Pondering Divine Sunglasses

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“Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.” (Daniel 7:28)

 
So, some of those words aren’t words we use much nowadays, but it made me think about the intensity of feelings this dream left with Daniel. Daniel had a dream, a vision given from God, and it was pretty intense. It was so intense that he was “grieved in [his] spirit in the amidst of [his] body, and the visions of [his] head troubled [him].” So he asked one of the bystanders in the vision what it meant. He wanted to know the “truth” of it.

 
Four kings would arise out of the earth but the saints of the most High would take the kingdom and possess it for ever and ever. But there was a fourth beast with ten horns and another little one comes up with three of the first horns plucked up by the roots. And then comes the vision of the Ancient of Days with garment white as snow, hair like pure wool, a throne like a fiery flame, wheels like burning fire, and a fiery stream from before Him. Ministering around him were too many to be counted. And there’s more, but you can go back and read it and dig into it for yourself.

 
All I know is that this vision and it’s interpretation was not only hard to grasp so that Daniel needed help but that even starting to grasp it was terrifying to Daniel’s thoughts or cogitations so much so that it altered his whole mood. But he didn’t dismiss it. He kept the matter in his heart. Now, heart for the Hebrew (leb) isn’t just that organ inside that pumps blood or what we think of when we think of strong emotions. Putting something in your heart was about your feelings, your will, and your intellect. It wasn’t just about your thoughts or feelings. Your will is what you do. So, when the Psalmist says, “Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You,” he’s not just talking of tucking an emotion or memory away. He’s talking of tucking that emotion and knowledge in so deeply that it effects his will and actions. So too was this vision for Daniel.

 
Daniel didn’t just remember this vision as a vague memory attached to strong feelings. It now colored how he looked at events in life around him. It was as though God gave him a pair of divine sunglasses to think about things in the world. Daniel would now look at his world expecting to see, expecting to spot these kings, these events. Daniel was walking in faith because he didn’t just tuck God’s word away in some crevice of his brain.

 
I think of someone else like that. Her name was Mary and she was young and was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And she had no idea how it would all pan out, only that it would come to pass, because the angel sent by God had said so. There was that day that God chose to have Mary give birth to Jesus in that little sheep cave of a stable. And these shepherds see angels declaring “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12) And here was this multitude of angels praising God and saying, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” So the shepherds run to see this baby and tell of all that has passed. And other people wondered about those things. They marveled, like, “Wow! That’s amazing!” But Mary kept all those things and pondered them in her heart.

 
What’s the difference between marveling and keeping and pondering? The word for keeping is suntero. It’s when you keep something closely together. It’s remembering mentally and obeying. Mary remembered and held on to these words and happenings in a way that she would act upon them. Marveling is like standing by and watching a really cool air show, seeing some outrageous stunt or a crash, and walking away and living life as usual without it having any effect except to say, “Wow!” But not Mary. She pondered these things in her heart. That’s the word sumballo. It’s like she consulted these things. She considered them over and over again. She used these events to help her as she walked through life. These events became her divine sunglasses through which she saw and interpreted and acted upon life. She understood what Daniel understood, at least on seeing things through God’s perspective.

 
Even when Mary and Joseph “misplaced” Jesus and he had remained behind in Jerusalem dialoguing with the teachers at the temple, we see this attitude again. This is twelve years later for Mary. And Jesus has asked, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” And even though they didn’t understand it all at the time, as Jesus returned with them, Mary kept all these sayings in her heart. It painted and effected how she thought and how she lived out life.

 
I’m not a trained Bible scholar so I’m not going to get into hashing out Daniel’s dream here. But I do care about it and I care about Daniel’s character and how he handled the word of God, whether written Scripture, oral tradition, or visions. And I do care about Mary’s character and how she handled the same, including the life and actions of her own son, our Jesus Christ. And I do care what I can learn from their examples before me.

 
It’s such an easy trap to fall into to intellectualize God’s word, to hide it in my heart by just memorizing and being able to spout it out in a moment’s notice. But that’s not the same as meditating over it and asking God’s help to understand it His way and be able to live it out in my life His way. And Lord, You went so far to make it clear on how to live it, that You sent Jesus to demonstrate it in real life for me and for each person.

 
I know by Daniel’s actions and not just his words that he truly believed and acted upon that belief. Had he been one of the 12 spies sent into the promised land, he would have been a Joshua. Like the Psalmist who shared, “In God I have put my trust: I will not be afraid of what man can do unto me,” (Psalm 56:11) so was Daniel. And Mary was learning the same in a world not favorable to women at all. And each of us has the ability and the wonderful opportunity to learn what it is to truly trust in and rely on a God who cares and is intimately involved with us, a God who sacrificed His only Son for those who had turned from Him and denied His way to follow their own. I mean, how great a love is that?

 

Maybe if we took time to ponder and hide that down in our hearts so that it could take effect and reshape every bit of our being, maybe then our lives would resemble what they were created for- to be Your image bearers, Lord. So today, Lord, let Daniel and Mary and Your working as a living God be our example and may we let You change our thinking and our actions until we are Your spitting images in a world that needs to not only see You and be amazed, but needs to know You and be changed.

The Evidence is in Our Preaching

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Photo credit to Advancing Native Missions.

“The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.”  Matthew 4:16, Isaiah 9:2

It’s so easy to always think the story is about someone else.  David thought so.  Nathan went to David with a story about two men, a rich man and a poor man.  The rich man had many flocks and herds and the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb that he loved.  A traveler comes to visit the rich man and instead of using his own flock, he takes the  poor man’s lamb, kills it and prepares it for the food for the traveler.  The story infuriated David.  How could someone do something like that?  He should be punished greatly.  And then Nathan points the finger of God right at David.  “You are that man, David.”  And David realized he was that man.  And though he had chosen to walk himself right into darkness, through true repentance, light sprang up again.

It’s so easy to point fingers at other people.  It’s so hard to face the truth in our own lives and hearts.  It’s so easy to sit in darkness and choose to stay there where we think we’re comfortable.  It’s so easy to play in the shadow of death.  I mean, after all, this is life and we get used to living in the shadow of the distress that comes with it.  Walking through life means walking through a hard place and heading to an eventual place I know nothing about, you know, that place called death.

