Persecution by Neglect?

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“But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”  1 Peter 4:15

Peter is preparing me for suffering in this world and not just the regular suffering, but suffering because I believe in Jesus and follow You with my life.  His whole point is that I can expect ill treatment, unfair treatment simply based on the fact that my life is being lived in accord with You, Lord.  I will be insulted and more because of the way Your Holy Spirit leads me, because You are so different than the rest of the world and Your glory is foreign and scary to those who live according to the ways of self and the world.

But suffering because of my walk and relationship with You isn’t the only kind of suffering in this world.  There is suffering I can bring on myself, by defying Your will and by breaking man’s laws.  So Peter warns me.  “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”  Come on now, aren’t those extremes?  How do we get from murderer to a meddler as though they are all as bad?  But sin is sin.  Peter knew what Jesus had spoken on the topic.  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)  So at first, maybe I read Peter’s words and I say, “Oh, I’m o.k. here.  I won’t ever murder anyone.  But what if I examine that according to Your interpretation, Lord?  How do I handle my anger?  Do I allow it to “kill” my love for someone?  Do I allow it to “kill” how I see a person, that I might judge them wrongly in other ways?  Does it “kill” my desire to lift them up and encourage them and instead I insult them?  Have I “killed’ their image in my eyes and traded them for a “fool” and “kill” them before others as I share that image?  Murder comes closer to home thinking of it this way, doesn’t it?

Wait, I’m a believer, I’m born-again, I’m saved, I’m a Christian.  I don’t steal any more.  I’m not a thief.  Maybe when I was 5 and I walked out of the store with that “For Sale” sign in my hand and my parents realized I still had it and they hadn’t payed for it by accident.  I’m careful now.  But am I?

Don’t suffer as a thief.  “Thou shalt not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)  It’s one of the ten commandments.  And by easiest terms, it was thought of as stuff.  So we could simply understand, we thought don’t steal stuff, don’t take for yourself what belongs to someone else.  But is it just about stuff?  Can I be guilty of stealing other things that don’t belong to me?  Could I steal someone else’s glory by not giving them credit but accepting the credit as my own?  Could I steal someone else’s dignity by my actions toward them or words to or about them?  Really, I know this is true because You, Lord, said of the prophets, “Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.” (Jeremiah 23:30)

What does that mean?  How could a prophet steal Your words, Lord?  They would say what they want to say and attach it to the phrase, “thus sayeth the Lord” or “the burden of Jehovah.”  Those were what the true prophets would use to signify that what they were saying were words coming from God and not their own.  But these prophets were stealing God’s “authority” and making up their own words as though they were Yours.  They were misleading the people they should have been shepherding.  They were lying because they were saying they were Your words, when really they were just teaching what they wanted and not Your truth at all.  They waggled their own tongues the way they wanted to waggle them to deliver their own messages to people and pretended it came from God.  In so doing, they robbed the people of the truth.  They robbed the people of knowing and living in God.  They robbed God of His authority and His mercy.  I mean, Your authority and mercy are always Yours, Lord, and no one can take that away, but they robbed many people of knowing it. 

So, if that is an example of stealing, could I be guilty of stealing another person’s glory, or chance for mercy, or words, or something more?  Am I guilty of robbing You, God, of Your glory, authority, mercy, because I overstep my boundaries?  Do I steal from You by stepping in where You should be? 

And hey, me, an evildoer?  What?  You gotta be kidding!  Me, a bad doer?  Me, a criminal?  Me, a malefactor?  I don’t commit crimes, do I?  Am I guilty of violating laws?  Have I put myself in a place where I have to come under public prosecution or punishment?  Wait a minute!  Have I ever been issued a speeding ticket?  That’s breaking the law, isn’t it?  Am I supposed to think nothing of that?  Am I supposed to lessen any “bad” thing?  If I lessen certain “bad things” according to man’s law, am I liable to lessen those things deemed “bad” by You more easily?  If bad is bad, do I have the right to make any bad good?

And then we come to being a meddler, or in other terms “a busybody in other men’s matters.”  At first that seems a far cry from murder, but now not so far after all.  It’s actually based on a really big Greed word allotriepiskopos.  It’s a compound word too.  This is the only place in scripture where we find it.  Peter maybe even made up this word to get across what he wanted to say and wanted us to understand.  It means, “not one’s own overseer.”  It’s part of the same word translated sometimes as “shepherd.”  Think of it as a steward of an estate.  They are assigned to take care of another persons things or matters, right?  But this is a negative word and implies the person isn’t doing the job they were authorized to do, but they were taking it upon themselves to interfere in ways above their “calling.” 

It’s like when James asks, “Who are you to judge another?”  Yes, stewards are to judge but final judgment is not theirs.  Final judgment belongs to the master.  A steward can step out of his boundaries of authority and meddle in too much. 

