Crocodile Tears

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Photo credit to doc_ | sxc.hu

 

“Ezekiel, son of man, condemn the king of Egypt and tell him I am saying, ‘You act like a lion roaming the earth; but you are nothing more than a crocodile in a river, churning up muddy water with your feet.’” (Ezekiel 32:2)

 
Crocodiles and uncircumcision, those are the words for today from Ezekiel chapter 32. What in the world do crocodiles and uncircumcision have to do with my spiritual walk today? They can have a lot to do with it. I’m not quite sure why the King James Version chooses to interpret the Hebrew word tanniyn here as whales, but I think that since it was interpreted as crocodiles back in chapter 29, it’s safe to assume that crocodile fits best here too. I mean, after all, crocodiles were a big part of life in Egypt. As a matter of fact, to Egypt, they were part of the divine. Let’s face it, they were worshipped as gods. It’s how Pharaoh saw himself. Of course, the crocodile wasn’t the only god. There were other gods, but this was the god that Pharaoh admired for it’s strength. This is how Pharaoh saw himself. This was the god Pharaoh modeled his heart after.

 
But the truth is that crocodiles aren’t gods. Cows aren’t gods. Cats and frogs and flies and fleas aren’t gods. And Pharaohs aren’t gods. Just because we choose to worship something, it doesn’t make it god. The truth is that only God is god no matter how we feel. And God alone has the power, the ability, the strength and might to prove Himself.
God will prove Himself, always and forever, but He also gives people time to see His proofs before they fall before them. I think it’s something how God takes that major god image, the crocodile, or Pharaoh, and how He uses the imagery here. I mean, here He is, going to catch this terrifying beast in a net. How authentic is that? I mean, is this really getting home to Pharaoh?

 
The Expositor’s Bible puts Pharaoh Hophra there at Ezekiel’s warning. And I was wondering how much this imagery of catching a crocodile in a net would be familiar then. So I did a little research on crocodiles and Egypt. I found that some Egyptians reverenced crocodiles and some Egyptians hated crocodiles. There is a writing, translated and shared by Richard B. Parkinson, where Pharaoh Amenemhat “boasts of having tamed a lion and taken a crocodile prisoner.” (Paul Sheridan) Isn’t that interesting that God compared the Pharaoh to one who was comparing himself to a lion among nations and a crocodile? Seems our Pharaoh wasn’t the only one who viewed himself this way.

 
But did they use nets. First I read of a story shared where a hook was baited with a live pig and the screaming of the pig would lure the crocodile who could then be captured or killed. But then, the Library of History by Diodorus, tells us that heavy nets or iron spears were used from boats. So it seems to me that God is turning back familiar imagery, familiar practices back upon Pharaoh. I guess God has always employed parables, using everyday life to help us understand heavenly truths, God’s view.

 

 

Now, this is pretty hard reading because there will be violence upon Egypt all for the purpose of Egypt and all men knowing that God is God and there is no other. And maybe you think, how can that be a God of love, to violently destroy people like that? But then I was reading how over and over again God says He is going to cast these people down to death where the “uncircumcised” before them lay, the land of the dead. He will cast them down with all those who thought themselves mighty but were slain in their own strength, every nation that so chose and so lived, no matter how strong. Every one uncircumcised and now laying with the other circumcised with those who die and die. But the truth is, it didn’t have to be so. Because there is a place that men can go with those who die and yet live. Whose path would I choose to follow? To die with those who die or to die with those who live?

 

 

Who in the world are the uncircumcised? What does that mean? Does that mean that everyone but Jews were forsaken by God? Or does it mean that all those who forsake God are the uncircumcised? I tend to lean toward that second choice. I mean, after all, not all the Jews entered into His rest. Why? Though circumcised physically, did they forsake God’s ways spiritually as they walked through life? Yes. That place of eternal death will be lined with Pagans and Jews alike who forsake God. Nationality doesn’t matter. There are those who desire to trust in their own strength and their own greatness and their own way. It could be me just as well as Pharaoh. It could be Paul of Tarsus before he understood God’s real thinking. But there really is only one Lion of lions and His name is the Lion of Judah. And there really is only one Crocodile of crocodiles. Well, He’s bigger than that because He’s over all the crocodiles and catches them with ease and controls all the frogs and flies and kings and mighty men everywhere of all time.

 

 

To think myself a lion of lions or a crocodile of crocodiles is to live like the uncircumcised. It’s to live Godlessly. Oh, I can have all the gods I want. But I won’t have God. I can think I am as powerful as I want and that I can decide my own life and my own ways, but in the long run, I don’t and I can’t because I’m not God. I can’t extend my life or shorten it without His permission. Have you seen people go to every extent to lengthen their lives just to have it end anyways? Or have you seen someone who has attempted suicide and yet could not die? I have.

 

 

That’s the sad thing here. All along God wanted the Egyptians to know Him. He had shown Himself before them. But they, like others before them, and others after them, wanted their power to be their own. And the truth of that reality is that it’s not our own. All power comes from God. He raises kingdoms for His purposes and He lays kingdoms down for His purposes. But His ultimate purpose always has been for men and women, boys and girls of all kingdoms to lay themselves at His feet under His power for His protection and love and guidance.

 

 

Here’s the truth. There have always been God scoffers who would rather design their own gods for their own ways. Peter warned of them but they have always been there and still are today. The question is, am I a God scoffer? Am I, like Pharaoh following my own sinful desires instead of God Himself? Am I, like Pharaoh, deliberately overlooking “this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not over look this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:4-9)

 

Have I come to repent of denying God His goodness in my life and those around me? Have I come to repent of deliberately overlooking Him and deliberately refusing to acknowledge Him in my life? If not, now is my warning, before I die and join the Godless down below. I can trust in anything I want, but I must know that my gods can’t follow me and they won’t be there for me. But if I trust God, He already is there for me, He already has me, and He has got a place for me with Him that I can start abiding in now. When I die, I want to die and join God in the world of the living, and since He is the living God, that place is found in Him. No crocodile tears for me. I’m moving from one life into greater life in Him!

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On Mixing and Mingling

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“…and all the mingled people…” (Ezekiel 30:5)

 
Well, I’m not focussing on a whole verse today but this phrase, “and all the mingled people.” It just jumps out at me. What’s the context? Egypt is about to be humbled by God in judgment but it’s not just effecting Egypt. It’s going to effect Ethiopia, Libya, Lydia, all the mingled people, and Chub, and all the others who are in league with Egypt. And I wonder if the mingled people are just one specific group of people or if all these people aren’t mingled in a sense?

 
Ereb is the Hebrew word for mingled people here. It’s used for the web or transverse threads of cloth, or a mixture, or a mongrel race. I think Arabia is used as an example. That makes sense since during the Exodus, there was a “mixed multitude” that joined the Jews. Again, we hear in Nehemiah how the people of Israel read the book of Moses after so long neglect, and found that the Ammonite and Moabite were banned from the congregation of God for ever. When they heard the law, they separated the “mixed multitude” from themselves. Jeremiah talks of the “mingled people” having to drink from the cup of the Lord’s fury.

