Eating the Good and the Bad

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Photo credit to David Bee Mallari.

 

“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you; Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” (Ezekiel 2:8)

 
Ezekiel carries God’s words of warning as well as words of encouragement from the Lord. But sometimes, both the warning and encouragement are hard to take and weighty for us. Bad news is always hard to swallow, but good news can actually be a hard road too. But then again, Jesus said, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14) Maybe Ezekiel will help me learn the truth of that.

 
So here is Ezekiel, called before this angel of God or Jesus Himself, but he is so filled with awe and fear at the presence that he cannot stand of his own strength. So he is told to stand. But here’s the thing. He’s not expected to do it on his own. The Spirit enters him and sets him on his feet and then he was able to hear what was spoken to him. How important is it for me, for each of us, to allow the Spirit to enter us so that we will firmly be planted in God’s ways? How important is it for me, for each of us, to allow the Spirit to enter us so that we can hear and understand and live out Your words, Your will, Your desires in faithful obedience and love?

 
And Ezekiel heard. It’s that word shama again. It’s never about just hearing and letting the speech go in one ear and out the other. It’s about hearing and discerning and acting upon that hearing. Is that how I hear? Do I lean in attentively to You? Or am I busier leaning into my own understanding? (see Proverbs 3:5) Do I incline all my being, my mind, my will, and my emotions into You? (Joshua 24:23) Do I realize that it is Your desire to incline my heart unto You, so that I might walk in all Your ways, and keep Your commandments and Your statutes and Your judgments? (1 Kings 8:58) If I expect You to incline Your ear toward me and hear me and act upon what You hear, do I expect the same of myself toward You, or do I hold myself to a lesser standard when it comes to hearing? (Psalm 17:6)

 
I want to really listen, no matter what the consequences, just like Ezekiel. So what was the bad news? Well, the bad news is bad news for rebellious people but it’s also kind of bad news for Ezekiel. God was appointing Ezekiel as a prophet of God to these rebellious people. I don’t think that Ezekiel jumped up and down and said, “Oh, thank You, Lord, thank You! This is so wonderful! I’m so excited! Woohoo!” He was being equipped and sent to tell a rebellious nation bad news. And here’s the bad news about that, they might not hear and act upon what they hear. They might just keep rebelling. Nothing might change. It might look like no good is being done. It might look like Ezekiel has been profitless. (No pun intended upon the prophet.)

 
That’s not all the bad news. It’s going to be scary stuff for a man to go through, even an anointed prophet filled with the Spirit of God. God prepares Ezekiel with these words, “and you, son of man, don’t be afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with you, and you dwell among scorpions: don’t be afraid of their words, and don’t be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.” Ezekiel is to keep speaking God’s words whether they hear and change or not.

 
But here is the good news. “Ezekiel, you, make sure you hear what I say to you. Don’t be rebellious like them: open your mouth, and eat what I give you.” What does that mean to eat what God gives him? Could that mean that Ezekiel has to take the bad tasting medicine as well as the delicacies? Does Your word and Your way sometimes seem like bitter medicine or bitter herbs to us? Do we want to refuse what is good for us because part of it is bad news for our own selfish desires or bad news to our egos or our own plans? Would we rather hold unto our rebellious faces than be changed into Your glorious image?

 
So here’s my question about what You want me to learn from You and Ezekiel here. Do I get it? Do I understand that hearing from You means doing and living out what I hear? Do I understand that being a follower of the Creator of the heavens and earth through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection means more than having a head knowledge of You? Do I understand it means tough times ahead? Do I understand that the “world” responds the same way today as it did in Ezekiel’s day? And do I understand that as a believer I am called to share with and in a defiant world just like Ezekiel? Will I hear and answer my calling?

 
If it doesn’t seem clear through Ezekiel, or maybe I shouldn’t transfer Ezekiel’s responsibility to me and other believers, let me listen to Jesus’s own words in John 17. “And now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world, that they [those who believe] might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” Now, wasn’t that God’s desire all along, even back in Ezekiel? But I digress, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Is this like a deja vu? “I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil.” Does it sound as though I need to be stood up straight and strong by the Spirit just as much now? “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Was Eziekiel like everyone else? Or was he different because of what he allowed You to do in him and how he clung to You? “As You have sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” Well there’s the clincher.

 
If Ezekiel was sent out into the world in the middle of bad and good news all wrapped up together, then wasn’t Jesus sent even more so? Jesus came knowing He would be crucified by a people He loved. But He never stopped loving and never stopped telling. God was everything and the suffering and hurt was a moment in comparison. And the truth is that all who would believe are called in the same way. We are called to hear and follow despite the pain, despite homelessness, despite ridicule, despite our health, despite the faces people make, and the deterrents along the way. We are called to hear and follow despite our feelings and our hopes and dreams. We are called to cast off our rebellion and follow wholeheartedly, counting the cost and understanding it will cost much. We are called to count God worth every cost and to live like it. That’s what I learn from Ezekiel today. And that’s what I learn from Jesus every day. But is that how I live?

 
Lord, I have not always lived as though You were the greatest worth. I admit that I cannot stand on my own. I am in desperate need of Your Spirit to stand me up firm on my feet so that I can hear You rightly and walk rightly in Your words and Your ways. I need Your Spirit to make me strong and keep me strong in a world that is rebellious. I even need Your Spirit to keep me from falling into rebellion myself or for getting out of it. But I also want to take the steps to seek You, to cling to You, to value You more than anything in life. When I’m weak, I want to fall on You, not on my weakness. I don’t want my weakness to rule me; I want You to rule me and guide me and strengthen me. I want to be ready for the good and the bad and the bad and good, however they come. And I thank You so much, that You do not leave us unprepared but that You fully equip us for every situation. So let me eat whatever You give me, the bitter and the tasty, so that I may dwell in the beauty and safety of You. And may others be drawn to eat from that same plate and count it more than worth it.

