Writing on the Wall

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Photo credit to Keith Patschka.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Personal Revelation

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Photo credit to Madeline Tejano Mostrales.

 

“…that the living may know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever He will, and sets up over it the basest of men.” Daniel 4:7

 
You would think that Nebuchadnezzar would have learned already. I mean, there was Daniel to interpret his dream that no one else in the kingdom could even tell, let alone interpret. What did Nebuchadnezzar gather from that? Well, he worshiped Daniel, fell prostrate before him. That’s definitely a humbling experience for him, but pretty much a “no-no” according to God. Yet he did come to the conclusion that Daniel’s God “is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets” (Daniel 2:47) That’s good to know and it’s good to put God at the top of the list, and know that God can do what the other gods can’t. But it’s also still saying that there are other gods even though God is the Top Dog. It seems as though Nebuchadnezzar still was giving himself lots of choices to run to, although Daniel’s God was the best of the best. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not arriving at the destination at all yet.

 
After that lesson, he raises up that larger than life image. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow down and worship it, are thrown into the fiery furnace, and come out unscathed. Nebuchadnezzar announces how their God “sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in Him…and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.” Now that was a novel idea for this polytheistic kingdom. These guys worshiped one God and only one God, while the world around them worshiped many. But what did the king learn? Obviously not that God was the only true God. But he did learn that there was “no other God that can deliver after this sort.”

 
Now, I don’t want to fault King Nebuchadnezzar more than any of us. Sometimes we are just as thick-headed and dull as he was. Sometimes, I suppose, it’s much easier to hedge our bets, and hold onto what we’re used to. Sometimes it’s easier to stick with tradition and not rock our boat or anyone else’s. Sometimes it’s easier to let someone else be bold and make a stand and just be the one to commend them. Sometimes it’s just easier to accept it all than to count the cost and take a side. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay where we are because it’s comfortable and we are in control. I mean, who really wants to admit that I’m really not in control? Who is ready to hand that control over so easily to a God who is all powerful and may decide to do things differently? Might as well hold on to the control. Then I can decide, right?

 
So now we come to chapter 4. And Nebuchadnezzar starts off by saying he’s telling this story and that he wants to tell about the wonder and might of that high God in his own personal life. We find that God sends another dream to Nebuchadnezzar. This time again, none of the counselors can interpret the dream except for, guess who? Daniel came in, yeah, Daniel is his real name, because the king admits he changed his name to Belteshazzar after the name of his own god. Maybe he was starting to realize the irony of that act. Because here was Daniel’s God continually showing Himself.

 
Now Daniel hears the dream. And what was his reaction?  He was devastated. It really bothered him. For an hour he was handling within himself what he knew. And the king saw but told him not to worry, but to interpret it. So Daniel told him that as great as he was, and as great as his kingdom was, that God was saying he was going to be driven from men and live among the beasts, not by other men, but by these angels, these watchers of the dream. He would be like a beast of the field, eating grass like the oxen, wet with dew, for seven years, until he acknowledged that God rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to who he will. And at the end of the seven years, when the king learned this lesson, he would be returned to his kingdom’s rule.

 
Did Nebuchadnezzar stave this off? Daniel counseled him, “break off your sins by righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.” But 1 year later the king was walking and thinking of his kingdom and shared, “Isn’t this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” Boom! A voice from heaven, (yes, this is dramatic! but God is that way) “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken; ‘The kingdom is departed from you…” And the dream was fulfilled that same hour. Nebuchadnezzar was driven from men, ate grass like the oxen, his body was wet with dew, his hairs grew like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds claws.

 
Thank goodness he had good counselors that kept his kingdom during this time. Maybe Daniel was in charge and reminding them, “This is only for seven years and God will return him to his position. Let’s just keep everything going till then.” But at the end of those seven years, Nebuchadnezzar looked up instead of to himself, and became a thinking man again, and remembered God and blessed the most High, and “praised and honored Him that lives for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.” So what else did he learn? “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and no one can stay His hand, or say unto Him, ‘What are You doing?’ He learned that God is the King of heaven, all His works are truth and His ways just, and that those who walk in pride, He is able to abase.

 
And this is where we are left with Nebuchadnezzar. But maybe the question is, where does that leave me?  Am I left like Nebuchadnezzar acknowledging that God is the best choice among lots of choices? Do I acknowledge the wonderful things He does but refuse to surrender to Him alone? Do I keep seeing His hand in my life and lives around me, but I refuse to worship Him? Am I excited and living for moments and miracles instead of living for the One True God?

 
Daniel knew God. God shared things with him. God shared things with him in a way that flowed out to others. Nebuchadnezzar knew about God. He watched from the other side of the fence as God interacted with Daniel. But I even wonder if at the end, when Nebuchadnezzar felt the touch of God, if he just looked up or if he became His like Daniel. Was God his Counselor? Or did he remain his own final counsel?

 
Back in Daniel 2 the king had told Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”  Jesus, in both Matthew and Luke declares, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” The beauty of revelation is that even in the Old Testament to this pagan king, God was doing everything to make Himself known, not for His sake, but for the sake of Nebuchadnezzar and all the people under his influence.

 
I think of Paul, who was a persecutor of believers, who was like Nebuchadnezzar only puffed up in religious pride. But then God humbled him also, this great man by the world’s standards and probably his own. And he makes this statement, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8) And he’s not talking about knowing about Jesus. He really means KNOWING Jesus, and knowing Jesus so much that he would be found “in him, not having 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…I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own…Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (Philippians 3)

 
Yes, God uses even the basest of men and women, boys and girls. He puts us each where He wants us and for His purposes. I can’t explain it all and I never will be able. But I know that You, Lord, give every one of us the opportunity to know You if only we would humble ourselves before You. People may be angry, they may ask, “God, what have You done? What are You doing?” What’s the answer? “I’m trying to reveal myself to you, if only you would get it. Child, I’m doing everything just to reveal myself to you.”

