Ever More Faithful

Standard

“Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.” (Daniel 6:4)

 
Did you ever hear the expression “aging with dignity?” I read today’s account of Daniel and that’s what comes to my mind. I mean, when was the last time in any movie about Daniel, he was depicted as a 70 year old man being lowered into the lion’s den? According to Biblical timelines, he was probably a little older than that but just knowing that he was there around 605 BC when he refused to eat the king’s portion and then this lion’s den incident took place around 539 BC, we can easily do the calculations and see that Daniel is no longer a young man. But what else we see is that over all these years he has been a faithful man. And his age doesn’t stop him from continuing to be faithful.

 
For every time I have thought, “God, this is too hard. I can’t do it,” or “God, I’m too tired to go on,” Daniel may have felt that way, but he certainly didn’t live that way. I see a man whose sites were set on God. I see this faithful man who, because he was faithful first and foremost to God, was able to continually be faithful to those he served and those around him, no matter their walk of life or religious beliefs. I see a boy who was loved by those around him because of his character. I see him grow into a man who continues to be loved by those around him because of his character, well, loved by those who respect a faithful character.

 
I mean, here he is brought under another conquering ruler. And here God provides Darius, who, like Nebuchadnezzar, wanted to surround himself with wisdom. So who impresses him? Daniel. Our Daniel is set as one of the three highest satraps over the kingdom. Now, Daniel does his job so well that he is preferred over all the counselors so the king was wanting to set him over the whole entire realm. Why again? Because there was “an excellent spirit” in him.

 
What does it mean that there was “an excellent spirit” in him? Maybe to the king it meant Daniel’s mind was far above everyone elses and his wisdom surpassed all. But don’t forget that the word for spirit here, “ruach” is also used for God’s very breath and His living Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Could it be that Darius saw that Daniel was guided by God? That Daniel had a relationship and knowledge from a God like no other?
Well, Darius saw something extra special in Daniel. But, the other officials weren’t looking that way. They were just plain jealous of Daniel. So, what do you do, when you don’t like someone? You try to find fault in them. They wanted to ruin Daniel in the eyes of King Darius. Only, he was so faithful to the laws of the kingdom and to God that he was squeaky clean. If they were going to catch him up, it would have to be in something that went against His God. So they created a situation that would fit their cause.

 
So much for character in these men. They weren’t about faithfulness. They were about getting their own way. If deception would get them there, then that’s what they would use. Now, I’m pretty sure that Daniel was supposed to have a say in things. But these fellows approached King Darius with an idea that had not been shared with Daniel. Only they said, “All the high officials, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed…” Really? I don’t recall Daniel being included. So here is King Darius thinking that Daniel, along with all the others, has established this ordinance that no one should petition any god or man for thirty days, except for the king, or they would be thrown to the lions. Because they said all had agreed, Darius signed the injunction.

 
Knowing that Daniel prayed three times a day, the satraps watched for their opportunity. They had him! They knew one thing about Daniel. He was faithful and he would be faithful to his God no matter what. And he was, just as he always had been. They bring Daniel before King Darius. The king spent all night trying to find a way around the law, but there was no way once a law was signed. He felt terrible and tried to find a way to rescue him. But the king was forced to command Daniel to be lowered into the lion’s den. It was out of his hands. It was out of his control. But the king held onto one hope, that it wasn’t out of the control of Daniel’s God. “May your God whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

 
Darius was a king who cared about Daniel. He cared about what was happening around him here. I know because he couldn’t sleep, he didn’t eat, he didn’t enjoy the king’s pleasures that night. Daniel was on his mind. The acts of the other satraps were on his mind. I’m supposing that Daniel’s God was on his mind.

 
The king didn’t wait, but at the break of day went to the pit. I think he was in anguish because God’s word says he cried with a lamentable cry. That sounds like a heartbreaking, heart wrenching kind of crying to me. And he called, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, is your God whom you serve continually, able to deliver you from the lions?” And imagine the state of the king’s heart when he heard Daniel’s voice answer, “O King, live for ever. My God has sent His angel, and has shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before Him innocency was found in me; and also before you, O King, have I done no hurt.”

 
So Daniel was lifted up and the deceitful satraps and their families were cast into the lions’ den instead. Only this time, the lions were not merciful at all. And before a whole nation, King Darius declared that Daniel’s God was a living God, steadfast for ever, whose kingdom shall not be destroyed, and whose dominion shall be to the end. He declared God to be a deliverer and a rescuer who works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who was even able to deliver Daniel from the power of the lions.