 
I wonder if this idea of being a mingler really matters? I’m thinking that if God mentions it, it does matter, and that it matters significantly. But I also think that this idea of mingled things is something that we brush off. If I jump back to Leviticus and Deuteronomy, I see that You introduced this concept to Your people. You thought it was significant enough to instruct them on. You introduced kilayim and shaatnez. And though they seem inconsequential to us, they aren’t for You.

 
First You say, “You shall not sow your vineyard with divers seeds [kilayim]: lest the fruit of your seed which you have sown, and the fruit of your vineyard, be defiled.” (Deuteronomy 22:9) Kilayim is a forbidden mixture. What makes it forbidden? God says so. Do the two seeds explode when planted together? No. Will poison gas be given off? No. Will I not understand something of God if I don’t take His words at face value? Yes. Does listening, and trusting, and obeying have to do with honoring the absolute dignity and divinity of God? Yes. Does it matter if I trust You unconditionally in the “little seeming” things I don’t understand? Yes. Because if I can’t understand in one little thing I don’t get , how will I understand in all the other things I don’t agree with or can’t see or don’t feel like? And when did I become the one who knew better? When did my honor and dignity become more valuable than Yours?  When did I become omniscient?

 
“There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” (Proverbs 21:30) God, You set up for us prohibitions. And I’m pretty sure that they are there for our good and for our understanding. Proverbs 21:30 tells me and all of us that You alone know best. Nothing tops Your wisdom, or understanding, or counsel. You are such a good teacher that You get us to utilize all our senses for greater understanding. You give us this visual picture or representation, like in parables or real life. You give us things that touch our real lives. You warn us against disregarding but You allow us the freedom to experience the consequences. But the truth is, it’s not always about understanding why. Why can’t I? It really doesn’t matter. Because the real question that You are asking is, “When I tell you something, who am I to you? Because, Child, the way you treat my words shows me who I am in your heart.”

 
Some of these commands of our God truly defy “full comprehension.” And maybe so because it’s not a matter of our comprehending You, but a matter of our knowing You and honoring You for who You are. Let’s face it, some mixtures are just dangerous. I found that out one time when I mixed some water in to some dry chlorine. It sounded like gunshots and even out in the open air, the toxic fumes invaded my lungs to the point I had trouble breathing. What about nitro and glycerin? Or drinking and driving? Oh I get those. But what about if God says don’t mix milk and meat, or wool and linen? Does that not matter because it doesn’t make sense to me? What if it doesn’t have to make sense to me? What if God just wants to know if I’ll honor Him no matter the littleness or bigness of the request? Isn’t it interesting that it might be so much easier to leave for a foreign country than it would be to not eat milk and meat mixed together?
The image of a donkey and ox working together and how that isn’t best for both is easy to see. So we can agree with that one.

 

Maybe that’s why You introduced that one first, to show that this stuff isn’t really hard to honor. But it was never meant just for a physical understanding. Your way has spiritual implications too. That’s why Paul related this in a more personal way for us humans in 2 Corinthians 6. “Don’t be unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he that believes with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them,’ says the Lord, ‘and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

 
You mean that when I understand how to separate between my way and Your way and choose Your way, then I understand about choosing a relationship with You? Then I start experiencing Your presence as my heavenly Father? Then I get to experience You acting in my life, for my benefit? Weren’t You always? Oh, but I wouldn’t acknowledge it and you don’t experience what you won’t accept and acknowledge even when it’s right there for you.

 
So I can be like a donkey and an ox. I can choose disunity and dishonor by choosing my own way. You never really sit on the fence. That’s a farce. I’m either a donkey or an ox. Or an ox or a donkey. Depending on the moment. What are You asking me to be? That’s what I ought to be. And I ought to join in with others that are obeying the same goal You’ve given so as not to be distracted or hindered or distract or hinder others. Maybe if Cain was a little more pliable to Your way, his donkeyness wouldn’t have mattered more than Able’s oxenness, or maybe it was that his oxenness wouldn’t have mattered more than Able’s donkeyness. Maybe we can overate our own individuality, especially when it trumps God’s honor and uniqueness and rightness and sovereignty.  I mean, let me face reality here. Like I think my character is something to boast on? Neither Cain nor Able could boast on their own characters. We’re all flawed. We’re all a mix of good and bad. Therefore, we have to be aware. Therefore, we have to let God take care of our dangerous mixes because He alone is not flawed. He isn’t mixed. He alone can instruct on purity. He alone can unmix us.

 
But I digressed from those diverse seeds and the fruit that comes from them. What if God was saying, “Look, I’m going to use these examples in nature because I want You to first, and foremost understand the spiritual dimension between us. Don’t focus on just the physical. Get what I’m trying to show you.” God is pure. He is unmixed, undefiled. He is purely God. He purifies us and produces pure fruit in us. Somehow we are His fruits and we produce more fruit. But it only comes from His seed, not mixed seeds. It’s not some of me and some of Him. It’s all of Him. And of course, that’s something we’re all learning, to let God plant and produce all of His seed in us and to realize that ours just spoils the vineyard.

 
Jesus spoke on this. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:1-10)

 
I guess the truth is that I can’t really love God if I don’t honor Him. God is God, that’s all there is to it. I can treat You like You are God, or I can decide when I want to treat You like God, but that doesn’t change the fact that You are still God and You are still right no matter what I think or feel. It just means that I’ve decided to dishonor You and to demonstrate that I don’t love You as much as I say I do. If “the honor of God overrides all human concerns, even that of human dignity,” (Hershey H. Friedman) then when did my dignity come to outweigh God’s honor? Why would I think that God didn’t know what He was talking about? Why would I think that I could understand everything when God declares, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8) And why aren’t our thoughts equal and of equal value? “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

 
Maybe it would do well for me to dwell on the predicament that Egypt and the nations and these mixed people had gotten themselves in. Maybe it would do well for me to be careful of mixing in my life those things that God tells me not to. And maybe it would be better if I learned to take Your word as Your word and not decide what I agreed with or didn’t agree with. Maybe it would be best if I acknowledge that You know far better than me every time and that You have my best interests in mind and understand them way better than me. Maybe I should just learn to trust and obey and stop trying to interject myself so much. Maybe it would be better If I let You interject Yourself into me instead, if I allowed myself to be wholly filled with You.   Then maybe I’d learn what it was to be a beacon of purity and light on the face of this darkened planet. Maybe then, I could rescue someone else from judgment. That would be much better than gaining honor for myself.

