maybe that sounds hopeless, but it’s anything but hopeless!  It’s because of the truth of the hope we have in God that allows us to press on when things seem unbearable.  Paul exhorted the believers in Thessalonica, “…we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.  And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.  For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.  For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved…” (1 Thessalonians 2:12-16)  How can I do this?  How can I think like this and live victoriously in the midst of suffering?  How can I want to?

I accept the word of God that I am encouraged here by as exactly that—the word of God.  I treat the word of God as truth, the final word of truth.  I bank my life on it.  I bank my joy on it.  I bank my eternity on it.  I even bank the lives of those around me on it.  And I let God have His way in me through it.  I let Him work in me as a believer as I walk in belief.

Peter brings it all together.  “For to this you have been called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)  “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…” (1 Peter 3:18)  “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1,2)  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

Why allow myself to suffer for Christ?  Because You suffered for me.  You suffered becoming man even though You are one with God.  Why?  For God’s glory and my redemption.  You counted the losses to You all as more than worth it for the glory that was to be revealed in the outcome You knew God had promised.  You call me to have that same mind set. 

Lord, let me look forward to Your final restoration of me, the full restoration of me, instead of trying to restore myself.  Let me look to Your confirmation of me and stop trying to confirm myself.  I’m so blind to my own faults and inadequacies.  How can I perfect myself when I am by nature imperfect?  I need someone who is perfect to perfect me.  Hmm.  That only leaves You!  Let me look to You to strengthen me, because my idea of strength has been skewed by the world.  Let me be established by You, because otherwise, I’m like a house built foolishly on the sand.  I don’t want to seem established here in this world.  I want to BE established for all of eternity.  I want to be all of this in You and by You no matter what it takes.  Let me honestly come to the point where I would count everything else loss, and accept my suffering as a gift to draw me closer to You and make me more like You.  Thank You that I am never alone in my suffering.  No believer is.

True Colors

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“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…” 1 Peter 3:18

How can I “put up with” suffering for doing the will of God?  How can I go even farther and rejoice in it like Paul and Silas when they were beaten and thrown into prison?  Maybe I should keep reminding myself that Jesus suffered too.  Only You, Jesus, went a step farther.  You had no sin, so there was no part of you that should have been punished for your sins.  Of all righteous people upon the earth, not even Noah and Moses could compare to You.  So when You suffered once for sins, it was for our sins that You chose to suffer and accept that suffering.  So what do I have to whine about?

I am righteous in you, because of you, but I’m not righteous in and of myself.  Your love for us and love and honour of your heavenly Father were so great that you bore our deserved suffering that you didn’t deserve so that you might bring us to God.  You were put to death in the flesh.  It was wholly you that was beaten and crucified and died that day.  Your flesh, your body, your emotions know the feelings and experience of that pain and sorrow and what it is like as a human to die an excruciating death. 

But you are more than flesh.  You were man, and God, Emmanuel, God with us.  There is more than flesh to you.  There is the Spirit of God.  Flesh can die, but the Spirit of God is eternal.  The Spirit of God is immeasurably more far-reaching.  You said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)  Flesh can only go where humans tread, but spirit can go anywhere.  They killed your flesh, but your spirit continues what it started.  You are no longer alive in the flesh.  Your flesh wasn’t even found in the tomb!  But God made you alive in the spirit!  In the spirit, you continue to do your work and proclaim the victory of God.

Truth is, I find these words in Scripture confusing.  And Bible scholars don’t all agree on exactly what Paul is saying here.  I can’t help read it and think it’s both about you, Jesus, and us.  That you suffered to bring us to God, us who are called to put to death our flesh and be made alive in the spirit.  I acknowledge that you were put to death in the flesh according to God’s plan.  But you were also already alive in the spirit, weren’t you?  Did God have to make you alive in the spirit?  John said, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.”  That sounds to me like you were already alive in the spirit.  But you were confined to fairly temporal aspects of living in a body, though you could walk on water, and perform miracles.  You submitted to having a physical body.  You kept yourself under subjection, willingly.

But then death set the spirit free!