 
Now, what if Daniel isn’t supposed to be some unique and fantastic story? What if Daniel’s example is supposed to be one that we follow? I mean, most of the time Daniel was involved in normal affairs and normal life. Only he chose to live his every walking and every sleeping moment according to God’s ways and for God’s glory. He chose to be faithful in You, God. He didn’t choose just to be faithful sometimes, or only in the good times, but to be faithful. And so, when the hard decisions came, it didn’t matter how hard they were, he already knew the choice he would need to make, and he did it, he remained faithful no matter the cost. Because in truth, the cost of being unfaithful is far worse.

 
Jesus asked a question once, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and count the cost, whether you have sufficient fund to finish it?” (Luke 14:28) I need to be like Daniel and count the cost from the start so I already know that I have a sufficiency of all I need at any point down the road. Daniel’s life story reminds me of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” Well, who is, but God?

 
The truth is that Daniel wasn’t sufficient in and of himself. His sufficiency for every moment, for himself and for those around him, came from God. Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…” God, You not only delivered Daniel multiple times, but you made his life a continual ministry of Your Spirit and of You. You call us to the same life today. Your grace and power is just as sufficient for me today as it was for Paul and Daniel, and anyone else who would choose faithfulness in You. May we become people who would rather glory in our weaknesses so that You and the power of God in Christ Jesus might rest upon us and the world around us would see Your glory manifested in the midst of our faithfulness to a God who is ever more faithful to His children.

Writing on the Wall

Standard

Photo credit to Keith Patschka.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dust in the Wind

Standard

“Ephraim feeds on wind, and follows after the east wind: he daily increases lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.” (Hosea 12:1)

 
The group Kansas said it was the same old song. The lyrics continue, “Just a drop of water in an endless sea/ All we do crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see/ Dust in the wind/ All we are is dust in the wind.” Well, it is the same old song. Our life is brief and fleeting compared to eternity. And since it is so brief and fleeting, it would behoove us to learn how to make the most of this short life we’ve been given on this side of eternity.

 
It’s interesting to see here that the word used in Hebrew for wind is also the word used for the spirit. It can mean wind, breath, or spirit. In Genesis 1:2 we hear, “…And the Spirit of God (Ruach Elohim) moved upon the face of the waters.” In Genesis 6:17 it is used for the “breath of life.” In Genesis 8:1 it is the wind that passed over the earth that dried up the waters after the flood. Pneuma is the Greek equivalent found in the New Testament.

 
So how is it used in Hosea? And why is this important? Because “God’s Ruach is the source of life.” (gotquestions.org) You can deny that if you want, you can contradict the truth of it, you can refuse to grant it, you can neglect to acknowledge it, you can refuse to confess it, you can reject it and refuse to embrace it, but the truth remains no matter what you say. This Ruach, this Spirit of God, this Breath of God is the giver of life to all. He’s the One who put the “non-divine” ruach in each of us. We owe every breath we take in our life to His Creative Spirit. The God’s Word translation shares Moses’ words from Numbers 27:16 this way, “Lord, You are the God who gives the breath of life to everyone.” Job declared, “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils…” (Job 27:3) In his conversation with Job, Elihu shares, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life.” (Job 33:4)

 
This thought carries over into the New Testament in the word pneuma. We see it shared from the mouth of Jesus in John 3. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John is using intentional word play here with pneuma (wind) and pneumatic (Spirit). In writing it’s called an inclusion, “a rhetorical device that ties its contents closer together. In this case, the inclusion contains the comparison between the actions of the wind and being born of the Spirit.” (throughandto.com)  The metaphor becomes stronger. We see how the movement of the wind helps us see the movement of the Holy Spirit. There is an “‘other’ origin, destination, and power—like the wind” that is not “centered in human initiative.”

 
But Ephraim, God’s people were forgetting that. They were feeding on the wind but not feeding on the Wind that fills. They were feeding on air, the wind that blows to and fro and sometimes doesn’t blow at all. They were feeding on wind, on that air, that just blows and has no means of nourishing the body or soul. They were feeding on emptiness. And they were pursuing after emptiness all day long. They were adding lie after lie to their lives. It’s pursuit was bringing more wasting and more desolation and ravaging into their lives. It’s like they were choosing oppression.

 
Remember, God has made a covenant with His people. It was a covenant of love and care and provision. It was a covenant of His presence. It was a covenant of His Spirit with them. In truth, God’s covenant was all about them feeding on His Spirit and being blessed by that. It was about them following after Him by the power of His Spirit. They were to follow and be empowered by the wind, the breath that issued forth life and joy and strength and goodness from His Creative Being. But what did they choose? They chose to make covenant with the Assyrians and the Egyptians for temporary protection and temporary wealth. They broke covenant with the Breath of Life to establish covenant with that which is fleeting, simple dust in the empty wind.