Feast or Famine

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Photo credit to Pastor Rogelio Elosendo.

“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.’” Amos 8:11

 
Ancient Biblical days are not the only days of famine. There are countries right now that are going through famine in the sense of lack of food and insufficient provisions for the people. And just the same, ancient Biblical days are not the only days of famine when it concerns a destitution or lack or want in the spiritual realm. Now, I’m not talking mysticism here. There never seems to be a famine of that. But what I am talking about here is a hunger from lack of the word of Life.

 
Famine is visible. It has tell-tale effects on the human body. Go without food and water long enough, or go with less than sufficient food for long enough, and you will suffer weight loss. Children’s growth will be retarded. Malnutrition sets in and mortality rates go up, effecting the old and the young first. It’s not just starvation, but the fact that their bodies can no longer fight infection. It effects learning and concentration. Childhood malnutrition can cause a host of other problems like “reduced intelligence, anxiety, psychiatric issues, and cognitive impairment.” It effects the mind and body. There can be visual problems, bleeding gums/decaying teeth, inability for the heart to function properly, internal organ function threatened, the skin breaks down and can’t protect and shield, joints and muscles will ache and weaken and shrink, bones can become fragile, nerves in extremities break down, and diseases that are rare open up the body to a pandora’s box. You actually wouldn’t even need medicine to stop these diseases, only proper nutrition.

 
It doesn’t have to happen in a famished land either. It can happen in a place where people have sufficient food. But there are some who don’t have what they need and they get lost in the shuffle until the damage is apparent. It’s like a little boy who didn’t have the right nutrition and by the time he could get to the hospital for treatment, the TB had gotten into his bones and effected his learning. Thank God someone noticed. Thank God someone did something when they noticed. But the not noticing for a while caused permanent damage.
But there is a famine that is much more dangerous than that of hunger and thirst for our physical needs. There is a famine that can effect our souls. Our souls were created to be fed by One Source, the Source who created them. Our souls were meant to be fed by You God. But somewhere along the line we start thinking other things can satisfy.

 
In Amos’ day, the people were impatient and asking, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain?” Does that seem insignificant? It’s not. The new moon was at the heart of keeping the calendar and the feasts and festivals that You had established. It was a reminder and an act of worship in remembering and doing. It wasn’t about ritual. The new moon was watching for that sliver to show up in the night sky to tell the end of one month and the beginning of the new and to count down the days to the next celebration of God. But instead of looking for that sliver with anticipation, instead of looking forward to celebrating You and Your care, they wanted to sell their grain and get on with their lives despite You. They were inflicting their own famine from You and no longer even felt hungry. It reminds me of someone who was eating lots of salad during her pregnancy to watch her weight. But when she went to the doctor, she found out that she was malnourished because iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value. We can try to meet our own needs and totally get it wrong.

 
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the people also couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to be over so they could get to selling their wheat. Here was this day that God instituted for man’s welfare and even demonstrated for us. Here was a day He gave us for rest and spiritual enrichment. It’s that day when You ceased, ended, and rested from Your creative works. You told Your people, “Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.” (Exodus 20:8) Remember, zakhor, doesn’t mean to just not forget. It means to observe and remember its significance. It’s about creation and deliverance from slavery into freedom. “Observe [shamor] the Sabbath day to sanctify it.” (Deuteronomy 5:12) Sabbath was for remembering and observing by acting in a way that demonstrated that we are not in control over our environment but You are, God. To want to ignore Sabbath is to wrench that control away from You and put it back in our own hands.

 
So there was this day coming, when there would be this famine and thirst not for food and water, but for Your words. There would be a famine “of hearing the words of the LORD.” That word for hearing is shama and it doesn’t just mean to hear. It means to hear and obey. Can you imagine people being famished for the words of the Lord, that people will want to hear You but won’t? How does that happen? Do You mean that people who have been hearing and obeying will no longer get to hear You? Or is it that people who have been hearing but not obeying will look for You and not be able to hear or see You? Will people ignore other people so that their spiritual famine grows to the point of no return? Will people so ignore their own need that they can no longer be helped?

 
Imagine asking for help and not receiving it. But in Isaiah 1:15 You say, “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.” Did You not hear the prayers? But You hear and know everything. Or did You choose to not respond to the prayers because shama is about hearing and doing, hearing and responding? But You chose not to listen. Why? Is that fair? Is that right? Well, if their hands were full of blood, doesn’t that mean that those who prayed weren’t hearing and combining the doing with it? Because if I was listening to You and doing it, how could I have blood on my hands? And if I won’t hold up my end of the covenant, then I have already broken the relationship, and You would no longer be bound to Yours. Every moment that You continue to hold covenant beyond that is shear grace.

 
Why do we expect You to listen and respond rightly to us and we don’t feel ourselves obligated to You in any way? Why are we not concerned about hearing You speak these words, “I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity.”? (Matthew 7:23) There are people out there who are thinking they are doing good things, but since they won’t listen to Your words, they don’t understand that You are the only Good Thing, that Jesus is the only Good Way, and the only Right Choice. And no one gains eternal life in the next life without knowing eternal life in this one first. And the only way to know eternal life now is to know the Eternal Life Giver, the one who was there in the beginning and created everything with His very words.

 
“Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My commandments, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine.” (Exodus 19:5) You can’t help reiterating how important, how doubly important it is for us to hear and listen and obey and do. Am I “indeed obey”ing? Shamoa tishmeoo is the Hebrew. It’s the double repetition of shama’. “If you hear-hear My voice…” Or since we know what shama’ means, we could listen as God also says, “If you obey-obey My voice…” And wouldn’t that therefore mean You are saying, “If you hear-obey, hear-obey”? And that’s with an exclamation mark. Is hearing and obeying all of Your words that important to me? Because it is to You. And it is if I want a real relationship with You. My hearing and obeying actually has bearing on Your hearing and responding. Does that matter to me?

