Eating His Words

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“Moreover he said unto me, ‘Son of man, eat what you find; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.’” Ezekiel 3:1

 
So here is Ezekiel still listening and being instructed and being equipped by the Lord. These words being given are not just any angel’s words. These are words of truth and judgment from God. And Ezekiel isn’t just supposed to hear them. He’s to hear and do, to hear and follow through, to hear and heed, to hear and be changed. And I thought I was going to talk about that hearing in verse 10, but I can’t get past a word in this first verse. It has just stopped me in my tracks. And that’s ok, Lord, because isn’t that part of hearing and listening, that I defer from my plan and pay attention to yours? And if one little word says, “Listen to me and don’t pass me by,” shouldn’t I obey?

 
Ezekiel can’t eat Your words until he “finds” them, can he? And eating Your words is important because they are our life sustain-ers. We have to imbibe them so that they become a part of us from the inside out. They have to become our sustenance to show that You are our very Sustenance.

 
Now, if I just look at Strong’s Concordance, I think of this word “find” or “matsa” in Hebrew maybe as something I just happen upon, that maybe exists upon my way or comes forth to be. Is there much significance to me if I just happen to attain something? Is there a difference between me finding or acquiring and my taking hold on something? Maybe it would behoove me to try to understand this finding better.

 
Remember that our problem here is a rebellious, hard-hearted people who should have known and loved and obeyed their heavenly Father. But they were rejecting Him and Ezekiel was to be their messenger to give them the opportunity to turn back to God. And it wasn’t like they didn’t have all the information that they needed to already find You, God, and love and serve You. It wasn’t like Ezekiel was being sent to a lost tribe who didn’t even know about You.
Let’s go all the way back to 1 Chronicles 28:9 to try to understand this finding, this word matsa. “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” This isn’t new stuff here, but it certainly is serious stuff.
If you read and listened closely enough so that you really heard the words, you see that idea or reality of seeking God and finding Him. It’s attainable. It’s doable. But it’s not something we can do all on our own. We have to take part in that action, but You actually let Yourself be found by us!

 
Matsa’ is a word about finding. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for someone, some place, or some thing, matsa’ is that word that you use when you discover what you have been looking for. In this verse in 1 Chronicles it’s not used any differently than that. But we learn more by understanding the form of the word. The form here “tells us that the action is [a] continuous, present tense, passive event…instead of me finding God, He actually finds me—but He lets me think I’m doing the work because He wants me to be encouraged for my effort.” (Skip Moen) It’s the same thing You’re telling Ezekiel. “You eat, Ezekiel. You find My words and take them in, and then follow through on them.” But did Ezekiel make up the words? Did he find without God showing him? Absolutely not. God, You prepare the table for Ezekiel and You prepare the table for each of us.

 
So here is this table, this table of abundance, filled with more than satisfaction, and it’s all right here before us. Just like in Psalm 23, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” The problem is, we handle it wrongly. We whine, “‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers.” (Isaiah 58:3) Here, the people find their desire. It’s still that word matsa. Remember how it means “to find” and also “to come upon, reach, attain”? It’s that same word as in Deuteronomy 4:29, “ But if from thence you shall seek the LORD your God, you shall find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This kind of finding comes from seeking. But in Isaiah, they were fasting not to seek God, but to seek being noticed, or to seek the reward of the blessing. The sad thing is that we can seek the delights from God without ever seeking the delight of God Himself.

 
How can someone seek delight from You without seeking You? I can seek an emotional satisfaction from knowing I’ve done a good job. My practicing of my “religion” can give me a good feeling about myself. I can delight in that feeling. I can delight in how people view me. I can delight in my own goodness. I can delight in the monetary blessing or position of being valued and listened to. I can delight in a ministry. I can delight in my own works. I can delight in my own image or my own ideas.

