Eating His Words

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“Moreover he said unto me, ‘Son of man, eat what you find; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.’” Ezekiel 3:1

 
So here is Ezekiel still listening and being instructed and being equipped by the Lord. These words being given are not just any angel’s words. These are words of truth and judgment from God. And Ezekiel isn’t just supposed to hear them. He’s to hear and do, to hear and follow through, to hear and heed, to hear and be changed. And I thought I was going to talk about that hearing in verse 10, but I can’t get past a word in this first verse. It has just stopped me in my tracks. And that’s ok, Lord, because isn’t that part of hearing and listening, that I defer from my plan and pay attention to yours? And if one little word says, “Listen to me and don’t pass me by,” shouldn’t I obey?

 
Ezekiel can’t eat Your words until he “finds” them, can he? And eating Your words is important because they are our life sustain-ers. We have to imbibe them so that they become a part of us from the inside out. They have to become our sustenance to show that You are our very Sustenance.

 
Now, if I just look at Strong’s Concordance, I think of this word “find” or “matsa” in Hebrew maybe as something I just happen upon, that maybe exists upon my way or comes forth to be. Is there much significance to me if I just happen to attain something? Is there a difference between me finding or acquiring and my taking hold on something? Maybe it would behoove me to try to understand this finding better.

 
Remember that our problem here is a rebellious, hard-hearted people who should have known and loved and obeyed their heavenly Father. But they were rejecting Him and Ezekiel was to be their messenger to give them the opportunity to turn back to God. And it wasn’t like they didn’t have all the information that they needed to already find You, God, and love and serve You. It wasn’t like Ezekiel was being sent to a lost tribe who didn’t even know about You.
Let’s go all the way back to 1 Chronicles 28:9 to try to understand this finding, this word matsa. “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” This isn’t new stuff here, but it certainly is serious stuff.
If you read and listened closely enough so that you really heard the words, you see that idea or reality of seeking God and finding Him. It’s attainable. It’s doable. But it’s not something we can do all on our own. We have to take part in that action, but You actually let Yourself be found by us!

 
Matsa’ is a word about finding. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for someone, some place, or some thing, matsa’ is that word that you use when you discover what you have been looking for. In this verse in 1 Chronicles it’s not used any differently than that. But we learn more by understanding the form of the word. The form here “tells us that the action is [a] continuous, present tense, passive event…instead of me finding God, He actually finds me—but He lets me think I’m doing the work because He wants me to be encouraged for my effort.” (Skip Moen) It’s the same thing You’re telling Ezekiel. “You eat, Ezekiel. You find My words and take them in, and then follow through on them.” But did Ezekiel make up the words? Did he find without God showing him? Absolutely not. God, You prepare the table for Ezekiel and You prepare the table for each of us.

 
So here is this table, this table of abundance, filled with more than satisfaction, and it’s all right here before us. Just like in Psalm 23, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” The problem is, we handle it wrongly. We whine, “‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers.” (Isaiah 58:3) Here, the people find their desire. It’s still that word matsa. Remember how it means “to find” and also “to come upon, reach, attain”? It’s that same word as in Deuteronomy 4:29, “ But if from thence you shall seek the LORD your God, you shall find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This kind of finding comes from seeking. But in Isaiah, they were fasting not to seek God, but to seek being noticed, or to seek the reward of the blessing. The sad thing is that we can seek the delights from God without ever seeking the delight of God Himself.

 
How can someone seek delight from You without seeking You? I can seek an emotional satisfaction from knowing I’ve done a good job. My practicing of my “religion” can give me a good feeling about myself. I can delight in that feeling. I can delight in how people view me. I can delight in my own goodness. I can delight in the monetary blessing or position of being valued and listened to. I can delight in a ministry. I can delight in my own works. I can delight in my own image or my own ideas.

 
Whether I eat from Your table or refrain from it in order to fast, my goal is not all about the table. My eyes and heart ought to be set on the One who provides the table. My goal ought to be righteousness and restitution and repentance, not feeling better about myself. My goal ought to be knowing You more and worshipping You with all I am and delighting in Who You Are and how You even arrange things in my life so that I CAN find You. It ought to be all about GIANT YOU even finding tiny little me, and REVELLING IN THE TRUTH AND JOY OF IT SO THAT I MUST JUMP UP AND DOWN AND DO HANDSTANDS UNCONTROLLABLY AND THEN FOLLOW THROUGH IN TOTAL OBEDIENT LOVE! (Oh, did I get a little excited there? ) The proof of the pudding is in whether my actions change my expectations or demands on myself and on others. Has my heart been transformed? Or am I just looking for a good feeling? What have I really found? Anything, or just some pretend idea? You want us to really find You.

 
So why was Ezekiel able to find You when what seemed like the rest of Israel couldn’t? “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Nope, it wasn’t new stuff here. It wasn’t like they didn’t know what to do. I think it’s the same for most of us today. It’s not new stuff. And it’s not like we don’t know what we ought to do and what we need to do.

 
We’re all running around asking, “What is the meaning of life?” Well, the answer has always been right in front of us. “The answers to life are found in seeking God.” (Skip Moen) God promised that those who seek Him would find Him. When Jesus shared, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” (Luke 11:9) He wasn’t coming up with some new idea. He was restating what should have already been known. From day one of creation, it’s what our lives were designed to be. We were created to seek the kingdom of God above and before everything else, and to seek His righteousness, and the rest of what we were designed for flows from that to us. And you can’t seek the kingdom and God’s righteousness without seeking Him.

 
Jeremiah uses this other word for seeking. It’s about diligently searching for knowledge. And that’s what causes a problem for many of us. Because we start thinking knowledge is about what we do, like religious activity, instead about who we know, like You God. We start replacing You with good works and ritual and rules and books about You and people’s testimonies. That’s why we burn out and feel empty.