The Right Frame of Thinking

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Photo credit from Alaska Fish & Wildlife News (2003)

“Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of whoredom is in the midst of them, and they know not the LORD.” (Hosea 5:4)

It’s not that I’m choosing things to depress here. I suppose I could choose all the flowery, happy feeling verses in Scripture and just share those. But if I were running toward the edge of an unforeseen cliff that would lead to my downfall or death, I’d certainly appreciate someone warning me and persuading me to turn from my desired path. Running off the edge to my death wouldn’t bring much happiness to me or my family. Turning and living out my days wisely and wonderfully would be a joyful thing. And maybe that’s what Hosea and God are trying to tell us. Maybe they are not trying to depress us but to call us back to a life of wonderful living in the One who created life to be lived to the fullest in Him.

Israel and Judah were running toward the edge of the cliff like lemmings. God was warning. You wanted them to live, not die. You wanted them to succeed, not fail. You wanted them to be victors, not defeated. The promise of Your Messiah was all about that. The promise of Your Messiah, trusting in You and Your provision, was all about Your people having life instead of death, joy instead of sorrow, provision instead of want, relationship instead of duty. Jesus shared Your heart (which is His!) when He told us, “The thief comes 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) That’s not just a little more abundantly. That’s actually super abundantly, excessively, over and above and beyond measure!

But instead, like Israel did, we revolt against that. We hide from You. We go after other ideas and things that can’t supply like that, things that have no real power. We take these powerless things and we give them power over our lives. We sell out to them. We hand over our lives and our thoughts and our families and our desires to things that steal from us, kill us, and destroy us and those around us.

Think I’m crazy? Think about it. A father kills his daughter. Why? Because she chooses a different religious belief. He sends his children off wearing bombs to kill others and be killed in the process. He still isn’t guaranteed paradise. They live to die, but is that really living?  Do they have abundant life? Do they receive joy in this? Or are they being robbed due to lies? They are being killed and destroyed all day. Their hearts are being made callous. Their ears being made deaf. They think they know God, but Allah is nothing like God. They don’t know, and they frame their doings after this thief instead of after a God who wants to love them superabundantly. They follow another spirit who kills and destroys, who is killing and destroying their own and using them to do it.

But what about us? What about the ordinary John Doe or Jane Smith out there? What about those of us who know about You and about what You care about and yet we toss it back in Your face. “I can do what I want to do as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else.” You know, that doesn’t really work. Even this pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar came to that conclusion. Listen to his words, “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.”(Daniel 4:37) And that’s the heart of our problem then and now. Pride.

Hosea tells us that Israel’s pride testified to his face. Pride closes eyes. Pride seals the ears. Pride changes the heart. Pride leads one to kill their daughter or their sons, not love. Well, what about Abraham, some might ask? Abraham didn’t want to kill his son. When Abraham lifted the knife, he was believing that His God, the True God, would make good His promise that through his seed, which was Isaac, He would make a nation. God can’t make a nation through a dead person. He has to be living. Abraham was trusting in a God of life NOW, not just later! He was thinking, “I must obey God because only in God is there life.” Abraham threw his pride out the door. His pride was in God and trusting in him. Now that’s faith! How many others would say, “No, God, that’s not a good idea. I think we need to do something else?” Well, that’s pride to think we know better.

Pride causes us to not frame our doings to Your doings God. We choose to not frame our thoughts with Your thoughts. We outweigh You which is such a ludicrous thought because the fullness of Your glory would just crush us; the weight of Your glory is unbearable. Let’s take this home a little closer to life.

I was reading a verse in Revelation this morning, Revelation 2:10 which says, “Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days: be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.” What does it mean to have tribulation ten days? I’ve read some commentators that talk about 10 periods of persecution. I don’t doubt that, but what if You are telling us that we as believers can expect persecution? And what if we are to expect that persecution to last for some definite period of our life? After all, all 12 of the apostles were persecuted, 11 unto death, and one was sent into isolation. Each of them was persecuted for a set time and maybe that set time is like ten days in comparison with the superabundant complete life that You have planned for each of them and for us. How else could Paul honestly say, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”? The reality is that there is life in You even in the midst of persecution on this earth. We don’t have to wait to live till we die. We just continue living more fully after we die. To live is Christ, and to die is even more of Christ.

What happens when life throws all kinds of hard things at us? Do I handle it my own way? Do I try to manipulate my way through? Do I try to manipulate other people? Do I think that I shouldn’t have to go through this? Do I think that things are too hard for me or this just shouldn’t be happening to me or to those around me? Because of those thoughts, do I frame my own response and design my own actions based on my thoughts and feelings? Or do I trash my pride and frame my response and my thoughts according to Your thoughts and Your feelings and Your promises? Does that even really matter?

Do I think that only atheists and those following Islam are rebels? What about me when I won’t frame my doings after Yours? What about me when life is tough? Or when life is not tough? Who is my life framed after, me or You? Jesus said, “I must be about My Father’s business.” What does that mean? It means to be about what the Father is about. It’s not just about what He does, it’s about who He is and what He thinks and how He feels. Jesus’s frame of mind and life was based on the Father’s frame of mind and life. And that is what we are called to whether we come from an atheistic background, or an Islamic background, from Buddhist, or Christian, or Agnostic, or Postmodernism, or whatever. This is what we are invited into.

What difference could this frame of belief make in my life? Let me share two stories. Nik Ripken is a missionary from Tennessee that’s lived and loved in some really dangerous countries. While ministering and living in a neighboring country from Somallia, his son died of an asthma attack. The believers their surrounded Nik and his wife and family with prayer and provision and even came over and sang them to sleep every night before the funeral. Nik had called an office to share what happened with a friend who was a co-worker. The co-worker was not a believer. When the co-worker heard the news there was no answer. Nik thought it strange but figured he had been called away from the phone.