 
Do I somehow think that Your covenant with other people outside the nation of Israel is different? Do I think that Your requirement for “If you hear-hear (obey-obey)” (Skip Moen) is only for the nation of Israel but for us Your covenant is absolute and unconditional? Did Jesus come so I wouldn’t have to hear and obey? I only have to hear and believe in what I hear? How empty is that? How hungry will that leave me? What kind of relationship is that? Why don’t we just leave off on eating and drinking and just live on the thought of food and water? If is a bigger word than it looks. If says there is a condition, a relationship to the following words. Man is called to cooperate. God chooses but His people who are chosen must respond. You can’t just hear and go your own way. Shama’, hearing and doing, “precedes active citizenship.” (Skip Moen)

And it’s not that I just get to hear and obey just the things I like, like Thomas Jefferson who went to the extent of cutting out the words of his Bible that he didn’t agree with. He even wrote His own Gospel! The Smithsonian says Jefferson “was devoted to the teachings of Jesus Christ. But he didn’t always agree with how they were interpreted by biblical sources, including the writers of the four Gospels, whom he considered to be untrustworthy correspondents.” So what did he do? He took “a sharp instrument, perhaps a penknife, to existing copies of the New Testament and pasting up his own account of Christ’s philosophy,” he penned the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. This “bible” excluded miraculous events or anything “contrary to reason” including the resurrection! How can one be classified as “devoted to the teachings of Jesus Christ” without accepting the words of God that Jesus accepted as true? Because those words tell of his death and resurrection. Those words tell of God doing miraculous things. But I suppose that’s a choice any of us can make, to grasp the “manhood” of Jesus and strip Him of His Godhood. Then it’s ok for me to listen to what I want to because Jesus was just another good moral teacher and that’s all.

But what a dangerous and empty thing that is, to write everything up according to my understanding. What ludicrous thinking to imagine that I can understand everything. To think that I can rewrite Scripture when I can’t even speak a universe into being? To write off miracles when even my own birth is one? If no one can create a camera as accurate as the human eye and yet somehow that eye came into existence. If you choose to believe it all came into being by chance, or by some story you want to create, that’s your choice. But to tell you the truth, that actually seems contrary to reason to me. I’ve seen the effects of the words of God. I’ve seen how Your word changes lives, including mine. I’ve heard how it raises the dead and sets the prisoners free. I’ve seen it do so. I’ve seen the hungry fed and the thirsty satisfied. I’ve seen lives changed and empowered by Your words as people did more than believe with their heads, but as people obeyed and lived according to Your words. I’ve seen life bloom where death was imminent where Your word took root in a heart, where broken families have been restored, where people become new creations all together.

Simon Peter was just as credible a witness as any of us because he was just as human. He was there when Jesus shared, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. “ But Thomas Jefferson could have been one of the followers in the crowd that day. Many of those who had been his disciples walked away, saying, “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?” What were Your words, Lord? “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words I that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” And many walked away. But Jesus turned to the twelve, and asked, “Do you want to go away as well?” But Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6)

There is only One who can satisfy us eternally, here and into eternity. There are words of eternal life. Only the word of God will satisfy completely, believing is acting upon them and living in them and holding on to them with all my life. Yes, I can trust the same Word that brought me into existence for that Word is the same that will forever keep me in Him. I don’t have to be hungry or thirsty. I can drink from the Fountain of Life and eat from the Bread of Life, every day for every meal and continuous snacks in between. I never have to be malnourished if only I will heed Your words, whether they are sweet like honey or bitter to the taste. My life depends on it. Our relationship depends upon it. And I can’t have life without having a relationship in You and with You first. Lord, I don’t want to experience a famine from You. I want to hear Your words, love Your words, and live out Your words in my life.

Feast or Famine

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Photo credit to smithsonianmag.com

“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.’”  Amos 8:11

Ancient Biblical days are not the only days of famine.  There are countries right now that are going through famine in the sense of lack of food and insufficient provisions for the people.  And just the same, ancient Biblical days are not the only days of famine when it concerns a destitution or lack or want in the spiritual realm.  Now, I’m not talking mysticism here.  There never seems to be a famine of that.  But what I am talking about here is a hunger from lack of the word of Life. 

Famine is visible.  It has tell-tale effects on the human body.  Go without food and water long enough, or go with less than sufficient food for long enough, and you will suffer weight loss.  Children’s growth will be retarded.  Malnutrition sets in and mortality rates go up, effecting the old and the young first.  It’s not just starvation, but the fact that their bodies can no longer fight infection.  It effects learning and concentration.  Childhood malnutrition can cause a host of other problems like “reduced intelligence, anxiety, psychiatric issues, and cognitive impairment.”   It effects the mind and body.  There can be visual problems, bleeding gums/decaying teeth,  inability for the heart to function properly, internal organ function threatened, the skin breaks down and can’t protect and shield, joints and muscles will ache and weaken and shrink, bones can become fragile, nerves in extremities break down, and diseases that are rare open up the body to a pandora’s box.  You actually wouldn’t even need medicine to stop these diseases, only proper nutrition. 

It doesn’t have to happen in a famished land either.  It can happen in a place where people have sufficient food.  But there are some who don’t have what they need and they get lost in the shuffle until the damage is apparent.  It’s like a little boy who didn’t have the right nutrition and by the time he could get to the hospital for treatment, the TB had gotten into his bones and effected his learning.  Thank God someone noticed.  Thank God someone did something when they noticed.  But the not noticing for a while caused permanent damage.

But there is a famine that is much more dangerous than that of hunger and thirst for our physical needs.  There is a  famine that can effect our souls.  Our souls were created to be fed by One Source, the Source who created them.  Our souls were meant to be fed by You God.  But somewhere along the line we start thinking other things can satisfy. 