It’s like a busybody.  The words in Greek mean to “work about, or to work around.”  You get busy with trifles.  Like you have a job mowing the property but you keep stopping and running off puttering around with this or that and you don’t finish the mowing.  We can be too busy with other people’s lives, other people’s faults to be taking care of our own life, our own walk.  I can be so busy watching over others I don’t watch over myself.  I don’t grow.  I don’t change.  I lose joy.  I miss out on You because I’m too busy stewarding what I’m not supposed to be stewarding.  I step out of my province into the authority of another and act as though I’m the authority.  I can be just too concerned with the affairs of others so that I don’t look at the affairs of my own heart.  I piddle with everything but my own lawn.  I attempt to fix the problems of others but my own yard stays in shambles, only partially mown.  Hey, but everybody else’s stuff looks great and I did that, right?  Only, my real responsibility is left wanting, growing weeds, left in need. 

I can’t help think that this is about wrong judgment.  Not like judging someone wrongly, but like judging your own self and responsibilities wrongly.  I think it still has to do with seeing that splinter in someone else’s eye and running to get it out when you’ve got a log in your own eye that you don’t take care of because you are too busy running after other people’s splinters.  Then you become a hypocrite and maybe no one else knows it, because you’ve become so skilled at taking care of other people’s business and avoiding the real business you should be taking care of. 

Yeah, it’s like avoiding the issues at home because it’s easier to help other people than to make the necessary changes for peace and unity at home.  It’s like throwing yourself into ministry because it’s easier than investing in the problems at home.  It’s a habit that’s been going on for so long that the neglected grass at home is so overgrown, you no longer even know where to begin.

When my daughter was young, she would let her bedroom get out of control like that.  And as she was cleaning, she would let herself get distracted by a book or something as she was going along.  It made the job so much harder and longer to finish and the heart just wasn’t in it.  So, I would help her focus on one area at a time, and together we would get the job done.  The problem wasn’t on the day she cleaned.  The problem was that she didn’t keep up her room.  There were other things that held her attention more and she let the problem build and build.  But now she’s an adult and married.  Now, because she loves her husband, she doesn’t let the rooms get like that any more.  And if, because of her little ones, she doesn’t get to it, it still doesn’t get to that overwhelming point.  Her husband is there to pitch in as well.  They don’t run over to clean other people’s houses first.  They don’t look at it and leave to clean elsewhere.  They take care of their own dirt first.  Then they are better equipped to help others rightly.

I need to know that I am taking care of the real things You have placed under my authority and not just making up my own agenda.  I need to know that I am being the steward you’ve called me to be of my home and family, without ignoring it and running to pitch in elsewhere.  And if I find that I’m ignoring the hard stuff, the real stuff you’ve given me, the grass I want to avoid, then I pray that I would  make the commitment to do a be what and who You created me to be to the people I ought to be caring for. 

Sometimes, the problem is that the grass is greener elsewhere.  But it’s really not, except for the fact that we’ve ignored our own grass for so long that it’s overgrown with weeds and hard to get back in shape.  And who’s fault is that?  But it’s fixable.  It’s just going to take wholehearted, undistracted attention and love.  See, this isn’t persecution.  This was caused by choice.  That’s why it’s lumped in with murder, stealing, and evildoing.  You chose this act.  You chose this path.  But you don’t have to stay here.  You can choose to be the steward of what God called you to steward first.  And you don’t have to do it alone.  “Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”  (Psalm 37:5)  Remember, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)  Maybe it’s time we made sure our “persecution” wasn’t coming from our own neglect, brought on by our own choices.

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Suffering- Not for Sissies

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“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13

Lord, let me take this thought in mind every moment of every day and any time that I am going through suffering, especially due to my walk in You.  I need to keep this word in mind and heart because, if I am a believer, I will share in Your sufferings.  And as it is happening in my life, how will I respond?  Like You?  As You command? 

How can You just command me to rejoice?  Is that how it goes?  Because Peter is inspired by You and commands me to rejoice in my suffering, I should obey and rejoice?  I just turn my feelings off and pretend to be happy?  I just bubble over in the midst of hardships?  It just doesn’t seem natural.

But isn’t that Your point?  It’s not natural.  This is all supernatural.  It’s not the normal reaction or response.  But then again, the normal reaction or response is for “man” to provide his own joy at all cost and to escape pain at any cost.  But the truth and reality is that you can’t go through life without experiencing pain.  So how do we rejoice always?  Well, the answer is in You and You alone.  As Paul says in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!”  Yeah, that was written from a man in a Roman prison.  If he could rejoice in the midst of sharing Christ’s sufferings, I think I can heed his advice.

I don’t get to just dwell on the rejoicing part only when I’m going through suffering as a believer as though that is the only part of this “formula.”  But if I learn to rejoice then, the result will be a beautiful and deeper relationship with God in Christ.  The more I can remember that Christ is in every aspect of my life, guiding and directing, molding and shaping me, and those around me; that this is not an accident but God-ordained for His purposes; that You have entrusted and equipped me to step into the “shoes of Christ” and live like him or even die like him- the closer that draws me to You so that, the result is, as I rejoice, I experience You even more and that revelation fills me with even more joy.

This isn’t about happiness because my pain has been removed.  It’s the whole knowing that everything begins and exists and is and will be because of You, God.  Because I know that “In the beginning, God…,” I can know that You are still “casting, producing and directing” things, even in my life.  You are sovereign.  Joy isn’t because I escape some oppressive experience but it’s the expression of my relationship with You that no oppressive experience can rob me of. 

