Authority and the Universe

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Photo credit to grand_universe_by_antifan_real1.jpg

 

“He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power…” Hebrews 1:3

 

Well, I’m still thinking about what it’s like in Your eyes, God, for me not to be rebellious. And today I’m thinking about more of what Watchman Nee shared about You. He takes me back to Hebrews 1:3, “He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power…” Now, to think that it’s just by His power and shear force isn’t the idea here, is it? Isn’t it “by the word of His power”? What does that mean? Does that mean by His authority? And in His authority, is His power demonstrated through His works?

 
Authority is crucial. This is telling us that God is the only authority in all the universe. To act otherwise, or to think otherwise is rebellion. I remember the story, that true story of the roman centurion who came to Jesus that day because his beloved servant was dying. And he knew what it was to be an authority over others. But he also knew what it was to be under authority. Because of that, he understood how Jesus only had to speak and it would be done. Why? Because he knew that Jesus had the authority from God. Therefore, he knew that Jesus had the power to go with it. And Jesus made this statement of the centurion, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:9) I wonder if Jesus would find that kind of faith not only in the world today, but in the church, the body of Christ?

 
Remember what Watchman Nee said? “Sin is a matter of conduct; it is easy to be forgiven of sin. But rebellion is a matter of principle; it is not easy to be forgiven of rebellion.” This is such an important lesson to learn. If I can learn this, I can learn anything. Satan fell to the principle of rebellion through self-exaltation. He violated the throne of God by trying to set up his own throne higher. The principle came before the fall. The principle was the cause of the fall. Rebellion was the song of his heart, rebellion against the authority of God. That’s why he was condemned. He refused to submit and still refuses. It’s a matter of principle for him. Isn’t it always?

 
Therefore he tries to make it a matter of principle for us too. That’s why he doesn’t want us to submit to Christ’s authority. If I do, then my principles will change. I can’t serve two masters and I can’t live with opposing principles. Maybe what I have to realize is who the kingdom really belongs to. Is it God’s or does it belong to a usurper? If it’s God’s kingdom and His creation then it is truly and only under His authority. No one can steal that from Him. Will I submit fully to His authority? Or will I run around as though the kingdom is of my creation? Isn’t that shear foolishness?

 
What does it mean to preach the Gospel? Isn’t that bringing others under God’s authority? To do that, don’t I have to be under God’s authority first? How can I establish God’s authority on earth, you know, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” if I don’t already know and submit under Your authority?

 
Isn’t that the whole issue? Isn’t that the principle being fought over daily? Who has the authority? Who gets to determine if abortion is right or wrong? Who gets to determine if I can slaughter others because they don’t hold to my religious tenets? Who gets to tell me what I can or can’t do? Who gets to tell me what is evil or good? Who has the right to control me?

 
In all the universe, who has authority? Is authority with me who has no ability to create something from nothing? Is authority with me, the created? Or is authority with God, the Creator and Sustainer? And if authority is with God, then I must choose to submit myself to His authority and uphold it.

 
Watchman Nee related the story of Paul and Ananias. Remember Paul? He was following his own authority and the religious authority but unwittingly rebelling against God’s authority. But on the road to Damascus, he met God’s authority face to face. He realized it. Instead of pressing on and continuing to “kick against the goads” he asked, “What must I do?” He submitted. And God sent him to a house to wait. Then we have one of the most powerful, intelligent men of his time (yes, that’s Paul), being ministered to by this small, insignificant brother named Ananias. Yet, Paul submitted to this brother. He was no longer ruled by self-confidence. He let Ananias be used to remove his blindness instead of holding onto it in his pride. In his brokenness, he was learning to submit. Have I understood brokenness yet? Do I know what it is to submit? Do I live as though I understand Your authority, God? How am I at submitting to those around me that You place in authority?

 
“God’s greatest demand on man is submission.” Think about that. It’s also the hardest, isn’t it? And with submission comes obedience. But neither will happen unless I get self out of the picture. I suppose submission is a principle but obedience is about conduct. Therefore, our obedience could be selfishly given. But obedience in submission is about living in the spirit. It’s about expressing and responding to God’s will and not mine.
The best example is to look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. If I want to see true submission to God’s authority and to understand obedience in submission, here it is. Sometimes we tend to emphasize that Jesus came to earth to pursue the cross. But that’s not true. Jesus came to pursue the will of God. The will of God led Him to the cross. He got to the cross because He was fully submitted to the authority of God. His full submission gave Him the right to be the sacrifice on the cross. Any lack of submission on His part would have nullified the efficacy of the cross. The efficacy of the cross was in the submissive obedience of Christ to the authority of God.