 
Mary, in the middle of a busy day, found God in His temple. How? In her house, in all the business, she sat down at the feet of Jesus. She chose the place of a disciple, the place of closeness and intimacy, of quietness and learning, of being filled and restored. Martha was choosing service and doing the proper thing, the good thing. But Jesus said that Mary chose what was better? Was Mary lazy? No. But she was willing to drop everything to enter the kingdom of God and sit in His presence. She was seeking His kingdom first. She was soaking up His righteousness. And from that, she would be able to take those things to those around her.

 
Unless we eat of Your flesh and drink of Your blood, unless we are that intimate with You that You are changing us from the inside out, how will You or anyone else recognize us as Yours? Here’s the thing, we get to choose to seek You or not. “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me.” (Proverbs 1:28) It’s not unusual to lose things and find them. It’s a very common occurrence in life. So it’s easily understood. But there’s a problem when we think we can seek God’s kingdom and wisdom but we choose to reject His rule. It doesn’t work that way. We become blinded. We grope and won’t find even when the answer is right within our grasp. We could put our hand right on it and not recognize it. The answer becomes invisible to us. The sad thing is that it was right there for us, it was ours, but by our own foolish decision we lost the gift that should have been ours all along.

 
I want to find what You place before me. I want to see You and know You and revel in knowing You and following You and walking in Your ways. I want to know how You feel about me by experiencing You. I want to know the power of Your resurrection and the power of Your love and the power of everything that is You. I want to know the beautiful wonder of You. And with that wonder comes hard things for me, just like for Ezekiel. Imbibing You, dwelling in You, means I can’t dwell in the world the way it is the same way. Knowing You and finding You means knowing and finding the power of Your resurrection and the fellowship of Your sufferings. But if I am really Yours, if I want to really find You and know You, then I must let myself be found and found fully. I must let You have all Your power over me. Because Your desire is to make us a nation of priests after Your own heart, influencing the world around us in You. Your eyes run to and fro, back and forth, over the whole earth waiting to show Yourself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are complete in You. Why would I want to ruin such a good thing?

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My Forever Refuge

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“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.”  Psalm 9:10

Well, here I am thinking about what it means to trust again.  In the Hebrew, it’s the word batach.  It’s root means to hie for refuge.    Hie, since I don’t really use that word, is a word chiefly used in poetry meaning to move or run with haste.  So batach is about moving or running with haste toward refuge.  Refuge, according to Noah Webster, is all about shelter or protection from danger or distress.  Batach is all about trusting in someone, being confident in someone, being sure in someone, being bold in someone, being secure in someone, and having hope in someone.  Oh, I can trust in the wrong someone or the wrong something, but then that’s not what trust was designed for.  Trust was designed to be placed in One Someone and then I will reap the benefits of trust properly placed.  But if my trust is where it shouldn’t be, I will reap the consequences of running to an empty shelter, a useless refuge.

There are 120 occurrences of batach in Scripture.  And if I take the time to look at them I see how what I trust makes a crucial difference in my life.  If I go back to Deuteronomy 28, I see God warning Israel because they have placed their confidence in their high and fenced walls instead of the God who gave them the city.  Because their trust was misplaced, they wouldn’t know where to run when the time came.  They didn’t really have a proper picture of who You are God, nor did they have a proper picture of walls, no matter how tall and thick.  Every wall I know of is made of the temporal.  Every wall I know can be breached somehow and someday, something will be invented to destroy it.  A wall doesn’t care for those inside or out.  It may defend but it can’t run to your defense.  Not like a living, all powerful God can and will.  How do we miss things like that, Lord?  How do we ever find ourselves trusting in walls instead of You?  Is it because we would want to have our way so badly that we would choose ignorance over truth and surrender to Someone who is fully able to be our Refuge and Keeper?

In Judges 9 I see people running after their own ways.  A guy named Gaal comes along and people put their trust in him.  See, earlier there were a lot of sons of this one guy, the famous Gideon, actually.  And one of his sons decided he wanted to be head honcho, so he went out and killed all his brothers, except for one who hid.  He had no idea what it was to trust in You, Lord.  And other people trusted in him instead of You.  And the people that backed him, well, You used inner turmoil and false trust in another to bring them to implode upon themselves.  That’s where Gaal comes in.  I mean, why would we choose to trust in a man who can be unreliable and bent on his own ways and his own benefit, when we can trust in a God who is always faithful and always doing right, on a God who is fully able and has all the power to back it?  Why would I put confidence in a man instead of God?

Trust is being quiet and secure.  Where do I go for my quietness?  Where do I go for security?  Is it a thing?  Is it a person?  Is it a place?  All those pass.  All those can change.  All those are flawed.  Why don’t I go to You?  You don’t pass, You are forever.  You don’t change, You are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  You are not flawed, You are incorruptible.  How do I forget?  How do I get so wrapped up in other thoughts?

See, You promise us that You will be that place where “there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.” (Judges 18:10)  We only find that in You and whatever You give us.  And what You give isn’t for us to have to occupy for ourselves.  What You give is for us to occupy for You.  When You blessed Adam and Eve and told them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth,” You never intended for us to do that in our power, for our own kingship.  Why do I say that?  Because before this mandate, God created man for His glory.  I was created to glorify, You God, not myself.  Every man, woman, boy, or girl was created in the image of God, to bear Your image and likeness in the world and over all created things.  We were created to trust You and live lives that demonstrate that trust and confidence and dependence before all of creation.  We’re to subdue or keep the whole world under Your reign God, under Your image. 