On Seeing, Contemplating, and Being Changed

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“As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing ‘the whirling wheels’.” Ezekiel 10

 
Wheels and whirling wheels and creatures or cherubs with four faces and wings and eyes everywhere—it can make my head whirl. What do I do with it all? Am I supposed to understand and interpret all of this? Am I supposed to walk away after reading this vision of Ezekiel and be thinking about what these things mean or signify? Maybe. But what if I’m supposed to also be able to just sit down and be awed by God and contemplate how that awe ought to influence my life?

 
What if I sat back with Ezekiel and looked with him? What if I got down and opened the eyes of my heart and mind and spirit to look and behold what he was seeing? I might look beyond the cherubim and see that throne of sapphire, and catch Your glory, and see how You are so much more than I can ever fully comprehend and so powerful beyond compare. And I might just have to come to the conclusion that You really are in charge and that You are the One with “the know.” I mean, what are cherubs with four faces and wings and wheels to You? You understand them. After all, You created them. And that man clothed in white linen, that You appoint to show judgment, is Your Man. I’m pretty sure it’s Jesus, that one that “all authority in heaven and earth” (Matthew 28:18) has been given to. But why? Why all this hard to explain stuff?

 
Maybe I need to know that Your ways, God, are different than my ways and Your thoughts are not my thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8) See, Your eyes see and know all my ways. None of my ways are hidden from You, NOTHING. (Jeremiah 16:17) I, on the other hand, don’t comprehend all of You. My mind and my eyes and my understanding are feeble and weak in comparison. My eyes are so tuned in to looking at things through man’s vision that I look at You and have the twisted thinking to think, like Israel, “The way of the Lord is not just.” (Ezekiel 18:25) But the truth is, I’m the one with faulty vision. I need to start seeing the truth and You are the truth. I need to stop thinking I will understand everything and just start realizing You are the One I have to run to whether I understand or not. I have to realize that You are the One who knows the reality of every piece of this puzzle we are living in. I need to stop trying to smash pieces into place that don’t fit and let You be God instead.

 
It could be that I need to just sit back and realize and acknowledge and start acting like You, the One who is sitting on that sapphire throne (which is just because those were the only words Ezekiel had to come to near to the description!), are Supreme. You are God. You rule. It doesn’t matter what we decide. You rule. You are. Your will and Your thought is everything. And it’s not just that You know, but You do and act. You are the essence of everything, the reason, the why, the how. You are in charge because without You, nothing would be, nothing would exist. Because You thought us, we are. Because You thought the cherubs and the wheels, they are. You think and Your will brings forth.

 
You rule now, in the present. When Adam and Eve were on the earth, You were ruling in their time. You were there right then with Ezekiel in his present. And You are still ruling right now in my present. There is never a present time when You are not there ruling. The present and past and future are all the same to You. It doesn’t matter how much any of us rebel against this authority of Yours. Your rule will still be. It’s not just that someday we will be judged. We are living under Your “judgment bar” already because You reign right now.

 
This rule of Yours is supreme over every other ruler. Everyone else and everything else will be overcome, whether it’s death, or Satan, or a president, or a dictator, or my own way. We may not want to be subject to You, but, nevertheless, we are all Your subjects. That’s part of the picture here in Ezekiel. Tradition has it that the Supreme Ruler has the final say in the life or death of His subjects. Only this Supreme Ruler has a heart so much for us that He sent His only Son to be a payment for us and bring us back to Him. And how do we respond to that?

 
If I look on Ezekiel’s vision I see righteousness and glory. These are things I don’t get to see much in the world today. Your judgment could be seen as a terrible thing, lives lost in terrible circumstances. I could just be filled with fear. But to be under You and to know that You are on my side would fill me with praise and rejoicing instead. Even though I live through cruelty and tyranny on earth, through things that appear so unjust that we can only call it evil, I can know that my Supreme God will bring relief. You will make it right. Your government will return and is in the process of returning even now, in the present that looks so dim. Your goodness is here and is coming. You are acting. You are being. You are.

 
In the midst of all the junk in life going on, Your glory is going up, just like when it went up from the threshold, and filled the house, and the court was filled with the brightness of Your glory (Ezekiel 10:4), Your glory is still here and filling Your people and the places where they are. Your glory is still filling heaven and waiting for the time when it will again fill earth. You do the right thing, in the right time, always. Now. Every day is now for You. Sure, You know everything. Sure, You are all-powerful. Sure, no one can resist Your might. Sure, Your majesty is overwhelming. Sure, You are a conqueror. But You are the glory of “perfect purity, truth, justice, and benevolence.” Wrap that all up together. I can hold on to all of that today, and the next today, and the next.

 
And here You are, revealing Yourself from Your throne. You are “Infinite Intellect,” yet You are more. You are “the Will and the Power of right.” I can feel You in all that force just like Ezekiel. But it’s not just intellectual. It’s not just emotional. You aren’t just the God on Your throne far away in heaven. Through Jesus, You came from heaven to earth. You visited us. You reached my common life. You move among the affairs and lives and hearts of men and women, boys and girls. Your glory and righteousness touch us. You invite us to come to You and to be witnesses of You but You don’t stop there. You come to us in Christ Jesus and by the power of Your Holy Spirit.

 
What do you see when you read Ezekiel? Or rather, Who do you see? Are we allowing God to open our eyes to see Him as He is? Or are we responding like those that Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 when he shared, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” And he goes on to remind us of this glory of God and the gift He’s given of Himself, today and every today before and after—“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Are we taking time to not only see, but to be filled with this glory and to live in this glory?

 
Am I seeing what Ezekiel saw? What am I doing with what I see of You, Lord? Am I like Peter, who saw a glimpse and wanted to make a memorial site? Or am I going to let it change my life perspective and let You rule over me by Your glory and the impression You leave in my heart and spirit and mind and will? Will my life be daily changed because of how I have seen You? Will I walk in that glory and righteousness and the supremacy that is You, or will I live life as I have been? Will the whirling wheels have any effect on me?

More Than Worth the Journey

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“Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  Matthew 5:48

I was looking through Scripture to see what the Scriptural picture of a hero is.  The word hero is never used in the Bible.  The word warrior is only used once.  Soren Kierkegaard, a theologian and philosopher says there are no heroes of the faith, only knights of the faith.  He says heroes are heroes because they do what everyone considers as “noble.”  On the other hand, he feels that “knights of the faith” are answering a call from God that only they hear.  To the populous, their actions would look crazy, not noble, or maybe even stupid.  Maybe their actions would even look downright wrong and fanatical.  And the crowd doesn’t wind up chanting in their hearts, “Oh, that I would be like that one.”  Because to be like that one would mean to wear a mark, a mark that is different from society and different from even the morality of society.

Our family had a bit of a Hobbit marathon last night.  And a quote just rang out to me.  In the Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, Galadriel asks Gandalph why he chose Bilbo, the halfling.  Gandalph answers, “I do not know. Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid… and he gives me courage.”  I think these things ring true in Kierkegard’s knights of faith, but I think it is more.  I think that there is something different that compells us, something deeper, that goes against reason.  I think that when we have faith, we don’t need others to understand, because we will answer the call regardless of their agreement or understanding or support.