David thought about it.  That’s why he wrote Psalm 23.  “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  David wasn’t just focussed on death.  And he wasn’t just focussed on the thick darkness of life circumstances that could surround him.  He thought about Sheol.  He knew deep distress, or he would know it soon enough.  He could visualize it as a shepherd thinking back to the times when he had walked the “deep ravines, darkened by over-hanging briars,” leading and driving his sheep to new and better pasture.  And just as he had brought his sheep safely through, so the Lord would bring him through.  And so the Lord will bring us through.

Now, back to what was going on with You, Jesus.  John the Baptist, who had been preaching You, proclaiming You in the wilderness, has just been arrested and imprisoned.  It’s time for Your preaching to begin.  It’s time for Your light to shine in the darkness.  So what do You do?  What is the first thing You began to preach?  Here are Your words, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  I think I really need to think about this and to meditate on it.  Because maybe this is what preaching is all about.  Maybe this is what I ought to be concerned with proclaiming.  And maybe my proclaiming ought to line up with Your proclaiming.

It’s so easy to think that preaching is done by a preacher.  But the more I read Your Word, the more I see how that is not Your design.  It’s so easy to think that preaching is all about the Gospel, the good news of You, Jesus, and about winning souls to You.  And it’s not that it’s not about that, but that’s not all of it.  I mean, think about it.  How did You lead into preaching?  “Repent.”  The kingdom of heaven is at hand, but to enter, you must understand repentance.  Why “Repent” first?  Why not “Believe”?  Maybe we can’t really believe until we repent of our old ways of thinking and acting first.  Maybe we have to realize that there is a better way, that there is an only way, and it’s not our way.

Paul understood what preaching was.  He urged Timothy to “preach the word, be urgent in season, out of season, reprove, warn, encourage with all long-suffering and teaching.”  That wasn’t just about salvation.  Paul was urging Timothy to teach the people how to obey the word of God from the Old Testament on.  Timothy was learning and teaching others to obey the will of God, to be changed and transformed by His Word.  The more deeply I know Your Word, the more I will see a need to repent and conform to Your Word.  It’s so easy to fall into this dark valley where I think I get it all and I start going my own way instead of Yours.  And then there I am all wrapped up in briars and lost in the dark of night.

Repentance comes with correction.  I need exhortation.  I need to be taught.  It’s not natural for my earthly thinking to understand the ways of God.  Days change.  Circumstances change.  I have to be urged to stay faithful.  Sometimes I have to be reproved.  Sometimes I have to be warned.  Sometimes I don’t heed.  So I need more reproof and more warning.  Sometimes I need encouragement.  And I need so much long-suffering on God’s behalf and others around me, because sometimes I’m just hard-headed and slow to understand or slow to submit.  And the minute I ease up on listening and searching out sound teaching, is the minute I make that wrong turn again.  Yes, this is true preaching.  It gets down and dirty.  It tells me things I don’t want to hear about myself, but I must.  But it doesn’t leave me on my own.  It doesn’t leave me beaten and battered.  It walks through it all with me.  It leads me and protects me as it shepherds me.  Preaching of anyone who is really preaching leads me into a deeper understanding of You and Your word.

James reiterated this point.  “For in every city from ancient generations Moses has those proclaiming him, having been read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:21)  Why would James care if Moses was being proclaimed?  Shouldn’t Jesus be the one being preached?  But when we teach what obedience to God looks like, what faithfulness resembles, what delighting in God looks like, by teaching His Word, aren’t we doing that?  Isn’t that a precursor to being able to know Jesus?

Here’s James’s point.  Proclaiming Jesus doesn’t open some door to license because of grace.  Believers are connected to the truth of Jesus by the teachings of God’s Word.  Jesus doesn’t usher in a chance for error because we aren’t to throw out the baby with the bath water.  Loving and trusting Jesus means studying and obeying the Word of God.  I am to be listening to and studying the Word.  Those who are involved in preaching are to be fully explaining the relationship of God’s Law and Grace to me.  I’m to be pursuing that understanding.

Let’s face it. Jesus’ words aren’t just the words He spoke in the New Testament.  Jesus quoted so much from the Torah, or Old Testament as we call it.  Even this verse that started today’s thinking was a reminder from Isaiah.  Jesus wants us to know all of God’s word.  I need to know.  It was a part of being educated in godly living before Jesus, during Jesus, and now.   Jesus didn’t change that.  He came to show us how to live that and make a way for us to fulfil God’s desire for us to be His again and live out His image, to be His image bearers.  Jesus came to make us able to be obedient to God and live according to His plan.

The truth is that I’m not transformed by some magical, mystical belief in Jesus.  I am transformed by the renewing of my mind by the power of Christ through His resurrection and by the power of the truth in the words of God.  There is so much I need to repent over.  And it’s not just things I do.  It’s repenting over the way I think.  Yes, I must present my body a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God.  That’s the least I ought to do.  But I must also repent of where my mind goes.  I must not conform to this world’s thinking.  I am to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  Jesus, by His death and resurrection, has made me able to be renewed.  When I surrendered to Him as my Lord and Savior, He gave me a new heart, a heart of flesh instead of stone.  He gave me the ability to think like Him, like God, because now I have the mind of Christ.  Repentance is renewing my mind.  It’s teaching my mind, moment after moment, day after day, year after year to approve that which is good by Your standards, God.  It’s coming into full agreement with You.  It’s accepting what You choose as acceptable.  It’s only settling for Your character as my character.  It’s doing whatever it takes to learn and live out Your will instead of mine.

So, who is a preacher.  It’s the one who leads this way and teaches others how to get here.  It’s a leader who plays by a different set of rules, by God’s rules.  This preacher heralds God’s word for people to hear.  Lots of these preachers don’t even have a degree.  But they are called and they are gifted to proclaim the truth.  They are compelled.  They couldn’t stop if you tried to stop them.

They are the first to understand the value of repentance.  It’s real.  It’s necessary.  It’s constantly there.  And because they understand the value  they know that it’s the “life-blood of a relationship with Jesus.”  There’s never going to be a time when we outgrow it’s need.  There’s never going to be a time when we need to stop proclaiming it.  Before the lost can be found they need to hear the message of repentance.  And the found should never stop remembering their own need for repentance.