Think of it though, right there at the start, You told Adam and Eve to fill the earth and subdue it.  Why would they need to fill something You had just completed and saw was good?  Why would they need to subdue what was already good.  If it was good, why would it need to be kept under subjection, to be kept good?  Something inherently good, just is, right?  Well, what if You knew all along what was coming?  What if You knew that Adam and Eve were getting ready to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  What if You knew they wouldn’t always trust You more than themselves or another or the things they wanted?  And what if it takes some really hard treading down on our part to say no to trusting another?  What if it takes deliberate disregard of false trust, and a deliberate effort to conquer that tendency and everything that defies You in my life.  What if I’m going to be in bondage to one thing or another and so I better determine what I want to bring myself under subjection to because One leads to life and the other to death?

There are so many things I can trust in.  The Israelites trusted in the lies in wait.  I can trust in people, my profession, my money, my fame, my talent, my friends, my ministry, my possessions, my fun, my knowledge, my whatever.  I can even trust in what I fear.  I can trust bitterness, love, tolerance, my sexual “preference” or whatever I want that suits my purposes.  But where will it lead me?  It will lead me to emptiness and subjugation to someone or something who doesn’t give a hoot about my eternity.  Or I can trust in You Lord.  I can cleave to You, and follow You no matter what, and keep Your ways, and experience You being with me and what it is to prosper in You. (2 Kings 18)  I can rebel against the things that stand against You.  I can stop trusting in broken reeds and trust in the Reed that Never Breaks.  I can stop listening to those who don’t even know You and falsely talk about You.  I can know You and what You require.  I can walk with You and in Your ways.  You tell me that You want me to delight in You.  Yes, I can delight in You.  You know what, Lord, I have no problem with being subdued or brought under subjection to someone who wants me to delight in them and wants to delight in me.  That would be shear joy!

I could trust in horses or chariots, but what are they to me?  They don’t want a relationship of love and care with me.  They can’t make me more than I am.  They won’t rush in and rescue me.  But You do, God.  You rush in and rescue us all by Yourself when there is no one else who can.  But You are able.  And You do.  There is so much deception.  I don’t have to believe it.  I can know You well enough, closely enough, that I can tread down the lies. I can bring the lies under Your subjection, the subjection of the truth by living according to it.  I can defy the world and it’s ideas by trusting You and living in that trust.  I can be a visible image of Your power in this day and age, of Your ways, or Your words, of You.  That’s what Adam and Eve were called to.  That’s what we are called to today.

Psalm 2:12 ends with a different word for trust.  It says, “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”  When I put my trust in the Son, it’s not just a factual belief or even an intellectual agreeing.  Here’s this different word, chasah, a verb, that means to flee for protection, to confide in, to have hope, make refuge, (put) trust.  This is my obligation to the One who is our only refuge.  God rescues me but I have a personal obligation to run to that rescue.  I think of flood warnings where people were warned to leave and take shelter, yet they chose to stay where they were and lost their lives.  We can choose to do that with You too, God.   But if I want to be whole, if I want to be satisfied, if I want to be safe and secure, if I want to know true joy, I have to choose to run to You. 

It’s what Hezekiah did.  He didn’t fill his mind with Sennacherib’s words.  He laid it out before You.  He ran to You for protection right away and spread it out before You.  He knew You alone were God over everything and everyone.  He prayed.  He cried out for Your help.  He prayed to a living God, a God who is able to protect.  It didn’t matter if the kings of Assyria had destroyed other nations and lands.  It didn’t matter if Assyria had cast out the other nation’s gods.  Why?  Because none of the other gods were real.  They weren’t alive.  But You are a living God.  You can deliver.  You can help.  Only You can do this.  But I have to put my confidence in You and demonstrate it by my actions and my life.

So, when I act upon my trust, when I place that trust in You, I receive all kinds of benefits.  These are just the side products of that relationship of confidence in You.  My heart bursts with rejoicing in Your salvation.  (Psalm 13:5)  It’s not just that I realize salvation as a fact or a doctrine. I get it.  I realize the reality of what You have done for me.  It excites me and moves me.  The appreciation is real.   You put a song in my heart that wants to burst forth because I realize the depth of what You have done and are doing.  You keep me strong.  I experience Your power.  I’m delivered time and time again.  I delight in You and You delight in me.  You give me hope when there is no other hope around.  You help me when no other help can be found.  You take away my shame and give me victory.  You take away my fear and give me confidence.  You give me integrity.  I get to dwell with You so closely that I can gaze on Your beauty and experience it, experience You first hand.  I have pleasure in obeying You because in You and Your ways is my protection and my Protection is real, my Protection is a person who loves me and cares for me and hides me.

David’s cry in Psalm 27 was all about this.  “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.  Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.  One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.  For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will lift me high upon a rock.”  You know the truth is that every day is a day of trouble.  Every day I need to be hid in Your shelter.  Every day I need to be concealed under the cover of Your tent.  Every day I need to be lifted high upon the rock that is You, Jesus.  Because any day that I am not finding my refuge in You is a day of great trouble.  “You have said, ‘Seek My face.’ My heart says to You, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.’”  I want to actively remain in the shelter of You.  Lord keep me from the will of my adversaries, which sometimes is my very own heart.  I want to love the goodness that is You and just feast my eyes upon You all the time.  I want to wait for You and in the waiting be strong and courageous because I know You, I really know You my living God!  Yes, in my waiting let me continually flee to You so that there is no separating us.  Be my forever Refuge that I never leave.

What Does God Require?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait For It (Vindication Part 3)

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“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. “  1 Peter 5:6,7

Well, I’ve been learning that You, Lord, will vindicate Your children.  And You vindicate Your children because we are Your representatives of Your Son on this earth.  And You will vindicate Your Son.  You have already, and You will continually.  So as long as I remain in Him and am walking in Him by the power of Your Holy Spirit and Your presence (and His presence) in me, I know vindication is coming.