What really happened was that his co-worker started walking that instant from Somalia, across the border to where Nik was. Five days later the co-worker shows up bedraggled and smelly at his door with these words, “I came to bury our son.” At the funeral, he unculturally sat between Nik and his wife, all the while watching the response and listening to the words of all the believers around him. This muslim man, took hold of Nik’s hand and his wife’s hand. He sorrowed with them. But through this and the way the believers here framed their doings in the midst of tragedy, he came to see the life that Christ had for him. He saw the LORD. He came to know the LORD. And when he returned to his country, in the office with his fellow-workers where Nik had not shared for fear of death, this man shared the life that he had seen offered before him that day in the midst of a funeral.  Do you know what those other muslim workers asked, “If you knew this, Nik, why didn’t you tell us?” This is what it looks like when we frame our thoughts and our life after the One who is LIFE. Remember, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6) And Jesus does not lie.

My second story is about a friend I love. It could be about any of us. It’s a story about any of us who go down the road of not liking our hardships and just wanting to get out of them. It’s the story about focusing on my own feelings instead of God’s glory. It’s a story about giving up instead of running the race to the end. Paul warned, “Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12) Later in the letter to Timothy, Paul shared of his own journey, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…” (2 Timothy 4:7) But this isn’t the story of hardship and a life lived fully I wanted to share. Paul’s story is Nik’s story if he continues in the faith. Paul’s story is the story of those believers in Nik’s life who kept their lives framed on Christ even to the last moment that it was taken from them to the point the what was once over 200 believers in Somalia became only 4 living believers remaining. Let us heed Paul’s warning.

If I don’t heed Paul’s warning, when life gets rough and my temporary hardships (temporary compared to eternity) become what frames my thinking and life, I quit. I quit on God. I quit on myself. I quit on my family. I go off the grid. I take care of things my own way. I abandon and rebel against Your frame of thinking and doing. I do it on my own, in my own strength, which I’ve probably just cried out to You saying, “Lord, this is too much for me! I can’t do it!” And then of all the stupid things, after saying it’s too much for me and I can’t do this, I take matters into MY OWN hands. Yes, I’ve been there and done that. And my friend has been there and done that. Only I reframed my thinking and got it back to Yours and my friend didn’t. My friend left the support of loved ones because Pride said, “You are a burden to others.” When he died or maybe took his life, there was no one there to pray with him, to hold him. The light that should have shone to encourage others, has become a discouragement. And yet, I believe that God can use my dear brother’s lonely story to save someone else from the cliff of a wrong frame of mind focused on self and suffering instead of on Him.

Here’s the truth that would have framed my brother’s thinking differently, or at least some of the truth (there is so much truth, how could I ever share it all!). “I am a burden to my brothers and sisters.” What a lie! Paul tells us in Hebrews 13:16 that God’s heart that should be in us is to “not neglect to do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Why is that pleasing to God? Why is that God’s mind frame? Because He does not neglect to do good for us and to share what He has with us, so it is a blessing for us to do the same. For me to share that blessing with a brother in need is for me to demonstrate that I have the mind of Christ by having the same heart and demonstrating it by my life actions. Brother, why didn’t You give me and others that blessing to love on You like our Lord wanted to?

We are all in need, sometimes in our life more than at other times. And some of us are in greater need than others. Those of us in Christ have had our greatest needs met, and because of that, when we are in a state of having goods and opportunities and see a brother in need, we are to reach out and share our goods and opportunities and love with him. Why? Because that is how God demonstrated his love for us. When Scripture says that “God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” it’s not just saying because we were rebels against God. It’s saying while we were empty, lost, filthy, and in need, and without even realizing how much so, He opened His heart toward us and invited us in. That is love. That is what we are called to. That is what we are invited into.

Why did the Israelites and my friend lose their right frame of reference? Why do I lose mine sometimes? Paul answers that in part. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We focus too much on ourselves. We forget how our life effects those around us. We forget how our life effects the glory of God before others. We focus too much on our own interests and too little on Yours God, or on the lives of those around us. Self-pity is a form of pride and pride just leads to destruction. Thank You that Jesus didn’t surrender to self-pity and pride. Thank You that Jesus, though so agonized over going to the cross that He sweated blood, loved You and loved us more so that in Your interest and ours He gave His life and said, “Not my will, but Yours.”

In Matthew 25, Jesus speaks to the proper and improper frame of thinking. It starts now, in this life, and not in heaven. Truth is, if we don’t think like God now, we won’t start to think like Him in the afterlife. It’s now or never. How do we handle caring for others now? Am I only thinking of my own hunger or do I notice others around me and care about feeding them? Am I only thinking about my own thirst or do I notice the thirsty around me and give them drink? Am I too worried about my loneliness or do I use it to help me see other strangers and lonely people and welcome them in. When I feel shamed and naked, do I see those around me being shamed and stripped and offer them clothing? When I am sick and hurting do I see those who are sick and hurting around me and lift them up and encourage them? When I feel imprisoned, do I notice the other prisoners and go to them?

Because if I have been delivered from any of these, then I know my Deliverer and I ought to be sharing the deliverance He gave me. And if I am in the midst of any of these trials, I need to be trusting in my Deliverer, even if it means trusting unto death. Look, I know it’s not easy, but the reward is ALL GAIN. Anything else, anything less is shear loss.
My brother may have surrendered his right to finish the race well. He finished. Maybe last. But he lost. He lost fellowship. He lost encouragement. He lost helping others. He lost meeting new brothers and sisters. He lost lots of life here and now. Not because he had to, but because he chose to frame his thoughts after his own thinking and not Yours.

He’s not alone. It’s a struggle many of us will go through or are going through right now. Multiple Sclerosis becomes so painful and constant and hard. You have to constantly focus rightly or it will guide your thinking. Constant back pain could do the same. Troubles from bullying or persecution from those who ought to be your friends. Problems with your children or problems with your parents or problems in your church or financial problems or other health issues like cancer or the loss of a loved one whether naturally or taken through violence are real. But how will we respond?