And the truth is, it’s not just up to “preachers.”  Paul wants every believer to share about repentance, redemption, and hope because we’ve all got a personal story to share of how we have encountered them in Christ.  We don’t need a theological degree, we have something more.  We have the Logos, the Word incarnate, demonstrated in our own lives.  Let’s tell people what He has done for us.  Let’s tell people how His word speaks to us.  Let’s live like Jesus intended us to.  Let’s obey Jesus like the demoniac who had no theological degree.  Yet Jesus chose him to appoint him to “go home to your friends, and tell them how great things the Lord has done for you, and has had compassion on you.”  (Mark 5:19)  And the demoniac did just that and more.  He preached.  Man did he preach.  He left and began preaching, kerusso, proclaiming, publishing, in Decapolis, this major intersection of 10 cities, how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men marveled.  So what’s my excuse?  Maybe I need to consider repentance in my own life.  After all, he or she who is forgiven little, loves little, right?  But the one who realizes how much they’ve been forgiven and set free from, well they love back just as much, right?  Where do I stand?  I guess the evidence is in my preaching.

Logos, the Cross, and the Power of God

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“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”  1 Corinthians 1:18

The power of God.  I find that so intriguing.  I think everyone is looking for God’s power.  It’s all around us really.  But somehow, we can hear of it and see it right before our very own eyes and miss it.  Can you imagine standing right in front of the cross and missing it?  You know, if I had been there that day, I’m pretty sure I would have been there sitting and thinking that all had been lost.  Of course, maybe I would have been one of the scoffers.  But either way, no one really understood.  No one understood until…until the witnesses saw the power of God demonstrated by the risen Savior, the living Jesus Christ who showed Himself to them alive and well and above humanness and death!

So as I was reading 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, I thought on these things that day in 2003.  And I prayed…Lord, help my brothers and sisters in Christ and I to be united in the same mind and purpose.  Let us guard against quarrels.  Teach me to esteem no man over another.  You alone are the reason we are who we are.  You are the only one who has the right to stand upon a pedestal.  Only You were crucified for me.  Only You baptized me with the Holy Spirit.  Someone may share Your glorious truth and Good News with me, but You alone are the only One who works in my heart.

And help me remember that it is not what I do, but what You do and have done through me.  You have not sent me to perform ceremonies, but to announce the Good News.  People are not won through the wisdom of my words.  That would make my words more important than what You did on the cross.  The cross and all that it means is what saves.  All I can do is share the Gospel.  You will do the work.  I need to allow and trust You to do the work in Your time and I must continue to be faithful to just continue sharing the Good News.  I can offer the truth but I cannot work in a person’s heart.  Only You are able to do that.  Even though the Good News seems foolish to those who don’t have You; who are dead in their sins, I know it is the power of God.  Teach me that the power is in the truth and what You have done in the cross, not in my wisdom or what I say.

It is the power of God.  It’s not about me.  I can’t do it.  You only ask me to be involved with You, to go where You are or have prepared the way, to follow Your leading.  If I don’t see results, I have not failed.  I can produce no results.  That is only in Your power.  I am only to be faithful to share the Gospel and faithful in my testimony.

And that’s true still, even today.  But it gets me to thinking about the preaching of the cross and the power of God.  See, this preaching of the cross, or “message about the execution-stake” in the Complete Jewish Bible, doesn’t tell everything.  That’s coming from that Greek word logos.  It’s that same logos that John uses when he tells us “In the beginning was the Word (logos) and the Word (logos) was with God and the Word (logos) was God.”  And just going back to that makes me think that understanding the cross goes much deeper than staring at the cross.  It takes me back to everything before the cross, everything up to the cross, everything on the cross, and to everything after the cross.  The cross is the whole idea, the whole notion, the whole ramification, the whole essence of the person and purpose of You, Jesus.

Just as the Word is the personification of who You are, Jesus, so is this idea of the preaching or message of the cross.  How can I look at just one instant and ignore all else that You are?  But this one instant is the culmination of all Your love, all Your sacrifice, all Your faithfulness, all Your judgment brought to its most visible head, its most apparent demonstration for those with dull eyes and dull hearts to see.  But if we look at this moment without seeing what came before and what came afterward, we’re left with a foolish, weak man on a cross.  But, when I see the Word from before time began, Who has stepped out of heaven to restore the broken relationship with man through the greatest of sacrifices, the Word who will bring all things to order, the Word who no one can kill, because He is the Word, then it is no longer foolishness, but the power of God Himself manifested for me, for us!

The preaching of the cross, the logos, the Word, is in the Hebrew Scriptures.  It’s the embodiment of Your divine will, Your divine attributes in the law and the prophets, the healer, the messenger, the “agent of the divine decrees.”  You are wisdom personified and the messenger of God.  It’s Your divine nature.  We see it in creation as You spoke the world and universe into being.  Like a word that is made up of putting individual letters together, You pull whatever things need to be pulled together to create and form things of meaning and value and purpose.  And the wonder is that before You there was nothing but a void, an emptiness.  So that means that when You call forth from You, Your Word, to create, You are taking of Yourself and expressing You in everything You create.  Scientifically they say that something cannot come from nothing.  So where did creation come from?  Where did I come from?  Where is my meaning and my purpose?

The meaning and purpose of everything lies in the midst, in the heart, in the Being of the center of the preaching of the cross, in the power of You, God.   In Luke 4:4, Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man does not live on bread alone.'”  That’s a reference to Deuteronomy 8:3.  Listen to the King James Version, “And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.  What if we really thought about that, I mean, really thought that over?

What would I think about?  That everything that comes out of God is with power.  Who else can speak a universe into being?  And then I have the nerve to treat Your words, God, as just words?  Here, You’re telling me that everything, and I mean everything, that proceeds, that flows from, that springs from Your mouth, from out of the  Person of You, from out of Your being, gives me life and power to live!  These aren’t just words as we think of them.  Not at all!  This Bible, this Book, these words in this Book, well, they aren’t just words and this isn’t just a book!  This is life!  No, this is LIFE!  Every word is of You.  Every word matters.  Every word that You uttered carries the power of You in it, from start to neverending finish.  I serve a God whose words are alive and active and more powerful than any two-edged sword!  This is real.  This is true.  Your Word is You and as I let Your Word express itself in my life, in me, in my heart, in my thoughts, then I am letting You express Yourself in my life, in me, in my heart, in my thoughts.  This is not foolishness.  This is the greatest power that ever existed and ever will.  This is the preaching of the cross and the power of God.  This is my Jesus!  This is my God!

The Talk of the Lips

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Photo from internet.