This is what Paul learned and wanted us to see when he wrote, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39)  Ultimate joy does not come in escaping this world or its troubles.  True joy comes from fellowship shared with You God and then with others who are Yours as well.  It’s a celebration of You and being Yours.

“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12)  I need to learn to rejoice in You Lord because EVERYTHING comes from You.  There is nothing in this life that is not given by You.  Unless You give it I have nothing, “no money, no job, no status, no possessions, no family, no friends, no government or community…” (Skip Moen)  And life is so much more than anything this world can offer because You are LIFE.  If my desires and hope are set on You, losing things of this world, no matter how painful, won’t mean so much, won’t effect me so much, because this isn’t my final destination, my final home. 

Face it, no one, not my spouse or even my dearest friend can care for me forever.  Nothing in this world is forever.  But in You, in the world that is made of You, in that relationship, I am cared for and equipped for eternity.  And this is an eternity in You and for You and because of You.  I wish I would weigh out that reality more when I go through struggles, that I would place the reality of that struggle in one hand and the reality of You and Your presence and Your love and Your future for me (and even Your presence with me) in the other, and realize the truth of what I have in You.  When I do, it’s like this life isn’t even close to reality compared to what You offer.

What would I do to grasp fellowship with You, God?  Would I be glad to participate in the suffering of Your Son?  Would I gladly share in it for the joy of the relationship of fellowship with You and my brethren in Christ?  What would I willingly and gladly be denied of in order to make Your truth more real in my life and in the lives around me? 

Jesus, you weren’t joking when you said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)  But I guess we are more Greek in our thinking than Christ-like.  It’s hard to deny our own immediate pleasure.  But I want to rejoice in You more than in any temporary pleasure I can find in this world.  I want to follow hard after You.  I want to be in You and You in me.  Help me to deny myself and join You in Your sufferings that I might be filled with the fullness of the joy that is found in following You, in knowing You, in being Yours. 

Be sovereign in my life.  Let me rejoice, always, no matter what, in You.  Let me understand the fellowship of You in Your suffering, and the fellowship that Paul and Silas had with You as they were beaten and thrown in prison, and even unto death.  Let me understand and live in the joy of Your fellowship always, despite the circumstances surrounding me.  Because the truth is, You will never leave or forsake me.  You walk with me through the shadow of death.  The truth is, Psalm 23 is not for sissies.  But it is for those people whose deepest desire is to dwell in the house of the Lord forever, to pursue that relationship with You as their very breath.  I can rejoice in that.

“Though All Hell Endeavour to Shake”

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“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9

I don’t obey for the sake of obeying.  That doesn’t mean that there are often times that I don’t find myself making myself obey when I don’t really feel like obeying.  I guess that’s part of what shows I’m more mature than some of my grandkids.  I say that, because they are here with me and I’ve seen lots of occasions of hearts winning out with their feelings over love of God and love of parents.  And that’s just human nature.  I have the same problem, but by God’s grace, I’m learning to be an overcomer.  They have that same hope.

It’s funny what we perceive as suffering.  Really, we turn anything that is the slightest frustration into suffering and persecution.  But we ought to realize the difference between discomfort and suffering.  It’s true, all discomfort is uncomfortable.  And let’s not forget that obviously, there is discomfort in our most personal relationships at times, especially if we are working under, or living with a non-believer, and even still when we’re both believers.  But we aren’t exempt even if those relationships are with other believers, are we?  Why would that be?

Maybe too often we forget to see things in the light of Christ because, like my beloved grandkids, we focus too much on ourselves so much of the time.  I want to know the remedy for not repaying evil for evil.  When someone or something frustrates me or belittles me or whatever, Peter tells me the remedy.  Sanctify the Lord God in your heart.  (1 Peter 3:15)  Be always ready as a testimony to why you can remain humble and fearless and full of hope, instead of bitter and angry and lashing back. 

Be careful of being self-righteous.  Peter says we have the same kind of blessing or state of bliss as Jesus talks about in those who live according to His values, His character He discussed in the beatitudes.  If we suffer for righteousness’ sake, that is, we receive that blessing of security and closeness in God.  I don’t think that’s based on my righteousness.  I don’t think that’s because I did what was right and now I’m suffering and that’s the righteousness this is based on.  I can look beyond the suffering because I’m not concerned with my righteousness, but with God’s righteousness.  If I am suffering because I sanctify the Lord in my heart and my life, then in the midst of that suffering I am still focussed on You and Your righteousness and it’s not about me but about You. 

Then, so what if I don’t deserve this treatment.  It’s not about me.  It’s about something and someone bigger than me.  Jesus didn’t deserve His treatment either.  But then again, even Jesus didn’t make it about Himself on the cross.  He sanctified the Lord and in so doing, sanctified us.  Even in the wilderness, Satan couldn’t lure Him to think otherwise by offering things that would build Him up.  He didn’t want to venerate Himself.  He wanted to venerate His heavenly Father.  So, what about me?

Peter wants me to know that God called me to be that same kind of blessing, just as Jesus was.  Why?  Because God has blessed me through Jesus Christ.  When He went to the cross and bore my punishment, the extremest of extreme persecution there was from man, plus the weight of the wrath of God upon Him for my sin, He did not render evil back to me.  He doesn’t sit in heaven now and rail at me for my cruelty and stupidity.  He invites me into intimate fellowship and blessing in the Heavenly Father!  And I am called to do the same to those around me.  How I respond in times of frustration and persecution shed light on my relationship with You, Lord, and how much I appreciate, how much I rejoice in how you have treated me and loved me instead of lashing back.