Yes, vindication is coming, but I’m still learning about when Your vindication comes, and why it comes, and who it comes from, and how it comes.  Yesterday I learned, or rather re-learned, that vindication comes from You and You alone.  I can’t bring my own vindication.  But that was only one of seven things I need to know and understand about vindication, about being validated, justified, upheld, rectified, or exonerated.  What else should I know?

Vindication comes in God’s time.  That means that I must wait on You, Lord, as long as it takes.  I have these verses on my wall from Habakuk 2:3,4; 3:17-19.  These words are very strong and they’re very sad but at the same time they give me immense hope because my hope goes beyond my situation and my hope stretches to You, Lord, and You alone.  My hope stretches to the depth of You.  Listen, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end–it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.  Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith…Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  GOD, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.”  Could I wait and wait and wait through a situation like that and still rejoice?  I mean, think about those words.

Has God given me a vision?  Has He begun something in me?  But does it seem long in coming to fruition or in being answered?  And maybe this isn’t the best example because Israel was going to receive correction.  But this part of the message is all about God’s coming vindication.  But who would vindication come to?  The one who faithfully keeps their hope in the Lord.  It will come to the one that expects salvation from God alone, to the one who relies on You, Lord, for their strength in the midst of every weakness no matter how great.  So this does pertain, tremendously to me and to others today.  Because there are always some righteous taken along with the unrighteous.  Only there will be full vindication for the righteous.  But when?

Wait for it.  Wait for it.  Sometimes that’s the answer.  I don’t know when the answer is going to come to fruition, but I wait and I rejoice in my God in the meantime.  No one said it would be easy.  Jesus said it wouldn’t be.  But it’s the way.  It’s right.  It’s the truth that will set us free.  Well, it’s part of that truth.  So, what could this “due time” or this “appointed time” look like in my life or someone else’s?

Let’s step back in Scripture again.  Wait for it.  Wait for it.  Let’s go to Luke 16:19-25 and read the account of Lazarus the beggar and the rich man that You, Lord Jesus, shared for our benefit.  “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.   And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,  who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.   And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’  But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.'”  Wow!  How does that encourage me?  So much for immediate gratification.

Maybe that’s the problem.  I’m so focussed on this immediate gratification, immediate answers to prayer, immediate deliverance.  Funny thing is that You, Jesus, had to wait 30 years for Your vindication.  And let me think about that because You are God.  Now here is this rich man who is definitely receiving his immediate gratification.  And it’s all about himself.  He’s got all these resources that You have supplied him with.  And outside his door is this poor beggar named Lazarus.  And he’s just asking for crumbs.  Now, I know from the Old Testament that Your heart goes out to the poor.  You even established  that the gleaners in the field would leave a portion behind so the poor could come and gather food after them.  So I know it’s on Your heart that this rich man shares some of his “gleaning” with Lazarus.  But his heart isn’t toward Lazarus and his heart isn’t toward You.  And it might have seemed like You forgot about Lazarus, I mean, after all, You let him get in this condition.  But You never forgot about Lazarus and You were watching over him all the time.

How do I know that You didn’t forget about Lazarus?  Because You were ready and waiting for him to come home.  You sent Your angels for him.  You carried him to Abraham.  You provided better for him than he ever could have had on earth.  But that’s not all.  You truly vindicated him.  You gave him a name written down in history forever for generation after generation to know.  The rich man has no name.  He lost everything he had acquired on his own.  Lazarus was with Abraham above so he gained an elevated position.  In due time, You exalted him.  The rich man was cast down into Hades.  No more pleasure for him, but now a life in torment, begging for water, begging for his brethren.  But Lazarus was no longer to be a servant to the rich man.  Everything had turned.  Vindication had come.  But there was a long, hard wait.  But I’ll tell you one thing, Lord, it was worth it!

I just can’t help think how well this relates with 1 Peter.  If I go to verse five, I am reminded, “Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility:  for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.” (part B)  So the question is, am I humble enough to subject myself to others and especially to subject myself to Your timing, Your choices, Lord, for my life?  Could I be a faithful Lazarus?  Or can I stay true to You with a clean heart and clean hands in the midst of it all?

Who ever said that faith was supposed to be easy?  Paul didn’t say that.  Jesus, You Yourself didn’t say that.  Because without faith it is impossible to please You, for whoever would draw near to You must believe that You are everything You say You are, that You are the Ever Existent One who is Ever in Control of Everything, and that You reward and even vindicate those who diligently, with all their being worship and obey You.  See, faith isn’t about immediate gratification, it’s knowing that the things You have promised, that every promise You’ve given us about You and in You is going to come to fruition.  I don’t have to see it to believe it.  Believing is walking in it until that one day when I am fully there.

Maybe today was kind of a weird combination.  Because today I know that vindication will always come in Your perfect timing for me, Lord.  And that’s because You really do have everything under control.  And I know that You tremendously love me.  There is never a time when You forget me, even in my suffering.  And You will release me when that release brings the most glory to You and the sweetest release to me.  And in the midst of it all, while I have to wait for it, and wait for it, You are still at work in me and around me.  In me, You are building my faith.  You’re teaching me to learn to wait dependently and full of hope and joy in You, just like Jesus.  Now, if I didn’t have to go through the things You teach me about in Your Word, how would I ever be able to shout in joy in unison with those others who You have made to stand strong and firm?  And I’m learning that that is a beautiful thing.  Because we don’t stand alone.  How many are going through this right now?  But You have prepared us.  You have not left us alone.  And You are with us in the midst of it all and You will carry us into Your vindication at the right time.  Wait for it.  Wait for it.  It will come in God’s perfect time.

