Living in the Spirit- Part 4- Ultimate Delight

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“…so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God…For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.”  1 Peter 4: 2,6

It’s easy to hear the words to live “for the will of God.”  It’s great to know that we can and ought to “live in the spirit the way God does.”  It’s even better news to hear that the gospel is telling us this is attainable.  It’s not only saying it’s attainable, but that this is the goal and design of God.  It’s great to hear all this, but how do we get there?

I don’t get there by listening only.  Hearing, for the Jew, meant to listen and apply to ones life.  That’s why Peter has been telling us practical ways of applying our lives and thoughts and actions to living in the will and spirit of the Lord.  That’s why Paul and the other authors of scripture, guided by the Holy Spirit, shared the same, and showed what it looked like walking it out and what it doesn’t look like when we aren’t walking it out. 

The other day I got to share, “walk out,” and think about Jesus through the time he stayed back at the temple as a 12 year old youth.  And when his parents came back and finally found him, he was surprised that they didn’t know where to look for him and answered, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  Only, the original Greek doesn’t say that.  It says, “in my Father’s these,” a weird construction we don’t quite know how to put together at first.  But maybe it’s more than being in the house of God?

What if it’s more of something like, “I must be in my Father’s every moment, every move.  I must be in the midst of my Father and what He is doing and where He is.”?  What if it’s a fluidness matched by solidness to be lined up with the spirit of God wherever, whenever, whatever we are doing?  Skip Moen shared, “All of who I am is about what God wants.  The context of my life supplies the meaning.  Life is not about you.  It’s about abiding under Him and under the others we serve.  We know that it’s about everything we have, everything we are and everything we hope to be.  We know that it’s about perfect completion of His purposes.  And now we see that it’s about context.  What is the context of your life? Is it all about God?”  For Jesus it was and is.

I can’t help but ask, “What was Jesus’ gain by being there?”  I ask that because now I’m looking at His words in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”   What was Jesus’ reason, his driving force to do what he did? What was the “joy set before him” that he endured the cross for?  What if that joy had nothing to do with being crowned, or being seated at the right hand of God, or looking at my smiling face in heaven, or any of the things we imagine as wonderful rewards?  What if the joy set before him, was the joy of delighting His Father, the joy of delighting with the Father wholly again?  What if seeking first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness trumps all the things added to us?

In other words, what if delighting God is our whole motivation?  And what if, when that becomes my whole motivation, I find that God is my greatest delight?  What if that changes my desires by the power of His delight?  I mean, isn’t that why the Lord sends us His Holy Spirit, that I might know the delight of the Lord and live in that?  That I might, like Jesus, know my Fathers’ these?

God knows us.  Unlike Jesus, we don’t always say, “Yes, Father,” and do it.  That’s why Jesus told the parable of the two sons, the one who said, “Yes, Father, “ but never did it; and the one who said, “No, Father,” but then went and did what the Father asked.  It’s not our words that make or break us, it’s what we do with our Father’s request.

Another thing I miss if I don’t live in the will of God, is being part of His family.  Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”  There is no earthly family that has the closeness, love, and protection that there is in the family of God.  It goes beyond the color of our skin and our bloodlines.  It goes beyond physical boundaries.  It goes beyond the past, the here and now, and our future, into eternity.  Things can separate us from our earthly families, but nothing can separate us from the love of God.

And here’s the beauty of being in that family of God—it’s available to anyone who will believe in the “wholeness” of Jesus, of who he is, and why he came, and what he did, and that he is who God said he was.  Through Jesus, he gives us “the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  If I want to live by the spirit of God I must be born by the spirit His way, not mine.  I must let him change me.  I must submit to His ways, His life, His delight.

I’m led to think about that blind man, blind from birth, who Jesus healed.  And the leaders didn’t want to believe him.  And that amazed this unlearned blind man how they couldn’t see the great thing that had been done and that it had to be of God.  And he winds up teaching them the gospel truth!  “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does his will, God listens to him.”  That’s beautiful.  But it’s not saying the imperfect aren’t welcome or can’t come.  If you want to know what it means, find out what it means to worship God.

What does it mean to worship God?  Does it mean to follow some ritual?  Why did so many of the Pharisees and scribes miss out on getting it?  Why did this poor “sinner” find the truth?  How can I, a poor sinner, find the truth?