Hear this. Give ear. Don’t let it be a snare. Don’t let your own thinking and your own feelings be a snare. I know, I’ve been there. It’s not just about Israel or Judah or other nations. It’s about every man. We all have the tendency to be revolters. We all have a tendency to run like Adam and Eve from the Truth. We all have a tendency to frame our own doings and not turn to You, God. We all have a tendency to think we know You when we really don’t, because we won’t even agree with You.

Well, today is the day to choose to agree. Today is the day that I can hear the warning and avoid the cliff’s edge that leads to my destruction. Today is the day that I can choose to frame my thinking to Yours. But the choice is mine. What will I choose? Life or death? I can choose like Joshua did, to share the light of Life in my house and to my house and to all that are influenced by my house. What about you? Will you choose Light and Life no matter what or how you feel? Will your life somehow shine like Nik’s story? Or will you only choose Light and Life “if…” and leave your friends and loved ones feeling robbed and wishing you would have known the truth about how much you were loved? Are you even running the race yet? Jesus is inviting You because You can only finish well in Him. If You want Life, come to Jesus, because He is LIFE. Run in Him because He ran for you and He runs with us, that’s how we can cross the finish line no matter what. Frame your doings in Him and turn to Him who gives life super-abundantly.

Side note: Lemmings do not run off cliffs in mass suicide!  It was a Disney mis-truth made for a documentary.  Sometimes they migrate to where there is more food, and masses may dive into the water, but they can swim.  Sometimes they drown if they get too bogged with water.  You can check out the story under “Lemming Suicide Myth Disney Film Faked Bogus Behavior by Riley Woodford” and other places on the internet.  So, I don’t want to promote an urban myth now that I know it is one, but we’ll use that imagery for today.

The Immeasurable Value of Humility

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“The pride of your heart has deceived you…” Obadiah 1:3

Pride is a dangerous and destructive compeller. It’s more than an attitude and it’s deeper than character even though it’s both. It’s a driving force and seems to overtake whoever chooses to grasp it for their own. Once you grab, it seems to have you, and it’s awfully hard to shake loose from it once you realize how much it has a hold on you. But it can be done.

I wonder a lot about things. Now I’m thinking back on the time that Edom began, when Jacob and Esau were first born. They were twins within their mother’s womb. And they were so active in their mom’s womb that it was called “struggling together” and it really stressed her out so that she asked the Lord about it. And You already knew everything about those two baby boys, those leaders of two nations. One would be physically stronger than the other, yet the other would be under the rule of his “weaker” brother. And Esau started to come out first and was named, and as he was out, his brother, Jacob, had his little hand on Esau’s heal. Both babies were named according to how they looked or what they did as they came out. Esau-the rough one. Jacob- the heal catcher, supplanter.

 
I guess I just wonder how much of the boys’ attitudes were because it’s who they were and how much was because of the perceptions of the people around them. I mean, knowing Your words, that one would be stronger and one would rule the elder, wouldn’t it have been good to support that as something that could work together? I mean is it bad that Esau would be the strong one? And is it bad that the younger would have the better discernment to rule? What if Your words had been valued more than the traditions and desires of the forefathers or the parents? What if Isaac and Rebecca would have valued both abilities equally and shown the boys how to benefit each other by them? I wonder if that was an option? But I guess that’s a mute point, because it wasn’t the option taken.

 
And so many years later we have the fruit of the competition continually growing. We have a nation fighting continually against his brother nation because of pride. We have a brother deceived into thinking what he is doing is right, who thinks his strength is because of himself and due to his own making. We have a brother who doesn’t get that his strength is from the Lord and only true strength when he finally submits to God and his brother because that is Your design. He has come to worship his own strength and despising the God who gave it to him. He exalts himself like an eagle, but eagles can be brought down.

You didn’t say that there would be a stronger baby and the younger, weaker brother would rule if the stronger one was O.K. with that. You said, “This is how this will be.” Now, in anything You say, if we choose not to obey, or to disregard it and do it our own way, then we suffer the consequences that action naturally brings with it. We miss the blessing. The sad part here isn’t that it was just Esau’s choice. Their parents and society didn’t choose Your way either. That’s a hard concept to get that You get to choose who You will. That I might be called to serve someone else despite my “rights.” That I might have to use my gifts and talents to bring glory to something bigger than myself. That I might have to step into the background so someone else can be made much of by my strengths. What kind of crazy thinking is that, right?

So instead of choosing to fight for my brother, or my sister, or my husband, or my wife; instead of choosing to cover them and take the shame for their sake, I would choose to stand by like Esau and watch my brother be carried off. I would gloat over him or her getting what was coming to them. I would set them up for failure myself. I would watch and do nothing. I would rejoice when they hurt and suffered. I would gloat over how much I won in the divorce settlement. See, what You are sharing through Obadiah is prophetic. It happened and is still happening. It applies to the nation of Israel totally. But it also applies as a lesson in life to each of us. Because as Jacob and Esau go, so may we. Because it’s all about relationship.

Relationships based on us, fail. This was a relationship based on God. It should have flourished. But when we don’t line our thoughts up with Yours, this is what happens. Instead of lives filled with blessing and mutually beneficial relationships, we compete and hurt and damage and kill. But it didn’t have to be this way. And it doesn’t have to be this way now. The truth is, what goes around comes around. “[A]s you have done, it shall be done unto you: your reward shall return upon your own head.” Maybe keeping that thought in mind, would be enough to change our response to others. Do I want unforgiveness served back on my own head? How about bitterness? How about impatience? How about any of the actions or attitudes I show to that other person?