 
Isn’t it the same old song today? God is calling us to covenant with Him. He has given His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sin of turning away and wanting things our way instead of His. He has given us a way to come home by faith. He stands with His arms wide open. Just as He breathed the precious breath of life accompanied by His Spirit into Adam, so He wishes to breath His life-giving Spirit into each of us. Do you really believe that the complexity of human life and all of creation occurred by accident? Is that even logical or reasonable? Is that really intelligent? When was the last time that a house just fell into place with every brick, every piece of wood and nail, aligned just right? You really believe that? I don’t.

 
I believe the song that Jesus sang in the beginning with God when He breathed that breath of life into humanity and shared of His Spirit. I believe in a personal God who longs for His children to return to Him, to return to that relationship of fullness. I believe that we can choose to chase after the empty wind or we can choose to be filled with the wholeness of His Spirit. I think if we sit back and think about it, if we look and remember, we’ll see God’s hand in our life. If only Ephraim remembered Jacob and how God had a plan for him even in His mother’s womb. How He was there in the midst of his struggles. How Jacob wept before Him. If only we would remember. Remember what? That the LORD God of hosts takes time for us. That though You are God, You get close enough to breath Your breath of life into us. You come close enough to touch us and warn us and share with us and love us and guide us.

 
It’s true. I can’t explain the wind. And I can’t explain how You do what You do or how Your Holy Spirit can be or do what He does. But just as I know there is wind, not only when I fly my kite, but by so many other evidences, so I know that Your Holy Spirit is at work by His many evidences. I can choose to follow any wind. I can choose emptiness if I want to. But I want to turn to You. I want to keep mercy and judgment and wait on You continually, God, because You take this mere speck of dust that is me and give me a life that matters and is filled with Your Spirit. You give me an eternity that begins in the here and now. You give me meaning and purpose not just for today, but forever in You. You don’t just give me life, You give me LIFE, because You are LIFE. May I feed on You and follow You and increase in You all the days of my life. And may I live forever in covenant with You. I may be dust in the wind, but in the Right Wind, I will not crumble but I will rise with You, I will see LIFE and know LIFE and live LIFE forever with You. This dust matters. This dust, when surrendered to You, comes together with the other dusts surrendered with You, and we bring out LIFE, like You brought forth life when You gathered the dust of the earth and formed Adam and breathed Your LIFE into him. If all I am is dust in the WIND, there is no stopping me.

Sharing the Fountain

Standard

“In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for purification and for sprinkling.”  (Zechariah 13:1)

“In that day there shall be a fountain…”  I love fountains, and streams, and waves on the beach, and waterfalls.  But what does this mean?  What could it signify?  It might make a difference for me to find out.  This isn’t the only word for fountain used in Scripture.  So why this one?  “In that day there shall be a fountain,” a maqor.  It means something dug, generally a source like of water, tears, or blood.  Well, this is a good thing, a source that flows out to the House of David and Jerusalem in order to remove their sin and uncleanness.  The thing is, this Source, this Fountain, has already come, only Israel hasn’t realized the fullness of His coming yet.  That day has not been fully realized yet.

Here’s the really cool thing.  That word for fountain in Hebrew, it’s Greek equivalent is pege and it carries over into the New Covenant.  Here are the beautiful words of the risen Messiah in Revelation 21:6, “It is done.  I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  I will give unto him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely.”  And that matters.  But it’s not just something to think that someday in Heaven I’ll experience from that fountain.  If we wait for someday in Heaven, it will be too late and we will have missed drinking from the fountain at all.  Jesus came to be our fountain now, to satisfy our thirst here and now, today and forever. 

The fountain is for life.  The fountain was for the Jew and still is.  The fountain is for the peoples of the world and still is.  But Israel and we too are often too busy filling ourselves with things and ideas that don’t and can’t satisfy.  Jeremiah shared Your thoughts on this, “For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)  In Zechariah, You accused Israel of idolatry and being effected by the spirits of the idols.  Is that any different than today?  A cistern is a place made to hold water or other liquid.  Aren’t we, Jew or Gentile, a God-made receptacle, created to hold His Spirit?  But don’t we have this tendency to fill ourselves with our own desires, our own lusts, our own thoughts, instead of everything that is of You?

But isn’t it good to know that there is hope for those of Israel who do not know the Messiah that they may come to know Him?  Isn’t it good to know that there will come a day when no one will believe lying prophets, when people won’t be led astray by false spirits, and false worship?  Isn’t it gloriously good news to know that God sent a Shepherd above shepherds to us and for us, for His glory and our salvation, to redeem His people Israel and to draw the nations to Him?  Here You gave Your only begotten Son to willingly sacrifice His life on the cross for Your glory which leads to our good and salvation.  Jesus suffered everything He did not deserve for a people who did not deserve it.  But He didn’t give up on us.  How is that for unconditional love?  “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:3)  Well, the Messiah’s love was even greater because He layed down His life before we ever acted like His friends. 