And when your spirit was free to be fully alive and free, what did you do?  You went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison.  Who are they?  Scholars have some disagreement over this as well.  Is it fallen angels, demons who disobeyed in a different way than others?  Is it all those who didn’t obey at the preaching of Noah?  Does it matter?  Could it be all of them?  Isn’t it right that Jesus’ victory that God had planned and declared since the beginning of creation is proclaimed to all the living and the dead?  There is no excuse when we stand on the day of judgment, is there?

Well, how do they know?  They were alive before Jesus.  How can they be held accountable?  What if Jesus’ proclamation included the evidences they ignored?  What if none of us are guiltless?  What if the evidence is all around us, we just don’t want to see it?

But here’s the good news for us who are still alive- Jesus is alive!  His spirit lives.  If I’m living in some prison of my own making, disobeying God now, I can listen as he proclaims the love of God for me!  I can bind myself with him, in him in faith and trust and allow him to do more than just proclaim the good news to me.  I can let him bring me freedom from my prison.  I don’t have to be ruled by my flesh or this world.  He, by the power of God, through the Holy Spirit, can guide me to put my flesh to death and be made alive in the spirit of God.  I can obey.  I can be like those 8 people who were saved from the flood in the ark.  “[T]hrough the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him,” (1 Peter 3:21,22) 

What are you worth to me, Jesus?  What is God worth to me?  Would I be willing to die to my self to live in You?  Would I be willing to let go of my self control, the natural desires of my own flesh, to let You give me new desires, new life, a new spirit?  Is my love superficial or real?  I suppose only life and suffering will show my true colors.  I pray that they will come out matching yours.

Dry Bones Among Dry Bones

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“And He said unto me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, You know.’” Ezekiel 37:3

 
Dry bones. It makes me think of the scenes in the desert where there’s a totally parched and bleached cow skull. Those are dry bones. And here is Ezekiel seeing a whole valley full of these dry bones only they aren’t cow bones or dinosaur bones or any kind of animal bones. Here is a valley full of dry human bones. They’re parched like the ones imagined in the desert.

 
But I don’t think it’s about the state of the bones. When Scripture here uses the Hebrew word for dry, it’s yawbash, which means dried, dried up, or withered. These bones aren’t withered. They’re dry and parched but not withered. But something else that ought to be tied up with them is dried, dried up, and withered. The life that used to be attached to them has withered away.

 
It’s interesting how I just heard a message this Sunday and it brought up the same word, wither, only from a different Hebrew word. Listen to Psalm 1 for a little while. “Blessed is the man that doesn’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law he meditates day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper.” I can’t help but think that God was stressing this same picture in Ezekiel’s head even more vehemently.

 
In one picture is a river which gives life to the tree. From that life giving river, the tree is able to live and bear fruit in appropriate times and do abundantly that which it was created to do. In the other picture we have these vehemently dry bones that are missing the life that animates them. Why? Did they not plug in to the source? Is the source for life in the bones the same as the source of life for the tree? If a tree is removed from the river it withers and dies. If the person is removed from the Source of life, will it wither and die?

 
In Genesis 2:7 “man became a living being.” He didn’t just become it on his own. God created him that way and set him there by the river of Himself. Man was endowed with will, emotions, mind, body, and spirit. This way that God created man, is the same way he shows up through His word to the prophets. Just like God made “personal life [happen in that lump of formed dirt]”, God makes life happen in dried out bones. And just like God made personal life happen in a lump of dirt and dried out bones, this personal life is made to happen through His word, because it’s actually through His word, that what comes or has come or will come is being spoken and emitted by His very own “lips”. He is all it takes to make life.   Do I understand the immensity and power that lies in the word of God? I need to meditate and think on this more. Wow! It’s just unparalleled.

 
What could this mean? Could this mean that every tree and every bone, meaning every person was created to be a vehicle for manifesting God in this world? Were these dry bones created for something more than being dry bones? Were we created and equipped to reveal God’s glory by revealing His life? What does it mean to be created in His image? Can we live out that image without drinking in His life giving water? Can we live out that image without His life daily transforming and empowering us through His living word?