But the good news is that we can be delivered from this false thinking and this dangerous pride that causes us to choose wrongly. “Upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness…” Yes, a day is coming when God will restore Israel but You are also looking to deliver anyone who will trust Your way and let go of their own. You are offering deliverance to Jacob, and Esau, to Israel and to all nations. But we can only find deliverance upon mount Zion, Your way, through Jesus. We can only find deliverance by understanding that we have to let go of our ways and grab onto You and Your ways. I have to stop looking at the faults of my brothers and sisters and look to the perfection and wonder of You. I have to stop looking and thinking about my own strength and look at Your power and Your glory.

Ultimately, here’s the truth. We can call Mt. Zion, the mount of Esau if we choose. We can call it Mt. Zion. But Mt. Zion in itself is not even for itself. Call it one or the other but the truth is, the “kingdom shall be the LORD’S.” Who does my kingdom belong to? Who does my family belong to? Who does my husband or wife belong to? Who does my house or my future or my ministry belong to? Do I get it? If what I’m calling mine, really belongs to You, I really need to change my perspective, don’t I?

Esau isn’t the only one paying a price. Isaac payed a price. Rebecca payed a price. Jacob payed a price. They all payed the price of broken relationship. Is that the price that I want to pay to hold onto my pride? No, I don’t want to pay that price. I want to learn. I want to learn to submit to You, Lord. And in learning to submit to You, I have to learn to submit to others. In learning to submit to You, I have to let go of my pride and care about others first. I have to use my strengths for the benefit of those around me and not for myself. If I really start to get it, I’d realize that in submitting, You, my Heavenly Father, would be my strength and my protector because I would be under Your ultimate authority. Yeah, I think the King of kings and Lord of lords can take care of me just fine. Help me to get it, Lord. Help me to understand the immeasurable value of humility.

The Immeasurable Value of Humility

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“The pride of your heart has deceived you…”  Obadiah 1:3

Pride is a dangerous and destructive compeller.  It’s more than an attitude and it’s deeper than character even though it’s both.  It’s a driving force and seems to overtake whoever chooses to grasp it for their own.  Once you grab, it seems to have you, and it’s awfully hard to shake loose from it once you realize how much it has a hold on you.  But it can be done.

I wonder a lot about things.  Now I’m thinking back on the time that Edom began, when Jacob and Esau were first born.  They were twins within their mother’s womb.  And they were so active in their mom’s womb that it was called “struggling together” and it really stressed her out so that she asked the Lord about it.  And You already knew everything about those two baby boys, those leaders of two nations.  One would be physically stronger than the other, yet the other would be under the rule of his “weaker” brother.  And Esau started to come out first and was named, and as he was out, his brother, Jacob, had his little hand on Esau’s heal.  Both babies were named according to how they looked or what they did as they came out.  Esau-the rough one.  Jacob- the heal catcher, supplanter. 

I guess I just wonder how much of the boys’ attitudes were because it’s who they were and how much was because of the perceptions of the people around them.  I mean, knowing Your words, that one would be stronger and one would rule the elder, wouldn’t it have been good to support that as something that could work together?  I mean is it bad that Esau would be the strong one?  And is it bad that the younger would have the better discernment to rule?  What if Your words had been valued more than the traditions and desires of the forefathers or the parents?  What if Isaac and Rebecca would have valued both abilities equally and shown the boys how to benefit each other by them?  I wonder if that was an option?  But I guess that’s a mute point, because it wasn’t the option taken.

And so, many years later we have the fruit of the competition continually growing.  We have a nation fighting continually against his brother nation because of pride.  We have a brother deceived into thinking what he is doing is right, who thinks his strength is because of himself and due to his own making.  We have a brother who doesn’t get that his strength is from the Lord and only true strength when he finally submits to God and his brother because that is Your design.  He has come to worship his own strength and to despise the God who gave it to him.  He exalts himself like an eagle, but eagles can be brought down. 

You didn’t say that there would be a stronger baby and the younger, weaker brother would rule if the stronger one was O.K. with that.  You said, “This is how this will be.”  Now, in anything You say, if we choose not to obey, or to disregard it and do it our own way, then we suffer the consequences that action naturally brings with it.  We miss the blessing.  The sad part here isn’t that it was just Esau’s choice.  Their parents and society didn’t choose Your way either.  That’s a hard concept to get that You get to choose who You will.  That I might be called to serve someone else despite my “rights.”   That I might have to use my gifts and talents to bring glory to something bigger than myself.  That I might have to step into the background so someone else can be made much of by my strengths.  What kind of crazy thinking is that, right?

So instead of choosing to fight for my brother, or my sister, or my husband, or my wife; instead of choosing to cover them and take the shame for their sake, I would choose to stand by like Esau and watch my brother be carried off.  I would gloat over him or her getting what was coming to them.  I would set them up for failure myself.  I would watch and do nothing.  I would rejoice when they hurt and suffered.  I would gloat over how much I won in the divorce settlement.  See, what You are sharing through Obadiah is prophetic.  It happened and is still happening.  It applies to the nation of Israel totally.  But it also applies as a lesson in life to each of us.  Because as Jacob and Esau go, so may we.  Because it’s all about relationship.

Relationships based on us, fail.  This was a relationship based on God.  It should have flourished.  But when we don’t line our thoughts up with Yours, this is what happens.  Instead of lives filled with blessing and mutually beneficial relationships, we compete and hurt and damage and kill.  But it didn’t have to be this way.  And it doesn’t have to be this way now.  The truth is, what goes around comes around.  “[A]s you have done, it shall be done unto you: your reward shall return upon your own head.”  Maybe keeping that thought in mind, would be enough to change our response to others.  Do I want unforgiveness served back on my own head?  How about bitterness?  How about impatience?  How about any of the actions or attitudes I show to that other person?