In Amos’ day, the people were impatient and asking, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain?”  Does that seem insignificant?  It’s not.  The new moon was at the heart of keeping the calendar and the feasts and festivals that You had established.  It was a reminder and an act of worship in remembering and doing.  It wasn’t about ritual.  The new moon was watching for that sliver to show up in the night sky to tell the end of one month and the beginning of the new and to count down the days to the next celebration of God.  But instead of looking for that sliver with anticipation, instead of looking forward to celebrating You and Your care, they wanted to sell their grain and get on with their lives despite You.  They were inflicting their own famine from You and no longer even felt hungry.  It reminds me of someone who was eating lots of salad during her pregnancy to watch her weight.  But when she went to the doctor, she found out that she was malnourished because iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value.  We can try to meet our own needs and totally get it wrong.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the people also couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to be over so they could get to selling their wheat.  Here was this day that God instituted for man’s welfare and even demonstrated for us.  Here was a day He gave us for rest and spiritual enrichment.  It’s that day when You ceased, ended, and rested from Your creative works.  You told Your people, “Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.” (Exodus 20:8)  Remember, zakhor, doesn’t mean to just not forget.  It means to observe and remember its significance.  It’s about creation and deliverance from slavery into freedom.  “Observe [shamor] the Sabbath day to sanctify it.” (Deuteronomy 5:12)  Sabbath was for remembering and observing by acting in a way that demonstrated that we are not in control over our environment but You are, God.  To want to ignore Sabbath is to wrench that control away from You and put it back in our own hands.

So there was this day coming, when there would be this famine and thirst not for food and water, but for Your words.  There would be a famine “of hearing the words of the LORD.”  That word for hearing is shama and it doesn’t just mean to hear.  It means to hear and obey.  Can you imagine people being famished for the words of the Lord, that people will want to hear You but won’t?  How does that happen?  Do You mean that people who have been hearing and obeying will no longer get to hear You?  Or is it that people who have been hearing but not obeying will look for You and not be able to hear or see You?  Will people ignore other people so that their spiritual famine grows to the point of no return?  Will people so ignore their own need that they can no longer be helped?

Imagine asking for help and not receiving it.  But in Isaiah 1:15 You say, “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.”  Did You not hear the prayers?  But You hear and know everything.  Or did You choose to not respond to the prayers because shama is about hearing and doing, hearing and responding?  But You chose not to listen.  Why?  Is that fair? Is that right?  Well, if their hands were full of blood, doesn’t that mean that those who prayed weren’t hearing and combining the doing with it?  Because if I was listening to You and doing it, how could I have blood on my hands?  And if I won’t hold up my end of the covenant, then I have already broken the relationship, and You would no longer be bound to Yours.  Every moment that You continue to hold covenant beyond that is shear grace.

Why do we expect You to listen and respond rightly to us and we don’t feel ourselves obligated to You in any way?  Why are we not concerned about hearing You speak these words, “I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity”? (Matthew 7:23)  There are people out there who are thinking they are doing good things, but since they won’t listen to Your words, they don’t understand that You are the only Good Thing, that Jesus is the only Good Way, and the only Right Choice.  And no one gains eternal life in the next life without knowing eternal life in this one first.  And the only way to know eternal life now is to know the Eternal Life Giver, the one who was there in the beginning and created everything with His very words.

“Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My commandments, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine.” (Exodus 19:5)  You can’t help reiterating how important, how doubly important it is for us to hear and listen and obey and do.  Am I “indeed obey”ing?  Shamoa tishmeoo is the Hebrew.  It’s the double repetition of shama’.  “If you hear-hear My voice…”  Or since we know what shama’ means, we could listen as God also says, “If you obey-obey My voice…”  And wouldn’t that therefore mean You are saying, “If you hear-obey, hear-obey”?  And that’s with an exclamation mark.  Is hearing and obeying all of Your words that important to me?  Because it is to You.  And it is if I want a real relationship with You.  My hearing and obeying actually has bearing on Your hearing and responding.  Does that matter to me?

Do I somehow think that Your covenant with other people outside the nation of Israel is different?  Do I think that Your requirement for “If you hear-hear (obey-obey)” (Skip Moen) is only for the nation of Israel but for us Your covenant is absolute and unconditional?  Did Jesus come so I wouldn’t have to hear and obey?  I only have to hear and believe in what I hear?  How empty is that?  How hungry will that leave me?  What kind of relationship is that?  Why don’t we just leave off on eating and drinking and just live on the thought of food and water?  If is a bigger word than it looks.  If says there is a condition, a relationship to the following words.  Man is called to cooperate.  God chooses but His people who are chosen must respond.  You can’t just hear and go your own way.  Shama’, hearing and doing, “precedes active citizenship.” (Skip Moen)

And it’s not that I just get to hear and obey just the things I like, like Thomas Jefferson who went to the extent of cutting out the words of his Bible that he didn’t agree with.  He even wrote His own Gospel!  The Smithsonian says Jefferson “was devoted to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  But he didn’t always agree with how they were interpreted by biblical sources, including the writers of the four Gospels, whom he considered to be untrustworthy correspondents.”  So what did he do?  He took “a sharp instrument, perhaps a penknife, to existing copies of the New Testament and pasting up his own account of Christ’s philosophy,” he penned the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.  This “bible” excluded miraculous events or anything “contrary to reason” including the resurrection!  How can one be classified as “devoted to the teachings of Jesus Christ” without accepting the words of God that Jesus accepted as true?  Because those words tell of his death and resurrection.  Those words tell of God doing miraculous things.  But I suppose that’s a choice any of us can make, to grasp the “manhood” of Jesus and strip Him of His Godhood.  Then it’s ok for me to listen to what I want to because Jesus was just another good moral teacher and that’s all.