Jesus, You layed down Your life for Israel even while she was committing adultery.  While we were still sinners, You died for us.  Why?  Because You created us to be Your people.  You care that deeply.  You want to see our destiny fulfilled.  You say, “…I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, ‘You are my people;’ and they shall say, ‘You are my God.’” (Hosea 2:23) God’s plan was to start this beautiful relationship with Israel, that Israel would be His beautiful bride, knowing Him and His ways personally.  And then He would sow her to Him in the earth.  What does that mean?  He would disseminate, conceive seed throughout the earth with her and by her.  Their union would effect every nation like planting seeds prolifically all over the world. 

That makes me take pause.  Because I have to stop and think of the amazing little remnant of Messianic Jewish believers since the resurrection of Christ who have been instruments of dissemination because they believed.  It’s amazing to think that because of them, I am Your child today.  Truly, it is “not by might, nor by power, but by [Your] Spirit,” (Zechariah 4:6) Lord.

It’s not just us heathen Gentiles who have a problem.  God hit the nail on the head.  “‘And I will sanctify My great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord,’ says the Lord God, ‘when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.’” (Ezekiel 36:23)  Hey, this is exciting stuff!  God was talking to His beloved Israel.  He’s still talking to you, Israel, and He’s not done with you.  But it’s more than about You, Israel, being brought back into Your own land.  You still need to be sprinkled with His clean water by the Fountain He sent for you.  Only then will you be clean from all your filthiness, and from all your idols.  He’ll clean you.  And those aren’t my words. Those are God’s words if you continue in Ezekiel.  He’ll give you a new heart and a new spirit within you.   He’ll take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and give you a new heart of flesh.  Yeah. That’s still in His words here!  And He’ll put his Spirit within you and cause you to walk in His ways and do them.  And then, and only then, when you’re living in the promise, will God be able to say, “You are My people,” and will you truly be able to say, “You are our God.”

The sad thing is that we can all ignore who we were created to be.  We can choose to ignore the words and plans of You, God.  Then what happens?  Well, for Israel, this is what you said way back through Moses, “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” (Deuteronomy 32:21)  And Paul, a Jew, picked up on this thought and how it applied in Jesus the Messiah.  “But I say, ‘Did not Israel know?  First Moses said, ‘I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are not a people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.’” (Romans 10:19)  “I say then, ‘Have they stumbled that they should fall?  God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.’” Romans 11:11  It’s not that You have forsaken Israel.  By denying Your Christ, Jesus the Messiah, they have forsaken You.  But because we, Jew or Gentile, forsake You, it does not mean that You ever forsake Your plans or who You are by nature.  So, if the nation of Israel will not be Your light in Christ, then Your light will still go out, into the nations which was always Your desire from the beginning.  But it doesn’t stop Your heart from longing for Israel to see and return to You and to be what You created them to be, a light to the Gentiles, the glory of God in Christ Jesus.

One day, there will be a remnant of 1/3 of the nation of Israel, who will rise up and surrender to Your calling.  What a glorious day that will be.  I was just thinking that maybe that story about the prodigal relates to this too.  That maybe Israel is like the prodigal who just didn’t understand his Father’s relationship until he lost everything.  And then he started to see and remember and returned to his Father and was restored fully.  And maybe the other son is like us Gentile believers who are brothers, who don’t really long for our brother to return because we’re happy like it is.  I hope and pray that we would long like our Father for the nation of Israel to know You and that upon Your return, we would be first to run into the party and wrap our arms around our brother who was lost but now is found, who was dead, but now lives in Christ.

There is a Fountain.  He has come and offered His living water to Israel and all people.  How sad it is that a Samaritan would be more ready to drink of His living water, than His own would.  But thank God some of His own know and thank God that more will come to know and drink and experience and share the goodness of that Fountain with others in the world around them.  You are the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  I was thirsty and You gave me drink, and I am not the same.  May we be thirsty, so thirsty that we must drink and may the drinking be such a refreshing and satisfying delight that we share that Fountain with others.

To Hell With Self-Actualization

Standard

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:  I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”  Matthew 5:17

If I say I love You, God, then I need to love Your ways.  If I say I love You, God, then I need to listen to You and be teachable by You.  You are so different than the world and You are so different than religion.  Do I really love You?  Am I teachable?  Do I listen to You?  Do I let You have Your way in me?