“But let your communication be, ‘Yea, yea; Nay, nay:’ for whatsoever is more than these comes of evil.” Matthew 5:37

I don’t remember what got me really thinking about what You are saying here, Lord.  But I think it was that I really felt You were talking about more than our communication here.  I mean, let’s just stop and think for a minute.  Where have You been taking us from and where are You taking us to?  We’ve come from the “beatitudes”, the mirror image of the character of God exemplified through You, Jesus.  Then You’ve shown us practical example after practical example lifted up to Your standards, not ours.  So is this really about our communication or our behavior or our lifestyle?  I think it is something more because of the word You chose.

It always comes down to the Word.  The Word is everything.  It’s the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  The Word is life itself.  The Word is power.  Did I say already, the Word is everything?  Why do I keep repeating Word?  Well, the actual word translated in the King James Version as communication is the word “logos” which is the word for the Word.

But my question is, “Do I really understand what You mean by the word?”  The BBE translation says, “But let your words be simply, ‘Yes or No:’ and whatever is more than these is of the Evil One.”  But is that really all that You are saying here.  After all You’ve been trying to share with us, would You just be telling us that we need to be accountable to our words?  I mean, sure we do.  But does that fit in here?  Or is there something more to this “word” idea?  Think about it.  If someone says, “Will you take me to the park tomorrow?”  And I obey in the sense of giving a simple, honest reply, “Yes.”  And then it rains and I can’t go to the park, was my word true?  So is it simply about saying “Yes”, or “No” and not making promises we can’t keep or is it about something more that we do have control over and that would be straight from the “Evil One”?  Otherwise, how can I ever say, “Yes” without being in peril of lying?  So what if this isn’t what Jesus meant?

What do You mean when You talk about the “word”?  What does logos mean to the “Hebrew” mindset believer?  What did it mean to You and what did it mean to the apostles?  Logos, for You, Jesus, and the apostles wasn’t just about words and labels.  It’s roots are in the Hebrew word “davar”.  That’s the Old Testament equivalent.  That’s where the Hebrew mind would go to understand this concept.  But the Hebrew word and the Greek word are different.  That’s what happens in language interpretations.  So let’s look back.

“Davar”, the Hebrew word for word, does mean “word, speech, command, or saying.”  It’s the word used to express that the Lord spoke to Moses saying the words He said.  It’s the word that correlates directly to Jesus as found in John 1.  If I were to translate John 1:1 into Hebrew, listen:  “Bereishit hayah hadavar. B’davar haya et haElohim, vElohim haya hadavar.”  And for us who don’t know Hebrew that says, “In the beginning was the Word.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”   The actual Hebrew name for the book of Deuteronomy is “Davarim” meaning “Words.”  But is all this only about words, about abstract ideas?  Or is it about something more?

In Acts 6:4, the apostles are posed with a problem in their ministry.  They become so busy trying to meet the physical needs of widows within their community of believers that they felt it was diverting their attention from where it needed to be devoted.  “But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”  But what is the ministry of the word?  Is the ministry of the word just about them preaching the word?  Or does it take true prayer and the power of the word itself to minister through itself in order for the apostles to be able ministers through the word and by the word and in the word?  Are we ministers of the word?  Or are we ministers by the word?

Going back to Your words, Jesus, in Matthew 5:33, You say, “Again, you have heard that it has been said by them of old time, ‘You shall not perjur yourself, but shall perform unto the Lord Your oaths.'”  See, here it was told people over the years that we should perform what we say.  But Jesus leads this up to letting our word be yes or no.  As I’ve been taught to interpret this, it comes out as a repeat of not perjuring myself.  But You, Jesus, pre-empted this with the word, “But!”  So it has to be a different rendering.  “But You, my child, aren’t guided by avoiding perjury to Your character which is connected to the character of Your community and Your God.  You are guided by something more.”  What is that something more?  What is the “word” that guides in a greater way?

Hebrew thinking might have been a little deeper than ours.  There was a lot more to things.  Hearing wasn’t just hearing.  Hearing was hearing and doing all together.  You couldn’t separate the two or hearing hadn’t taken place.  Just so, there is more to words than just meets our eyes and ears.  Which takes me to Proverbs 14:23.  “In labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”  Hm, that word for talk is our “dabar” again.  But this is mere talk.  This is mere words.  It’s actually “the talk of the lips”.  Do you get that?  The talk of the lips are just words that have nothing to back them in “reality” for lack of a better explanation right now.  Words that are just words, spoken from man, out of man’s heart leave us in want and extreme poverty.

See, the Greek idea of reality is based in things.  But the Hebrew idea of reality is based in the “word”.  That’s where “Dabar comes in.  It’s the word, the deed, and the concrete object all wrapped up together.  Think about it.  Whenever God speaks, whatever He speaks is.  In Hebrew thought there is no idea of “nothing” in the sense of “nothing” for the Greek.  Nothing becomes a “not-word” or “lo-dabar”.  So if dabar is the word, then lo-dabar is not the word.  If the word is God and everything of His essence and all He speaks into reality, then anything not of the word is actually now a lie.  Anything not the word “exists as a lie, but it is not real because it does not represent true reality.” (Skip Moen)  I know that because You, God, are the Word, and You are Reality.  The question isn’t whether something is or isn’t.  Therefore the question isn’t about my yes or no.  The question is all about what is true or not-true and that is only known by agreement with and knowing the Word.

I’m human.  So is everyone else who lives on this earth or ever has.  Aside from God, we may spout the most profound words but they are all just “words of the lips”.  On our own they have no truth in them.  Sure, they are real words, they can be promises, or famous sayings, or sonnets, but outside of God speaking through us, they have no truth in them.  Skip Moen continues this thought, ” They are profitless because they do not produce a deed, an object or a declaration that aligns with God’s reality.  They are lies.  They may not be lies because they are deliberately deceptive but they are lies nonetheless because they are not a reflection of God’s order of the world.  In this sense, from a Hebrew perspective, they are nothing.”

Now, maybe you disagree with me here, and that’s fine.  Because I don’t know all these answers.  That’s why I’m searching.  That’s why I’m praying.  That’s why I’m knocking continually and asking the Lord to help me know Him more.  But what I’m seeing in these verses is that it’s not how I want to apply God’s Word that is important but how I allow Him to apply His truth to me and in me and to and in His world.  Is the reality of Christ, who is the reality of God, His representative to us of His Word, which is Him, what is truth in my character?  It’s not about my Yes or No.  It’s about my submitting to God’s “Yes” and God’s “No.”  To live by my own words and not the Word of God Himself in Jesus Christ is to live a lie and that is of the Evil One.