 
What was the most important thing to Christ? Was it the cross? We hear Him ask “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” But He waited and listened for the will of God. To Him, the cross was not absolute, but the will of God was. It had nothing to do with His own will. Obviously, He was agonizing over the thought of going to the cross. But He knew it wasn’t about His own preference. “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” If the cross was God’s will, then it was His will also. Is my will the principle I live by or am I making His will the principle that I live by?

 
What did Jesus mean when He said, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38)? Or when He told His disciples again in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”? Is that about suffering and sacrifice? Or is it really about denying self and coming under the authority of God by full submission to His will no matter the cost? Does it mean that God’s will becomes my will and that I no longer have a will aside from His? Does that mean that my feelings don’t matter if they don’t agree with His will? Does that mean that His authority, His principles, His desire, and His will mean more to me than my own feelings, my own desires, and my own life? It did for Jesus.

 
Watchman Nee shares, “A will is the representative of an authority. Hence, when submission comes from knowing God’s will, that submission is a submission to authority. If there is no prayer and no willingness to know God’s will, how can there be submission to authority?” Jesus demonstrated His submission in the garden. When He knew God’s will, He immediately submitted, “Arise, let us be going.” (Matthew 26:46) Because of Christ’s submission to God’s authority, the cross is the center of the universe. It’s the utmost example of upholding the authority of God (His will) above everything.
Learning to submit to God’s authority is not something to be taken lightly. It means everything to my walk as a believer. Do we forget to listen to Jesus’ very own words? “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) I have to do more than verbally and mentally acknowledge You as Lord. I have to submit to You as Lord of my life and all life. It’s not just to be used as a respectful title, this Greek word. It means to be supreme in authority, controller. If Jesus is my God, then I let Him be my God. If He is my Lord, then I let Him Lord over me. If He is my master, then He is truly my master. If this is who You are to me, then it is who You are all the time, every day, every moment.

 
If You really are Lord of me, then I don’t just do Your will because I’m following mandates. It’s really about this word I love, poieo. It’s like the art that flows out of an artist or the poem that flows out of the poet. It’s the will and pleasure of the Father that comes to flow out of me because You flow through me. If I say that You are my Lord and my will flows out and I call it Your will, it still isn’t Your will, but mine. Overturning Your authority is attempting to overturn You and it shows I don’t know You at all, because how can You be overturned? You are God. Acting on my own authority, my own will is rebellion and Scripture says it’s like the sin of “witchcraft, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry” ( 1 Samuel 15:23) because it’s rejecting God’s authority. Imagine what it would be like to have Jesus look at me and tell me He never knew me because all I ever did was do things my way instead of His? Imagine Jesus calling me lawless and telling me that I purposefully engaged in and ministered in wickedness. That’s what I’m doing when I don’t submit. That’s what I’m doing when I don’t hand absolute authority over to God.

 
I can’t have a true relationship with God without being truly submitted to His authority. Don’t be fooled. You can’t come to Jesus to get out of hell, if you don’t come to Jesus to live. Unless God’s authority becomes my life blood, I haven’t got life at all. Once I touch His authority, once I begin to understand it’s necessity in my life, then I can be conformed into His image, and then He can begin to use me as His instrument. This is when I begin to resemble Him as His very own child and not until then.

 
Working and living outside of God’s will isn’t a bad thing. It’s a tragic thing. It’s Satanic and we shouldn’t keep taking it so lightly. It’s the difference between life or death, blessing or damnation. Jesus wasn’t joking when He said that only those who do the Father’s will can enter the kingdom of heaven. Think about it. Think about Jesus as He walked on earth. Think about each situation. Think about the boat as He slept in the middle of the storm. Think about the kiss from Judas. Think about the agony in the garden. Think about disciples misunderstanding. Think about people saying mean things. Did Jesus account His response to His feelings? Did He just rotely shoot off a Scripture truth? Or did He know the heart of God, and did He seek the heart of God, before He responded? Is that how I respond to Your authority? Is that how I seek to know how You would want me to respond? Do You really control me or am I still letting my feelings and rights and hopes and dreams cling to control? Does my heart need to cry out, “Witchcraft! Stubbornness! Idolatry! Turn back! Turn back!”?

 
Whose side am I really on? Am I clinging to God’s authority and living in it and find comfort there no matter the circumstances? Or am I clinging to Satan’s rebellion. See, two things go hand in hand here: “believing unto salvation and submitting to authority.” I can’t separate the two or I’m not saved at all. I don’t get to trust or obey; it must be trust and obey. Sin is lawlessness and lawlessness is disrespect and disregarding God’s authority. It’s a matter of heart and attitude. Will I submit them both? Where am I? Whose side am I really on? What drives my conduct? Will You know me, Jesus, when I come before You, or will You not recognize me as Yours at all? I can know the answer now. I can know based on my submission to Your will each and every day. I can know by the life that flows out of me from You when You are truly Lord of me.

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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.