If I stop and think about Gandalf’s words, I see some truth here.  I think that most people would agree with Saruman.  We look to those with great power to hold evil at bay.  But the thing about that is that those with great power risk falling into the same trap as the evil they fight did.  Because isn’t the problem with evil powers that they desire great power?  So how can one who seeks great power conquer the desire to seek great power?  They can’t because it’s their greatest temptation.  They are already guilty of it.

But what of the one who has no desire to seek great power or even power at all?  What of the one who values kindness and love and compassion instead?  What of that one?  That one who is often viewed as weak and foolish?   Maybe Gandalf understood his own temptation and was even afraid of that potential.  What if he saw the power and strength in a humble heart whose desire was for the good of others and not for power?  What if he saw strength and courage in that?  And that type of decision and the actions accompanying it gave even Gandalf courage and hope that he too could resist the temptation of power?

It takes me back to Your idea of a commendable person.  And it doesn’t look anything like what people expected.  Lord, why do you choose “halflings” by the world’s standards?  Why do you choose the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and those who are reviled and persecuted on Your account?  Why are those the things that make Your heart sing when You see them in a person?

In Matthew 5 we read about who You considered blessed.  But blessed isn’t just a gift you give afterward.  It’s the Greek word “makarios” but its Hebrew equivalent is “esher”.  And it’s not saying what we are going to get but it’s saying that the one who exhibits these qualities already lives in this state of well-being in You.  So look at what the first character quality is- to be poor in spirit.  If I am a beggar before You, Lord, if I see that I need You for everything in my life, and I act as though I am desperate for You alone to meet my needs, physical, spiritual, and emotional, then I will live in the bliss of Your doing that.

Now what if I look at each of these statements in this light?  Will that change what I’ve been thinking they mean?  Like, what about those who exhibit a character of mourning?  What does that mean?  Should I ask You what I should be mourning over or for or about?  Is it that I feel for others?  Is it that my compassion for others drives me?  But if my bliss in You comes from exhibiting this character, and if the first quality was my dependence on You, then maybe this mourning dwells somewhere in that dependence.

So what does it mean to mourn?  Well, when that word “pentheo” is used in Scripture it’s usually associated with death.  And then we see the association with this word is comfort.  And the Greek word here is “parakaleo.”  That means, “to call near” like the idea of the Holy Spirit who is our “paraklete,” our Comfortor.  But is this just saying that death will draw me near to God?  What if it’s not just talking about what brings physical mourning, but a dying to self?  What if I let go of my selfish ambitions and my ambitions become Your ambitions, or more rightly, what if Your ambitions become mine?  What if Your good becomes my good?  What if it ceases to be about my will and it becomes all about Your will?  What if that is what my character becomes all about?  Then I will be living in the bliss of walking with You.

I look at this third character and I have to ask You, Lord, what in the world do I want to inherit the earth for?  And maybe, just maybe we’re not talking about the earth as it is, but the earth as it is when Your will is done upon the face of the earth.  And only the meek are part of that and necessary for that and called for that purpose of bringing in Your kingdom, You know, Thy will being done and Thy kingdom coming.  But what does meekness, does this “praus” look like?

This meekness is a quote from Psalm 37:11.  “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”  Here the Hebrew word is “anawim.”  If I want to know what meek looks like, I have to understand “anawim.”  It has to do with affliction.  It’s God’s mark on a life.  It’s how I live out the most important stuff You are teaching me.  It’s how I learn about and live out Your sovereignty in my life.  It’s anything but easy.  Hard stuff and bad stuff happens, but not by chance, never by chance.  It’s all under the hand of God.  And I have placed myself under Your hand no matter what.

There is hard pressing and I am choosing to remain under the pressing because it is Your pressing.  It is Your control and Your power in and over my life and those around me whether they acknowledge it or not.  But I will acknowledge and I will submit and You will guide my every movement and mold it to Your purposes.  It’s the hard way that You are using to shape me, to shape each one of us.  You discipline those You love.  You mold those You love.  You are changing me into Your image.  It’s not easy to change something broken into something unbroken, but You alone can do that.

Meekness hurts.  I have to stand face to face with that which goes against my nature and choose to go against it, whether it is my oppressor or my nature to not conform to You, Lord.  I have to actively choose to accept what You are “forcing” upon me.  Will I submit to this “forced submission”?  Will I submit to Your sovereignty?  What will prevail?  Will it be Your every will in me?  Will I respond as You respond?  Will I put Your will before my own?  Will I be self sufficient or will You be my sufficiency.  Is my power in my bondage to You?  Because if it is, then my inheritance is in You too.  But I can’t inherit You unless I am fully committed in You in the first place.  Am I meek enough?  Am I really meek at all?

And what of the hungry and thirsty?  What is it to hunger and thirst after righteousness?  Is it that I want to do good things or is it that I must have food and water above what nourishes my body?  Am I desperate for the life that comes from God, from His rigteousness alone.  “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.  They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy:  there is none that does good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:3)  Even Paul quoted this in his words, “As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one:  there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God.”  (Romans 3:10)  But the only way I will find bliss is to find a way to seek after God with my every hunger, my every thirst, my every passion.

You have to make me hungry.  But I have to respond to that hunger.  And not just once.  It’s not about a fatal hunger that You can feed me and then I’m good for life.  This is my daily need for continued sustenance.  Unless I am desperate every day, every moment of every day for sustenance from You, I shall never be filled.  I can’t be filled with Your food unless I eat Your food continually and only Your food satisfies and fills and stengthens and gives life and answers and presence.  And if I’m learning anything about the Hebrew mindset, it’s not about just feeding my mind and spirit.  I must feast on You and allow the energy and essence of Your food to energize and feed others through me.  I must act upon my eating.  I don’t remain sitting at the table gorging myself.  I eat and I feed others, I eat and it is converted into action and life, or I have not eaten of You at all.  That’s the evidence of the bliss.  It’s living in it as I live in continual hunger and thirst in You.

Each bliss plays off the the other.  Each bliss is strengthened by the other.  But this bliss is always in You.  You are the root.  So, when I’m looking for mercy, who am I looking to receive mercy from?  Am I looking to receive mercy from man?  Will it come from my enemy?  Will it come from my friend?  If I rescue Thorin time and time again as Bilbo did, will I be assured that he will show me mercy?  But what when his kingdom and his gold draws near, will Bilbo receive mercy?  What of me?  My mercy shall be obtained and a surety, but only when I look to it from the hands of the Lord.  And only from Your hands will I learn to show that kind of mercy.  Who can understand this?  Only the one who has been changed by You.  Only the one who has submitted to Your mercy, Your rule.  Only the one who lives in Your bliss no matter the situation will understand mercy, because it is a Person, and only One Person.