 

Life isn’t some abstract idea or thing. It’s real and it’s only found in Him. Without Him we have limited life, but not full life. We’re like walking zombies just waiting for our flesh to fail and our bones to become dried out. That’s not the image of God. God is LIFE. If I’m not in Him, I have no life. I’m just a dry bone laying in a valley thinking I’m all that.
If I am alive, truly alive, than that means that I am living out and being what God intended for me. That means that I am living out my purpose in God.

 

Let me state that again. God is Life. It’s just like Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by me.” Life isn’t what I define it to be. Life is what God defines. Life is God. That’s why God said, “‘I AM THAT I AM:’ and He said, ‘Thus shall you say unto the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent Me unto you.’” (Exodus 3:14) “I AM THAT I AM” is all about life and being the self-existent One. How do you start trusting God?  God tells us just like He does the children of Israel. “Start trusting the Self-Existent One, the One who is Life and gives life and takes life away by His mere presence or removing us from His presence. Start realizing who makes us be.

 
I love the way Ezekiel answers Your question, God. “O Lord God, you know.” That makes me think of Peter when Jesus kept asking if he loved him. Peter said, “You know, Lord.” And the truth is, You do know our hearts and lives and whether we are glorifying You from the inside to the outside. You know us so intimately that You form and impart to us everything we need for living. You know if we are living or walking around like dry bones.

 
So how do I walk in life? How do I glorify You? Maybe I have to listen with Ezekiel a little more. Maybe I too have to “Hear the word of the Lord.” “I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” How badly do I want life? How much am I willing to trust Your word, Lord? Is Your word a part of my life? Is it imparting life to me? Do I listen? Do I live it? Do I depend upon it for my nourishment and growth and to enable me to bear fruit? Do I allow You to create and establish my body, my person, my essence, my thoughts, my everything? Are You the One laying my sinews on me? Are You the One that I depend on to bring up the flesh on my bones and cover me with skin, and put not just any breath into me, not even my own, but Your breath into me? Because it’s not until I learn to be created fully by You and in You that I’ll ever learn to fully live. And it’s not until I learn to be created fully by You and in You that I’ll actually really know You like You know me.

 
If I want to live and not be a dry bone, then I have to enter into Life and it’s not a thing, it’s a person who has always been and always will be. John 17:3 tells us, “and this is life eternal, that they might know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” Life isn’t about knowing about God. Life is about being in God through Jesus Christ who has made the way for us. But we must not be like those who erred, because they didn’t know the scriptures or the power of God. (Mark 12:24) And when Jesus said that, He was talking to people who should have known but they weren’t letting God impart His life to them His way.

 

What kind of fruits am I bearing? Are they fruits recognizable to God because He made me able to bear them? Or are they my own dead fruits? Where is my faith today? Is it sucking it’s being from dry ground? Is it like a dry, parched bone devoid of real life? God knows. John 5:42 tells me that God knows me so intimately that He knows if I have the love of God in me or not. He’s not just talking about if I love God with this emotional feeling or the head knowledge. He’s talking about whether I love God and know Him and get my life from Him. Unless His life is flowing into me as my life source, I don’t have the love of God in me. It’s something that must enter me from God Himself. I don’t make it on my own.

 

Without Him, without His love and His life, I am just dry bones among dry bones in a lifeless valley. If God’s word has no place, no home, no resting and dwelling place in me, then I am lost and dry and lifeless. It’s not about knowing and memorizing God’s word and being a fact machine. It’s about knowing God and letting His words and ways and being have it’s place in me, in all of me. My life and your life were designed as dwelling places of God, as dwelling places for His word to live from. Lord God, there’s nothing I want more that than to let You have Your place in me forever. Set me free from the danger of the dry bones. Set me free in Your life.