 
Whether I eat from Your table or refrain from it in order to fast, my goal is not all about the table. My eyes and heart ought to be set on the One who provides the table. My goal ought to be righteousness and restitution and repentance, not feeling better about myself. My goal ought to be knowing You more and worshipping You with all I am and delighting in Who You Are and how You even arrange things in my life so that I CAN find You. It ought to be all about GIANT YOU even finding tiny little me, and REVELLING IN THE TRUTH AND JOY OF IT SO THAT I MUST JUMP UP AND DOWN AND DO HANDSTANDS UNCONTROLLABLY AND THEN FOLLOW THROUGH IN TOTAL OBEDIENT LOVE! (Oh, did I get a little excited there? ) The proof of the pudding is in whether my actions change my expectations or demands on myself and on others. Has my heart been transformed? Or am I just looking for a good feeling? What have I really found? Anything, or just some pretend idea? You want us to really find You.

 
So why was Ezekiel able to find You when what seemed like the rest of Israel couldn’t? “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Nope, it wasn’t new stuff here. It wasn’t like they didn’t know what to do. I think it’s the same for most of us today. It’s not new stuff. And it’s not like we don’t know what we ought to do and what we need to do.

 
We’re all running around asking, “What is the meaning of life?” Well, the answer has always been right in front of us. “The answers to life are found in seeking God.” (Skip Moen) God promised that those who seek Him would find Him. When Jesus shared, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” (Luke 11:9) He wasn’t coming up with some new idea. He was restating what should have already been known. From day one of creation, it’s what our lives were designed to be. We were created to seek the kingdom of God above and before everything else, and to seek His righteousness, and the rest of what we were designed for flows from that to us. And you can’t seek the kingdom and God’s righteousness without seeking Him.

 
Jeremiah uses this other word for seeking. It’s about diligently searching for knowledge. And that’s what causes a problem for many of us. Because we start thinking knowledge is about what we do, like religious activity, instead about who we know, like You God. We start replacing You with good works and ritual and rules and books about You and people’s testimonies. That’s why we burn out and feel empty.

 
Mary, in the middle of a busy day, found God in His temple. How? In her house, in all the business, she sat down at the feet of Jesus. She chose the place of a disciple, the place of closeness and intimacy, of quietness and learning, of being filled and restored. Martha was choosing service and doing the proper thing, the good thing. But Jesus said that Mary chose what was better? Was Mary lazy? No. But she was willing to drop everything to enter the kingdom of God and sit in His presence. She was seeking His kingdom first. She was soaking up His righteousness. And from that, she would be able to take those things to those around her.

 
Unless we eat of Your flesh and drink of Your blood, unless we are that intimate with You that You are changing us from the inside out, how will You or anyone else recognize us as Yours? Here’s the thing, we get to choose to seek You or not. “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me.” (Proverbs 1:28) It’s not unusual to lose things and find them. It’s a very common occurrence in life. So it’s easily understood. But there’s a problem when we think we can seek God’s kingdom and wisdom but we choose to reject His rule. It doesn’t work that way. We become blinded. We grope and won’t find even when the answer is right within our grasp. We could put our hand right on it and not recognize it. The answer becomes invisible to us. The sad thing is that it was right there for us, it was ours, but by our own foolish decision we lost the gift that should have been ours all along.

 
I want to find what You place before me. I want to see You and know You and revel in knowing You and following You and walking in Your ways. I want to know how You feel about me by experiencing You. I want to know the power of Your resurrection and the power of Your love and the power of everything that is You. I want to know the beautiful wonder of You. And with that wonder comes hard things for me, just like for Ezekiel. Imbibing You, dwelling in You, means I can’t dwell in the world the way it is the same way. Knowing You and finding You means knowing and finding the power of Your resurrection and the fellowship of Your sufferings. But if I am really Yours, if I want to really find You and know You, then I must let myself be found and found fully. I must let You have all Your power over me. Because Your desire is to make us a nation of priests after Your own heart, influencing the world around us in You. Your eyes run to and fro, back and forth, over the whole earth waiting to show Yourself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are complete in You. Why would I want to ruin such a good thing?