But what a dangerous and empty thing that is, to write everything up according to my understanding.  What ludicrous thinking to imagine that I can understand everything.  To think that I can rewrite Scripture when I can’t even speak a universe into being?  To write off miracles when even my own birth is one?  If no one can create a camera as accurate as the human eye and yet somehow that eye came into existence.  If you choose to believe it all came into being by chance, or by some story you want to create, that’s your choice.  But to tell you the truth, that actually seems contrary to reason to me.  I’ve seen the effects of the words of God.  I’ve seen how Your word changes lives, including mine.  I’ve heard how it raises the dead and sets the prisoners free.  I’ve seen it do so. I’ve see the hungry fed and the thirsty satisfied.  I’ve seen lives changed and empowered by Your words as people did more than believe with their heads, but as people obeyed and lived according to Your words.  I’ve seen life bloom where death was imminent where Your word took root in a heart, where broken families have been restored, where people become new creations all together.

Simon Peter was just as credible a witness as any of us because he was just as human.   He was there when Jesus shared, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. “  But Thomas Jefferson could have been one of the followers in the crowd that day.  Many of those who had been his disciples walked away, saying, “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?”  What were Your words, Lord?  “Do you take offense at this?  Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.”  And many walked away.  But Jesus turned to the twelve, and asked, “Do you want to go away as well?”  But Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  (John 6)   There is only One who can satisfy us eternally, here and into eternity.  There are words of eternal life.  Only the word of God will satisfy completely, believing is acting upon them and living in them and holding on to them with all my life.  Yes, I can trust the same Word that brought me into existence for that Word is the same that will forever keep me in Him.  I don’t have to be hungry or thirsty.  I can drink from the Fountain of Life and eat from the Bread of Life, every day for every meal and continuous snacks in between.  I never have to be malnourished if only I will hear and obey Your words, whether they are sweet like honey or bitter to the taste.  My life depends on it.  Our relationship depends upon it.  And I can’t have life without having a relationship in You and with You first.  Lord, I don’t want to experience a famine from You.  I want to hear Your words, love Your words, and live out Your words in my life. 

I’ve Been Judged

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Photo credit to someone on the internet.

“I said, ‘Please listen, leaders of Jacob, rulers of the house of Isra’el:  Shouldn’t you know what justice is?’” (Micah 3:1)

Here’s that warning again, shama, or hear and listen and do.  Micah is beseeching, not just asking.  Who is he speaking to?  He’s speaking to the leaders, both the government leaders and religious leaders of Jacob and Israel.  And we shouldn’t just think that this message is only good for Jacob and Israel and only good for those days back then.  This is need to know life information for today.  If we don’t learn from this life lesson of the past, it will unfold again right in front of us today, and again and again in the future.  Oh, wait!  It is unfolding in front of us from nation to nation today!

What do You, God, hold leaders responsible for?  “Is it not for you to know judgment?” (KJV)  “Shouldn’t you know what justice is?”  So I guess the question is, “What do You mean by that?  What do You consider justice or judgment?”  And how can we know it?  What does that mean?

Micah isn’t the only prophet helping us to understand this.  Zechariah shares, “Thus has the Lord of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’” (Zechariah 7:8-10)  What did this mean in ancient societies?  Well, first, the word for justice in Hebrew is mishpat.  It’s real meaning is about the administration of government but not just by man.  It’s about the administration of government according to Your rulings, God.  And that administration is given by You not to a political body but to leaders, who in Israel were the tribal chiefs and the patriarch or the king.  Individuals personally administered justice.  In other words, these individuals carried forth Your will and saw that the people carried it forth in their lives.  Well, at least that’s what they were supposed to do.  But whether they did or they didn’t do that, You held and still hold each personally liable for whether they carry through their decisions according to Your directions or not. 

The standard for justice isn’t whatever floats a judge’s boat.  It’s not whatever society wants or thinks they need.  The standard for justice is God’s word.  That’s what our leaders are to live by and rule by.  That’s the example they are supposed to be setting for us.  So the personal involvement goes deeper than with the rules of God.  It’s a personal involvement with You, God.  Personal involvement with You leads to personal involvement with what You love and uphold and against what You abhor.  Take away the personal involvement, and who gives a hoot about the rules?

What’s happening in the world today when someone wants their rights so much that they strip someone else of their rights even to the extent of thinking it’s ok to rob them of their life?  Where are the leaders speaking out against this?  Micah accuses leaders of hating good, and loving evil, of plucking skin off the people and the flesh off their bones and eating it.  Yuck!  But what are our own leaders inciting others to do in our world or in our country?  And why is this happening?  Because we’ve lost the personal knowledge of the compassion of God.

God’s compassion is a real thing.  His mercies are truly new every morning.  In Zechariah, the leaders had forgotten compassion, raham.  Skip Moen says that raham is, “an intense, deep personal connection comparable to the feelings a mother has for her unborn child in the womb.  Very personal.”  Now think about this.  Why are our leaders supposed to feel this way about those they rule?  Because this is the way God feels for us.  Is this what our leaders practice today?  Are we in leadership positions in our homes or churches or communities?  Are we practicing this kind of leadership?  Am I?

Jeremiah continues this thinking, “‘but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:24)  So here is another word to think about.  It’s in Micah and Zechariah and Jeremiah here.  It’s that word know.  What does it really mean?  We think of knowledge today and we think of knowing a lot of information.  But that’s a Greek idea and not the Hebrew idea here.  This is the word yada and if you want to understand true religion, you need to understand yada.  True religion is sake, understanding and yada, knowing.  Without both, you can’t have a right relationship with God.  And without a right relationship with God, You can’t do it right in the world.  Understanding is about really thinking and grappling and getting down to the really deep stuff about following Him.  It’s serious questions that lead to serious answers.  But searching out the answers till you find them isn’t enough.  We have to know Him.  How do I do that?