Are you suffering?  David Powlison says our need, “…is to hear God talking and to experience him purposefully at work.  That changes everything.  Left to ourselves, we blindly react.  Our troubles obsess us and distract us…You need to hear what God says, and to experience that he does what he says.  You need to feel the weight and significance of what he is about.  He never lies.  He never disappoints (though he wisely sets about to disappoint our false hopes).  Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you need fear no evil, for he is with you.  Goodness and mercy will follow you.  This is what he is doing.  God’s voice speaks deeper than what hurts, brighter than what is dark, more enduring than what is lost, truer than what happened.  You awaken.  You take it to heart, and you take heart.  You experience that this is so.  The world changes.  You change.  His voice changes the meaning of every hardship.  What he does— has done, is doing, will do— alters the impact and outcome of everything happening to you.  Your faith grows up into honest, intelligent humanness, no longer murky and inarticulate.  You grow more like Jesus: the man of sorrows acquainted with grief, the man after God’s own heart, who having loved his own loved them to the end.”

I’m so thankful to Peter for calling me out on my attitudes and behavior.  I’m thankful for other believers who do the same.  There is an unnamed believer who wrote the hymn How Firm a Foundation who thought on these things too.  You know, it’s pretty usual for song writers or hymn writers to write from their perspective towards praising God.  But this author writes from God’s perspective to us.  So as I listen to these words, taken out of Scripture truths, I can imagine You, Lord, reminding me of who You are and of Your promises to me.  If that doesn’t help me to respond rightly because of the hope I have, I don’t know what else will!  So let me end with some of those thoughts, from God’s perspective to us, out of part of How Firm a Foundation:

“When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,

my grace, all-sufficient, shall be your supply;

the flame shall not hurt you; I only design 

your dross to consume and your gold to refine.

“E’en down to old age all my people shall prove

my sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;

and when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,

like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.

“The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,

I will not, I will not desert to his foes;

that soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

Let’s Be Sympathetic

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Credit for photo to Beaba.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”  1 Peter 3:8

Here’s the “definite point or goal” you’ve set out for.  That’s what “finally” signifies here.  We, as believers, have a point that was aimed at as our limit or the conclusion of our purpose here in life.  It’s not just Peter coming to a conclusion.  This is for us.  This is for me.  This is my aim as I identify as a believer in Jesus Christ,  “…all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

This is not just for slaves.  This is not just for wives.  This is not just for husbands.  Those were just some of the relations in life we have trouble knowing how to handle.  But this is to all believers, including slaves, wives, and husbands.  Actually, Peter is telling us that the relationship between believers goes oh so deeper than even that of a husband and wife, should the husband or wife be yoked to a non-believing spouse.  Why?  Because there is a oneness in Christ that pulls us all together here, a deepness in unity, that isn’t attainable outside of Christ. 

I’m not saying that a married couple can’t have the deepness and oneness of being “soulmates,” so to speak.  You can be like one even if both of you are non-believers.  But you can’t be like one if one is a believer and the other not.  Because believers have a unity of mind and spirit with Christ.   How could I be unified with You Lord, and learning to think like You and love the things You love the way You do, and be unified with loving the world and the things of it as a non-believer thinks?  It doesn’t happen that way.  There’s a lonely gap in the middle.  There’s a distance.  There’s misunderstanding.  There’s a hole.

But where there is a relationship in Christ, there is unity not only with Christ, but with other believers, no matter who they are.  So in a world where there are slaves and not slaves, or anything like that, we are not looking at people that way.  We see each other through the mind and eyes of Christ.  In Philippians 5, Paul goes more deeply into this.  Are you encouraged in Christ?  Are you comforted from His love?  Do you get to participate with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit?  Do you receive affection and sympathy from His?  If you have put your trust in Him, then the answer is, “YES!”  Well, then don’t just basque in it for yourself!  Spread it to others!  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  So I must ask myself, “Are you unified with Christ?  If so, would I give like Jesus for the sake of others?  How does my humility look?  Do I draw a line on my humility?  Do I say, ‘God, You can ask this of me, but not that.  I won’t go that far.  That’s just too much.’?  Or, would I truly love You enough to empty myself in the same mind and humble myself in the same mind and become obedient even to the point of death if You so required?

“But we have the mind of Christ.”  That’s what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:16.  But it’s not for the purpose of instructing God, that’s for sure.  We don’t become little God’s knowing everything He knows.  But we are blessed to be able to see God and others through the eyes of Christ, to have His understanding through unity with the Holy Spirit who brings us to know His will, to have His heart, to share His love. 

Therefore, everyone who is a true believer, ought to be unified in thought, in compassion to one another, fond of each other as brothers and sisters love each other, sympathetic and tenderhearted to one another, and courteous or kind to one another.  That ought to be a no-brainer, right?  But is this what my life looks like for real?  That’s what Paul and Peter and most importantly, Jesus, want me to ask myself.