But the good news is that we can be delivered from this false thinking and this dangerous pride that causes us to choose wrongly.  “Upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness…”  Yes, a day is coming when God will restore Israel but You are also looking to deliver anyone who will trust Your way and let go of their own.  You are offering deliverance to Jacob, and Esau, to Israel and to all nations.  But we can only find deliverance upon mount Zion, Your way, through Jesus.  We can only find deliverance by understanding that we have to let go of our ways and grab onto You and Your ways.  I have to stop looking at the faults of my brothers and sisters and look to the perfection and wonder of You.  I have to stop looking and thinking about my own strength and look at Your power and Your glory. 

Ultimately, here’s the truth.  We can call Mt. Zion the mount of Esau if we choose.  We can call it Mt. Zion.  But Mt. Zion in itself is not even for itself.  Call it one or the other but the truth is, the “kingdom shall be the LORD’S.”  Who does my kingdom belong to?  Who does my family belong to?  Who does my husband or wife belong to?  Who does my house or my future or my ministry belong to?  Do I get it?  If what I’m calling mine, really belongs to You, I really need to change my perspective, don’t I? 

Esau isn’t the only one paying a price.  Isaac payed a price.  Rebecca payed a price.  Jacob payed a price.  They all payed the price of broken relationship.  Is that the price that I want to pay to hold onto my pride?  No, I don’t want to pay that price.  I want to learn.  I want to learn to submit to You, Lord.  And in learning to submit to You, I have to learn to submit to others.  In learning to submit to You, I have to let go of my pride and care about others first.  I have to use my strengths for the benefit of those around me and not for myself.  If I really start to get it, I’d realize that in submitting, You, my Heavenly Father, would be my strength and my protector because I would be under Your ultimate authority.  Yeah, I think the King of kings and Lord of lords can take care of me just fine.  Help me to get it, Lord.  Help me to understand the immeasurable value of humility.

Is Strength Our Downfall?

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“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me to the ground?’” (Obadiah 1:3)

One book, one chapter, one vision, that’s all.  So who cares about Edom?  What does it matter?  Edom was destroyed way back when, right?  So let’s move on.  But the truth is, though the “nation” of Edom was destroyed, all the people of Edom haven’t been.  The thinking of Edom still goes on.  Oh, the people of Edom may not be natural offspring of Edom, but if we really look around, it’s not too hard to spot the Edomites in the world today, and if I’m not careful with my thinking, I could become one myself.

Biblically, the Edomites are the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob.  Remember that whole story where the baby Jacob in the womb on his way out grabs his brother’s heal and comes out first instead?  Well, You God have said, “Two nations are in your womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from your bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23)  So maybe this story is more than about two brothers.  Maybe this story was always meant as a picture and a lesson.  Maybe these two nations were all about two kinds of people.  Is that such a far stretch?  And maybe each of us is one of these or the other.  And maybe we can choose which we will be.

I wondered about that statement which we think of in reference to Jacob, “the one people shall be stronger than the other people.”  And I wonder if Jacob was stronger as we think of it?  Well, according to what Scripture says about the two brothers, Jacob certainly wasn’t the more physically buff or athletic one.  That would be Esau.  So what does it mean to be stronger than the other here?  The Hebrew word amats, stronger, is about being alert either physically or mentally.  Listen to the words in Strong’s associated with this root, “confirm, be courageous (of good courage, steadfastly minded, strong, stronger), establish, fortify, harden, increase, prevail, strengthen (self, make strong (obstinate, speed).”  So we see alertness both physically and mentally used for good and characterized by positive strengths and then we see what this looks like if centered on itself leading to negative character traits.  But what if this still is giving us a picture?  One person, here, Jacob or Esau, can decide whether he will be amats by being alert to the Lord and strong in the Lord, or that same person can decide whether he will be amats by being alert to himself and strong in his own sufficiency. 

So what about the elder serving the younger?  The Hebrew word for elder is rab.  It’s about the thing that is greater in quantity, size, age, number, rank, quality, whatever.  It can be the elder, the captain, the master, the mighty, and more.  What if it means more than just the older twin serving the younger?  What if it means that whoever is more shall serve the less?  After all, that word for younger in Hebrew is tsaor, which means little as in few, young in age, little in value, ignoble, the least, or a little or small one.  Hm.  Sounds like something Jesus said, doesn’t it.  In Mark 9:35, Jesus said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”  And in Mark 10:42-45, we are told, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  Maybe this story about Jacob and Esau and all the hard learning they had to go through, is to help us to learn the same truth.  And maybe we have to go through such tough situations too before we can ever hope to really learn this in the depths of our being.  But if we refuse to surrender and learn, that’s where the warning of Obadiah comes in.

Now let’s jump back to Obadiah.  He was over the household of Ahab (you remember Ahab and wicked Jezebel?)  So here was Obadiah working for this evil king,  only Obadiah “feared the LORD greatly.”  As a matter of fact, according to 1 Kings 18:4, we know that Obadiah loved and feared You so much, Lord, that he didn’t even fear his own life.  Because when Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah rescued 100 prophets, hiding them by fifties in caves and bringing them bread and water.  Do you know what the Jews believe about him?  In the Talmud: b.Sanhedrin 39b, it’s believed that Obadiah was an Edomite convert to Judaism!  If that were to be true, that adds an even more amazing feature to God’s prophecy through him.

Why do I say that?  Because Obadiah is a book about the terrible hatred and treatment of the Edomites against the children of Israel.  And what makes the treatment so terrible above normal is that Edom and Israel are brothers.  Remember, they were twins, Jacob and Esau.  It’s like the story of Cain and Abel all over again.  How can one sibling kill or wish such evil on the other sibling?  It goes against our design as human beings.  What brings a brother or sister to this point?

Deception brought about by pride brings us there.  “The pride of your heart has deceived you.”  Like Esau who told his brother he didn’t need his gifts.  Why not?  He had already made himself sufficient.  That deception had already set in when he was young.  “I can get along fine without my birthright as long as I have what I want to make me strong.”  So Esau built Edom, that red stronghold called Petra, that cleft in the rock, and thought no one would come and bring them down.  But the Romans came and all that is left of Petra is the empty great ruins that speak of a great people defeated and lost.