It starts with delighting in the Lord.  Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  I don’t delight myself in You, because of what I get from or in You.  I delight myself in You because I, like the blind man, have come to know that You are my shear delight!  I can delight in You like nothing and noone else.  You alone are worthy of my delight.  You are DELIGHTABLE just by nature of who You are!  The getting my desires of my heart part is just the bonus that comes from knowing You and experiencing You.  Delighting in You is where doing Your will in my life flows from.  It’s no longer a chore but a beautiful blessing.

When I delight myself in You Lord, everything else falls in place.  I will want to commit my way to You.  I will trust in You.  That is when I see You act time and time again.  You will bring forth my righteousness.  I will learn to exhibit Your justice.  I will be able to wait patiently for You.  I won’t have to fret over the evil in life because I know that You have overcome and everything is flowing in the direction You want.  Despite the evil, despite the persecution, despite the pain, I know that Your will is coming to pass and one day, in Your time, it will be completed both in me and in this world, and You are including me as part of that necessary process.

What’s the answer when things aren’t going my way, or even when things are absolutely against me?  “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”  (Psalm 37:7,8)  In other words, if I know You, Lord, I ought to live as though I do.  I ought to think as though I do.  I ought to respond as though I do.  And not just like I know You, but as though I am in You and You in me, as though Your Holy Spirit empowers me to live as You and bring healing and love, rather than a response from my flesh that harms and destroys. 

Believing isn’t just about agreeing with a creed, nor is it about obeying your commands.  Scripture says the demons believe, and sometimes they obey You too!  But there isn’t one demon who delights in You.  There isn’t one demon who allows You, with joy, to lead and direct the desires of their heart and the actions and responses of their lives.  There is not one demon who desires to line their emotions up with Yours.  Not one!  And there is not one demon who loves the fact that You are LORD of lords and KING of kings.  But I do.  And I love that You are my King and my Lord and I want You to have Your way in my heart and my life in every situation in my life and beyond forever!

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The Millennial Treasure

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever!

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His mother said unto the servants, “Whatever He says unto you, do it.”   John 2:5

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A wedding.  An invitation.  Six waterpots.  No more wine.  Servants.  A problem.  The Answer.  Lord, how do You want me to put this all together?  Right now, I’m thinking that You gave Mary these profound words to say.  I’m thinking that You gave her these specific words not just for that moment and situation in time, but for all people and all time.  “Whatever He says unto you, do it.”

Who were the people involved here?  Well, You Jesus, Your mom, and Your disciples had been invited to a wedding in Cana.  At the wedding, the wine ran out.  I wonder if it was a struggling family and if this would have been very embarrassing for them?  Mary knows and comes to You.  Your answer to her makes us stop and think, “Woman, what have I to do with you?  My hour is not yet come.”  And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has tried to figure out that response.  I compared some references across Bibles and I’m not so sure everyone agrees on that.  But I know that addressing Your mom as “Mother” at that time was respectful and not rude.  And I’m wondering if “What have I do do with you?” wouldn’t happen to be reminding Mary whose will You work according to.  I’m wondering if You aren’t reminding Mary that it’s not just about what she wants or what we want, but that You are all about Your Father’s will.  You have everything to do with Him.

And what does “My hour has not yet come” mean?  Well, obviously it can’t mean, “I can’t do anything now.”  And it can’t mean “This isn’t the time for me to do anything today.”  Because You do act on her request and You do perform the first of Your public miracles.  So what does it mean?  Well, I’m not sure if this is referring to this moment in time or to the future completion of all things or both.  But I do know that the word “hora” used here can mean an hour or an instant.  And the word “heto” for come means arrive or to be present.  So, what if You were saying, “Mom, at this moment I can’t do this because You want me to.  I can only do this if it is the Father’s will.  And this second, He has not told me to.  But, should He tell me, then I will do it.”

I mean some people look at Your response to Mary as rude.  But she didn’t seem to receive it that way.  She seemed to proceed with hope.  Because she went directly to the servants and told them, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”  That doesn’t sound like a chagrined mother.  That sounds like a mother who believes that the Father is going to direct the Son.  That looks like a woman who believes more wine is on the way.