I want to summarize with these verses in James.  I feel he’s pulling it all together, reigning it all in.  “For in many things we offend all.  If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body…And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. .. Therewith bless we God, and even the Father; and therewith curse we men,  which are made after the similitude of God.  (James 3:2,6,9)  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed…  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God.  Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.  But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  for he beholds himself, and goes his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was.  But whoso looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed.  If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s [religion] is vain. [Hm, like mere words?]  Pure religion [should that be pure worship?, the expression of His Word in us] and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”(James 1:14, 19-27)

That doing the word is all about the word “poeio”.  It’s that word that flows out of us like poetry flows from a poet or the sculpture from within the sculptor.  Is the Word my truth that flows from me and is it my source of life and living?  Are the “deeds” that come from my life, deeds empowered and enabled by Your Word?  Are the words I speak from Your Word and am I speaking truth or am I deceiving my own self and leading others into deception.  It’s not about religion.  It’s about worship.  It’s about true worship.  It’s about Truth Himself.  Your Word is Truth because You are Truth.  Are You the reality that flows from me?  Am I truly a doer of You?  Am I that submitted?  Are You my Yea and my Nay?  If not, then I am wholly deceived.  But if so, then I’m right where You want me to be.

The Light Has Dawned

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Photo credit to Julenine Rijon Balinas Llacuna.

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”  Matthew 4:15,16

Jesus takes up the honor challenge He has been led to by the Spirit.  He upholds His Father’s honor before Satan in the wilderness.  The angels minister to Him.  He went into Galilee and leaves Nazareth, His home town and walks to Capernaum by the sea to live.  In Capernaum, He settles in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali.  But that’s not coincidental.  He moves here and settles here for a purpose.  What was that purpose?  Because He knew that Capernaum, precisely that territory in Capernaum, was where God wanted Him to be.

How do I know that and how did He know that?  Oh, you say, “Jesus is God.  He had inside knowledge.”  Well, I do believe that Scripture tells us that Jesus was fully God and fully man.  I also believe that He had “inside knowledge.”  But I also firmly believe that what He showed us as man, was how to rely on the word of God to give us knowledge not only of how to make life choices guided by the Spirit, but to know the heart of God by actually coming to know Him.

Jesus was living out everything that was on the heart of God by living out what was in His Word.  He could go back to Isaiah (Isaiah 9:1,2) and recall these words that Matthew recalls.  “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.  In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shown.”  Jesus knew that living out the will of God was His purpose.  And it mattered where He lived because God had already established it.

Why did it matter where Jesus lived?  Why would Jesus have to stick to God’s word?  He had to in order to be the True Example, the True One that God had given us.  Because if He chose not to live in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, then this would not be true of Him: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”  (Isaiah 9:6,7)  It mattered that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  And it mattered that Jesus chose to live in Galilee of the Gentiles.

Sometimes Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit.  There’s no prophetic directions.  The Spirit leads and He follows.  But at those times, His response in the middle of those circumstances always follows the character of His heavenly Father and always agrees with His Word.  And other times, there are direct directions that He follows that come straight from the Word of God.  It’s the same for us.  But how do I get there?

“The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”  What if that is just as true for Jesus as it needs to be for me?  What if it was His zeal for the Father that compelled Him over everything else to obey and follow His will, His Word, His Spirit?  What if my life ought to be filled and guided by that same zeal for the LORD of hosts, for my Wonderful Counselor, for my Mighty God, for my Everlasting Father, for my Prince of Peace?   What if I was that zealous for Him that I would want to walk in the footsteps of His Word and the leading of His Spirit?

If I was zealous about that, like that, I wonder if the people who were dwelling in the darkness of never experiencing that wonderful zeal would have an opportunity to see His light shining through me?  I wonder if they might get a little glimpse that would draw them to want to see more of Him?  I wonder if my zealousness over living out God’s Word and honoring Him by allowing Him to bring it to pass in my life would affirm Him before those who are living in the shadow of death without Him?  I wonder if my zealous love and honor of God Himself would make a difference in others?  Would lights dawn all around me because they would see the truth of God through the truth of His Word?

The honor of God is at stake here.  Either Jesus fills the prophetic ticket or He doesn’t.  But He did.  But prophecy is just the Word of God.  It’s Him speaking before a thing has happened because He knows what is to happen.  And maybe I ought to look at all Scripture in that sense, just as Jesus did.  It’s all uttered by God for our benefit and for our direction in fulfilling our purpose of honoring Him.  Am I zealous about knowing Him by knowing His Word?  Just like the prophets, just like Jesus, and Peter, and Paul, and everyone since, God is offering us supernatural instruction.  He may not be giving me the specifics of where to live or who to marry, but if I know His Word, I can know His heart about those things, and I can know how to follow the leading of the Spirit and the leading of Jesus by His Word.  After all, Jesus is the Word, “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  We’ve seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…”  And He has made the Father known to us.  He has shown us what it looks like to walk in the will of God, to know God, and to honor Him.  He has shown us intimacy.

Is true intimacy with God what I am really searching for?  Well then, what does my zealousness look like?  Am I zealous for what He is zealous over?  Do I care about His words, every one of them, like Jesus did?  Do I care about His honor?  Do I listen to Him?  Do I take joy in listening?  Do I take joy in stepping forward according to what I read and hear?  Would I follow His Spirit wherever He leads me no matter what situation He takes me into?  Would my heart and actions stay rivetted to upholding Him?

Words matter and what we do with them matters.  John the Baptist told two of his disciples as he pointed to Jesus walking by, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  He was upholding the honor of God’s Word.  What would those two do with those words from God’s Word?   Would they uphold God’s honor and live in them or would they retain them as knowledge alone?  What did they do?  “The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.”  And it gets even better.  I mean, how zealous were they really about this truth?  “Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?'”  Jesus is asking each of us that same question.  Will I answer like these two?  “And they said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?'”  “We want to know You intimately.  We want to stay where You stay.  We want to walk where You walk.  We want to live how You live.  We want to really KNOW You.” (Those are my thoughts on the deeper thoughts of what their response really meant.)  And do you know what Jesus’ answer to that kind of zealousness was?  “Come and you will see.”  (Which means so much.)  “Come and you will know.”  “Come and you will understand.”  But the whole point is, I must take the actions of coming in order to know.  Knowledge is experience, not just retention.  Am I experiencing the Word of God in my life?  “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  How am I responding?