Why did it have to happen?  Because Edom believed in a deception.  They trusted in their pride.  They trusted in their own wisdom.  Their choices were better than God’s choices.  If they didn’t like the way something was supposed to be handled according to God, they would just do it their way.  They trusted in their strength, their alertness according to their thinking, and not alertness to You.  They chose the way of violence against their brother instead of Your way of mercy and forgiveness and love and compassion.  They ignored their brother’s cries for help and went beyond that to help others carry them off and pillage them.  They gloated over their mistreatment.  They looted them.  They handed them over to the enemies.

That’s all the pride of the heart and it’s reaction, opposing You and Your heart, Lord.  According to EB Meyers, “Malice harbored in any form contains the seed of (our own) future suffering.”  It’s so against Your heart and Your way.  And it would go right along with Your heart to chose a redeemed Edomite to follow Your heart and set an example for rejecting the traditions of our fathers for the heart of God instead.  And Your heart shouts out, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.  If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the heart perceive it?  Does not He who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will He not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:11-12)  Do I think it’s good enough to just want to do something good for someone?  According to You, Lord, it’s not good enough unless I follow it through with action like You. 

So, what is good?  “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  Not only does our own wisdom not suffice, but God’s wisdom not applied in life will not carry us either.  Why?  Because You are a living God and You not only ARE but because You ARE You Do because to BE- IS.  That’s what the I AM is all about.  You can’t separate Your character from Your actions because they are one in the same.  And so it is with us also.  And we need to realize that.  But whose character dwells in me?  Is it You, in Christ, or do I cling to my own?

You already knew the problems of man before they started.  So you warned those who would choose Your way.  You shared of Yourself and Your heart.  “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother.  You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land.” (Deuteronomy 23:7)  “It doesn’t matter if Edom or Egypt hates You.  If you want to belong to God, if You want a relationship with Me, be merciful like I am merciful to you.”  Deception will tell us otherwise.  Jealousy will tell us there’s a better way than God’s way, just like it told Cain and Esau. “Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him…” (Genesis 25:23)  But You had already given him the way out, just as you had given Cain the way out.  “Stop allowing yourself to be deceived.  Follow and do the truth.  Know Me.  Keep your eyes on me and care for your brother like I care for you.”

Paul continues God’s warning.  “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elementary principles of the world, and not according to Messiah.  For in Him bodily lives the fullness of all that God is, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”  How we think will determine which side of the fence we really are on.  Do I have the mind of Edom or the mind of one set apart for You and by You?  I think of You passing before Moses and proclaiming Yourself by these truths, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”  That visiting the iniquity on all those generations, is it about You holding following generations guilty for their parent’s sins?  If so, how could You say You are forgiving of our iniquity and transgression and sin?  But what if every generation has the same choice as Cain and Edom and me?  What if any of us, regardless of the traditions and choices of our parents or our people or our nation or our religion, can choose to see You for who You really are and surrender to Your way?  What if that is what God wants us to see in Obadiah’s prophecy besides the historical downfall?  What if there is a deeper truth that You want us to understand and a choice You want us to make for our own good?  What if all the Edomites wherever we might be in the world, being controlled by our own wisdom or our culture or some false religion or ideas, can let go of those lies and walk in the truth instead?  What if we don’t have to be captives of our own pride, self-sufficiency, and apathy?  What if the Truth, who is a person and God at the same time, can set us free, and only He can?  And what if He is not just a choice we believe but a life we live?  And what if His name, is Jesus, Yeshua, the Messiah?

More Than Robots and Rubber Bracelets

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Photo credit to redrocketmedia.

“…And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.” Zechariah 6:15

Here You are, Lord, in the middle of telling Your plans to Zechariah.  You are telling him Your immediate plans as well as plans for the future good of all people in the One who is the BRANCH and who will inhabit and rule from Your ultimate temple as King of Kings and High Priest eternal.  But You give a warning to Zechariah for the people of Israel.  “…And this shall come to pass, IF you will DILIGENTLY OBEY the voice of the Lord your God.”  And if they didn’t obey?

What’s the idea of having to obey You?  That’s such a hard concept for people today.  Submission, what a tough idea.  Servant, who wants to be a servant?  But over and over again throughout the Old Testament, or should I call it the First Testament, because it’s still relevant and not outdated, You emphasize the importance and necessity of obedience. 

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 28:1)  Why would You set Israel above the other nations if they faithfully obey You and do what You desire?  Is it so You can show what good little robots they are?  I don’t think so.  Obedience to You shows our alignment with You.  If we love someone, I mean really love them, we care about what they care about.  We care about what’s on the heart of the one we love.  We desire to do things that bring them joy.  We understand their feelings.  And when we know that someone else loves us, truly loves us, we know that their heart is for us.  You know when someone adores You.  You know when someone wants to protect You.  You know when someone truly cares for You by the things they do.  And You know if they don’t care as much as they ought.  You know if some of their love or all of their love is lacking by their actions and attitudes.  And those actions and attitudes rub off on the people around you that look up to you or that stand in the background and mock you.  And since You, Lord, love Your people so much to go to such extremes to show it, faithful obedience is the least we could give back to show the measure of our love for You.  Because it matters.  The nations are watching and if we say You are the True God and then don’t treat You like the True God You are, we make a mockery of our relationship and who will be drawn to a relationship like that?

“And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.’” (Exodus 15:26)  You want Your people to earnestly heed Your voice.  It’s one thing to hear, but it’s a totally different thing to hear and do, to hear and care enough to act upon what we hear.  I have to heed Your voice and do what pleases You; I have to give ear to You and complete that action by keeping and doing what You say.  Does that mean I’ll never be sick?  No.  It meant for the people of God that they would not be plagued with the diseases that came as a judgment for denying You and worshipping false gods. 