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Feast or Famine

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Photo credit to Pastor Rogelio Elosendo.

“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.’” Amos 8:11

 
Ancient Biblical days are not the only days of famine. There are countries right now that are going through famine in the sense of lack of food and insufficient provisions for the people. And just the same, ancient Biblical days are not the only days of famine when it concerns a destitution or lack or want in the spiritual realm. Now, I’m not talking mysticism here. There never seems to be a famine of that. But what I am talking about here is a hunger from lack of the word of Life.

 
Famine is visible. It has tell-tale effects on the human body. Go without food and water long enough, or go with less than sufficient food for long enough, and you will suffer weight loss. Children’s growth will be retarded. Malnutrition sets in and mortality rates go up, effecting the old and the young first. It’s not just starvation, but the fact that their bodies can no longer fight infection. It effects learning and concentration. Childhood malnutrition can cause a host of other problems like “reduced intelligence, anxiety, psychiatric issues, and cognitive impairment.” It effects the mind and body. There can be visual problems, bleeding gums/decaying teeth, inability for the heart to function properly, internal organ function threatened, the skin breaks down and can’t protect and shield, joints and muscles will ache and weaken and shrink, bones can become fragile, nerves in extremities break down, and diseases that are rare open up the body to a pandora’s box. You actually wouldn’t even need medicine to stop these diseases, only proper nutrition.

 
It doesn’t have to happen in a famished land either. It can happen in a place where people have sufficient food. But there are some who don’t have what they need and they get lost in the shuffle until the damage is apparent. It’s like a little boy who didn’t have the right nutrition and by the time he could get to the hospital for treatment, the TB had gotten into his bones and effected his learning. Thank God someone noticed. Thank God someone did something when they noticed. But the not noticing for a while caused permanent damage.
But there is a famine that is much more dangerous than that of hunger and thirst for our physical needs. There is a famine that can effect our souls. Our souls were created to be fed by One Source, the Source who created them. Our souls were meant to be fed by You God. But somewhere along the line we start thinking other things can satisfy.

 
In Amos’ day, the people were impatient and asking, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain?” Does that seem insignificant? It’s not. The new moon was at the heart of keeping the calendar and the feasts and festivals that You had established. It was a reminder and an act of worship in remembering and doing. It wasn’t about ritual. The new moon was watching for that sliver to show up in the night sky to tell the end of one month and the beginning of the new and to count down the days to the next celebration of God. But instead of looking for that sliver with anticipation, instead of looking forward to celebrating You and Your care, they wanted to sell their grain and get on with their lives despite You. They were inflicting their own famine from You and no longer even felt hungry. It reminds me of someone who was eating lots of salad during her pregnancy to watch her weight. But when she went to the doctor, she found out that she was malnourished because iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value. We can try to meet our own needs and totally get it wrong.

 
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the people also couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to be over so they could get to selling their wheat. Here was this day that God instituted for man’s welfare and even demonstrated for us. Here was a day He gave us for rest and spiritual enrichment. It’s that day when You ceased, ended, and rested from Your creative works. You told Your people, “Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.” (Exodus 20:8) Remember, zakhor, doesn’t mean to just not forget. It means to observe and remember its significance. It’s about creation and deliverance from slavery into freedom. “Observe [shamor] the Sabbath day to sanctify it.” (Deuteronomy 5:12) Sabbath was for remembering and observing by acting in a way that demonstrated that we are not in control over our environment but You are, God. To want to ignore Sabbath is to wrench that control away from You and put it back in our own hands.

 
So there was this day coming, when there would be this famine and thirst not for food and water, but for Your words. There would be a famine “of hearing the words of the LORD.” That word for hearing is shama and it doesn’t just mean to hear. It means to hear and obey. Can you imagine people being famished for the words of the Lord, that people will want to hear You but won’t? How does that happen? Do You mean that people who have been hearing and obeying will no longer get to hear You? Or is it that people who have been hearing but not obeying will look for You and not be able to hear or see You? Will people ignore other people so that their spiritual famine grows to the point of no return? Will people so ignore their own need that they can no longer be helped?