The Word That Turns Sheep into Shepherds

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“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”  Acts 1:14

Lord, I felt I needed to stay where You had started me in following the progression in Acts.  But two messages in church yesterday morning really got me thinking.  And since two thoughts are much to deal with at once, I’ll just start with the one.  And to do that, I actually have to jump forward in Scripture to Galatians 5:14, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Here’s the thing.  Last time I checked, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” consisted of seven words.  Words really matter to me, Lord.  So that kind of bothers me.  It’s like it’s crying out for me to read deeper.   Because I’ve also learned that if the Hebrew hearer were to hear that phrase, right away it would take them back to the Old Testament and all the verses around it.  It would take them back to Leviticus 19:18 where You told Moses to tell the people, “You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:  I am the LORD.”

Now think about this.  This has nothing to do with loving the stranger laying on the road.  This is about loving your brothers and sisters in God.  But that’s not the part I think we’re supposed to focus on.  I think You were just trying to straighten out the thoughts of a crooked people.  You were just starting here.  But that wasn’t even the real beginning.  The real beginning comes at the end of this phrase above, “I am the LORD.”  Now, I’m going to hold that thought and jump on to another.

I’m jumping to Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  That’s the Shema.  Every Jew knew it.  They had it written on a small scroll and placed in a little box on the side of their door.  And every time they entered or left, they were to touch that box and recite the Shema.  Listen to verses 4 and 5, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  There is that idea of one again.  But what does one mean?  Does it just mean one single number of that type of thing?  Or does it mean something more?

One.  That’s a little word and a small number.  But maybe it’s a bigger word and a bigger number than we think.  One.  This Greek word in Galatians 5:14  is “heis”.  It can mean a primary numeral, like our number one.  That’s the Greek expression.  But we have a Hebrew speaker, who was influenced by Hebrew thought and speaking it in Greek.  Now let me jump back to Deuteronomy again.  “Our God is one LORD.”  This is the Hebrew word “echad.”  And it does mean first in order, but it also implies united.  There’s a big difference between being one solitary thing and being one united thing.  Well, at least I think so.

Now here is another word that makes me think this is important.  Back to Galatians again.  “For all the law is fulfilled in one word.”  Word, in Greek is “logos.”  Sound familiar.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Can any good words, or good intentions fulfill the law?  Can loving my neighbor fulfill the law?  Is the law fulfilled by my loving my neighbor as myself?  Or is the law fulfilled in the One Who Is the WORD, the LOGOS?  Now logos can be something said or reasoned or computed.  But if Paul thought anything like John about You, Lord, then it was also used for Your Divine Expression.  See, You are the Divine Expression of loving your neighbor as yourself.

You define neighbor differently because when You look on us, every last one of us is Your creation.  Every last one of us is potential family of God.  You long for every last one of us to be restored to You.  You love each one of us as though we were a part of You because we are.  Every last one of us was created in Your image, in the image of the triune God, in the image of the united One.  You created each one of us for the sole purpose of our being united with You in love and in Your works.

So, if I’m called to love like this, then I must love in unity with You.  I must allow Your love to be divinely expressed through me.  I must speak like You, reason like You, be motivated like You.  My calculations about people ought to mirror Your calculations.  So, how did You love Your neighbor?

Maybe I do get to share that other thought today too.  Listen to Psalm 18:35.  It says, “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation: and Your right hand has held me up, and Your gentleness has made me great.”  I heard another interpretation yesterday that worded it this way, “You stooped down to make me great.”  That Hebrew word for gentleness is “anavah” and it means condescension.  So what does it mean for You to condescend to make me great?

It means everything.  It means that You, Jesus, God, descended from the privileges of Your superior rank and dignity, to do some act to an inferior, which strict justice or the ordinary rules of civility do not require. (Webster’s definition)  It meant that You submitted, You yielded, as to an inferior, and thus relinquished Your rights and distinctions as God.  It means that God of Heaven’s armies, gave up His ability to have the angels at His beck and call rescue Him from the cross and instead chose to submit to man’s hatred and the wrath of God because You would rather love me, Your neighbor.  It means that You gave up everything You deserved to shower me with love and acceptance and forgiveness and unity that I didn’t deserve.  It meant that You gave up Your honor to give me a right standing before Your Heavenly Father.  You became nothing to make me great.  Only, my greatness is in You.  Because by You becoming less, for my sake, Your Father glorified You and You brought me to a place where I am glorified in You.  You stooped down to make me great.  And that’s what You call each of us to do for others.  Because it’s only in my condescension that I allow You to be glorified in my life which gives You the opportunity to be glorified in the lives of others.  And when You are glorified in us, we are made great in You!

A shepherd has to stoop down to pick up his sheep.  But this is the wonderful thing about the relationship that You desire for us.  Shepherds always remain shepherds and sheep always remain sheep in our world, but not so in Yours.  See, You turn Your sheep into images of You.  You stoop down and pick us sheep up and then You make us shepherds, to carry on Your work.  See, You pick up Your sheep and tell them, “Feed my sheep.”  When was the last time a sheep fed another sheep?  Do sheep feed sheep?  Or do shepherds?  How amazing is that?

Well, maybe my reasoning is hard to follow today.  I don’t know how it looks on the outside.  I just know that all this jumping around I’ve been doing today is because this is such exciting, wonderful stuff!  And that takes me back to Acts 1:14, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”  What united these believers to pray with one accord?  What united them to pray unanimously, with one mind, “homothumadon”?  Or should I say Who?  Now I realize they are waiting on the Holy Spirit and He has not arrived for these believers at this moment.  But they have started to see.  They’ve been caught by the vision of the Divine Expression of love.  It’s changing their lives.  It’s changing the way they see each other.  And it will change they way they treat others their whole lives.

Lord, I want to catch Your vision.  No, I want to more than catch Your vision; I want to be filled with Your vision.  I want to live united with You.  I want my life to be so entwined in You that You are divinely expressed through me.  I want you to make me great.  But here’s the thing, only You are great.  So that means that You have to be great in me and there is nothing I want more than for people to see You when then see me.  Or rather, they can just see You and I would be so ecstatic about that.  Because the only way I’ll ever be great, is by You making Your greatness known.  Express Yourself through me and in me.  Be the One who picks me up and empowers me.  Be the Divine Expression of Your will in me.  Yes, the Lord our God is ONE and I want nothing more than to be one with Him.  Thank You, Lord, for not only inviting us into Your oneness but making the way for us by loving Your neighbors so selflessly so that I can go forth and love others like You love me.