These are such high standards.  And if you think we have gotten to the highest, listen up.  The pure in heart live in the bliss of You, Lord, and see You.  Imagine that.  You are without sin.  No sin or sinner may enter heaven.  There is none righteous, no not one, EXCEPT–You, Lord.  “He who loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious, the king is his friend.”  (Proverbs 22:11)  That doesn’t sound like an earthly king to me because they seem to like to hear what they want to hear.  But this is the way of our Heavenly King.  You want to see purity on the inside and out.  You want our whole life, our words and our actions, to be an act of holy worship.  You are doing more than asking.  You are requiring that everything I say and do and think lines up with You.  That is living in Your bliss and I can only do it as I live in Your bliss.

I’m expected to relinquish much, everything I’d say.  I’m expected to relinquish my self-sufficiency, my comfort, my control, my self-protection and right to defend myself and my judgment.  I’m expected to relinquish my deepest desires and my own right treatment by others.  I’m asked to relinquish the things I’ve always thought were my inalienable rights as a person.

And then I come to something that requires me not just to do and exhibit something, but also to relinquish something in the  performance.  To be identified as belonging to the family of God, as a child of God, I must mirror God’s peacemaking.  What is peace?  A peacemaker, from the Greek “eireneopoios” isn’t just someone who keeps peace.  It’s someone who makes or does peace.  That “poios” part is this inherent part of You in Your child that must flow out.  It’s the art that flows out of the heart of the artist.  It’s the poem that flows out of the heart of the poet.  But what is this peace that flows out of the heart of the Peacemaker in us?

Is it man being right with man?  Partly.  Is it my well-being?  Maybe.  Is it man being right with God?  Those are all parts of what we look for in peace.  But only God’s peace can bring those three, yet at the same time, to exhibit this peace, I must relinquish it.  I must be willing to sacrifice my peace to bring peace with man.  I must be willing to sacrifice my well-being for the sake of another.  Even in order to be right with You,God, I must relinquish my rightness and receive Yours.  And I learn this all from You, Jesus.  Skip Moen puts it this way, “the peacemaker joyfully relinquishes his own peace for the sake of ending strife between men for no other reason than reflecting the character of his Father.  The peacemaker knows God’s peace is found in standing in conflict. The peacemaker knows that he can bring peace only by letting go of peace.  And God recognizes that this decision is just what He does.”  He adds, “Incredibly happy are those who deliberately step into their Father’s shoes in efforts to bring peace between men.”  God considers them symbols of His family image.  It’s about being conformed into the image of our Father.   I work toward reconciliation at my own expense just as You worked toward reconciliation for me at Your own expense.  Your nature becomes my nature.  I reflect You.  Reflecting You becomes my bliss.

Who enjoys the bliss of Your kingdom?  The ones who follow after Your righteousness.  See, this may be about persecution but this word translated as persecute, “dioko”, also means to pursue, to follow after.  And if I’m following Your example I can’t help but think it is all about my pursuit despite the persecution.  I think of You, Jesus, and all the ways You had to deal with persecution in Your daily confrontations all the way through to the persecution of the cross.  And it wasn’t that You received persection that set You apart.  It was how You handled that persecution that sets You apart.  It’s how You looked at that persection.  It’s Your focus and why You received that persection.  It came because of what You sought, because of What and Who You were following after.  You broke the rules of men to follow the righteousness of God.  Only the one who follows after You instead of men shall enjoy Your presence in their life.  And it’s not a one time deal.  This is continual.  I must continually choose to deny man and live for righteousness to continually live in the bliss of that Righteous One.

I’m commanded to rejoice in the hard road, the hard way, because to walk it is to walk it with others.  Not only that, but to walk it is to walk with the Lord.  But that’s not all.  I’m commanded to rejoice, to remain in that bliss of knowing that God, You are in control.  Because Your bliss continues; it never stops.  Your mercies are new every morning; they are unfailing.  I can jump for joy over this truth in You.  Because my persecution, my reviling, this evil I receive at the hands of man, is only temporary.  You control it because You are sovereign and my rejoicing is the evidence that I believe Your sovereignty.  I know this because the verb tense used for the persecution and reviling is that of a completed action.  And I am never alone in my struggle.  But my struggle is never out of Your control.

And when this becomes who I am, when my identity is all about Your identity, then I become a light in this world, not because of me, but because of You in me.  This, and only this, is how You shine through me.  This and only this is how people taste and see that You are good.  This is when I become salt, salt that is the flavor of You.  It’s so different from the natural response, from the world’s ways, it can’t be hid.  It stands out like a beacon of strangeness and uniqueness.  It looks to You like beautiful works that shine Your glory on us and back on You.  It’s the shining of Your righteousness and the destruction of man’s righteousness.

You said, “Except Your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 5:21)  How can my righteousness exceed that of the rulekeepers and rulemakers?  The righteousness of the Creator flows from me instead.  By Your grace and mercy at the cross, I can let go of my rules and the rules of the scribes and Pharisees and follow You as You impart Your righteousness to me.  I dwell in You and Your way, not in mine.  I adopt a new character as You adopt me into You, into Your family.  And I stop looking like the world and start looking more like an alien.  But to You, You know me, You recognize me, You call me Your own.  And my brothers and sisters recognize me.  And I recognize You and Your ways.  And I choose to live in them despite the cost, because You are worth it.

I must follow after Your goal for me, Lord, and not my own.  I must follow after Your goal for me, Lord, and not the goal of the world or anyone else for me.  And what is Your goal for me, for each and every believer?  “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:48)

Am I really being called to perfection here?  Is that what “teleios” means?  It means “complete” but it means complete in various respects  like in your labor or growth or character.  See, there’s this image of maturity.  Jesus is telling me I must become complete in Him, mature in Him.  I am to resemble my Father in His character.  And their is this growth toward perfection, because aren’t You, God, perfect?  My goal is to be perfect, complete, mature and altogether full of Your character.  That’s the mark.  And I’m not being told it’s unattainable or far off.  I’m being told that I can reach this mark but only in You.

But the only way I’ll ever be there, is to live in You, to breathe in You, to act in You, to respond in You, to embrace You with every part of my being.  I must live in Your bliss, in You.  I must apply You to my everyday living.  Your actions must flow out of me.  There are lots of things I’ve heard said, lots of ways man has interpreted Your Word, but I’m not to listen to their interpretation.  I’m to follow Your interpretation, Your actions.  I must go beyond the surface and live out the heart of Your Word because that’s living out Your heart.  It’s deeper than just not murdering someone else; it’s letting You control the roots of my heart.  It’s deeper than just not committing adultery.  It’s letting You impart Your righteousness to my every thought and esteeming the value of others over mine.  It’s deeper than keeping oaths out of duty, but it’s a duty to love born out of Love itself.  It takes my right to retaliate and relinquishes all into Your hands, taking that even deeper and forgiving the one who deserves punishment.  And yet it must go further because forgiveness of our oppressors is not close to the heart of God.  One must go beyond forgiveness and love their persecutor.