And from my experiences, I believe that You, Heavenly Father, love to answer our prayers for the needs of others.  I’ve seen You do it time and time again in my life when others have been praying for specific needs or desires and I join in with them.  And You answer their needs in such wonderful ways.  So, maybe You were delighted that Mary was noticing someone else’s need and that she was desiring to save them from shame.  And obviously, from what happens next, we see that You shared that with Jesus.  And now it was Your will.  And Your will will be done.

So, You, Jesus, tell the servants to fill the water pots.  I guess that’s not such an unusual request.  So they do it.  I guess that wouldn’t be hard to obey.  But, I wonder if the next request would have filled the servant with fear.  “Draw some out now, and take it to the governor of the feast.”  “What?  We’re supposed to be serving wine, not water!  You want me to serve him a glass of water!  You want me to be the one to bear the bad tidings?”  Well, I don’t know what they thought, but it is pretty normal for us to respond in doubt and fear.  But maybe because they were used to being servants, they obeyed.  It’s what servants did.  Obey.  It wasn’t part of their job description to question authority.  So, maybe fear or not, they obeyed Jesus and bore the glass of liquid to the governor.

And Lord, I’m so grateful that they obeyed.  Because of their obedience, a miracle was witnessed and the greatness of that miracle was announced.  The governor, not knowing, declared the last of the wine even better than the first.  But of course it was better, it wasn’t made by man.  And that day the servants and the disciples saw Your glory, and Your disciples believed on You.  They entrusted themselves to You.

So, my question is, “What do I do with the words You tell me?”  Do I do whatever you tell me?  Do I only obey what I agree with or what makes sense?  Do I only obey what everyone else around me is saying is “for today”?  Mary said, “Whatever He tells you, do it.”  And I think that still speaks to me today.  Whatever You tell me, I must do it.  And it’s not that I must do it because I have to obey or else.  But I must do it because the delight and the blessing is in the doing.  And it’s not just in the doing.  The delight and the blessing is in the trusting and the acting upon that trust.  It’s a simple chain of events.  No trust, no obey, no receiving the blessing.  Let’s just apply it to the servants.  No trust, no obey, no wine.  The same thing goes for me.  But when I trust, and obey, You wow me with Your provisions and Your presence!

Whatever You say.  What does that look like?  Most of the time we just look at Your direct commands, like Your do’s and Your don’ts.  But I think it goes deeper than that.  I think it takes observing You closely, seeing how You respond, seeing how You share, seeing how You give of Yourself, seeing how You reach out, seeing who You reach out to.  Because this is all in Your Word and You’ve told it to us.  So here You’ve said this all in a way.  And because You’ve said it in Your Word, whether through Your own voice or the voice and pens of those You’ve inspired, now I am to do it, all of it.  And this is You calling me into You, to be You in the world.  This is You giving me the opportunity to not just see greater things than these, but to be a part of Your greater things.  This is moment by moment responding to the will of God just as You did and this is doing so in Your power, in the midst of You, in the midst of You in me.

Lord, I am so grateful for these obedient servants that teach me about what living for You looks like.  And they didn’t even have a personal realationship with You.  So I am accountable for so much more.  Make me a faithful servant all the days of my life.  Only I want to be like the dear servant that was a friend also that Cornelius sought You for his well-being.  I want to be a servant that You sing over and I want to sing over You.  I want to obey and respond to everything You say.  I don’t want to miss out on any part of You.  I don’t want to obey because I want to be good.  I want to obey because I love You and I want to ever draw closer to You.  I want to delight in every word You speak, in every one of Your commands because I delight in You.  And I want to feel and experience Your delight in and over me.

And Lord, always give me an eye to see the needs of others.  Give me compassion, true compassion for them.  May I always come to You on their behalf and may I come expecting Your love and Your answers to be poured out in love on their behalf.  And may I always walk away with an appropriate response on my behalf in faith and expectation just like Mary did.  May I always be sensitive to Your will and Your timing.  And may I give You opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to show Yourself God before others and to be glorified.  May You have everything to do with me because I want everything to do with Your will.  Make this true in me and in my life.