Am I poor in spirit?  Am I like a beggar before You?  Am I that desperate for what You are desperate for?  Am I that desperate for You?  Do I really know what mourning is?  Have I really ever felt Godly sorrow over things?  It’s one thing to share in sorrow with another, but what about to sorrow over what brings You sorrow?  Do I really know?  Do I love You that much to care about what You care about?  Or am I too wrapped up in myself?  Do I have any idea what meekness is?  Am I willing to humble myself before You and others or do I see that as a sign of weakness?  Or would that mean that I can’t satisfy my own desires? Do I have any inkling of what righteousness is?  Would I be so hungry and thirsty for Your righteousness that I would pay the ultimate price just to see it fulfilled?  Would I sacrifice my own desires to live out that righteousness out of my love and honor for You?  What about mercy?  How does Your mercy interpret into everyday life?  As I have received it, do I offer it as generously to others?  Purity of heart.  Is my heart clean according to Your standards?  Do I love You enough to care about and know and understand Your standards?  Do I just call myself clean without caring what You call clean?  Am I a peacemaker by Your standards?  Am I bringing Your peace or am I just satisfying everyone around me?  Have I ever experienced what it is to be persecuted because I’m living according to Your righteous will, like You in the world?  Because if all I’ve mentioned hasn’t led to that, well, I’m probably not living like You and I wonder if my love is as strong as I think it is.

Read through Matthew 5:1-17 again.  I shouldn’t fool myself into thinking that deciding to follow You as a believer is easy at all.  This is a decision where I must truly count the cost.  I cannot remain the same.  I cannot remain unchanged.  I cannot remain un-surrendered.  I cannot follow You thinking that I’m coming to follow a set of rules and regulations.  You are asking for something much deeper, much more personal.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  Right now, there is a lot of law abolishing going on.  But societal law abolishing is nothing new.  And it’s nothing new for man to continually attempt to abolish Your law.  But what are You really talking about here?  What is Your heart about this matter here?  Because I just can’t help but think that every word, and I mean every word, including every “jot and tittle”, every “iota and dot” of Your word is utterly important and will be accomplished, will be fulfilled.

It all boils down to this.  “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” ( Romans 8:6-8)  See, I can live according to my flesh.  Or by the grace and power of God, I can live by the Spirit.  One is an invitation to death, while the other is an invitation to life.  Only first I have to die to the flesh to live by the Spirit.  See, that’s living in resurrection power.

In the flesh, I want to abolish standards.  I want to satisfy my own desires regardless of what it means for others and regardless of how a holy God feels about it.  You know, I even become hostile to what won’t allow me to achieve my own desires.  Think about this hostility toward God.  It’s the Greek word echtros.  It’s used in reference to enemies both in war or daily life, to enemy nations, to enemies of the righteous, and to God’s enemies.  So basically here, if I choose the way of my flesh, if I follow my own heart without God’s direction, I’m making You, God, my enemy.

What characterizes an enemy of God?  They don’t subject themselves to the law of God.  Oh, you say, “Well, what about grace?”  What about it?  Jesus just told us that grace doesn’t negate God’s law or the prophets?  So who taught us that grace did?    They may not have known it, but they were acting like an enemy of God.  And look where it’s brought us.  Here we are, just like the nation of Israel, influenced by the fleshly desires of Egypt, more than the desires of God.

The Good News Bibles words it, “To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace.  And so people become enemies of God when they are controlled by their human nature; for they do not obey God’s law, and in fact they cannot obey it.  Those who obey their human nature cannot please God.”  You know, I just don’t think this needs any further clarification.  If the Spirit is speaking to our hearts right now, we know what this is saying, we know the truth and the truth is the only thing that will set each of us free if we respond to it and live by it and in it.  And the truth is more than a law or a way, it’s a person and His name is Jesus.  And He designed the right way, the only way to live a life pleasing to God, a life filled with satisfaction and peace, even in the midst of not fulfilling our every fleshly desire.  Why?  Or maybe, how?  He imparts to us better and deeper desires.  He gives the strength to achieve, to fulfill them.  But I can’t do it if I live according to just my fleshly desires.

My flesh cries loudly.  It’s not that any homosexual or heterosexual or pedophile or criminal or saint is any more fleshly than me.  We’re all the same.  We’re all sinners before God and before each other.  We all start out as God haters because we all want our own way and not His.  And we can live our whole lives being God haters yet saying we love God but never knowing Him enough to consider obeying Him a loving thing.  Our way is more important than His.  If I desire it, I want it, and so I’ll do it, no matter what You think about it God.  How is that love of the Father?  My flesh has led me there.  My flesh has so desired things that I’ve entered into forbidden territory.  But my love for You God has also restrained me and it has turned me back and brought me to repentance.  I have had to stop myself and ask, and I think You stopped me, no, I know You stopped me and asked me, “Who do you really love?  Do you love Me more or this?”  It’s just like when You asked Peter “Peter, do you love me more than these?”  You get that personal, even in the midst of our flesh.  But what will my answer be?  It won’t mean much if I say, “Yes,” but act otherwise.  What will my real answer look like?  Will I refuse my flesh because I love You more?  Will I turn from my ways and turn to Your ways because I love You more?  Will I let go and repent or will I love my own flesh’s ways more?