 
Imagine asking for help and not receiving it. But in Isaiah 1:15 You say, “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.” Did You not hear the prayers? But You hear and know everything. Or did You choose to not respond to the prayers because shama is about hearing and doing, hearing and responding? But You chose not to listen. Why? Is that fair? Is that right? Well, if their hands were full of blood, doesn’t that mean that those who prayed weren’t hearing and combining the doing with it? Because if I was listening to You and doing it, how could I have blood on my hands? And if I won’t hold up my end of the covenant, then I have already broken the relationship, and You would no longer be bound to Yours. Every moment that You continue to hold covenant beyond that is shear grace.

 
Why do we expect You to listen and respond rightly to us and we don’t feel ourselves obligated to You in any way? Why are we not concerned about hearing You speak these words, “I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity.”? (Matthew 7:23) There are people out there who are thinking they are doing good things, but since they won’t listen to Your words, they don’t understand that You are the only Good Thing, that Jesus is the only Good Way, and the only Right Choice. And no one gains eternal life in the next life without knowing eternal life in this one first. And the only way to know eternal life now is to know the Eternal Life Giver, the one who was there in the beginning and created everything with His very words.

 
“Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My commandments, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine.” (Exodus 19:5) You can’t help reiterating how important, how doubly important it is for us to hear and listen and obey and do. Am I “indeed obey”ing? Shamoa tishmeoo is the Hebrew. It’s the double repetition of shama’. “If you hear-hear My voice…” Or since we know what shama’ means, we could listen as God also says, “If you obey-obey My voice…” And wouldn’t that therefore mean You are saying, “If you hear-obey, hear-obey”? And that’s with an exclamation mark. Is hearing and obeying all of Your words that important to me? Because it is to You. And it is if I want a real relationship with You. My hearing and obeying actually has bearing on Your hearing and responding. Does that matter to me?

 
Do I somehow think that Your covenant with other people outside the nation of Israel is different? Do I think that Your requirement for “If you hear-hear (obey-obey)” (Skip Moen) is only for the nation of Israel but for us Your covenant is absolute and unconditional? Did Jesus come so I wouldn’t have to hear and obey? I only have to hear and believe in what I hear? How empty is that? How hungry will that leave me? What kind of relationship is that? Why don’t we just leave off on eating and drinking and just live on the thought of food and water? If is a bigger word than it looks. If says there is a condition, a relationship to the following words. Man is called to cooperate. God chooses but His people who are chosen must respond. You can’t just hear and go your own way. Shama’, hearing and doing, “precedes active citizenship.” (Skip Moen)

And it’s not that I just get to hear and obey just the things I like, like Thomas Jefferson who went to the extent of cutting out the words of his Bible that he didn’t agree with. He even wrote His own Gospel! The Smithsonian says Jefferson “was devoted to the teachings of Jesus Christ. But he didn’t always agree with how they were interpreted by biblical sources, including the writers of the four Gospels, whom he considered to be untrustworthy correspondents.” So what did he do? He took “a sharp instrument, perhaps a penknife, to existing copies of the New Testament and pasting up his own account of Christ’s philosophy,” he penned the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. This “bible” excluded miraculous events or anything “contrary to reason” including the resurrection! How can one be classified as “devoted to the teachings of Jesus Christ” without accepting the words of God that Jesus accepted as true? Because those words tell of his death and resurrection. Those words tell of God doing miraculous things. But I suppose that’s a choice any of us can make, to grasp the “manhood” of Jesus and strip Him of His Godhood. Then it’s ok for me to listen to what I want to because Jesus was just another good moral teacher and that’s all.