Now who can do this?  With man, this is impossible.  But for God, all things are possible.  And in You, Lord, this is more than a possibility for me.  This is Your command to me.  And if You command it, that is because You can do this in me.  I must do my part and relinquish all to You that I might receive the glory of Youness imparted in me.  Only then will I consider myself blessed.  Only then shall I know what it is to live in the bliss of You.  Teach me to walk in Your shoes continually.  Thank You for making me able.  Yes, the hard road is less travelled, but it is more than worth the journey.

My Lord and My God

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“And Thomas answered and said unto Him [Jesus], My Lord and my God.”  John 20:28

So, it seems like “forever” in a wonderful way that I’ve been digging into the idea of what it means to You, Lord, for me to believe.  And that was such a wonderful journey in Your Word that will continue into forever.  And though I stop looking at that specific word, as I continue to read Your Word, and meditate in Your Word, and obey Your Word, I can’t help but to understand more and grow more in believing Your way.  And today, the verse we’re looking at is sandwiched in between verses about believing.  But I can’t help think that the two words Thomas utters here are so foundational to faith in You, that this attitude is the rock bottom of Messianic/Christian belief.  I can’t help but believe that this is what being “the called out” is all about.

Sometimes I wonder if we look for You to be God our Savior without looking for You to be God our Lord.  Or maybe You can be our Savior, but we’d prefer You just be lord.  And we think to have You as one is to be fine.  But it’s not.  Either we trust all of You as God or we really don’t trust You at all.  Listen to James, because I only have to offend in one point to be guilty of breaking the whole law.  Do I really think that’s the only place that precept applies?  That’s like acknowledging Jesus as a good teacher, but not God.  Well, if He’s not God, then He wasn’t a good teacher either, because He was a liar.   But You are a Good Teacher and You are God.  You are Lord and You are God.  You are Lord and You are Savior.  I’m not the first to think this.  I’m sure you’ve heard this quote that originated with S. M. Zwemer, “If Jesus is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all.”  It’s true.

But what was Thomas really saying here.  What does it mean to be Lord or to be God?  What’s the difference?  I mean, we don’t even understand the concept of Lord really today because our government is so totally different than in Biblical days.  For me to understand, I have to dig into the Word.  I have to dig into another culture.  I have to look into the people’s lives.  I have to search into the heart of God.  And if I search, I’ll find what I’m looking for. You, Lord, promise that.

So I want to search into Lordship.  If I cry out, “My Lord!” what am I saying?  Lord is from the Greek word “kurios”.  It’s all about supremacy.  For those of us who don’t think about “supremacy” much, here’s what Noah Webster had to say about it, it’s the “state of being supreme or in the highest station of power; highest authority or power.”  So here is Thomas, crying out to Jesus, and this is important, to JESUS, “My Lord and my God.”

I want to hop around a little more, because in my searching I’ve hit upon something that is really exciting to me.  I’m going to start at 1 Corinthians 1:2 which is where Paul is saying, “to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”  Now, isn’t Thomas calling upon the Name?  Isn’t that what You want me to do?  What does that mean and where did this thought originate?

Well, this was not a new thought to Paul.  He didn’t just come up with this idea, but He was solidifying the truth and bringing it to completeness.  Let me share how.  We need to travel back to Genesis 4:26, because this idea began in Hebrew thinking that long ago.  “In those days men began to call on the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:26)  I’m going to borrow from Skip Moen to help us understand, since He has a deeper understanding of the Hebrew than I.   “In the name of the Lord” “is an expression of ownership.  It is not simply a request for divine assistance.  In ancient cultures, no god would grant favor to someone who did not first offer worship.  So when men began to call on the name YHWH, they were in effect designating that YHWH was their God.  They were His servants.”

OK, so to call on the name is to give God ownership of yourself, your everything.  It’s true worship.  But realize what this meant for Paul or Thomas as they were saying this, in a culture where only God is God.

Because “no orthodox Jew, especially a Pharisee, would ever suggest [this] unles something startling had happened.  Paul does not say that his phrase of technical ownership, this phrase implying the object is God, is applied to YHWH.  He says that we call on the name of Yeshua [Jesus].  Unless Paul has suddenly become an idolater, there is only one possible explanation for the use of this term here.  Yeshua [Jesus] must be God!”

So when Paul calls Jesus Lord (kurios), he is considering Jesus the One, the Supreme Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; the One True God.  And he was not afraid of this truth.  Paul could say, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain!”  It’s like saying that Jesus, You are the One who controls my life.  You own it.  It is Yours to do as You will.  Why?  Because You are the One that gave me life and gives me life and keeps me alive.  You are God.  You are the meaning and the power of life.  You are Life.

So I must recognize that You, Jesus are Supreme.  You are God.  You are Sovereign.  You rule.  There is none above You.  I must realize what Paul and Thomas realized.  I must submit to You and in You.  It doesn’t matter what the world thinks.  It doesn’t matter what the people around me think.  What matters, is who You are, and acknowledging the fulness of who You are in my life.  Until I do that, I am lost.  I can’t be halfway there.  You are an all or none God.  You must be my Lord and my God.

Believing in You Your way is absolutely radical.  It has nothing to do with my church membership.  It has everything to do with my radical acknowledgement of who You are and who I will let You be in my life.  You must be my Lord and my God or You are not.  I need You as my Lord and God or I am empty.  I need You as my Lord and God or I am powerless.  I need You as my Lord and God or I cannot see my way.  I need You as my Lord and God or I am without a supporting, encouraging family.  I need You as my Lord and my God because I will never come to know the fulness of what You intended for me because I will never know You.

See, some of us have the whole process backwards.  We try to put God into a mold that He fits into for us.  We take the King of the Universe and treat Him as though we can sit Him in a corner until we need Him.  Well, here’s the truth.  You may be sitting someone in a corner, but it’s not God; it’s some false image.  We aren’t capable of doing that because God can only be God.  If that’s the case, who are we really worshipping?  Well, I don’t want to do that.  I don’t want to worship a self-made idol.  I want to worship You, Lord, in all Your truth and majesty and power and love and sovereignty.  I want my life to cry out My Lord and My God.  You are more than my Savior.  You are ALL I need for every moment into eternity.  As  matter of fact, I want to cry out MY LORD AND MY GOD because it’s who You are and who I know You as.  I can say like Paul, “I KNOW WHOM I have believed, and I KNOW that HE IS ABLE to keep me and to keep all His Word.”  My prayer is that others can say that too, that they can know whom they believe.  And that our lives will be constantly molded in Yours.