It goes from knowing about Him, about the extent and facts of all He’s done, including coming to earth as man and God, teaching, living, being crucified for the glory of God and our sins and redemption, dying, rising again, and reigning over all.  And it extends to the closest intimacy of knowing Him like when a man and woman become one through sexual intimacy in the wholeness of marriage and unity.  It’s not enough to understand who God is.  We have to experience who He is too.  Skip Moen states again, “the intimacy of deep relationship, the friendship, the honesty, the confrontation, the instruction, the familial bonding, are all part of ‘yada YHVH.  He’s your best friend, your protective parent, your mentor, your examiner, your guide, your lover, your comforter, your doctor, your judge” and more.  Maybe the problem why our leaders are failing and the people are following is because of what they are missing out on, this real relationship with One who truly cares.

Without giving You complete sovereignty in our lives we can’t be full of what You are full of.  How can we exhibit qualities like faithfulness, justice, and righteousness in their true form without knowing what their true form really is like?  I can’t just know about faithfulness, I have to convert my knowledge into action.  I can’t just know about justice, I must convert it into action.  I can’t just know about what’s right, I must do it and convert it into action.  But who is going to show me what these all translate into in our lives?  The One who is each of these is the Only One who can show me. 

I can’t become a doer of the word unless I personally know the Word first.  Maybe our leaders don’t know all this.  But I think, living in this country, and living in a world where every day nature screams out the glory and presence of God, I’m not going to say they aren’t aware enough to be held accountable.  The fact is that the true Judge of all mankind will hold us all, every one of us, up to His measure of justice, not ours.  If my life and rulings don’t look like His, then they aren’t.  I’m the one who needs to re-examine my thinking and my ways and change my understanding, not You, Lord.

Judgment was coming for Israel.  And judgment will come for each of us too.  And I have a feeling that You hold leaders to a very high standard, you know, “to whom much is given, much will be required.”  John warned, “This is the judgment, that the Light [Jesus] has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”  You know, you don’t have to tear someone’s flesh off to be evil, poneros.  Poneros comes from “a group denoting poverty or need, has the senses 1. ‘sorrowful,’ ‘unhappy,’ ‘laden with care,’ 2. ‘bringing trouble,’ 3. ‘pitiable,’ ‘poor,’ ‘unfit,’ ‘unattractive,’ ‘bad,’ ‘unlucky,’ 4. ‘unsuccessful,’ 5. ‘plebeian,’ 6. ‘politically useless,’ ‘worthless,’ and finally 7. ‘morally reprehensible’ with the various nuances.” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament)  It’s everything that God knows is not good.  It’s what is “bad, unfavorable, worthless, unhappy, hurtful, futile, and evil.”  Later, Micah is going to share what God considers good.  “He has shown 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?”  Do you know that man here is every human being?  Every one can know and everyone can have a relationship with God.

When we do and say things that cause sorrow or dissension or unrest, it’s evil, short and simple.  When I set up people to fail, when I deliberately make someone else unhappy, when I cause someone to be unsuccessful, when I’m unattractive because of a wrong attitude, when I make life futile, or make people feel worthless, or when I’m disobedient, I’m guilty of evil.  What about when I’m all about being burdened about me and how I’m being treated instead of being burdened for others?  Wonder if that thinking leads to police brutality or to civilians shooting innocent policemen just like that? Self-pity can be a dark evil, can’t it?  Now the reprehensible isn’t so far away.  See what despising what God has created in His image can lead to?  It’s dangerous stuff that we’re overlooking here.  Maybe we ought to call evil what it is, evil.

It’s for all of us to know judgment.  It’s for all of us to understand and know You God and know Your ways and live by them because You are Light and anything outside of You and Your ways is darkness.  It’s really easy for us to turn to the dark side, just look at what happened to sweet little Anakin.  It tears me up throughout that whole movie where he keeps holding on to those dark thoughts and seeing where it takes him.  It’s so sad.  And that’s where many of us are turning today as we follow self-pity and our rights and our pride.  We’re entering a place of sadness and darkness and separation from God and separation from true fellowship with mankind.  Selfishness is much different than selflessness. 

God is inviting us to know and feel with Him.  He is actively concerned, He is pursuing inner engagement, true dedication to us, and attaching Himself to us.  He has genuine sympathy, pity, and affection for us.   He truly feels.  He feels hurt and humiliation and heaviness and hopelessness for us and with us.  With a heart that loves and clings and wants our greatest benefit, He watches as His beloved bride sleeps with others and doesn’t give a hoot about Him.  Man, that’s sad.  That’s awful, isn’t it?

See, Israel wasn’t giving a hoot about her faithful Husband.  She didn’t have any feelings for Him like He had for her.  All her sympathy had dried up because she was all about herself.  And isn’t that the way our culture has adapted?  Where is sympathy today?  Where is it for God?  Where is it for others when it’s so easy to shoot and kill or destroy people’s lives because they don’t agree with us?  Maybe we’ve become less human and more like corrupt animals the farther we walk away from You, God.  And yet You still cry for our loss. 

Well, I want to feel the way You feel and I want to feel the way You feel about me, about You.  I want to love intensely and faithfully like You.  I want to understand and exhibit true sympathy.  I want to be real and really care and really act upon that caring.  I want to be like Micah.  I want to be of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might to not only declare sin as sin, but to live according to Your ways and according to You because I am Yours and You are mine.  And if the world chooses to walk another way, let me continue to stand for You, not because I’m a prophet or anything special, but simply because You are the only One worthy of standing and being Judge.  I just want to cling to You as tightly as You cling to me.  I truly can’t wait until the day that I become one with You because I’ve been judged as truly Yours in Jesus. 

Do I Need a Hearing Evaluation?