Here’s the truth and the reason I have the power to say no to my fleshly desires and yes to Your desires, God.  “But if Christ lives in you, the Spirit is life for you because you have been put right with God, even though your bodies are going to die because of sin.  If the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from death, lives in you, then He who raised Christ from death will also give life to your mortal bodies by the presence of His Spirit in you.  So then, my friends, we have an obligation, but it is not to live as our human nature wants us to.  For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live.  Those who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s children. “  (Romans 8: 10-14)

It’s true, Jesus said, “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well.” (Luke 14:26) With His own mouth He said, “If you love Me, you will obey my commandments.  (John 14:15) “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. My Father will love those who love me; I too will love them and reveal myself to them.” (John 14:21)

So I can live the way of the flesh or the way of the Spirit.  If I live the way of the flesh I choose to not be subject to Your law, God.  Your word is life, all of it.  It pleases You because it’s of You and from You.  It’s peace, it’s love, it’s wonder, it’s everything good.  It’s life and if it’s not of You or Your law then it leads to death.  The law never ceased because You never ceased and You never will and law is all about understanding and knowing You.  There’s no way I can please You or know You without it, and without submitting to it.  All I’ll ever know then is my own ways, not Yours.  Your law tells me how to know You and how to become Your child and Your friend.  To reject Your law is to reject You.

So, if Your word, Your law is the way of life, how do I make it my way of life in a world, an environment, that rejects it and is hostile to it?  You teach me to deny myself even my basic rights.  Would the world or my own flesh deny me that?  It would tell me to seek someone who’ll comfort me.  It would tell me I must have those basic rights.  Well what’s wrong with having our basic rights?  What are the rights of the flesh?

I just read an unsettling article about a movement to label pedophilia as a sexual orientation and not a disorder.  Think a minute here.  Then the flesh’s desire for sexual activity with children becomes a basic right.  Can you imagine it being someone’s right to molest a child?  Have you heard what’s beginning to be taught in public schools?  All things about sexuality at young ages, things that used to be tabu.  Why?  Could there be a desire by many to teach our young children to feed the flesh?  Or is there an enemy preparing our children to be used by those who will not control the desires of their own flesh because they’ve handed the law over to their own flesh and robbed it from You, God?

Self-actualization is the antagonist of Godly surrender.  Jesus surrendered His basic rights and more that every one of us might have true life and have it abundantly.  Lord, I don’t want to be sucked into the mindset of self-actualization because it’s the road to death.  Proberbs 14:12 tells me, “There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”  I want to walk in the way of life, not the way of death.  Lord, You alone are the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and I want to walk in You.  I want to love Your law because it’s all about You, and I want to love others like You loved me.  And if it means, and I know it does, that I have to die to my flesh’s desires to live in You, then teach me to die so I might live.  To hell with self-actualization, but to life and life eternal with Christ-actualization.  The world doesn’t need more of me, it needs more of You.  And the truth is, I can never be all that I was created to be until I surrender myself to my Creator.

For Christ’s Sake!

Standard

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:  for when I am weak, then am I strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:10

How can you be weak and strong at the same time, Paul?   How can you take pleasure in being sick?  How can you take pleasure in being reproached?  How can you take pleasure in being in need?  How can you take pleasure when you are persecuted?  How can you take pleasure when you are in distress?  How does Jesus enable you to do that?  I need to know.  Because the same way Jesus enables you, is the way Jesus will enable me.

This is pretty strong stuff here.  This pleasure is from the Greek word “eudokeo.”  It means to think well of, approve, to take pleasure in, to delight in.  It’s the same word family that God used to say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  So how do I learn to delight in all this hard stuff to the extent of God’s delight in Christ?  Is that possible?

Well, Jesus, You say that the answer is a loud, “Yes!”  You tell me that “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (Matthew 19:26)  You tell me that if I “can believe, all things are possible” to the one that believes. (Mark 9:23)  And in Mark 14:36 when You were preparing to go through these kinds of things Yourself to the worst degree, You affirmed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto You.” But to that You added the clincher that I need to remember.  It’s not about my will, but all about Your will.

Sickness is a tough thing, especially debilitating diseases.  But You are telling me that even if I have a debilitating disease, I can delight in the midst of it.  What in the world am I delighting in?  Can I really delight in my disease? I can do it for Christ’s sake.  But what does that mean?

Can I do it because I’m suffering for Christ?  Is that what that means?  The Greek words are actually “huper Christos” and when I look at Strong’s it tells me that “huper” is about being over, above, beyond, or casually for the sake of.  But I don’t think this is casual stuff here.  But that “huper” part, that above and beyond,  in Christ, well that intrigues me.