A Harvest of Submission

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“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.”  Proverbs 11:24

Giving freely.  I love that idea.  I suppose at first thought it makes me think that I need to have enough to give or maybe a surplus.  And that is the case.  Only it’s not necessarily about having a physical surplus.  Because maybe just having enough or hardly enough, maybe just having any bit of anything, is having enough to give it away freely to someone else who needs it at the time.

The King James Version uses the word “scatters.”  It says there is a person who scatters, and that even though they scatter, this person increases.  And that makes me think of Your words, Jesus.  You shared the parables about sowing.  and the word that was used in Greek for sowing was “speiro.”  And it means to scatter.  Now, sowing or scattering is where it starts, but it’s not where it ends.

Is sowing, or scattering really just about spreading the seed?  Or must the seed and the land be prepared first?  After all, “speiro” comes from the root word that means “sperm.”  It’s the part that contains the new, the beginning.  But every sower prepares the field he is responsible for first.  He must break up the fallow, the hard ground.  He doesn’t just run back and forth to some bag left at the house for handful after handful of seed.  He carries the seed with him.  And he’s carrying a seed that has already been harvested, that has already been tended to, and that has had the parts removed that needed to be removed.  He really knows what condition the seed needs to be in before it’s ready to be planted.  And then he scatters the seed the way it’s supposed to be scattered or planted or sown.  He’s familiar with what he’s doing.  He knows what he’s doing.

How does he know how to do it?  Wasn’t he taught?  By who.  Someone before him.  How did the first sower learn his stuff?  Well, with Adam, the knowledge came from You, God.  You imparted the knowledge to Adam.  So how does the sower in this parable or in Your parables in the New Testament know how to sow?  You, Lord, give us the example.  You, Lord, prepare our seed.  You, Lord, prepare the fallow ground.  You, Lord, instruct us and raise up the seed.  And then You, by Your power, do the rest.  I just have to be faithful to my task and follow it all the way through.

Is Your Word the only thing I’m sowing?  Or am I given the privilege and the awesome opportunity to sow Your Word in it’s power?  I’m not just investing Your Words out into the soil.  I’m investing Your Word and Your Power and Your Truth and Your Ways.  I’m scattering an invitation into New Life, into Christ Himself, into Wholeness, and Glorious Change, and the Power of God Himself.  This isn’t just any seed here.

And I’m not just planting seeds to be invested and performed in other peoples’ lives.  Because this seed, this investment, this performance has already begun in mine.  Because I was not the first sower; You were the first Sower, Lord.  And I am just following Your example.  You were the first kernel of corn that fell and died and from You, I was one of the kernels birthed on that new ear You brought up.  And now I get to experience being part of the process of planting and bringing forth new kernels.

But it’s not just about telling the Word.  It’s about living it out.  It’s about me sharing what You’ve given me with others.  It’s about me dying to my self.  It’s about me investing in others so that they see how You have invested in them and in me.  It’s all about first being about You, Lord, and about Your will, and letting You make me all about those I’m investing in with You.

But it doesn’t stop there.  That’s not the only part of the process.  Sowing is just the beginning.  Scattering is just the start of a wonderful process.   You, Jesus, get our focus right in Matthew 6:26.  “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”  Here, You, Lord, show us the whole process.  It starts with sowing or scattering, but then it leads into reaping, and then into gathering.  But it’s all due to Your control over the whole process.

Face it, after sowing, there comes a harvest.  The Greek word for reaping is “therizo.”  Think of “thermal time,” the summer, the time of harvest.  It’s all part of the process.  It’s all a necessary part of the process.  Wheat doesn’t just become bread on it’s own.  It doesn’t hop off the stalk preformed as a loaf of bread. But who grew the wheat or the stalk of corn?  Did I have any control while it was under the ground?  I had a purpose.  I was to tend the soil and water it and help guard against weeds.  But even so, I can’t make the seed grow on my own. You are the “Thermal One” the Sun that makes the ground the right temperature.  You do the things within each seed that causes growth.  I have my part You’ve given me, but apart from You, I have absolutely no power to make that seed grow.  But You do!

I can’t save a person.  I can disciple a person but I can’t make them grow.  Isn’t it funny how there’s not a moment in life when I’m not desperately dependent upon You?  I’m an absolutely dependent sower.  I can’t do a thing without You.  I’m an absolutely dependent harvester.  I can’t do a thing without You.

And it still doesn’t stop there because after the scattering and the harvest comes the gathering.  The word for gather here is “sunago” and it means “to assemble together.”  It’s part of the root word used for the word synagogue.  So maybe we have here the goal of Your work in our lives, to gather us together as one in You.

Why is the gathering important?  Why is it important to bring in the harvest?  What would happen to the “fruit” left to itself out in the field?  I know.  I’ve seen it happen.  It rots if left to itself, if untended and unharvested.  It never completes its purpose.  The tomatoes I leave on the vine rot.  They never nourish anyone.  The corn left on the stalk eventually molds and turns to waste.  It’s good for nothing, like salt without flavor.  Actually, mold becomes dangerous and harmful.

Gathering is important.  It enhances and allows the crop to be at its most useful and most nutritious form.  It brings the crop into a place of protection, into the barn or the silo.  The less exposure to air the less spoiling.  Thus, the protection of the silo and the protection of the closeness of each grain to the surrounding grains.

Here You are, Lord, raising us up in You for each others benefit.  No “seed” is an island.  We need each other.  It’s the way that You’ve designed us.  Just as we are totally dependent upon You and Your power and care, we were designed to be dependent on one another in You.  We are designed to draw close to one another in intimate relationship together in You.  We were designed to protect one another from the evil one.  We were designed to protect one another from the hardness of life around us.  In our closeness, in our gathering, we keep each other safe and sound and pure and healthy and strong in order to serve our purpose in You fully.

It doesn’t take a bird brain to realize that You are the One in control of it all.  You are sovereign over me and over every seed.  This whole process is Yours and by Your design.  And I can submit to eat and reap Your benefits, I can submit to You and see You bring forth all kinds of fruit, or I can do things my own way, hold back from those I don’t think are deserving, or rely on my own resources and power.  I suppose it all boils down to who I see being in control.

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer…”  I want to give what wasn’t mine in the first place, because everything I have came from You first.  If I have joy, it came from You.  If I have life, both physical and spiritual, it came from You.  If I have money or clothes or food, it came from You.  If all I have is encouragement in You from Your Word, it came from You.  Whatever You give me, whatever I have, as little or as much as I have, I want to learn to give it freely, not because I want more of it, but because I want more of You and I want others to have more of You too.  I want to scatter what You scattered over me.  I want to scatter as freely and generously as You.