I mean, let’s just look at being sympathetic.  Have you ever heard of a story where a husband winds up having pregnancy symptoms along with his wife?  It’s an actual syndrome because it happens occasionally.  It’s called Couvade syndrome or sympathetic pregnancy.  The partner experiences some of the things the expectant mother is experiencing.  Really.  Sometimes the husband experiences some weight gain, altered hormone levels, morning sickness, and trouble sleeping.  That’s quite a level of understanding, isn’t it?

Noah Webster defines sympathy as “Having common feeling with another; susceptible of being affected by feelings like those of another…”  He also defines sympathy as “Fellow feeling.”  But here’s the thing.  Our deepest sympathy should be with Christ.  If my deepest sympathy is with another person, I could be affected by their affections, which could lead us both where we don’t want to go.  But, if we are living in the mind of Christ, in that unity, we will be living in the deepest sympathy of Christ together, which is always for us, and not against us; which is always compelling us toward that unity in Him which brings us all into unity.

May Peters words remind me to look to Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Let me “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that [I] may not grow weary or fainthearted.”  Let me remember, that You have given me Your mind, this same mindset toward others and especially toward God.  Now let me live in it.

The Millennial Treasure

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Photo credit to Evangelical Focus, an article by Will Graham.

 

“Thus says the Lord God; ‘If the prince gives a gift unto any of his sons, the inheritance thereof shall be his sons’; it shall be their possession by inheritance.’” Ezekiel 46:16

 
A millennium with Jesus, wouldn’t that be an awesome thing? Now I’ve seen some disagreement over whether this prince of Ezekiel’s vision is Jesus or not, but the Jewish rabbis looked to this prince as the Messiah. On the other hand, there is disagreement through commentaries upon whether this prince is Jesus or an appointed prince by God among the people. Frankly, I’m not an official Bible scholar, so I don’t know for sure, but when I read this, it sure makes me think of Him.

 
I wouldn’t have a problem with this being Jesus as the prince, after all, He is the Prince of Peace and He is the One who can atone for our sins. I’m just wondering why God would have anyone else approach the Holy of Holies now that the veil was torn through Jesus. What greater picture for all mankind at the time than to see Jesus standing in the place for us right before our very eyes?

 
But sacrifices? All that ritual? Why would Jesus die only to re-institute the sacrifices and rituals again? What purpose would that serve? What about a visual reminder? It seems to me that we as people need more reminders than we like to admit. And our reminders need to be pretty strong and visual. It’s not like a light nudge is often enough. Often, don’t we find that we need the cold water thrown on our faces to wake us up? Well, I don’t really look at these sacrifices as being cold water unpleasant. Let me explain.

 
What if the ritual and sacrifice we see in the Old Testament, that here God is saying He will re-institute in the millennium, isn’t about ritual experience? What if it never was about following ritual and obeying because you had to obey or else? What if walking through these rituals and walking through these sacrifices was always about understanding our relationship to God in different ways? What if it was about understanding different pieces of God, so to say? What if every step of obedience was supposed to be a step of love and adoration? What if understanding the reasons behind the ceremonies and celebrations and offerings was to understand more of our relationship with God and His relationship with us? Could there be a reason that God said these would be perpetual celebrations and perpetual offerings? Could they always have been intended as more than ritual and more than just commanded obedience? Is there more to this than meets our eyes?

 
Why can’t Jesus enter the East gate and offer up sacrifices for us? Wasn’t Jesus just as holy and just as much Jesus when He came to earth? Didn’t He obey all that God required of “Temple worship” and walking with others and submitting to authority then? If it wasn’t wrong for Jesus to participate then as an example before us of how we are to participate in the life that God has called us to, then why wouldn’t it be right for Him to continue to exemplify all things God for us, all things life for us?

 
Why are we so afraid of sacrifice and God’s ordained feasts and festivals and commandments? Is it because we really don’t understand them? What if they weren’t so foreign? What if it was all more about uncovering God like a glorious Treasure than following a ritual? What if participation was participation with God?

 
I can get stuck in the rut of ritual whether I am Jewish or Christian or any other religion or even not of any religion. That’s called a habit. But this isn’t about ritual and never was from God’s perspective. It’s always been about relationship. Abram didn’t follow after ritual. He followed a God whose voice he heard and who showed Himself on his behalf. He obeyed because He found a Treasure worth selling his whole life for! Moses would have followed ritual for sure at first. But God stripped him of that thinking. God brought Moses to the point where God was his Treasure, where the reality of life was the God of the burning bush. Moses became a man after God’s own heart, so humble, which was the total opposite of the Moses leaving Egypt.

 
I’ll skip ahead to the New Testament and look at Paul. Paul was a man of devout ritual. That wasn’t God’s choice. I know it wasn’t God’s choice because God confronted him about it. “Why do you kick against the goads?” And once Paul’s relationship with God changed through Jesus, the Treasure of worship in all the affairs of the Temple and Scripture opened anew to him and he was able to invite others, both Jew and Gentile, into the beauty of that Treasure! I must not forget that those first Gentile converts worshipped along with the Jews, not separate from them. Oh, the beauty of what was opened to their eyes! Even if it was only in part, the measure of the new understanding and beauty of God would be wonderful.