To Untwisted Humility

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Photo credit to bibleplaces.com

 

“Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude: ‘Whom are you like in your greatness?’” Ezekiel 31:2

 
Maybe that’s a question we all ought to ask ourselves. “Who am I like in my ‘greatness’?” First of all, who am I comparing myself to? Am I really comparing myself to Greatness itself? Who am I lining myself up with? Do I think more of myself than I ought?
Maybe Pharaoh should have thought more about who he was comparing his greatness to. I mean, it wasn’t like he wasn’t great. Egypt had been a world power and then had been subjugated by Assyria but had made a comeback. Smaller nations looked to them as great again. The Expositor’s Bible says that verse 3, where it tells about the Assyrian, should be translated as “T’asshur,” which is the name of the sherbin tree, which was a cedar in Lebanon that was unrivaled among the other stately forest trees.

 
Egypt was like that great tree. But how did he get like that great tree? How did he get to be so great like this cedar in the garden of God that the others “could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his bough, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty”? Was he so great and beautiful for himself? If so, why is the picture of God’s garden? Was everything in God’s garden created for it’s own esoteric majesty? Or was it created from and for the majesty of something greater?

 
Who made Egypt great? Who made the greatness of the cedar? “I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him.” Who said that? God. God had made him, Egypt, so great that others noticed and envied his greatness. God did it. God made Egypt great because all greatness comes from God. Without God there is no greatness.

 
What happened to Egypt. “Therefore thus says the Lord God; ‘Because you have lifted up yourself in height, and he has shot up his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height; I have therefore delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen; he shall surely deal with him: I have driven him out for his wickedness.’” What was the wickedness? It was puffing up his own greatness and forgetting where all good things and therefore all great things come from.

 
Let me think about that. “His heart is lifted up in his height.” His heart. That’s not just about his emotions. That’s about his mind, will, and emotions. It’s the part that drives the way I think and the actions I take. It’s the me of me. Only here it’s the me not as I was created to be, but the me that I desire to make myself to be. It’s the me that I lift up, that I raise. It’s when I exalt myself, my ways, my will, my emotions above God’s. It’s a haughtiness and pride. It’s presumptuousness and pride. It’s setting myself up. Actually, Strong’s Concordance says the word ruym even means to breed worms. Yep, I think when this is my philosophy of life, as it was for Pharaoh, it’s truly creating a can of worms. And when you think about it, being a worm isn’t something to be proud of.

 
When David cries out, in words that expressed his heart and humbleness before God, in words that also spoke prophetically from the heart of the Messiah, we hear, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Here’s David, king of Israel, a worm? It’s a different word than ruym. It’s tola, and a more of a maggoty type of worm used to dye clothes scarlet. Think about that. Did David see himself as something great in himself? Obviously not at this moment. Shortly after this in Psalm 22:8 he continues, “He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver him: let Him deliver him, seeing He delighted in him.” God was his establisher and rescuer. And what of Jesus? I mean, come on, Jesus was the Son of God. You can’t get much higher than that? How did Jesus’ heart handle that knowledge? How did He handle that pat on the back, that commendation?

 
Let’s look at that question. How can I look at how Jesus, the Son of God, the Top Dog of top dogs, handled His authority and His power? How can I be put into a proper perspective of my own life from His? Paul thought about this. He shared his thinking with others. He lived by this thinking, this understanding and fellowship with Christ in God. As a matter of fact, he calls it encouragement in Christ. He calls it encouragement in Christ that gives comfort from love and that is all about participation with the Holy Spirit, affection and sympathy, completeness of joy, unity of mind and love. It’s devoid of selfish ambition or conceit. Wow, that’s just the opposite of Pharaoh’s problem, isn’t it? It counts others as worth more than myself and lifts their significance above mine, which must mean that I’m thinking about God’s significance more than mine.

 
It’s not like I don’t have concerns for myself. I still need food and shelter and love and other things. But it’s not just about me when I look through God’s perspective. I’m not alone. There’s this world with others in it affected just like me, with needs just like me, and maybe even greater. It’s bigger than me and better than me and interrelated with others. But it’s not just about us either. This whole encouragement is that it’s all wrapped up in God. And I can’t get the true gist of life without understanding how to look at it and understand it through the mind of Jesus Christ. If I don’t think like Him about it, my whole view of myself and others and the world and God will be distorted. So how did Jesus think about it?