Living Upside Down

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Act 17:34  But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Well, I’m back to looking at this “believing” stuff, Lord.  I can’t get enough of it.  It’s like I’m glued to finding out more.  Which is a neat thing because that’s the word used here in the King James Version for how these new believers joined themselves to Paul.  The KJV says that “certain men CLAVE unto him and believed…”  That’s the Greek word “kollao” which  is from the word “glue.”  So, for these men and women, it was the same experience I’m having with Your Word and with You.  They couldn’t get enough of it.  They were glued to finding out more; they were glued to listening to the Truth.  And that kind of attitude leads to something.  It leads to finding and being found.

Let me offer a review of what’s been taking place.  Chapter 17 opens with Paul and Silas arriving in Thessalonica.  As was the custom, they went to the synagogue.  Paul spent three days there reasoning from the Scriptures about You, Jesus.  What was the result?  Some believed. 

Who were some?  Some included some of the Jews, but a lot of devout Greeks and a lot of the chief women.   But, the Jews that didn’t believe were envious and started a riot, grabbing Jason and other believers and accusing them of turning the world upside down and being contrary to Caesar since they proclaimed this other king, Jesus.  So the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea.

In Berea, Paul and Silas go to the synagogue again.  Here, the Bereans do search Scripture to check out what Paul is saying and therefore many found the truth and believed the word of God.  BUT the nonbelieving Jews in Thessalonica got wind of the story and came there to stir up trouble again.  Soooo, the believers took Paul to Athens where he met up with Silas and Timotheus. 

While Paul was waiting for his companions, his heart was stirred over the idol worship in Athens.  But the Holy Spirit opened a door for sharing through an unnamed platform for the “unknown god.”  Again he started sharing in the synagogue, but the Lord opened the door of opportunity through curiosity over his message in the market and he was able to share at Mars’ hill.  Here he declared that Christ had come to make the “UNKNOWN GOD” known.  Which is where we hear Paul speak these words to them after defining God.  “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us:  for in Him we live, and move, and have our being…” (Acts 17:27,28)

Now this is really important.  I really think, Lord, that what Paul was saying here, is what those people I mentioned in verse 34 glued themselves to.  Right here, Paul is telling anyone who will listen and follow, how to come to know the once “UNKNOWN GOD.”    How do I do that?  How do I come to find You?  How do I come to know You?

I should seek You.  What does that mean to seek You?  The Greek word is “zeteo.”  It’s used in Matthew 6:33 where You, Jesus, commanded us, “But seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”  But what does seeking really look like to You?  Can I think I’m seeking when I’m really not?

The “seek” used here means “to deliberately strive and desire something as an act of the will.”  Am I willing to apply my whole being to find the truth?  Would I be willing to give up or lose everything just to come to know the truth?  Skip Moen says it “implies putting your whole life at the disposal of God’s rule and will so that nothing takes greater priority.  This meaning carries over the Old Testament idea that seeking God is an activity of the whole being, not simply an intellectual pursuit.  Everything that comprises who we are is to be offered as a living sign of complete surrender to the pursuit of God and His kingdom.  God-consciousness must be the ethos of life…This verse tells us that whenever we consciously commit ourselves in utter abandonment to God’s will, He faithfully cares for our needs. ..Seeking is a very strong word.  It isn’t just ‘looking around’ or ‘checking it out’.  It is fervent hunting. ..When your life is consumed with looking for God, God will find you.  And you will be completely cared for.  Jesus said it another way.  ‘Happy the ones who are desperate for God because God arrives for them’.”

Now “zeteo” can mean to just casually look for something, but not in this context.  In this context we aren’t just sitting and waiting.  We glue ourselves to the one who can show us where the treasure can be found.  I hunt for it till I find it.  Would I just wait until my lost child is found by someone else?  Or do I begin the search myself and begin it fervently?   And I don’t stop looking until I find what was lost, until I’m holding it in my arms.  I work at this kind of seeking.  I would do anything for this kind of seeking.  It has nothing to do with resting until I’ve found what I was looking for.  This kind of seeking means that other things will have to be abandoned because I have to know what I’m seeking after.  I have to have action and direction.

Here’s the thing.  Our seeking God is always started by God’s activity in us.  It’s not my effort that does it.  You, God, start Your personal activity in me, putting in me this desire to seek You and to find You, actually maybe the desire to be found by You.  You sustain our desire and drive to find You because You want us to find You.  You want us to find that You reign.  And when we find that, then we will be found by You, and then we will have what we desired at last!  I seek but I don’t make it happen.  You do.  I seek and I do work learning to look for the right thing and You do all the real work that makes it happen.  I witness Your work.  I experience You.  Then I can proclaim what I’ve found, I can bear witness to You, I can persuade others of Your existence, and I can announce You in word.  But the biggest thing is that I will experience a relationship with You.  I will know You and know myself.

But this is where it starts.  And the seeking this intently, this wholeheartedly, leads to the chance for us to “feel after” You.   What in the world does that mean?  Well, it’s not a strong word, but it’s a beginning.  That what I find as I seek intently could be used for me to draw the conclusions I need to in order for me to be able to finally find what I am seeking and begin to “put my finger on it.”  Now this word “plelaphao” means to touch like just touching the surface, but if I haven’t even been able to touch the surface before, what a treasure to touch the surface now! 

I’ve never been swimming at a beautiful clear beach in the Philippines yet.   I’ve never touched the surface of that kind of water there.  But let me tell you, the day the Lord allows it, and brings me to that beach somewhere, and I touch that surface,  I will be so grateful and tears are gonna flow.  But I’ll tell you this too, I won’t be satisfied with just touching the surface of the water.  I’m diving in.  I’m experiencing the full effect of that water and that beach and that blessing.