 
So, who are the sons of the prince? What if they are the children of God? What is the inheritance of the children of God? Isn’t the most precious inheritance to know God and be known by Him? Isn’t God through Jesus Christ our Treasure? I’m not sure what else there is to focus on. I mean, if you ask me, heaven isn’t as grand a treasure as God because heaven, without God, would be nothing but hell. Maybe if my real focus in life was the inheritance of God, you know, believing and acting as though God was my only treasure, then maybe I’d act a lot differently as I walked through this life. Maybe some things wouldn’t be so important any more. And maybe other things would be more important than ever.

 
But I do know this one thing, if there is a desire in my heart to spend a millennium with Jesus, I ought to start living in my inheritance now. I ought to start rejoicing in everything that represents the Treasure of my God every day because if I’m in Him, my inheritance in Him has already begun. I don’t get to be lazy. Because there will come a day, during that millennium when there will be people who turn from the Prince because He never was their Treasure and there will come a time when the Treasure passes judgement. And only those who know the Treasure will inherit the Treasure Himself. There is only one gift and the Gift is God Himself through Jesus Christ. I don’t ever want to ignore You.

On Being Who He’s “Put” You to Be

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“And the Lord said to me, ‘Son of man, mark well, and behold with your eyes, and hear with your ears all that I say to you concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and all the laws thereof; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.’” (Ezekiel 44:5)

 
When I hear God saying, “Mark well…” it makes me think I’m really supposed to be paying attention. It seems to be confirmed when He follows it up with “behold with your eyes, and hear with your ears.” And what am I supposed to be paying attention to? The ordinances of the someday sanctuary of God, of it’s laws, and even who gets to enter and exit through the different doors. Well, really this was told to Ezekiel. And Ezekiel was to relay it to the children of Israel. But God allows us to be privy to this information today. So I would assume that we also ought to mark it well, to behold with our eyes and hear with our ears because some day, when that day comes this will be an experience shared by all believers, including those already with the Lord. So, I may not understand fully now, but there will come a day when I will appreciate fully the significance of every utterance of God concerning this.

 
But that’s me thinking about this as a 20th century Gentile. And it’s not totally wrong thinking. But if I stop to think about the Hebrew words, it makes me think and respond even more. Like that word “mark” is from the Hebrew word “siym”. It actually means “to put”.  Genesius’s Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon gives the first definition as “to put, to set, to place.” It can mean in that respect “to plant, to beget children, to construct a nest or habitation, to dispose an army or to set an array, to constitute, to found, or to set a statute or place.” It’s next definition can be “to put, to place, or to lay inanimate things.” In that case it’s used like “in putting garments on, laying down a pledge, putting or imposing on someone something to be done, putting or imposing a name on anyone, putting before one’s own eyes as in highly regarding, propounding or explaining to someone, laying up in a treasury, or laying up on the heart.” Even the third definition has to do with “putting, placing, or setting as in directing to turn in any direction.” It’s like “setting the eye on, to see, setting the face on or towards, setting the heart upon, attending.” Next is the definition “of making or rendering anyone so and so.” And lastly, “to make, to prepare for anyone.” After reading all of those and thinking about it, it’s less like just a warning or good advice and more like a commission or anointing in a sense. Let me share another verse which leads me to think that this is God’s way of saying, “Here is my purpose for you, here is where I’m placing you and equipping you, so understand and then live accordingly.”

 
Let’s go back to the beginning. That’s always a good place to start. So we go back to Genesis 2:8, “The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” See that word for placed? It’s the same word “siym” as “marked”.  I’m not saying that one word can’t have multiple meanings. But I’m wondering if it still doesn’t carry some of those meanings over. Here, Adam was being put in the garden. He didn’t start out there. He was put or placed there by God for a purpose. God placed Ezekiel in the temple. He was placed for a purpose. God places each of us where He will and it is for a purpose. Am I accepting and living out His purpose in my placement?

 
God has a plan. He had it for Adam and beyond Adam. God still has a plan. He had it for Ezekiel and beyond Ezekiel. God still has a plan. He has it for me and beyond me. He has it for you and beyond you. Guess what? God is even in charge of our geography! Oh, wait a minute! But Adam was placed in a perfect paradise, my life isn’t. Was Adam placed in a perfect paradise? As I recall, God planted the garden and everything in it. God planned the tree, that tree of the knowledge of good and evil that was the downfall of man. From the beginning, that tells me that the Garden had the potential for what we know as “evil” from the start.

 
But what I do know is that God placed Adam in the garden for His purpose and to have a fully untainted relationship with Him, and to be able to eat of the tree of life. God fully nourished man there and provided everything he needed and man was able to exhibit his own free choice. It was a fully satisfying place, yet a dangerous place. But it was “only dangerous because it contains the possibility of disobedience.” (Skip Moen) God knew what He was doing. None of this is a surprise or oops moment. God planted and placed that tree in the Garden, the one that Adam chose over Him. Does that make you stop and think? It does me.

 
Being planted and placed carries a heavy responsibility and commitment to the One who plants and places. I have to continually realize and be reminded that I am not and never have been the planter and placer of myself or anyone else. God is my planter and placer. God is the planter and placer. I better mark this well because my life depends on it. My satisfaction depends on this. My nourishment depends on Him. I better understand the purpose and importance and significance of my placement in life by God. I better use my eyes for their correct purpose, to see and obey His will for my life and those around me. I better use my ears to hear and obey Him. I better surrender my whole body and being to His purpose or I am fighting against my very purpose in life.