 
Jesus, who was God, didn’t stop to think about whom He was like in greatness. Jesus kept His eyes on the greatness of God. His whole desire was to make much of God. And that is so fascinating. Why? Because He was God!  Here He was in the form of God, only He didn’t cling like glue to that as His claim to fame. His equality wasn’t what floated His boat. You know what He valued? God. He humbled Himself and emptied Himself. He lowered Himself to take on the form of a servant, of a man. Imagine that!  Jesus, God in human form, lowered Himself to come through the birth canal of a woman! That’s pretty inglorious and undignified if you ask me, I mean for the God of the universe? It’s an amazing process for us, after all, we’re worms, but God?

 
So here Jesus was, with us humans looking on, and counting Him, you know, God, as one of us. And we didn’t even realize the wonder of it all, the majesty of who was walking with us. But instead of being angry at us, instead of retaliating in His pride, He humbled Himself and became obedient to God the Father unto death, even that terrible death on the cross. Where was His pride? Where was His authority? Where was His heart? Obviously, not lifted up in Himself but lifted up in His Heavenly Father and lifting us up to Him.

 
So what does God, the Heavenly Father do? He highly exalts Him. He lifts Jesus up and makes Him the Height of heights. He makes Jesus the tallest tree, to which all else bows, whether of earth or of heaven. This is the attitude of the Lord. This is the attitude of the true King. This is the heart that God exalts, one who understands and lives in the humility of knowing Who we really belong to and Who is really sovereign.

 
I don’t work in me to make myself anything of eternal value. Oh, I could raise myself in the status of this world, but it won’t give me status in God’s eyes. Only God can do that and I can only get there through submission and humility to Him. And if I am truly learning to be humble before my God, then my life will demonstrate humility before others. Pharaoh should have worked out his own salvation with fear and trembling, meditating on the God who delivered the Israelites in such a powerful way. But he, like many of us, ignored the truth, and was too busy working things out his own way, in his own strength.

 

We still live in a crooked and twisted generation, but today is the day that we can untwist and get back to what we were created for. Today is the day that I can be a light shining in a twisted world to show it how to untwist. Today is the day that I can uncorrupt my thinking and my living and humble myself before my Maker and follow Christ into the heart of God. And I can be a part of leading others to His heart and out of corruption. Why? Because it’s not about me. “For it is God which works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) I’m God’s workmanship, not my own. I’ve got nothing to boast in outside of Him. I wouldn’t even be here without Him. My prayer is that my heart- my mind, my will, and my emotions- would be conformed to Your heart. May You be exalted in my life and may my life boast of You before the world. May Your greatness be my glory.

Authority and the Universe

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Photo credit to grand_universe_by_antifan_real1.jpg

 

“He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power…” Hebrews 1:3

 

Well, I’m still thinking about what it’s like in Your eyes, God, for me not to be rebellious. And today I’m thinking about more of what Watchman Nee shared about You. He takes me back to Hebrews 1:3, “He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power…” Now, to think that it’s just by His power and shear force isn’t the idea here, is it? Isn’t it “by the word of His power”? What does that mean? Does that mean by His authority? And in His authority, is His power demonstrated through His works?

 
Authority is crucial. This is telling us that God is the only authority in all the universe. To act otherwise, or to think otherwise is rebellion. I remember the story, that true story of the roman centurion who came to Jesus that day because his beloved servant was dying. And he knew what it was to be an authority over others. But he also knew what it was to be under authority. Because of that, he understood how Jesus only had to speak and it would be done. Why? Because he knew that Jesus had the authority from God. Therefore, he knew that Jesus had the power to go with it. And Jesus made this statement of the centurion, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:9) I wonder if Jesus would find that kind of faith not only in the world today, but in the church, the body of Christ?

 
Remember what Watchman Nee said? “Sin is a matter of conduct; it is easy to be forgiven of sin. But rebellion is a matter of principle; it is not easy to be forgiven of rebellion.” This is such an important lesson to learn. If I can learn this, I can learn anything. Satan fell to the principle of rebellion through self-exaltation. He violated the throne of God by trying to set up his own throne higher. The principle came before the fall. The principle was the cause of the fall. Rebellion was the song of his heart, rebellion against the authority of God. That’s why he was condemned. He refused to submit and still refuses. It’s a matter of principle for him. Isn’t it always?