“But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Exodus 23:22)  The Angel of the Lord went before Israel in the wilderness.  In trust and commitment, they were warned to “truly obey his voice and do”.  Trusting is following through with doing.  And God always makes good on His promises.  Trusting and obeying and acting upon that trust leads to You standing in for us against our enemies.  You become our number one Advocate.  You even stand in for those who stand in for Your own.  But if I want You to stand in for me, I am called to stand in for You.

I wear a little black rubber bracelet that says, “He who belongs to God hears what God says…” (John 8:47)  And that’s not just about hearing Jesus speak and walking away.  It’s about being changed by his thoughts.  It’s about agreeing with His thinking.  It’s about finally understanding and desiring things God’s way instead of our own and seeing how much better it is not just for us, but for the world.

“But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst.”  (Exodus 23:25)  Pride is a terrible thing.  Pride will keep us from the truth, just like it did for the people in John 8:47 that Jesus was speaking with.  Wanting to be on top and not willing to humble yourself to serve sets us against You, Lord, because here You are, God and Creator of the universe and every person.  You are the highest and the mightiest and the smartest and yet You humbled Yourself to come as Jesus, as a baby birthed through that inglorious method that all babies are born through.  You humbled Yourself to become a man, yet God, and serve those You created.  It’s the most glorious thing ever!  And it’s love beyond measure.  So is it so much to ask that kind of service of us back to You and to those around us?  I’d say pride is a major sickness that would be removed with that type of service.  Maybe we’d all be healthier for it in other ways too.

The other day, I heard someone share the Gospel, the good news of how we can not only know God but be His.  And it centered around the doctrine of believing that Jesus is God, that He came to earth to be the sacrifice for our sins, that He died on the cross to pay our penalty, and that he rose again to give us new life.  That’s all absolutely true.  And we must believe that to be saved and to be His.  But unless we believe and obey that belief, it’s nothing but doctrine.  When You said, “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out…” in Leviticus 26:3, You were telling us that actions must follow our belief.  Doctrine is just doctrine unless I let it change my life.  Doctrine is just doctrine unless I commit to act upon it with all of my being.  I must trust and obey or I don’t really trust at all.  I must believe and confess and then live in that belief, in the fellowship of what You have done for me.  I cannot trust and my life not be changed.  I cannot trust and my attitude not be changed. 

“Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers.” (Deuteronomy 7:12)  Is this really sounding like God rewarding us for our good works?  I don’t think so.  This sounds to me like God rewarding us with a close relationship with Him.  It sounds like the more I lean my ear into You, Lord, and listen and agree with You and act upon that agreement, that our relationship deepens and I get to experience and see and revel in Your lovingkindness which You have just been waiting for me to experience along with You.  Is obedience so tough?  I mean, if the reward is a deep, personal, generous relationship with You, Lord, well then, I so much want to obey You no matter the cost.  It certainly seems more worthwhile to obey You than not to.

I could keep sharing Scripture after Scripture.  But I’m so happy that I’m sharing this one, “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul…” (Deuteronomy 11:13)  Do I get that?  It’s about true love for You God and true love is exhibited by what we do and how we serve the one we love.  True love is love that gives our whole heart and soul.  I mean, how is that too much to ask from us?  You’ve shown every evidence that You have given Your whole heart and soul for our benefit?  Who am I to refuse that and mock the love You’ve shown?

The truth is, I can choose to ignore Your love and withhold my love from You.  You warned against that.  “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods and worship them…” (Deuteronomy 11:16)  We’re all going to worship something.  We’re all going to cleave to something.  Everyone is diligent about something, it’s just not always the right something.  And what we choose to cling to, well, we’re going to lead others to cling to it too, whether it leads them to life or to death.  Are we willing to take on the responsibility of leading others to death?

But what if I choose to diligently keep all You say, and what if I choose to do it, and love You, Lord, and walk in all Your ways, and cleave to You like I’m glued, because I want LIFE and I want to lead others to true life?  When the disciples saw Jesus calm the sea, they marveled, asking “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”  The winds and sea have to obey because they are just matter and You are in charge of matter.  But You give me a choice to obey.  I think it’s a much more marvelous thing for a man or woman to choose to obey than for the winds or sea to calm.  I don’t think the angels in heaven marveled as much that day at the calming of the winds and sea as they do every time one sinner obeys and turns in love away from his old life and into Your new life. 

I mean, even demons obey you.  The people were all amazed again at how you commanded unclean spirits and they obeyed.  “What new doctrine is this?”  But it’s not a teaching.  It’s You, it’s Your life, it’s life in You.  And if a demon who won’t love You has to obey You, why would I, who can love You, choose not to?  See, it’s a way more amazing thing for me to choose to love You back than for a demon to flee.  I can run to You; he must run from You.  I can abide in You.  I can receive more than I ever imagined in You because I can become Your very own beloved, Your precious child and faithful servant.

Peter and the other apostles made that choice.  They came to their very own conclusion that, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)  That means obeying God rather than ourselves, too, because we are only mere men. 

And we’re not alone when we commit to You because You give us the Holy Spirit to be our resident witness within each of us that obey You.  We’re all going to serve somebody.  We’re all going to yield to something or someone to obey, either sin or death, or obedience that leads to righteousness. (Romans 6:16)  What will it be?  Or rather, who will it be?

I want to commit to love the author of my eternal salvation who was made perfect and complete before us all through His obedience to You.  I want to obey Him in love, that I may be part of Him.  I want to love You so much, that I obey You, that I love Your ways, even if they are hard, and even if no one around me gets it.  I want to press forward for You no matter how difficult, because You are worth so much more than I have to give and yet You still love and delight in my giving of myself.  I want to obey You because I appreciate You so much.  I want to obey You because I adore You and I am so grateful that You adored me first.