I mean, what if I’m not doing these things for the sake of Christ in the english sense?  What if Christ is doing this in me?  What if, in the middle of all these negative situations, He is rising above the situation, ruling over me and my heart and my mind and the circumstances?  What if I am allowing Him to stretch me beyond my limits because there are no limits in Him?  I don’t think this is a casual thing and I don’t think it’s about me and my power.  I think it’s all about hupos Christos, that my Jesus is above and over and beyond everything.  And when I come to submit and surrender to that reality, to Him in every situation good or bad, then I get to delight in the hupos Christos Himself as He raises me above each situation even in the midst of the situation.

I can take pleasure in my debilitating disease because Jesus is there doing wonderful things in my life despite the ravaging of the disease.  I can delight in the reproaches of others when I am walking firmly in His way because He rises above the reproaches and speaks more loudly and lovingly in my ears.  When I am in need, I can delight, because I know that You, Lord, will meet my need, You will rise above it and provide.  When I’m persecuted for standing for You, You will stand for me because I am Yours.  I can delight in waiting on You and on seeing and experiencing Your fellowship and vindication because my joy is in You and not the physical deliverance.  See, You are my Deliverance.  And when distresses and calamaties and hard pressing rise against me, You raise higher.

See, it’s not about what Paul did.  It’s not about what I do.  Well, we both have to rely on You and depend on You and expect You to be You.  But this hupos Christos is all about You being You in our lives.  It’s all about me having the right expectations, knowing that these tough things are coming.  But as tough as they are, You will always be above them.

Therefore, when I am weak, because, in the midst of these things I am very weak, then I am strong.  Why?  Well, it’s not because of me at all just as it wasn’t due to Paul.  It’s because You are right there with us.  You were with Paul every step of the way.  You never leave us nor forsake us.  And if we don’t leave You or forsake You then we know we can depend on hupos Christos.  When I am weak, then I am strong because You are always strong and You are always there in me and for me.

I have to confess, I’ve been thinking about weakness a lot lately.  It’s been in my thoughts over the last couple of years and recently.  And maybe I’ve been focussing on my weakness and it makes me feel wearier.  And I think that when I focus on my weakness, I have a tendency to use it as an excuse and I become weaker.  But then that’s lying about my relationship in You.  And I don’t want to believe that lie any more.

The fact of the matter is that on my own I am utterly weak.  But I’ve placed my trust in You; You own my life, my everything.  I’m not weak any more because I am in hupos Christos.  You are my strength.  And though I’m weak and when I’m weak, I’m really not so weak any more because You are strong in me.  So my prayer is that I would never forget that truth.  I want to always live in the truth that You inhabit me with Your strength.  And it’s just a matter of me continually surrendering to You.  I want to be strong.  I need to be strong for my sake so that I don’t fall into temptation and into sin.  But I’m also learning that I must be strong for the sake of others.  Because if I hold on to my weakness and fall, I will take others with me.  I don’t want to do that.  That would break my heart.

So, Lord, give me a heart, mind, and spirit that continually trust in and rely on Your strength in me.  Teach me how to be strong in You that I may teach others how to be strong in You.  Take my eyes off of me, and firmly and forever rivet them on You.  Because of Who You Are, because of Your strength, I can be strong like Paul.  I will trust in You, my sword and my shield, my forever deliverer.

Send Me!

Standard

My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.  Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?”  Behold, I say unto you, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”  John 4:34,35

Image

It’s a good thing I’m not hungry now.  Because here You are talking about meat.  And that could get my mouth watering.  Well, not meat so much as thinking about food when I’m hungry.  But the truth of the matter is, I am hungry in a way.  I’m not physically hungry right now, but I am spiritually hungry.  And I think that’s what You really want me to think about here.

First, You were teaching me to be thirsty for You.  That was the lesson from the Samaritan woman at the well.  You were telling me that You are the only One who can satisfy my internal thirst.  Actually, You are the only One who can satisfy all my thirsts.  And here it is, the same day, still in Samaria, and You switch to using eating as Your choice picture.

What is the purpose of food?  Water quenches our thirst and sustains life.  What about food?  Well, I Googled it.  And Debra Auger, a Nutritionist, shared this intro, “There is a purpose for food beyond the fact that it tastes good and provides a sensual pleasure for the palate.”  I like that intro.  But the ultimate purpose of food is like that of water.  We need food to sustain our lives.  Without food, well, without appropriate food, we starve our bodies and we die.  So, Lord, I think You’re really trying to drive this point home.

Lord, the thing that pleases You, the thing that brings You delight, and that nourishes You and fills You with life is what? It’s participating in and fulfilling the pleasures and desires of Your heavenly Father.  And, wait a minute here, You are my example.  I am to follow You.   So that means that what should please me and bring me delight, that what should nourish me and fill me with life is also participating in and fulfilling the pleasures and desires of You and of my Heavenly Father.