 
Where has God planted me? Am I marking His planting and responding according to Him? Are His ordinances and laws and ways of life and love flowing from me where He has put me? I’m here for His purpose, not my own, and yet at the same time He has made His purpose the very purpose of my being. Am I fulfilling that in Him. Am I preparing the way for others to fulfill His purpose in them or am I making my own plans and spreading them? Adam spread his own plans. And look how it affected his family and others down the road. But Ezekiel was spreading God’s plans even to the point of spreading them to you and me today.

 
I suppose that even those who are placed with a purpose must learn the difference between holy and profane and how to discern between the unclean and clean. And that means to me, that there had to be a choice from the beginning. But it’s a sad thing to have to learn the hard way that we should have chosen God all along. Lord, may I cling to that which is holy and of You so tightly that the profane no longer has any appeal for me. I pray that my desire is so strong to fulfill Your purpose that I would stop thinking about my purpose and just let Yours more than suffice in me. May I continually come to the Tree of Life for Your sustenance and direction and may knowledge not even be an interest because knowing You and knowing You are in charge is all I need to know to live.

 
“The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole man.” Want to be whole? Want to fulfill your God-given purpose? Mark God’s word. Be who He’s “put” you to be in Him.

A Peculiar People, Most Uncommon!

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Photo credit to everydayfamily.com

 

“He measured it by the four sides: it had a wall round about, five hundred reeds long, and five hundred broad, to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place.” Ezekiel 42:20

 
So here You are, Lord, continuing to give us detailed information about Your future sanctuary. And then at the end of this chapter You tell us You are making a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place. And I wonder if most of the time we just read over that like the reading itself is beneficial for us. Now I’m not saying the reading isn’t beneficial, but reading without thinking or understanding, where is the benefit? Reading and thinking this was only important then but not now, how beneficial is that? What if You want me to grasp some of this now? What if You do want it to be beneficial to me? What if it does matter today as well as then?

 
Maybe it would do me good to take time to see what You mean by this separation. Maybe I should try to understand Your meaning of sanctuary and what You mean by the profane place. Maybe all this would help me as I live out my life in You today.
The sanctuary in Hebrew is from the word qodesh. On the other hand, the profane place is from the Hebrew word chol. In one sense we can think of it as a separation (Hebrew badal) between the holy and the secular. But I think this requires a deeper investigation to understand. This word chol actually means profaneness or commonness. Qodesh, on the other hand, is sacred and holy. So right away we can see that there is a contrast between these two words, these to concepts.

 
If we jump back to Leviticus 10:8-11 we can see these words in play. “And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, ‘Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest you die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generation: and that you may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.” Is separating between holy and unholy and unclean and clean that important? It appears so. But what does that mean to us today?

 
Here were Aaron and his sons set apart by God to represent His holiness and to be the ones to come before Him in the Holy of Holies on behalf of the people of Israel. Not only were they to live and act separated unto Him, but they were to teach the people to be separated unto Him. But separated from what? Separated from the common, separated from the world, separated from the secular. But here’s the deal. Hey, we are secular, we live in the secular, so how can we be separate from what we are? After all, secular is just the stuff of the world without regard to the spiritual. It’s the mundane part of living without attaching the spiritual aspects. It’s the common stuff of life.

 
But maybe here’s the other part of the deal. We’re not just secular. Or at least we weren’t created to only be secular and common. We were created with a spiritual aspect in the image of God our creator. And the spiritual acts differently than the wholly common or secular. The spiritual knows there is something greater and far more valuable to life.
I can just stop and think about God’s words to Aaron and his sons. Wine and strong drink are common things, secular if you will. They are not inherently bad. But if Aaron and his sons have been chosen and set aside to point people to God and to act as intermediaries, then their focus and energy and hearts ought to be focussed on God and bringing people back into right relationship with God and each other. God is not common. God is holy and above all. God should be in control of our every thought, not alcohol. We are called to make a separation. What is important? No, what is beyond important for my life? What does holiness look like in my life? What needs to be separated out so that my focus truly is in God?

 
It’s important that I understand this. There are things that are not harmful but neither are they beneficial. There are things that are common but will only lead me to the common. And then there is the holy. And then there is the holy which can use some common things and make them holy. But be careful because some common things can make the holy, unholy, like strong drink that led Aaron’s sons to not be able to separate between holy and common. And they took a holy censor and offered common worship and were killed in their commonness. That’s a tragedy because they were set apart to be holy and to know holiness. They were called out of the common to lead others to holiness. But they didn’t understand and they didn’t let go of their commonness.

 
Yochanan Zaqantov explains that qodesh (holy) has nothing to do with being untouchable or more righteous or greater than we. Qodesh has everything to do with being set apart and made “not ordinary.” We can see that in Exodus 3:5 when Moses was told to approach the burning bush and told to take off his sandals because “the place on which you stand- it is holy ground.” What made that ground holy? Before the bush was burning, wasn’t it ordinary ground that Moses may have walked over many times before? But now, God had set this ground apart for a purpose and because God had set it apart, it was to be treated and responded to differently.