“Another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” The King James Version says that there is one who withholds more than is “meet”.   The sin isn’t in withholding something, but in holding back the portion that is rightfully for giving, for sharing.  Remember, everything we have, we have been given.  God loves a cheerful giver.   Why?  Because it means You know Him.  It means You understand Him.  It means you love Him back.  Lord, keep me conscious of Your generosity to me so that I am ever conscious as I need to be to being generous towards others.  Keep me from withholding that which You’ve given me to give to others.  Because they won’t be the only ones to suffer want.  I will too because I won’t be experiencing the fullness of Your grace, mercy, and love, because I won’t be honoring You as sovereign in my life.

Today, let me summarize with Paul’s word to the Corinthians because he already brought it all together for us so many years ago.  I just hadn’t found it in this light till right now.  So here it is. “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’  He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.  By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others…” (2 Corinthians 9:6-12)

What Will You Do With the King?

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“Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover.  It was about the sixth hour.  He said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!'”  John 19:14

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I once had someone make the comment to me that “Jesus is only King of the Jews, not of the Gentiles.”  And I found that such a sad comment.  And here we have Pilate announcing that You, Jesus, are King of the Jews.  It was even written on the placard over the cross.  Not only that, but it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.  Sure, the Jews were dispersed all over and spoke all these languages because so many had returned for the Passover feast.  But it reminds me of something that Jesus said in reply to Pilate.

Jesus didn’t answer Pilate’s question of where he was from.  “So Pilate said to Him, ‘You will not speak to me?  Don’t you know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’  Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above…'” (John 19:10-11)  Pilate realized that You, Jesus, were not of this world.  Why was he thinking about that?  Because the Jews had said that Your fault was that  You made Yourself the Son of God.  What was Pilate’s reaction when he heard that saying?  Scripture says that he was even more afraid.  How afraid was he and why would he be afraid?

The word for afraid here is “phobeo.”  According to Skip Moen it “carries the sense of fleeing.  It is a verb about running away scared to death.  TDNT points out that the use of this word always places a human being in an encounter with some force, often a force that cannot be controlled.”  So, what if he is beyond scared?  Why?  Because this man that he finds no fault in, just might be who He says He is.  Because this man is not afraid under his authority.   Because this man isn’t like anyone else that has stood before him before.  Because this man says that it’s by His authority that Pilate even has any authority over Him now.

Pilate’s wife has a dream and warns Pilate not to harm this man.  He knows the Jews are jealous of Him.  He sees something.  And then he “just happens” to write for all to see, “King of the Jews” in the universal languages of all people.  He could have written “king of the Jews” but he didn’t.  He wrote “King.”

So, is Jesus King only of the Jews?  Or is Jesus King over all?  Listen to what Paul says in 1 Timothy 6.  “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in His testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession…”  What is the good confession?  That He is King.  That He is Lord of life.  That He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  This is what the Kingship of Jesus is all about.  And it was for Pilate as much as it was for the Jews.  And He was for all the people of all the different languages.

Paul’s charge to Timothy goes on saying, “keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will display at the proper time–He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.  To Him be honor and eternal dominion.  Amen.”  Wow!  If Jesus isn’t King over everything and everyone, I don’t know who is!  Paul was agreeing with Jesus’ confession before Pilate.

The King James Version uses the word “potentate” instead of”sovereign.”   A potentate is someone who has the power and authority to rule over others.  Now, imagine in Pilate’s time, Jesus saying that He had the power and authority to control Pilate’s decision.  Do you realize that in essence He was saying that He was even above Caesar?  Because if Pilate was under Caesar’s orders, and Caesar was considered the supreme Potentate, the ruler over all other lesser rulers, here was a “man” who was unafraid to say His authority was what would rule the day.

But Your authority, Lord, did not end with the Jews, or with Romans.  Paul says You are the King of kings.  You are not just the King of the Jews, and the King over Caesar, but You are the King over all kings on the face of the earth.  You are the Power above all powers.  You are the Authority above all authorities.  You are the Controller over all controllers.  And You alone have life, because You are Life.

So, the question remains for each of us the same as it was when this account took place.  You have been declared before each of us as King of kings, as the one in control and over all life.  Will we just read the inscription and walk on.  Will we wag our tongues and fingers and follow You as a good man or will we fall on our faces before You as our King of kings, the One who has complete authority over us?  Will I see You for who You are or will I make You fit into my picture?  What will I do with the King of kings?

Well, on May 7, 2012, someone made the comment to me that You were only King of the Jews and not of the Gentiles.  I don’t know why anyone would want to believe that.  I want to know that I have a Ruler who cares for me and has the supreme authority to do so and the power to fulfill all His promises.  I want to know that my Ruler is in control and I have nothing to fear.  And I want Him to be in full control of me because it’s the safest and loveliest place to be.  You’re not a king like the others.  You are my King, and I am Your child.  And I consider it the greatest privilege on earth to be able to call You my King, and for it to be true, that You are so concerned for me.

It made my heart ache, to hear that You were not ascribed the greatness that is already Yours.  And I shared from 1 Timothy.  But sometimes, to continue to explain when someone doesn’t want to see, would be just arguing.  But the truth is what is in Your Word, what is in all of it, and the testimony that You have shown us in our lives.  And even if others deny, I have come to believe and experience what they have not, what I hope they will some day.  Because to know You as King and Savior, and to know that You still love and cherish me, guide and protect me, and give me life in You, I mean real life moment by moment, is just absolutely freeing and empowering.

So, Pilate had to make a decision that day.  The Truth, the King of kings was standing before him.  Would he dwell on the Truth, or on the thoughts of other men?  We have that same choice before us.  The right decision will change our lives and our perceptions.

That day, I decided I will not focus on arguments that are contrary to what God has shown me in Scripture.  If someone is seeking I will share.  But, if they are not open, I will not until the Holy Spirit opens the door.  I will remain silent and continue to believe and rejoice in my heart.  And I will meditate on His truths that sing in my Spirit and cast out those thoughts that would cloud or discourage.  So, when I was alone, I did just that.  And I was not defeated or discouraged but joyful and victorious because I let my thoughts dwell on the One.

Though my father does not call you King,
You are every bit the sovereign King of me.
And everything You were to Israel true,
You are to me because it’s wholly You.
So people follow what their hearts desire.
My heart will follow You, You are my Fire,
My King, My Lord, My Savior, Everything.
No matter what they say I know, I sing,
With Spirit leaping, bursting in my chest.
For should I ever change what I believe,
Cast me hence, Your Holy Spirit should I grieve!
You Are Who You Have Shown Yourself to Be:
Father, Son, and Spirit, King of me!
And, Oh, that I had words to say Your fill,
And glorify Your name in full, but still,
No human words could e’er contain
The wonder and the awe of Your full name.
But yet I know You not in word but Spirit
And in Your very Presence abide in it.
So words may fail and even wisdom err
But You in all You are in me prevail.

This is one of my favorite verses from the Complete Jewish Bible and I want it to be my testimony, “I will bless Adonai at all times.  His praise will always be in my mouth.  When I boast, it will be about Adonai.  The humble shall hear of it and be glad!”  Psalm 34:1-2