So it is with believing.  We seek with all our hearts and soul and mind and possessions and we start to touch You.  But that initial touch starts a flame in our soul.  One touch on the surface is not enough of You.  One touch though, is all it takes to know my desperation for more of You.  I seek, I touch, and I find!

Now, “heurisko” can mean that you find something just by stumbling upon it when you weren’t looking.  But that’s not the context here.  Here it implies finding something after diligently searching for it.  You found what You were specifically looking for.  You looked expectantly and found it.  You anticipated finding it.  You searched with great hope.  And because you were so expectant, there was no giving up.  “I will search until I find You.  My life depends on it.  You are the glue who holds me together.  I can’t live without You.  I need this, desperately.  I must find the truth!”

Maybe some don’t find because we give up too easily.  But maybe all the effort and tough stuff is worth it and only when that’s how we feel about it, are we going to search so diligently that we would never give up.  I mean, am I searching for an answer to prayer or am I searching for the ANSWER?  Am I searching for provision or am I searching for LIFE?  Am I searching for YOU or am I searching for what I can get from You?  What if my life depended on finding You and having a relationship with You?  Would my searching change?  Would I be unwilling to give up no matter the difficulty?

But here’s where that other meaning of “heurisko” comes in to play.  When I realize my desperate need for You and realtionship in You and not my need for what You can give or do for me, that’s when You do all the work.  That’s when I stop seeking because You make Yourself found.  It’s as though in all my looking all of a sudden You just do it, despite my efforts.  I meet You.  You show Yourself to me.  I come to rest in You because You give me You and with You comes perfect rest.  I believed.  I trusted You.  I let Your Word do what it says it would do.  I changed my behavior and I let You carry the load.  And I did it all just by learning to dependently spend time with You as though my life depended upon it more than anything else.  I suddenly knew You.  You just slipped right in, in a moment.

See, You were never far away.  I just had to learn to continually look for You, to continually believe that You would show Yourself, that Your word is continually true.  You are always right there.  Waiting.  Watching for the moment when we are ready to receive You.  Waiting for that moment when we are ready to believe, when we have finally surrendered to Your word in desperation, when we have finally surrendered to You.

These new believers could join Paul for one reason- they had joined with You, Jesus, first.  And how did they join with You, Lord?  They surrendered.   But they did more than hold up their white flags.  They willingly, knowingly, JOYFULLY, surrendered to You, in order to know You and be known by You.  Why?  Because in You we “live, and move, and have our being.”  Outside of You, we are just going through the motions, but they are empty motions.  And Dionysius and Damaris and others found that out that day in history.  They sought You, they touched You, and they found You and were found by You.  And knowing You changed their lives. 

Once You turn our lives upside down, Lord, we can’t help but turn the world upside down.  We walk a different way.  We talk a different way.  We sing a different way and write a different way.  We seek a different treasure.  But we don’t just want it for ourselves.  We want to share this Way with others.  Sin turned the world upside down.  But You are in the process of setting it rightside up again. 

I just want to thank You for providing the way for us to be reunited with You.  Thank You beyond measure that You desire and even place in us a desire to seek You.  Thank You for working through that desire to let us come to touch You and see You and finally to come to know You.  Lord, I can never get enough of You because even an eternity with You will not ever bring me to the end of You.  But every day You invite me to join with You and walk with You and learn more of You.  And every day I respond in You, that glue just becomes stronger and stronger.  And now, I can’t imagine not spending time in Your Word with You.  And I love joining myself to others who have that love for You.  And I absolutely can’t get enough of You, You’re just that wonderful and more!  Thank You so much for turning my world upside down.  And thank You that You are still turning people’s worlds upside down today!

What Were You Thinking?

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“So, Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, went there [to the garden] with lanterns and torches and weapons.”  John 18:3

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Let’s just say I had the opportunity to sit under Your tutelage, Your discipleship directly for three years.  How would I approach You?  What would I know of You?  Could I have walked with You for three years and still not know You at all?  Could I approach You thinking that a band of soldiers, lanterns, torches, and weapons would do anything to stop the one who calms the sea and storm and calls the dead to life?  What was Judas thinking?!  Or maybe the question should be, “What was Judas not thinking about?”  And maybe that is always a good question to ask myself.  Because maybe it’s necessary for me to do a continual attitude check and adjustment in order to keep myself from missing You.

Well, in a sense, Judas wasn’t alone in his “misrepresentation” of You, Lord.  The disciples ran and scattered and faltered in their faith because they had a “misrepresentation” of You too.  John Wesley, the pastor who became known as the founder of the Methodist denomination, had a misrepresentation of You that lasted for many years.  But his end is very different than Judas’.  Judas committed suicide; John Wesley committed to You.

I want to look at a number of people today because when we look at You and other people in relation to You, it helps us to see ourselves more clearly.  The same things that cause others to fall, cause me to fall also.  The same things that lift others up, lift me up also.  So let’s look briefly at John.

John considered himself a believer from a young age.  He was raised under the instruction of the Bible by both parents.  He felt called into the pastorate from highschool and attended Oxford around 1719 where he excelled.  He preached and became a missionary.  Being unsuccessful, he was returning to England where He met a group of Moravian believers.  Realizing their lack of fear during a storm while at sea, He questioned Minister Spangenberg about his lack of fear.  The answer of certainty in being the Lord’s baffled Him.  Even the Moravian children were peacefully certain that if they died in this storm, they would be in the arms of Jesus.   What were they certain of?  That by simply believing in Christ as Savior, they had assurance of salvation.