 
Therefore he tries to make it a matter of principle for us too. That’s why he doesn’t want us to submit to Christ’s authority. If I do, then my principles will change. I can’t serve two masters and I can’t live with opposing principles. Maybe what I have to realize is who the kingdom really belongs to. Is it God’s or does it belong to a usurper? If it’s God’s kingdom and His creation then it is truly and only under His authority. No one can steal that from Him. Will I submit fully to His authority? Or will I run around as though the kingdom is of my creation? Isn’t that shear foolishness?

 
What does it mean to preach the Gospel? Isn’t that bringing others under God’s authority? To do that, don’t I have to be under God’s authority first? How can I establish God’s authority on earth, you know, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” if I don’t already know and submit under Your authority?

 
Isn’t that the whole issue? Isn’t that the principle being fought over daily? Who has the authority? Who gets to determine if abortion is right or wrong? Who gets to determine if I can slaughter others because they don’t hold to my religious tenets? Who gets to tell me what I can or can’t do? Who gets to tell me what is evil or good? Who has the right to control me?

 
In all the universe, who has authority? Is authority with me who has no ability to create something from nothing? Is authority with me, the created? Or is authority with God, the Creator and Sustainer? And if authority is with God, then I must choose to submit myself to His authority and uphold it.

 
Watchman Nee related the story of Paul and Ananias. Remember Paul? He was following his own authority and the religious authority but unwittingly rebelling against God’s authority. But on the road to Damascus, he met God’s authority face to face. He realized it. Instead of pressing on and continuing to “kick against the goads” he asked, “What must I do?” He submitted. And God sent him to a house to wait. Then we have one of the most powerful, intelligent men of his time (yes, that’s Paul), being ministered to by this small, insignificant brother named Ananias. Yet, Paul submitted to this brother. He was no longer ruled by self-confidence. He let Ananias be used to remove his blindness instead of holding onto it in his pride. In his brokenness, he was learning to submit. Have I understood brokenness yet? Do I know what it is to submit? Do I live as though I understand Your authority, God? How am I at submitting to those around me that You place in authority?

 
“God’s greatest demand on man is submission.” Think about that. It’s also the hardest, isn’t it? And with submission comes obedience. But neither will happen unless I get self out of the picture. I suppose submission is a principle but obedience is about conduct. Therefore, our obedience could be selfishly given. But obedience in submission is about living in the spirit. It’s about expressing and responding to God’s will and not mine.
The best example is to look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. If I want to see true submission to God’s authority and to understand obedience in submission, here it is. Sometimes we tend to emphasize that Jesus came to earth to pursue the cross. But that’s not true. Jesus came to pursue the will of God. The will of God led Him to the cross. He got to the cross because He was fully submitted to the authority of God. His full submission gave Him the right to be the sacrifice on the cross. Any lack of submission on His part would have nullified the efficacy of the cross. The efficacy of the cross was in the submissive obedience of Christ to the authority of God.

 
What was the most important thing to Christ? Was it the cross? We hear Him ask “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” But He waited and listened for the will of God. To Him, the cross was not absolute, but the will of God was. It had nothing to do with His own will. Obviously, He was agonizing over the thought of going to the cross. But He knew it wasn’t about His own preference. “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” If the cross was God’s will, then it was His will also. Is my will the principle I live by or am I making His will the principle that I live by?

 
What did Jesus mean when He said, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38)? Or when He told His disciples again in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”? Is that about suffering and sacrifice? Or is it really about denying self and coming under the authority of God by full submission to His will no matter the cost? Does it mean that God’s will becomes my will and that I no longer have a will aside from His? Does that mean that my feelings don’t matter if they don’t agree with His will? Does that mean that His authority, His principles, His desire, and His will mean more to me than my own feelings, my own desires, and my own life? It did for Jesus.