Now You hone that in to Your disciples.  You tell them, “Look out at things physically here.  You understand how the harvest works.  You understand about planting and growing and then the harvest in this physical world.  Well, now I want You to think about it and understand it in the Spiritual.  Look at the people around You.  This is My field.  This is My harvest.  I want you to be part of it.  I want You to make Your life about gathering them in to me.  This is the absolute pleasure of our Heavenly Father.  This is His heart’s desire.  This is the whole purpose He sent me for.  This is Your purpose.”

It’s not really the Pastor’s purpose.  Well, it’s his purpose too, but it’s not just his purpose. This is the purpose for any disciple, for every follower of Jesus.  This is the whole purpose of the Living Waters.  They fill us and equip us and flow through us to Your glory and satisfy and nourish those around us.  Your Spirit draws them to You and we continue in the harvest.  Pastors aren’t sufficient.  There aren’t enough of them.  You desire each one of us to step up to the plate, so to speak.  We each have been given every tool we need for the harvest and You are telling us we need to get using them.  Someone else’s life and eternity depend on it.

That’s why in Mark and in Luke 10:2 You tell us, “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few:  you need to pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest.”  I look out and I see this truly great harvest.  It’s overwhelming in its magnitude.  And no laborer can meet the need on their own.  But You, Lord, can raise up the laborers, an army of laborers who can work together in You and with each other in You, to meet that seemingly overwhelming need.  And it’s not about a mass of people.  It’s about every individual out there.  And You want us to meet their needs one by one, individual by individual, just like You do, one disciple at a time.  There is an intimitate relationship with each disciple.  There is no mass mentality here.  There is intimacy and true knowledge.  I should desire that with people just as You did.

Now, I just wanted to look at things realistically so I hopped over to Google again.  And I asked how many people are in the world.  That took me to the Worldometers site which is continually counting the world population.  So, according to their statistics, there are about 7,222,812,035 people worldwide and continually growing.  Doing another Google search led me to Pewresearch which shared that about 32% of the world’s population is Christian.  So I did a little calculating, and I’m no mathematician here.  But I took 32% of the total population which told me there are 231,129,985.2 Christians in the world.  Then I divided the total number of people in the world by the number of Christians in the world.  Lord, I came up with an astounding answer.  3.1257.  So if my calculations are correct, if every Christian in the world shared Your Living Waters with 3.1257 different people, the whole world could be harvested!  That is so doable.  So, why is that not happening?

Statistically we have all the labor force we need.  But what about spiritually?  Are we all prepared spiritually?  Do we all have the same focus as You?  Are we as thirsty and hungry as You for the things of the Father, for the things of You?  Are we dependent upon You, upon Your Living Waters?  Are we dependent upon Your meat?  Is our satisfaction in the joy of gathering in our brothers and sisters to You?  Is our joy in bringing our brothers and sisters into unity with us?  Because it looks to me as though there are lots of laborers, but they aren’t going into the fields.  It looks to me as though there are plenty of laborers but some aren’t being sent for a reason.

Because part of my prayer is that You would send the laborers out into the harvest.  There are labourers.   But maybe the point is that they are all not ready.  They aren’t all amply prepared.  Maybe some haven’t tapped into You yet the way they need to, in desperation, wholeheartedly.  I mean, it’s no good to send out a laborer who doesn’t have a heart like You.  It’s no good to send out a laborer who isn’t filled with Your Living Waters, who isn’t letting Your Spirit guide, direct, and change them.  It’s no good to send a laborer who isn’t listening to You.  So, what kind of laborer am I, Lord?

Lord, I so much want You to send me.  I want to do it Your way, in Your strength.  Train me up in Your ways.  Give me Your heart for the Father and the things he loves.  Give me Your heart for every person.  Give me eyes to see like You see.  Give me hands to touch with love and healing like You touch.  Give me ears to hear from You and to really listen and understand and to hear the real needs of others.  Give me a hunger and a thirst for the things that You hunger and thirst after.  Prepare me, equip me to be a faithful laborer.  And send me.  Please send me.  Send me where ever I can be a part of Your harvest with You.  Just send me and feed me so that I can feed You to others.  And so I can see them be fed and sent by You.

And Lord, build up the laborers who are out there.  Not just the ones already laboring.  Continue to strengthen and encourage them.  But raise up the others who haven’t committed yet.  Raise them up so they can know the full joy of serving in You and with You.  Raise them up so they can experience the joy that You experience when another child comes to You.  Raise them up to be what You have called them to be.  Lord, please raise them up and send them.  We need them.  They are part of our body.  But imagine if we all understood our calling.  Imagine if we all stepped forward into the harvest together.  Just imagine that!