But what a dangerous and empty thing that is, to write everything up according to my understanding. What ludicrous thinking to imagine that I can understand everything. To think that I can rewrite Scripture when I can’t even speak a universe into being? To write off miracles when even my own birth is one? If no one can create a camera as accurate as the human eye and yet somehow that eye came into existence. If you choose to believe it all came into being by chance, or by some story you want to create, that’s your choice. But to tell you the truth, that actually seems contrary to reason to me. I’ve seen the effects of the words of God. I’ve seen how Your word changes lives, including mine. I’ve heard how it raises the dead and sets the prisoners free. I’ve seen it do so. I’ve seen the hungry fed and the thirsty satisfied. I’ve seen lives changed and empowered by Your words as people did more than believe with their heads, but as people obeyed and lived according to Your words. I’ve seen life bloom where death was imminent where Your word took root in a heart, where broken families have been restored, where people become new creations all together.

Simon Peter was just as credible a witness as any of us because he was just as human. He was there when Jesus shared, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. “ But Thomas Jefferson could have been one of the followers in the crowd that day. Many of those who had been his disciples walked away, saying, “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?” What were Your words, Lord? “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words I that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” And many walked away. But Jesus turned to the twelve, and asked, “Do you want to go away as well?” But Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6)

There is only One who can satisfy us eternally, here and into eternity. There are words of eternal life. Only the word of God will satisfy completely, believing is acting upon them and living in them and holding on to them with all my life. Yes, I can trust the same Word that brought me into existence for that Word is the same that will forever keep me in Him. I don’t have to be hungry or thirsty. I can drink from the Fountain of Life and eat from the Bread of Life, every day for every meal and continuous snacks in between. I never have to be malnourished if only I will heed Your words, whether they are sweet like honey or bitter to the taste. My life depends on it. Our relationship depends upon it. And I can’t have life without having a relationship in You and with You first. Lord, I don’t want to experience a famine from You. I want to hear Your words, love Your words, and live out Your words in my life.

The Kingdom That Counts

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Photo credit to http://www.phaidon.com

“So then, whoever disobeys even the least important of the commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be least in the Kingdom of heaven.  On the other hand, whoever obeys the Law and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the Kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:10

How least is least?  To at least be a crumb in the Kingdom of heaven is far better than not to be in the Kingdom of heaven at all.  You’ve set really high standards here, Lord.  Poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst for Your righteousness, mercy, purity, peacemaking, persecution for righteous living, accepting reviling and persecution with grace, rejoicing in persecution, being the salt and the light of the world, living a life that truly glorifies You, and obeying everything in Your word, is a really high standard that seems impossible to meet.  Now You tell me if I just break one thing, one little thing, that will make me least in the Kingdom of heaven.

But what does that mean, to be least in the Kingdom of heaven? And how can I not break one little thing out of Your commands?  And thinking about that, when I do break one little thing, how is my life not teaching someone else to do the same?  Certainly, if I read this and really think about it, I am forced to ask myself some serious questions both about myself, my attitude about Your word, and Your expectations for me.

So, if I break one little command, and teach others to do so, I am least in the Kingdom of heaven.  Does that make me “most” in the Kingdom of unrighteousness?  I mean, I have to ask myself that because I think about Your words, Jesus, again in Luke 16:10, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”  I wonder if You spoke hard things, things that aren’t easy to understand at first grasp, so that we would sit down and really start thinking about it and mulling it over and trying to figure it out.  It makes me want to hash it out and try to come to grips with it so I can understand.  But then I don’t want to stop with just understanding and having a head knowledge.  I want to understand so it will be true in my life, so that I can be changed, and exhibit what You say I ought to exhibit in my life.

Here’s what I think You are saying.  If I untie any of Your words and let them fall off the string and teach others to untie the string and let Your words fall by the wayside, I’m one of those being unrighteous even with the basics.  Or maybe I could untie the string that’s holding all things together under Your righteousness and let slide something big.  I just untie that string and Your words that I don’t agree with just drop to the floor like dirt and then I encourage others to do the same.  But to do that is to defy You, to stand before Your face and say, “You don’t know what You’re talking about.  I know better than You.”