Jet Lag and the Sons of God

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“But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name:  which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  John 1:12-13

Jet lag is not such a terrible thing because when I wake up at 2 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep it’s just an opportunity to spend time with You.  And I like every and any excuse to spend time with You.  I’m glad that I know what it is to miss You because I know what it is to know You.  But there are some people who don’t even know what it is to miss You, because they never really have come to know You.

Lord, sometimes, I think that the church has sometimes made You so “familiar” that lots of people who ought to know You, don’t really know the real You.  And that’s not much different then it was when You came to earth and came to Your people Israel.  It’s so easy to grow up in a church, just as it was to grow up in a synagogue, and to be so focussed on something other than You.  I don’t know what it is either.  I don’t know that I can say what causes the problem.

Maybe part of the problem lies in thinking that we can contain You in a Book and in a set of rules and regulations.  Maybe the problem lies in the fact that we think that our study or knowledge can make us to really grasp everything You are.  And to me, that is becoming such a ludicrous notion.  Because the more I get to know You, the more I see I still don’t know.  But it’s not that I get farther from You as I get closer.  The more You draw me closer, the closer there is to draw me.  There is no end to the depth of You.  There is no end to learning about You.  There is no end to growing in You.

So, Lord, guard me against thinking I know, when I don’t.  Guard me against seeking knowledge more than seeking You.  Guard me against  seeking a ministry more than seeking You.  Guard me against caring about what others think more than I value what You think.

Verse 11 tells me that You “came unto [Your] own, and [Your] own received [You] not.”  You came and made Yourself know to those who should have been prepared to know You.  They should have recognized You from the Word they knew.  They should have joined themselves to You.  They should have become one with You.  But they would not.  And that’s still the problem today.

Sometimes the intellectual seems so much easier to grasp.  And we choose to run around living our lives obeying a head knowledge and really relying on ourselves and calling it You, Jesus.  But we’ve never fully come to You, never received You, never walked up to You and joined with You.  And I guess that’s because that’s the harder choice.  I have to give up myself to join with You.  I have to admit my wrongness, my emptiness, my pure lack of efficiency, my depravity, my hunger, my incapability.  I have to admit my dependency.  That’s a hard lesson to swallow.

So, am I going to accept what You offer?  Or am I going to hold on to what I think I know?  The promise is to those who accept what You offer.  The promise is to those who accept all of You, not just part of You.  The promise is to those who accept Your Person and Your Promise Your way.  Those who place themselves in You, who let You rock their world upside down, who abandon themselves to You, they are the ones who You give the power to become the sons of the very God, the sons of the One and Only True God.

This is a superhuman thing.  It’s more than a privilege.  It’s a God thing.  It goes beyond believing things or facts.  Those that believe in Your name are entrusting their whole being to everything that You are.  Your name is not a fact or a word on a page of a book.  Your name is the absolute essence of everything that You are.  This is faith.  When I entrust all that I am in all that You are, that is the beginning of faith.  This is my spiritual awakening, my birth.

Only at this point can You regenerate me.  This is the butterfly moment.  This is when I am born again, not of flesh and blood like I’ve been living in all my life.  But now I begin to understand spiritual things, Jesus things, God things, Holy Spirit things because I’ve abandoned myself and my ideas as untrustworthy and I’ve clung to You and You alone as trustworthy.  And this was Your whole purpose for me from the beginning.  This is the will of You, Lord, for man, to restore us to a true relationship with You again.

This is an amazing thing.  Because I have placed my whole being in You, I have the ability and power supernaturally to become not only Yours but like You.  Let me not allow anything into my life or thinking that would block that power.  And as long as I remain in You, I have this confidence, that this beautiful work that You have begun in me, You will continue until the day I am with Christ.  This is no easy thing.  You’ve called me to be an overcomer.  But, no matter how hard things get, as I remain in You and You remain in me, Your supernatural power, all that is You, is more than sufficient to bring me through victoriously unto that day.

So, Lord, this jet lag morning, I just want to thank You for continually drawing me closer to You.  I thank You for every trial that You have placed in my life and that You will place in my life because they have given me the opportunity to see that clinging to You is worth everything.  Your blessings aren’t the prize.  You are.  Thank You for making me Your child.  And I’m so grateful for every one that hears Your voice and abandons themself to You.  I am so grateful for my brothers and sisters and most grateful for You.