Well, as amazed as John was at what this Moravian shared, he walked away, not outwardly responding.   Understand, this is after 20 years of thinking he knew who he was and what he believed already.  This is now 1738.  “The entry in his Journal under the date of Tuesday, January 24, 1738, is tragical: ‘I went to America to convert the Indians; but O! Who shall convert me?  Who, what is he that shall deliver me from this evil heart of unbelief?'”(Newton Stein)

Look at the struggling in his heart as he entered another journal entry upon landing in England on February 1738.  “This then have I learned in the ends of the earth (Colony of Georgia in the New World), that I ‘am fallen short of the glory of God’; that my whole heart is ‘altogether corrupt and abominable’…… that my own works, my own suffering, my own righteousness, are so far from reconciling me to an offended God… I want that faith which enables everyone that hath it to cry out, ‘I live not…but Christ liveth in me’…I want that faith…when ‘the Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit that he is a child of God.'”(ibid)

Have you ever felt like that?  Do you feel like that?  Do you know anyone who is feeling like that now?  It was so bad that he didn’t want to preach any more.  “How can I preach to others, when I have not faith n myself?”  But don’t despair.  Keep pressing on.  The Lord surrounded John with believers upon his return, even an old friend from college.  Another Moravian friend, Bohler, encouraged him, “Preach faith until you have it; and then because you have it, you will preach faith.”  Are you faultering?  Do you have doubts?  Keep searching out faith.  Keep pressing on as though you believe it.  Keep counting on it as though your life depended on it.  And as you depend on it, it will become your dependency, and you will have it and know it!

John Wesley followed that advice.  He started preaching this “new doctrine” and later in 1738 he believed!  So what does that have to do with Judas?  John realized how fallen he was.  And that’s going to be important here, shortly.  Judas never realized until too late how fallen he was.  John fell at the feet of Jesus; Judas chose to fall before the scribes and Pharisees and before the Potter’s field.  John was searching, the wrong way at first, but searching all the same.  Jesus, You promise that if we search, if we seek You, we will find You.  Maybe Judas was never really searching.

Which brings me to Your response, Jesus, to Judas.  “Whom do you seek?”  The arresting party answered, “Jesus.”  Really?  Were they really seeking You?  Not really.  Because seeking You looks a lot different than locating You in the dark to control You.  Alright, the next thing to realize about this word “seek” is that the Hebraism means to worship.  Stop a minute.  “Who are You coming to worship?”  The party answered, “Jesus.”  Slight dejavue here.  Really, is that worship?  But I love how no one can remain a liar before You.  You will make all things true.  How?

How?  You answered them, “I am.”  I think it should probably be “I AM!”  because of the effect it had.  These men that came to control You, and to kill You, actually did worship You temporarily.  They “went backward, and fell to the ground.”  Yes, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  Even the ones that don’t believe will.  Which makes me think of John again.  Especially the ones who don’t believe but are seeking to worship You.  Only then they will come to their own knees; they will fall before You willingly and not by force.  Which brings me back to some Biblical examples.

When these men fell down, they literally fell to the ground.  It’s the Greek word “pipto”.  It has a Hebrew equivalent so we also find it in the Old Testament.  It’s falling prostrate, under judgment, losing your authority, not having any more force.  The Hebrew is “naphal” like falling from a higher position to a lower position.  This was used for Ruth when she fell before Boaz in the field because of his grace and mercy to her, a foreigner and Moabitess.  Here it is paired with a second verb “shachah” which adds the meaning of bowing down with an “attitude which is ‘bowed down’.  And so the verb shachah is rightly used to describe one prostrating one’s self or bowing down before God with an attitude of reverence and worship'”.  (preceptaustin)  “When Abigail saw David, she hurried and dismounted from her donkey, and fell on her face before David, and bowed herself to the ground.” (ibid)   She didn’t deserve mercy either because of the actions of her husband Nabal toward the king.  “Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself,” (ibid) saying, “Here is your servant!”  Did he deserve mercy?  His Grandfather had tried to kill David.

Now, let’s hop back to Ruth.  ” Ruth  acknowledged her own unworthiness and accepted [Boaz’s] ‘favor’ or ‘grace’ for ‘favor’ (chen) means grace which was exactly what she had gone into the fields to find.  She believed his promises and rejoiced in them. There was no need for Ruth to worry, for the wealthy lord of the harvest would care for her and Naomi.  Furthermore Ruth was a perfect ‘target’ to receive grace, for as Solomon reminds us God ‘scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted (humble – those who are ‘low’)'(Pr 3:34). The person with humility (Ruth) thinks of others first (Naomi) and not of themselves. ” (ibid)  So what do I learn from this?

That when I stop seeing You as a set of rules and regulations to follow but start seeing You as a Person that I am desperately in need of, my whole perspective changes.  But in order to do that, I have to acknowledge my own unworthiness and accept Your favor.  I mean, truly, if You weren’t holding me together, I wouldn’t even be able to tie my own shoes, because every particle would just shatter apart.  Without You, I’m just shattered pieces, but in You, I am filled with purpose and power.

John was searching for You, just like Ruth was searching for Boaz’s favor.  I must seek Your favor because I don’t have favor to give You outside of You.  I am unable to care for myself.  The Lord of the Harvest must care for me.  Am I putting myself into a perfect position to be Your target to receive grace?  Have I come to the point where I am afflicted?  Am I humble and low?  Do I think of others first or am I still concerned about me most?  Do I want to seek Your will above everything?

Lord, who am I receiving my help from?  Am I numbered with the scoffers or the humble? Would I be so seeking You that I would commit everything to You?  Is my belief an act of worship really?  Am I really seeking You?  Is my life really a life of worship?  And if not, am I so desirous of You that I would commit to worship You until You change me and I experience Your grace and favor to me?  Am I so desperate, so lost without You, that I will follow hard after You trusting that if I seek You, You will be found of me?  That’s from 2 Chronicles 15:2.  And when You say, “He will be found of you,” it literally means that You will come forth to us, You will appear, we will attain You, we will meet You, and You will be present with us.  Lord, You know my answer.  YES!  I don’t want to just be thinking about You; I want to be living in You.