But You know better than me.  You just told me in verse 18 and all over Scripture that very truth.  The way it is and will be and has been, is that until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle will be neglected from Your law, Your word, till it’s all fulfilled.  See, all things were created by Your word.  It’s Your essence.  In the beginning You created the heavens and the earth.  (Genesis 1:1)   “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.  In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.”  (John 1:1-4)  “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.” (John 1:14)  We are sanctified through Your truth: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

Now stop and think about that.  Jesus, You are the Word.  You are the essence of life in all creation.  You are the essence of life before creation.  You are life and light itself.  Jesus is truth.  Jesus is the word.  Jesus is Scripture manifested in God Himself.  Therefore, the Word of God is a manifestation of God.  When I devalue any of the Word of God, even the least of it, I am devaluing You, God.  See, the Word, Jesus, revealed in this tangible way to us that gives us insight into knowing Him and beginning to grasp Him, is a revelation of Himself.  It’s more than a loveletter to us.  It’s life.  It’s living.  It’s You.

Just as God spoke the world into being with His Word, so He speaks life into each of us through His living Word.  Imagine Scripture as the living essence of Jesus, of God Himself.  Somehow, and I can’t explain it any more than a brother of mine could last night at youth group, You use Words to transform us by the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Because even the least of these words, exude Your essence.  To reject Your word, even a part, is to reject You.

But how could I ever obey everything?  It’s impossible.  Yes, with man, on my own, in my own strength, to fully obey is impossible.  “But with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)  The origin of this verse takes us back to what started the thinking today.  Jesus was approached by a rich young man who was seeking eternal life.  You tell him, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  (Remember, Jesus IS life.)  We’re back to the beginning, aren’t we?  He answers, “Which?”  Really, which?  Is that like asking, which ones can I untie and let fall to the wayside?  Doesn’t “Keep the commandments” mean keep the commandments?  You answered, “You shall do no murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother; and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  “Oh, I’ve done all that since I was a kid,” he answered.  “Really,” was the reply.  ” Let’s make sure you really understand how deep that translates.  If you really want to completely model these commands in your life, then go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and then you shall have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me.”  I think the young man’s answer when translated into todays venacular would sound something like this.  “Are you kidding?!  I was just talking about going to heaven.  I wasn’t really talking about following You and desiring Your ways more than anything.  I want to have my cake and eat it too.  This is crazy.  You want me to put it all on the line to live for You?  Then I would truly have to trust You.  That would change so much of my life.  I’d have to give up so much!  And for what?”

There was a point in time when people could obey all Your commands without difficulty.  There was a time when man’s heart and Your heart and desires were unified.  That was in the garden before Adam and Eve untied that first knot in the string.  They let Your command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil fall to the dirt.  But what really happened was they valued their own knowledge over Yours.  And look where it’s brought us.

But here’s the Good News!  I can obey.  And even when I fail, there is One who covers for me and pleads my case.  “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 4:6)  See, by my knowledge, you know, by one man’s knowledge I fail and fall to my death.  But by another man’s knowledge, by knowing Him and living in what He knows and living in Him, I am empowered and rescued and held and saved from myself.  Because “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,…[gives] unto [me] the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him…”(Ephesians 1:17)  “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8)  By Your every last jot and tittle, and living them out in my life, bring about the opportunity for me to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)

I think not obeying Your words, Your commands, has to do with two things here.  It has to do with the condition of my heart and my own ego.  And that ego does a lot of damage to myself.  It puffs me up and it pulls me down at the same time.  It makes me value myself more than I ought and value my opinion above Yours.  But it also causes me to value the opinions of other people more than Yours.  And all of a sudden I can find myself worried more with what others think than concerned with Your opinion of me.  That’s when I begin to take Your righteousness and decide it doesn’t fit into my culture because all of a sudden, my culture became top dog.  Funny, but no person and no culture created the universe by the power in it’s words.