 
Watchman Nee shares, “A will is the representative of an authority. Hence, when submission comes from knowing God’s will, that submission is a submission to authority. If there is no prayer and no willingness to know God’s will, how can there be submission to authority?” Jesus demonstrated His submission in the garden. When He knew God’s will, He immediately submitted, “Arise, let us be going.” (Matthew 26:46) Because of Christ’s submission to God’s authority, the cross is the center of the universe. It’s the utmost example of upholding the authority of God (His will) above everything.
Learning to submit to God’s authority is not something to be taken lightly. It means everything to my walk as a believer. Do we forget to listen to Jesus’ very own words? “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) I have to do more than verbally and mentally acknowledge You as Lord. I have to submit to You as Lord of my life and all life. It’s not just to be used as a respectful title, this Greek word. It means to be supreme in authority, controller. If Jesus is my God, then I let Him be my God. If He is my Lord, then I let Him Lord over me. If He is my master, then He is truly my master. If this is who You are to me, then it is who You are all the time, every day, every moment.

 
If You really are Lord of me, then I don’t just do Your will because I’m following mandates. It’s really about this word I love, poieo. It’s like the art that flows out of an artist or the poem that flows out of the poet. It’s the will and pleasure of the Father that comes to flow out of me because You flow through me. If I say that You are my Lord and my will flows out and I call it Your will, it still isn’t Your will, but mine. Overturning Your authority is attempting to overturn You and it shows I don’t know You at all, because how can You be overturned? You are God. Acting on my own authority, my own will is rebellion and Scripture says it’s like the sin of “witchcraft, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry” ( 1 Samuel 15:23) because it’s rejecting God’s authority. Imagine what it would be like to have Jesus look at me and tell me He never knew me because all I ever did was do things my way instead of His? Imagine Jesus calling me lawless and telling me that I purposefully engaged in and ministered in wickedness. That’s what I’m doing when I don’t submit. That’s what I’m doing when I don’t hand absolute authority over to God.

 
I can’t have a true relationship with God without being truly submitted to His authority. Don’t be fooled. You can’t come to Jesus to get out of hell, if you don’t come to Jesus to live. Unless God’s authority becomes my life blood, I haven’t got life at all. Once I touch His authority, once I begin to understand it’s necessity in my life, then I can be conformed into His image, and then He can begin to use me as His instrument. This is when I begin to resemble Him as His very own child and not until then.

 
Working and living outside of God’s will isn’t a bad thing. It’s a tragic thing. It’s Satanic and we shouldn’t keep taking it so lightly. It’s the difference between life or death, blessing or damnation. Jesus wasn’t joking when He said that only those who do the Father’s will can enter the kingdom of heaven. Think about it. Think about Jesus as He walked on earth. Think about each situation. Think about the boat as He slept in the middle of the storm. Think about the kiss from Judas. Think about the agony in the garden. Think about disciples misunderstanding. Think about people saying mean things. Did Jesus account His response to His feelings? Did He just rotely shoot off a Scripture truth? Or did He know the heart of God, and did He seek the heart of God, before He responded? Is that how I respond to Your authority? Is that how I seek to know how You would want me to respond? Do You really control me or am I still letting my feelings and rights and hopes and dreams cling to control? Does my heart need to cry out, “Witchcraft! Stubbornness! Idolatry! Turn back! Turn back!”?

 
Whose side am I really on? Am I clinging to God’s authority and living in it and find comfort there no matter the circumstances? Or am I clinging to Satan’s rebellion. See, two things go hand in hand here: “believing unto salvation and submitting to authority.” I can’t separate the two or I’m not saved at all. I don’t get to trust or obey; it must be trust and obey. Sin is lawlessness and lawlessness is disrespect and disregarding God’s authority. It’s a matter of heart and attitude. Will I submit them both? Where am I? Whose side am I really on? What drives my conduct? Will You know me, Jesus, when I come before You, or will You not recognize me as Yours at all? I can know the answer now. I can know based on my submission to Your will each and every day. I can know by the life that flows out of me from You when You are truly Lord of me.

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.