 

A Glitch in Time

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He [Jesus] said to them[Andrew and John], “Come and you will see.”  So they came and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.  John 1: 39

I should have saved my work more frequently.  The computer glitched again and I lost everything I just wrote. I should have known better.  I should have acted upon what I had seen happen already.  But I didn’t take heed.  I didn’t act on what I knew to be true, on what I knew to be a danger, on what I knew to be the best course of action for the good of this devotion being completed.  And that’s frustrating.  But it also allows me to see this verse from this new perspective.

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So, back to relating what is happening up to this verse.  And the whole thing is about seeing and remembering what we see and observe and come to experience and acting on it appropriately.  Well, it’s even more than that.  But I digress again.  I’m prone to that.  So back to the account.  John the Baptist has just identified You to the people and to his disciples.  “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  It’s like he’s saying, “Wow, I want You to look at Him!  This is the Messiah, the Anointed One, that Scripture has been telling us about.”

What do Andrew and John do with that information?  Do they just look and keep following John the Baptist?  Or do they follow Jesus?  Well, Scripture tells me, “the two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.”  (John 1:37)  Which reminds me, I better stop and save this.  Sorry for the interruption, but if I don’t act upon what I’ve seen, I may lose everything again.  Now, where was I?  Oh, yes, Lord, they saw and they acted upon what they saw.  They left John and they followed the One who John had been preparing them for.  They made the commitment to take a leap of faith.  Because You were who they were seeking in the first place.  They responded to what they saw.

And You respond to that.  You “turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?”  (John 1:38)  Now, I think, Lord, that You like to have fun with words and their meanings.  It’s as though even Your individual words are parables in themselves.  And when You asked them, “What are you seeking?” , I don’t think You were just asking them what they wanted or what they were seeking in a casual way.  Because the word “zeteo” hear means to “seek” in Greek but it’s Hebraism is “to worship God.”  So, when I really think about it, I think You are asking them, “Have you come to worship me?  Why are you really here?”

I love Andrew and John’s response.  “Rabbi, where are You staying?”  Need to stop again and save.  Hold on.  Learning from past experience.  O.k., so back to the response.  For Andrew and John, to give Jesus the title Rabbi was for these men to say, “Master.”  They knew what it was to follow a master.  They had just left their master, John, and are now attaching themselves to their new Master.  They knew this meant they would be becoming personally acquainted with You.  That was the goal of a disciple, to become like their Master by becoming so well acquainted with Him.  And it’s still Your desire for Your disciples today.  And I’m pretty sure that when they asked where You were staying, that they were not just asking about You, but this was their way of inviting themselves to get to know You better.

I did that once.  Three years ago I asked a missionary if I could stay with her and serve with her.  And just like Jesus, she said, “Yes.”  So this story, this true story about Andrew and John and You, Jesus, is so exciting for me.  Because this is still what happens today when we seek You and commit to truly worship You with all our being!  Oh, how can I explain the knowledge that comes from true intimacy when You really stop to “see” a person and invest Your life in theirs and vice-versa?  “Can we  come and live with You?  Can we devote ourselves to learning Who You Are?”

“Come and you will see.”  This is what You wanted all along.  This is what they had been prepared for.  “Come.”  Sorry, had to stop and save again.  Now, back to the scene.  You invite them in.  “Come.”  You accept their response to action.  “Come and see.”  You invite them in to see, experience, and know You personally and intimately.  And they came and “abode” with You.  This is still the only way that we can become intimately knowledgeable of You today, just like it was the only way then.  We must abide with You.

And that brings me back to my own experience of abiding with my friend (who is a missionary).  I think of eating what she eats.  I think of staying up late just sharing about the Lord.  I think of being ministered to when my heart ached and getting to minister back.  I think of learning about her heart’s desires and she learning mine.  I think of laughter and tears together.  And I think of learning how to serve, of what humility looks like in a person, of what sacrifice looks like on the human side.  I think of encouragement and being built up and strengthened.  I think of being protected and cared for.  I think about learning how to recipricate all these things back.  And all of this is just a picture of what You, Jesus, want to experience with us and how You, Jesus, want us to experience this in and with You, even today.

You tell me this story, this true story, because You want me to come and seek You like that.  You want me to learn to worship You intimately.  You want to invite me into You.  It’s all about abiding.  You say, “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me.” (John 15:4)    It’s true.  I have to eat with You, sleep with You, walk with You, talk with You, listen, and see.  But it can’t stop there.  Oh, let me save one more time.  I don’t want to forget to act on what I’ve seen to be true.  And that’s the point.  Abiding in You means soaking You all in and then taking it a step further, acting upon it, acting upon You.  That’s a disciple, one who soaks all of You up in worship like a sponge and then doesn’t just keep it all in.  They let You squeeze it out of us and pour Yourself over us and all those we come in contact with.  Now I can take what I see and know of You and I can act upon it because You give me the power to do so.  Because You are all about being and doing the will of God.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  (Psalm 37:4)  So, how do I get here?  First I must see You.  Then I must trust in You and act upon that trust.  In that trusting and acting, You will continually feed me.  And the more I experience You, the more and more and more I will delight in You.

Lord, I am so glad for the way You open my eyes to see You.  I’m glad that it is Your desire for me to not only see You, but to know You and experience You.  Teach me to truly worship You with all of my being.  And may I come  and remain in intimate relationship with You.  Continually reveal Yourself to me and continually make me more and more like You.  I want You to be my true delight, always.  Thank You, for drawing me to You and teaching me how to respond to Your invitation.  And thanks for today’s  computer glitch that is teaching me to act upon the things You show me.  Lord, continually draw others to You in this same intimate relationship.  And let us rejoice together in You.