Then, I think it has to do with me becoming ashamed.  I’ll become ashamed of one of two things depending on the condition of my heart and who I surrender it to.  I will become ashamed of the condition of my unchanged heart before a holy God who created me by His word, or I will become ashamed of the words of a God I don’t know because I choose to know my own ways and ways of the world instead.  But You warn us, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)

I don’t want to ever be ashamed of You and Your words, Lord.  I want to be like Paul and be able to truly proclaim, ” I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation ” (Romans 1:16)  And here’s the sense of this word here.  Being ashamed is more about “putting myself to shame.”  So, what does that mean?  Well, think of all the conditions that could come to pass in my life.  Like the situations where I have to put those tough beatitudes into practice, you know, where I would have to humble myself in tough situations, or endure persecution with joy and love.   Or what if I needed to share Your Good News with others who were hostile about it?  What if I was going to lose my head over sharing my testimony?  I mean, heaven help that someone might just ridicule me or walk away.  It doesn’t matter.  None of that should cause me to be ashamed.  It’s not about ‘inner self-condemnation.”  It’s about public condemnation.  It’s about “lost reputation, disgrace and humiliation.” (Skip Moen)  Now think about that.  Who am I really standing publicly before?

That’s what it all boils down to.  Who am I standing before?   Am I or was Paul standing before judges and rulers and the masses?  Or was Paul standing before You, the God of heavens armies, the Alpha and Omega, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, the Ever Existent One, Majesty enthroned above?  What I believe about this will determine what I do with Your jots and tittles and all Your commands.  How I feel about my audience will determine the actions that flow from my heart.

You told me how to live a life where nothing can bring me to shame.  That’s because You are a God who removes our shame.  You said, “If you keep my commandments, You shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)  See, the love of God in the blood and power of my risen Savior gives me the power to obey and the heart to obey.  And what I don’t yet have the ability to obey in, He covers me as I grow in Him.  See, if I abide in Him, and His words abide in me, I will ask not just for things, but I will delight in Your words, and seek after them because I’m seeking after You.  And You will bring them to pass in my life.  What I’m seeking will be found.  What I’m longing for will be attained.  What I ask for shall be given.  What I delight in will be enjoyed to the fullest.  That’s what Jesus was talking about in John 15:7.

Lord, I don’t want to untie that string and let any of Your words slide off.  I want to come to delight in them all, no matter the hardship the world sets up against them.  Why?  Because to delight in Your words and Your commands is to delight in You.  John Piper thought about this too.  He shared, “At root, what God delights in about us is that we delight in him.”  Maybe it’s time to check our hearts and see what we really are delighting in.  Because Lord, if I delight in You, then I’ll delight in everything that is of You.  If I delight in You, then I’ll delight in the words of Your mouth.  If I delight in You than I’ll obey the words You gave me and I’ll be an example of loving obedience to others.  I may be least in the kingdom of earth, but I won’t be least in the kingdom that counts.

When Hearing Becomes Believing

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“Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”  John 4:41,42

Today we are in Samaria, Lord.  You’ve spoken to one of the outcasts of Samaria, and a woman at that, a woman with a risque lifestyle, who has come to the well where You specifically chose to rest.  I don’t have to wonder much if you knew she was going to come there.  It’s pretty apparent that this was a divine appointment that she didn’t know she was going to have.  And she comes to believe in You and runs to tell her townspeople about You.  And many of them believed because of her testimony. Then they gather around You and ask You to stay and tell them more.  And in the two days more that You remained teaching in this city of outcasts many more believed because of Your own words and not just the words of the woman.

Imagine that.  “We no longer believe because of your testimony.  We have heard His word for ourselves.  We are convinced in Him that He is the One.  He is truly the Savior of the world, the Christ.  Just like You came to see for yourself, now we see each for ourself.  We have our own testimony of seeing!”  Isn’t that something that many believed into You because of one woman’s testimony, but those and many more came to be even more excited about believing in You because of hearing and understanding Your words directly for themselves?  That’s exciting to me.  It’s even exciting to me every day when You help me to see something deeper or differently in Your Word on any particular day.  It’s one thing to hear Your Word opened up by someone else I’m listening to.  But when You tell something directly to me, that’s a wow factor to another degree!