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“Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, the Lord from His holy temple.”  (Micah 1:1)

What’s my warning today, Lord?  How can I keep myself where I should be with You and with others?  And if I am not where I should be, how can I come back?  I listen.  Yes, I hear, but not like we think about hearing.  The words and the sounds don’t go in and then out the other side with no effect.  This is shama and we are to hear and to know and to experience because we act upon what we hear from You.  Hearing is listening and doing, listening and following through.  Hearing doesn’t become faith until one acts upon the hearing.  “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

So, it goes to reason, that if I stop really hearing and following through, I’m going to fall, and fall big time.  I need to pay attention to my heart and to my hearing.  Paying attention in Hebrew is qashab which means to prick up the ears, attend, give heed, incline, mark, regard.  I think of a horse and how attentive it is with its ears.  That’s because they are guided by fight or flight instincts.  They worry about being attacked as prey.  Even as domesticated animals, they are always listening.  That’s why a rider must be constantly aware, because if those ears sense “danger” you may be in for a wild ride because when that horse hears, it will act.

The truth is that the Lord has given us ears that are capable of hearing more keenly and more realistically than a horse.  He’s given us deeper intuition and true understanding if we stop to really listen and pay attention.  A horse naturally acts by running, not by thinking things through.  But You give us everything we need to know to handle every situation in the right way. 

Why should I take the time to listen and hear and act upon what I hear of You, Lord?  Because You hear us.  Back in Exodus You shared, “If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep?  And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”  Did you know that God cares about things like that and wants us to act accordingly? 

And what’s the problem with listening to other sources than You and heeding their direction?  When we serve “gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands” they don’t see, or hear, or eat, or smell.  Nothing else and no one else can hear and do for us what You desire to do.  God let the people of Israel hear his voice out of heaven, that he might discipline, instruct, and teach them.  They heard His words.  Are they the only ones?  You are still letting us hear Your voice out of heaven today.  And we don’t have to see You in the midst of the fire or the cloud and hear Your words there.  You gave us Your word through Jesus Christ and we got to see it lived out.  We got to hear and see it in action.  And that’s what we’re called to do in our lives.

Listen, it may be up to us to decide whether we will hear or not.  It may be up to us whether we will hear and obey or hear and ignore and go our own way.  But one thing is not up to us, and that is the consequences of not hearing what has been given to each of us for our benefit.  We may think that by not hearing, we become the judge, but we don’t.  Look at everyday life.  I can ignore the laws, and make my own rules, but when I get caught, I’m going before the judge, and it’s not going to matter what I thought or what I believed.  Only what the judge believes will matter and he will declare my guilt or innocence according to how my actions lined up with the law.  I can ignore Your words.  I can declare my own way.  I can totally not pay attention.  But that doesn’t negate Your words, Your way, Your right and position as Supreme Judge.  You alone will stand as witness against us or for us, no matter what we believe.  So who’s side do I want to be on?

Israel as a nation had lost her way.  Why?  Because she wouldn’t listen and obey.  God had spoken these words to them and speaks them to us as we read and hear His words today.  “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”  (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)  Will we love God’s word so much that it flows out of every part of our life?  Or will we ignore it and choose our own way?

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7, Psalm 95:8)  Read  it.  Listen to it.  Take time to read it aloud to yourself so the words and truths sink in.  Don’t just hear it from someone else’s mouth.  Hear it come out your own.  Listen to what the Spirit says through His word.  In Revelation there is a promise for doing that, and I don’t think it just applies to reading the book of Revelation out loud and hearing and obeying.  “Blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)  The last book in the Bible and seven times it reminds us “If anyone has an ear, let him hear…” 

The truth is, it is not God’s desire to be against us.  His heart has always been for us.  How unnatural to choose to be against the One who is so much for us.  The truth is that God wants to intercede for us through Jesus Christ, despite what we have chosen.  He’s willing to take us back as full children!  Listen and hear.  “What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)  May we hear and realize the measure to which God is for us and may we respond in like measure to Him.

Can I Keep It?

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“These things I command you, that you love one another.”  John 15:17

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I feel like I’ve been here forever, thinking about the same things, listening to them being told to me over and over again, only in different words.  And that’s O.K.  I need to hear the same thing over and over again, especially since it’s this important, especially since it’s all about my relationship with You and with others.  

Google was somewhat helpful just now.  I searched for how many times we need to repeat something before we learn it.  It seems like we need a lot of repetition, like 17-20 some repetitions.  But when looking at forming a habit, it took anywhere from 21 days for easier habits to 86 days.  Since the study only lasted that long, they extrapolated that some habits would take 254 days to form.  And then I found out that it took 7o some days just to break one bad habit.

So it’s no wonder how much You choose to repeat things and tell me in different words.  But then I have to not just listen.  What You command me, what You enjoin me to, what You charge me to do, what You tell me to fulfil in You, must turn into action.  It must turn into repeated action.  It must turn into actual action after actual action after actual action.  What You command, I must do.

I didn’t learn how to write all at once.   First I learned to hold the crayon or pencil.  Then I just got the feel for it.  I experienced the fact that when I put it to the paper with some pressure, it made marks.  So at first my drawing looked like scribbles.  But every time I tried again, my eyes and my hands learned to work together and understand each other better and they learned to understand the function of the crayon.  Every time I practiced, I gained better control, until that day I could finally draw a picture or write my name.

“All these things I’ve told you, all these things I’ve commanded you, You need to know them and do them so that You will love one another.  Every one of these things is essential to your learning.  You must practice these things I’ve been teaching you.  It’s not enough to preach about them or talk about them.  You must do it, perform it, live it.”

Now, all Your words count.  But just for an example I’m going to go back and start in John 14  where this particular conversation appears to have started.  And isn’t it something that it starts with this lesson- “If a man loves Me, he will keep My words.”  Knowledge enough to obey, and a subsequent choice to obey, means love of the Father.  This is recipricol love.  And how does the world know that You, Jesus, love the Father?  You do what He commands.  Keep repeating this for me.  