 
In Exodus 16:23 God reminded again that the Sabbath, that particular day of the week was to be set aside. It was set apart to be different from the others. Prepare for the Sabbath so that the Sabbath can be what it was set apart to be. We can treat it like any other day, but God has set it apart as no longer common. It has been set apart and made holy. Do I treat it as common? Am I guilty of the sin of Aaron’s sons?

 
In Exodus 28:36-38 God instructs a pure plate of gold to be made with “Holines for Adonai” engraved upon it. This gold plate was to be threaded onto Aaron, the high priest’s turban, over his brow so that “Aaron is to bear the iniquity of the holy-offerings that the Children of Israel offer, all their gifts of holiness; it is to be on his brow regularly, for (receiving) favour for them before the presence of Adonai (God).” So stop and think about that. Who was Aaron? Aaron was just a common man. In himself he had no ability to bear the sin of the people. But God called Him and separated Him unto Himself and equipped Him by Himself to be holy. God separated Aaron onto Himself and imparted His holiness upon him. But Aaron, like his sons, and like us, must choose to differ between the common and the holy and walk in the holy where and as told to walk.
So now I’ve seen where You, God, take the common and make it holy and You teach us the difference between holy and common. I saw Aaron’s sons die because they would not live by the difference. Are they the only ones?

 
Hear what God tells to his people through Ezekiel in Ezekiel 22:24-26. “Son of man, say unto her, ‘You are the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation. There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Her priests have violated My law, and have profaned My holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and the profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them…’” Do I get that? When I take what is holy and make it everyday and disrespect what God has set apart, I not only make it common or chol, I make God appear as common, as profane.
The priests themselves were guilty of doing this, were guilty of taking what they knew God had set apart for Himself, had set apart as holy, and they irreverently used it or displayed or misused it in common ways for their own purposes. And it destroyed the people because it marred the image of God before them. Do I want to be guilty of that? Do I want to profane what You have set apart, God? Do I want to take what is sacred and make it irreverent?  Do I want to be one that abuses Your sacred things and treats them and You with irreverence? Would I rather be filled with contempt than reverence for You? It’s what will happen if I don’t keep separated what You have already separated in my life and the life of others.

 
Let’s go one more place in the Old Testament. Here we are in Ezekiel 44 hearing about the sons of Zadok again. Ezekiel 44:15-24, “‘But the levitical priests descended from Zadok, who maintained the service of My Sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from Me- they shall approach Me to minister to Me; they shall stand before Me to offer Me fat and blood-‘ declares Adonai. ‘They alone may enter My Sanctuary and they alone shall approach My table to minister to Me; and they shall keep My charge.’” Notice that in contrast to the previous priests who had profaned God’s separations, the sons of Zadok had been faithful when everyone else bailed out on God. Now, not all of Aarons descendants will be priests but only those of the line of Zadok.

 
If we keep reading further on, God separates the clothing they must wear, linen and not wool. He separates how they are to dress. He separates them from the people in the outer court and has them remove their clothing from the inner court so as not to “consecrate” the people by touching the clothing. Get that? God’s set apart clothing could set a person apart? Wow! He sets apart their hair style and their consumption of alcohol while on duty. He sets apart their future wives. He sets them apart as judges. Why? Because they know how to set things apart. They already know how to divide the holy from the common, the clean from the unclean. They understand the difference and they already chose to live by it in a time when everyone else abandoned it.

 
These sons of Zadok are set apart to instruct others in understanding and choosing what is sacred and what is profane, what is clean and unclean. They have been set apart to live in accord with God’s rules and to teach others to do so. They are set apart to preserve God’s teachings and laws and fixed occasions and Sabbaths. Why the sons of Zadok? Because they were set apart and accepted their set-apartedness when others rejected it. They lived as they were created to be by God. I have that same choice.

 
David got it. He was a common kid. Even his dad and his brothers didn’t think anything special of him. But God set him apart for purpose in Him. In Psalm 4:3 David says, “But know that the Lord has set apart him that is godly for Himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto Him.” The funny thing is that David wasn’t born godly, and neither was I. I think we’re born, all of us, with this godly potential. And God wants to set each of us apart into that godliness of Him. But not all of us accept His invitation when He sets us apart. Why? Because being set apart for God and in God means being separated from many other common things we are used to. Being set apart for and in God means we don’t use the common as common any more. We follow His lead on when to use and how to use and if to use it because He takes the common and makes it uncommon and holy in Him.

 
One of my favorite verses in the New Testament is in Revelation 17:14. It says, “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” God is still setting people apart for Him. He calls, He appoints, He separates and it’s up to us to be faithful to His calling, His appointing, and His separating.

 
Have I allowed God to separate me for His service? Am I allowing Him to separate me every day and every moment of my life? Am I living according to His separation? 1 Peter 2:8 tells me, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light…” See, peculiar is not strange. Peculiar means I’ve been acquired and set apart by God. And if that makes me peculiar by this world’s standards, it’s because I’m not just common and secular any more. I belong to a God who is changing me into His image instead of the image of the world. The common is being folded into something uncommon and holy. I am God’s masterpiece, learning to imitate Him as I conform to His separation. May I continually learn and live the difference between the common and the holy.