When Reality Becomes Better Than Fantasy

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I love reading.  As a child I loved reading.  As an adult I love reading.  I can get excited about words and putting them all together.  I get excited about stories.  And I used to love fantasy adventures.  I actually got hooked on fantasy.  It was all I was reading.  Fantasy after fantasy.  Until it hit me that something was missing.  I started to realize that I was missing out on a better thing.

Here I was, pregnant with my first child, and it hit me as I was reading fantasies and thinking about fantasies, that I’m a believer, I know You, Jesus, and yet there I was spending more time in fantasy than I was in Your Word and with You.  And I discovered something at that moment.  I discovered that fantasy can become deception that draws me away from the reality of You.

Now, I’m not saying that all fantasy at all times is bad.  I mean even You, Jesus, used a form of fantasy for teaching, because You used parables and a parable is a type of realistic fiction.   But I also notice that there is usually a progression in our life.  I can look at the example of George MacDonald, Scottish author, poet, and minister from the 1800’s.  This believer inspired many others by his skills in fantasy, authors like  J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, E. Nesbit, and Madeleine L’Engle.  Some of these authors are strong believers, but not all.  And yes, I have read works by all of them.  And in the believers, I have seen a trend.  Over time, their writing tends to move from the fully fanciful/allegorical to realistic fiction or straight out dealing with reality, especially Biblical Gospel reality.  The writing goes from a sweetly masked truth that you tend to search out from the surroundings, to full blown, let’s just straight out talk about the truth.  Why?

I wonder if as we mature in faith, in our walk with You, Lord, all Your reality just starts to become so clear that it’s really all we want to think about.  That when You become that beautiful, that lovely, that amazing, that powerful, maybe I don’t need to cloud You in fantasy any more.  Maybe I’ve just really started grasping the real You so much, that now I know that You beat fantasy on every side.

Now, today, I want to make sure that I look at this according to Your Word, Lord.   So I did some searching.  I wanted to find out what the Greek word that would represent “real” or “reality” would have been.  And I was pointed to the word “aletheia.”  It’s the word for truth.

This word is not just used in the New Testament.  We find it used 126 times in the Septuagent (Old Testament).  Here “it means a reality that is solid, binding, that can be counted on.” (Skip Moen)  It can refer to a person’s character, yet it also refers to Your character, God.  It points to the fact that because You are Truth, all Your actions are reliable, all Your promises are true, You are always Holy, always trustworthy.  Your character and actions can always be counted on.  I can know what to expect of You, always.

Notice that “alethiea” is more than knowing facts.  It’s not just knowing about You, God or knowing about something.  It’s knowing combined with the actions.  It’s knowing You as You really are or knowing something as it really is.  It’s breaking into reality and tearing down the false appearances.  I tear down the veil, or more rightly, let You tear down the veil so I can see the way things really are.  We get rid of the illusions, distractions, or whatever is distorting our vision.

I can hop back to Matthew 22:16.  And some disciples of the Word came to You, Lord.  They even said, “Teacher we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully…”  But did they really know?  Did they really believe?  Or were they still caught up in their own distortion, speaking the words they should speak to get the answer or the outcome they wanted?  See, fantasy can give you any outcome you want.  But it doesn’t necessarily give you the best outcome.  They were seeking their way, not the Answer.  They were looking for their reality, not Reality Itself.  You were standing right there and they missed You.

Well, let’s go to Mark 12:32.  Another scribe goes one step farther.  Good for him.  “And the scribe said unto Him, ‘Well, Master, you have said the truth…”  Well, there we have it.  Someone agrees with You, Lord.    But is agreeing the same as coming to reality?  Was his life changed because he agreed.  Was there a combination of truth and action and was it motivated in You?  Because reality goes deeper than agreeing.            

If aletheia is more than agreeing, if it is really more than correct facts and evidence and statements, then what is it?  Aletheia is about truth and action that only comes about by relationship.  It’s not about accuracy.  It’s about a personal relationship with the One True God, about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.  If you hear Him, and you say you agree with Him, but you walk away from Him, then you haven’t grasped the reality, the truth.  See, You Jesus said, “I am the truth.”  You meant it.  It’s not just about believing Your Words, it’s about believing You are who You are.  It’s about existence.  And our existence is bound up in Your existence.  See, existence is reality.  Being is reality.  Reality is being.  And as Skip Moen shared, “the final, ultimate foundation of existence is who [You are], that the Truth about Life is God dwelling among us.”

John saw it.  John ran to the Truth.  He grasped Him.  He leaned on His chest.  I’ve always loved John and his closeness to You, Lord.  That’s the kind of intimacy I want with You.  John tells us, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”  Did you notice that the Word is tied in with grace and truth here?

The “Word” -“logos” and truth are intimately linked.  Ah!  I love that word intimate!  For the Greek, this wasn’t just a word represented on a page.  Logos was “an active, almost divine, animate principle whose job it was to reveal.”  (Skip Moen)  And what does it reveal?  What if You, Lord, came to reveal aletheia?  Isn’t that what Your logos does?  Greeks sought knowledge but You want us to seek Knowledge.  I can know the answer to my existence.  I can understand being.  I can have my eyes unclouded.  But it goes like this:  I can intimately know the One who is my Existence.  I can intimately understand Being because I know Him and He knows me and I am in Him and He is in me.  And He can uncloud my eyes.  Yes, I can know You intimately which is a far greater knowledge than any amount of facts.  And, it is a far more powerful knowledge.

Right now, I may be searching for the answers about my existence and my life in all the right places.  But John and Jesus are calling out and showing where I need to look.  Do I want to know the truth?  Do I want to know reality?  Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.  (John 1:17)  I must look into Him.  But is looking enough?  Can I just look at reality and will reality, will truth become mine?

John tells me that “he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:21)  I can’t just agree.  I have to commit to the truth, or actually commit to the Truth.  Jesus, You aren’t just facts or good teachings.  You are the way, the truth , and the life.  I have to commit to Your way, Your truth, and Your life.  I have to agree and follow; I have to agree and do.  And doing here isn’t about just doing the actions or the work.  It’s that word “poieo” in Greek that I love.  Because it’s what flows out of me from what You have done in me.  It’s like the creativity that flows out of the artist or poet or song writer.  You can’t hold it in because it is part of being.  So You aren’t telling me that I must just agree with You and then follow Your teachings.  You are telling me that I become one with You and therefore Your ways will begin to naturally flow from me.  That’s the level of intimacy that You are looking for.  This is living in the reality of You.  This is true Existence and it is in You.