It’s one thing to believe that You are who You say You are and that You intervene in a person’s life.  It’s exciting stuff.  But it’s a whole new realization when I come to see that You are who You say You are and intervene in my own life.  It’s one thing to say, “I wish I had experienced what she has.  Look at how excited she is about Jesus.  Look at how there is something changed about her.  I believe what she is saying is true.  It has to be.  Look at what’s happened in her.”  And it’s a whole different thing to say, “Wow, this is like nothing I have ever experienced before.  I am so excited about Jesus!  He’s changed me!  This is everything I’ve been searching for.  This is the answer.  This is what I’ve been missing.  I believe that He is everything I need.  This is true.  I need Jesus.  I found Jesus.  Thank You, Jesus for coming and finding me!”

So what does faith, this pisteuo, look like here?  It looks like hearing Your words speak to me.  It goes beyond hearing someone else explain them to us.  It’s when I stop to listen from You and hear You directly.  

My family is doing a devotion in James right now.  And before getting up this morning, I started reading James chapter 1 on my phone.  I was stopped at James 1:25.  “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”  Now that is a wonderful truth packed full of exciting stuff, but I’m going to only deal with one little part today, the part that stopped me this morning, these two little words- “looks into.”  The one who “looks into” God’s Word is where it all starts.  What does it mean to “look into” God’s Word?

When I stop to look into Your Word it implies that I am peering intently into it.  I stop what I am doing and I kneel down and I take a deeper look.  I examine it.  I take time out and set other things aside to make sure I can see.  Isn’t that what is happening in this story, this true story, in Samaria that day?  These people who were normally so busy with life there way, stopped and took a chance to peer into what You were telling them.  First they stopped to listen and pay attention to the woman.  But then they asked You to stick around longer and tell them more.  And their normal activities and the normal things they payed attention to got pushed off to the wayside and You were brought to the forefront.  And they probably knelt there before You, listening intently, leaning into You, to hear every word You spoke.  Because Your words are words of life and they were coming alive as they listened and were ministered to by these words.

And the wonderful thing is, as we lean closer to You, as we draw closer to You to hear You and what You are saying to us, You draw closer to us.  Then “BOOM!”  We see what we’ve been looking for.   And it was all in You!  And we find it when we find You.  Romans 10:17  tells us that “Faith is of hearing, and hearing through the word of God.” Hearing preceeds sight in this case.  And the more we hear from You ourselves, the stronger our faith, because it is our faith and not just someone elses.  I might start out coasting on someone else’s coattail, but I cannot remain there.  I must hear and acknowledge You for myself.  I must experience Your word speaking in my own life for myself.  That is living in belief.  That is personal faith that changes my life and makes it Yours. 

I remember the day I understood and came to know You as my personal Lord and Savior.  I was as excited as the Samaritans that day.  I still am.  You never cease to amaze me.  I had been hearing Your testimony through other people.  And I was excited.  But it was You speaking through Your own Word that won me over.  It was me getting to know You for myself that convicted me and won my heart.  I knew I needed You and I knew I didn’t want to live without You.  But here’s another part of that wonderful truth- it doesn’t stop there.  It didn’t end that day in Samaria.  And it didn’t end the day I got it and accepted You and committed into You.  Every day, into eternity, as I kneel and peer into Your words, You keep teaching me and changing me and amazing me and walking with me.  

Lord, may I never cease to fall more in love with You as I peer deeper and deeper into Your words.  May I love Your word so dearly that there is nothing else like it in my life.  Let nothing else compare.  May Your words fill me, equip me, empower me, and change me more and more every second of every day into Your image and may I be ever drawn closer and closer to You.  Lord, let there be something in the way that I share Your words that draws others directly to peer into Your words for themselves, because I want them to fall in love with Your words to them for themselves because I don’t want them to miss hearing from You for themselves.  Lord, as we listen, as we look, let us hear You and know You for ourselves.