How do I bear fruit?   I obey Your promises and commands and let You bear it through me.  I practice what You preach.  I am only clean through the word You have spoken when I believe it and act upon it.  I abide in You when I obey, as I obey.  But that’s funny.  Because I just searched for uses of obey in Scripture and John never uses the word obey in his writings.  Now there are some different words used for “obey” in the New Testament in 24 different scattered verses.  It conveys the meaning of listening intentively or conforming to authority.  So, what is John trying to get me to understand differently?

John doesn’t use that word “obey.”  I think I found what he chose to focus on.  “Keep.”  “Keep my sayings.”  Jesus said of God, “I know Him and keep His sayings.”  “Keep my commandments.”  “If a man loves me he will keep my words…”  “If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.”  So, I wonder if there was a difference for John between keeping and obeying?

There was one thing I read in the meaning of “obey” that got me to thinking.  “Obey” can mean to be persuaded by an authority.  And of course, I do need to be persuaded by You because first You must choose me and give me eyes to see and a heart to understand.  But true obedience, effectual obedience must go deeper than that, it must go beyond that.  True obedience must go beyond being compelled from the outside, and must move to being compelled from our own changed heart.

“Keep”, “tereo” means to keep, guard, obey, observe.  It’s like a soldier keeping watch where he has been commanded.  He’s guarding, protecting, observing, preserving, storing, and keeping things in the condition in which he was entrusted with them.  Now let’s compare this with the Hebrew word for “obey”, “shama.”  It implied “to hear intelligently; to consider and consent with contentment; to diligently discern and perceive with the ear; to give ear.”

Now those two definitions seem a little different.  But when I stop to think about it, John was Hebrew.  He was very familiar with the “Old Testament” idea of shama.  I think he really grasped that because I see it in his responses to others and to Jesus.  He was not a quick speaker.  I can see him resting at Your side, Jesus, just listening and hearing.  I can see him considering and consenting to Your words with utter contentment, especially at the moment where he was leaning up against You.  I hear in his writings how he diligently discerned and perceived the truth behind and within Your words.  He gave ear, he took them to heart, and he lived them out.  Yes, John kept Your words, Your commands.  And this is what he is teaching me to do, with an attitude like this.

So, when did obeying lose the meaning of “hearing intelligently?”  I wanted to make sure I understood that phrase.  It means to listen with the ability to understand or reason.  It means knowing, understanding, being informed and skilled.  I can listen attentively and with understanding to Your commands and Your words because You give me the ability through the understanding of the Holy Spirit who teaches me (over and over again, I might thankfully add!)  When in the “New Testament” did it lose the meaning of considering and consenting with contentment?  Oh, Lord, I ought to consider and consent to all You say with the greatest of contentment and satisfaction.  This King that I believe in and serve is caring for me, protecting me, including me!  What a privilege to be kept in Him and responsible for keeping that which He charges me with!  When did obedience lose the meaning of diligently discerning and perceiving with the ear?  When did listening to the voice of my beloved King, become a chore?  I diligently listen and perceive because I love the sound of Your voice, I love the effects of Your voice, I love the presence of Your voice, I love the authority and protection of Your voice.  So, when did this idea of obedience change?

Sometimes you just have to go back to where things started.  Sometimes you just have to dig for the roots.  So, I need to take myself back to the heart of the matter.  And You, Lord, are the heart of the matter.  Am I keeping You as close and dear as You keep me?  It’s only when I know and experience the depth of Your keeping me that I can share that same beautiful keeping with others.  There is nothing better than being kept by You and being given the privilege of keeping that which You place in my hands for You.  I couldn’t help but look up “keep” in Webster’s dictionary.  I like that Godly man.  He defines keep as “to hold; to retain in one’s power or possession; not to lose or part with….to have in custody for security or preservation…to preserve; to retain…to preserve from falling or from danger; to protect; to guard or sustain…to hold or restrain from departure; to detain…  to tend; to have the care of…to tend, to feed, to pasture…to practice; to do or perform; to obey; to observe in practice; not to neglect or violate…to fulfill; to perform…to use habitually…to copy carefully…to observe or solemnize…to hold in one’s own bosom.  And this was just part of his definition!

“These things, not just in the ‘New Testament’, I’ve told you, so that you can put them to practice and love like Me.  I’ve shared myself with You in the most intimate way.  I’ve shared myself with you so that you know my heart, you know Me.  If you love Me, you’ll love my words, my sayings.  They’re not heavy, they are freeing.  Love my words, you love me.  They represent me.  And what about you?  Do you love Me?  Then you ought to represent me through my word.  You ought to be the representation of My love, of Me, to others.  To love the King is to love all that He stands for.  To love the King is to love representing Him.  And don’t forget, I love you back even better!”

Lord, I love Your sayings.  I want to obey them not because I have to, not because I ought to, but because I love You and I want to please You and be near You.  I want to remain where I can keep hearing Your strong voice.  I want to remain fighting by Your side.  I want to remain in Your strength.  I want You to be so close to my bosom, I can’t get You out.  I want to find all my contentment in You.  I want to love Your sayings whether they are hard or easy because You are the best part of them.  When “this is too hard” for me, I want to keep You more tightly and I want You to keep me more tightly.  I will not walk away for something easier. 

No other King will ever fight for me as strongly as You.  No other King would ever love me with His own life.  No other King can promise me what You do.  No other King cares for my heart, for all of me as You do.  No other King can ever satisfy.  No other King can ever love me so greatly, protect me so efficiently, equip me so fully, include me so intimately.  What hard thing is worth walking away from You for?  I’m keeping You, Lord, because You keep me.  I am eternally grateful and eternally content in You  And I will continually learn and practice loving like You.  You so overflow and overwhelm!