I’m not just making this up here.  John quoted Your own words to us.  You said, “But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship Him.  God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”  (John 4:23-24)  So put “poeia” together with Jesus’ words here.  What have I got?  Well, if Scripture tells me that only God is true, then the only way I can worship Him in truth is to be in Him.  I can’t be a true worshipper without His help, no, His work in me.  Face it, I’m not true on my own and I can’t be true on my own.  My heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.  Yes, I agree with Scripture, I agree with You, Lord, on that.  But agreeing isn’t enough.  I must commit to You and in You so that Your Spirit can give me an existence of truth in You.  Your Being and mine must become united or I shall never be able to worship You.

Am I searching for Truth?  Am I searching for Reality?  Am I searching for what Being really is?  You, Lord, tell me I can find it and actually KNOW it.  “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free?” (John 8:32)  What will it make me free from?  Or what will it make me free for?

For starters and enders, searching for the Truth and finding it makes me to KNOW Jesus and to KNOW God intimately and it enables me.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by Me.”  I can’t fully experience my existence until I know the Existent One.  I can’t fully experience all that is intended for my own being until I experience Being Himself.  Until I am in You, until I know You, until I am Yours, I won’t know my purpose, I won’t experience the fulness of the reality of life, and I won’t even have an inkling of understanding ultimate truth.  But in You, I am free to know and experience and live in the reality of You, in the reality of all that was purposed for all of creation and for me.  I am free to live and to know and free to open that door for others to enter and experience that same overwhelming joy and love and truth in You!

You committed to me from the beginning of time.  But I witnessed it in it’s fruition when You sacrificed Your life on the cross for me, when You paid the penalty for my sins and suffered the wrath of Your Father that should have been upon me and the rest of mankind.  You committed Your life to me first.  To me who wouldn’t even exist without You.  And You seek me to commit my life, my all to You.  And when I do, we become one, yet You are always Supreme.  But in Your grace and truth You impart to each committed believer Your Spirit, that Spirit of truth.  Yes, inside us, You place Your Spirit of Being, of Existence, so that we can not only understand You and know You, but so that we have Someone who will guide us into Your ways.  Think about that.  I have Your Reality, Your very own Being residing, dwelling inside me and empowering me and teaching me and loving me and keeping me for as long as You shall live.  Did I get that?  For as long as You shall live!  That’s forever!  I will never be left comfortless!

And that comfort isn’t about a life of ease.  It’s about a life of Being!  Your Spirit will “guide [me] into all truth:  for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come.”  See, the Spirit is always “poeia”ing in our lives.  He’s continually guiding, directing, empowering, drawing us closer to Him, making us more like Him, bringing us to life in the reality of You.

So I’ve come to love the Word of God, Your Word, more than I love any other books.  Now I would rather spend time in Your Word, because it’s time with You.  Your Word is truth.  No, Your Word is Truth.  It is Reality.  It is Power.  It is Grace.  It is Existence.  It is Being.  Why?  Because it is You and outside of You is nothing but lack and emptiness.  And it’s You and You alone, by Your Word and the power in Your Word that can bring me life, that can teach me and empower me to live for real, in the real world of You, in Your world.

You know, I just realized that Pilate didn’t first ask You, Jesus, “What is truth?”  You were the One who started identifying it for Him.  Here’s what You said, “You say that I am a king.  To this end I was born, and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.  Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.”  (John 18:37)    But Pilate’s eyes and mind were clouded.  There were cultural teachings and Jews and Romans to please.  Jesus, culture, Jews, Romans, which one was the truth?  He couldn’t make a decision to commit at that time.  There were too many things pulling, too many delusions at once.  I hope that after he had time to think and see things unfold, that he decided to commit to Reality.  One day I’ll know if he did.

Now I need to make one more jump here.  Because if I want to know the purpose of my existence, if I want to grasp reality and understand what love really is, then I have to know Him, I have to know You.  In You I can not only know truth but I can know and experience love because You are Love.  1 Corinthinans 13:6 uses the phrase “rejoices with the truth.”  But it means more that rejoicing alongside with.  It is an actual rejoicing together with, in unity with.  Pardon my grammar and ending the sentence with a preposition but I meant to do that.   Because I want to ask, who am I rejoicing in unity with?  This is rejoicing in relationship with Jesus, with God, with the Holy Spirit.  But that’s not all.  This is rejoicing in truth with everyone who is connected in that same relationship.  There is an intimacy between us.  There is a reality and truth that binds us together.  “There is a connection so deep that someone actually suffers with another.”  (Skip Moen)  Am I seeking that kind of relationship?  Am I willing to be crucified with Christ?  Am I willing to die together with You, Lord?  Am I willing to rise together with You and to live together with You?  For this alone is Reality, this is Truth.  You Are It.  As Skip puts it, Your “love is the final Truth of existence.”  John puts it this way, “God is love.”

You are the bottom line, Lord.  You are Reality.  You are so much better than fiction, better than fantasy, better than everything.  I would rather have one day in Your courts than thousands anywhere else.  All my answers are answered in You.  All my desires are filled in You.  All my hopes and longings and dreams come true in You.  In You I know who I am and why I am and what my purpose is and in You I have everything I need to fulfil that purpose.  And in You, the beautiful thing is that I can just be.  I don’t have to do.  You do in me because I can’t do.  You are writing Your song in my heart and out it comes.  You are sculpting me into something beautiful and people notice Your work when they see me.  You are writing encouraging words in my heart and out they flow, naturally.  It’s not work; it’s pleasure, it’s joy, it’s spending time with You.

Now there are realities about You that I knew as a child and today, those childhood memories of You are just as strong and just as real.  But when I was a child and thought in childlike ways and fanciful ways about You, that’s not the case any more.  Now You have brought me to maturity in You and I have a better than clearer picture.  I have a firsthand experience of the Truth.  What I saw as a child I have experienced in my growing.  Once I wished to walk with You, now I do.  And fantasy can’t compare.  The Reality and Presence of You in my life and in the life of every believer so surpasses everything I could have ever dreamed of.  Only You are Real, and I can’t think of any place I’d rather be than in You.