Put Down Your Branch, Get on the Train

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Photo credit goes to someone on the internet.

 

“Then said He unto me, ‘Son of man, have you seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, ‘The Lord doesn’t see us; the Lord has forsaken the earth.’” Ezekiel 8:12

 
So now this fiery figure of God comes to Ezekiel and takes him in a vision of God to Jerusalem to the temple. And as Ezekiel was told to look, he was shown the “image of jealousy in the entry.” But it didn’t stop there. God says, “There’s worse abominations to see here.” God brought Ezekiel to the door of the court and showed him a hole. Then He told Ezekiel to dig there and Ezekiel found a door. He went in, beyond the wall, I guess inside the wall, and found creeping things, and abominable beasts, and idols all portrayed on the wall round about. Not only that, there were 70 men and Jaazaniah offering incense to these idols.

 
As if all that wasn’t bad enough. Then God says, “There’s more.” He brings Ezekiel to the door of the gate and there are women weeping for Tammuz, a Phoenician diety. Let’s keep going. Now, to the inner court, between the porch and the altar, were 25 men with their backs to the temple worshipping the sun to the east.

 
God called it “putting the branch to their nose.” What in the world does that mean? I’m pretty sure it’s a Hebrew idiom. Some think it was a part of worshipping idols where the worshipper picked up a twig or branch and placed it over their face as to shield their face from the diety, like the sun. But to God it would be like sticking your thumb to your nose and sticking out your tongue in defiance. Whatever it was, it was gloating in your abomination before God. It was digging in your heals, and inviting violence into your own land and your own life. It was asking for God’s anger to be ignited, provoking the fire to burn.

 
You know, what we think we can get away with in the dark, eventually comes out in the open. What was hidden behind walls and in men’s and women’s minds and hearts is not hidden from God, and he showed it to Ezekiel. The truth is that God knows what is going on in the “chambers of man’s imagery.” What is that? Could that be more than what we do hidden in a room? Could that mean that God knows what is in the secret chambers of our imagination? I think so.

 
I guess we have this idea that God has nothing to do with the dark. Maybe we think that God, being God, can’t go into the darkness. But Psalm 139:12 tells us, “Yes, the darkness doesn’t hide from You; but the night shines as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” The truth is that You “form the light, and create darkness: [You] make peace, and create evil: [You] the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

 
There is no place that God cannot go and that God is not in control. You see into the “secret” places even of our hearts, way beyond our dark closets because nothing is hidden from You. The problem is that we get involved in labeling things our way instead of Yours. Isaiah said, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” The people of Israel had God, they had You, they had what was good. But they started to chase after other ideas of good, after other standards, and adopt them as their own.

 
But they are no worse than us. We sit back and say, “How can a good God allow evil?” What kind of God would create evil? Why even let that be part of the picture? Because we’ve labelled You as a good God based on our idea of goodness. We make You who we think You should be instead of who You ARE. The truth is that You are all that You are before we even understand it. Your goodness is even in how You create evil.

 
It’s there for a purpose. Just because I don’t see that purpose doesn’t mean it’s not for ultimate good. Think about it. God created the garden with the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil before Adam and Eve were created. Do you really think God created that beautiful angel of light who fell and made an “oops”? I can’t explain God’s intent with evil, but darkness is a part of the plan, and none of it, and none of the plan is hidden from God’s intimate knowledge.

 
Maybe there are too many multiple connections going on in my brain today. But I know this, it’s not You, God, who doesn’t see. We’re the ones who don’t get it. And maybe if we would be honest enough to admit it, and get off our high horses, and set our thumbs and our branches down from our nose, we just might start to see and get it right. Well, we can keep on thinking we’re getting away with the stuff we do in “secret,” we can even think it’s time to come out in the open because God won’t do anything, but Paul warned in Romans 2:5, “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”

 
Do you really feel badly for the branch wavers who provoke and tease and defy? Do you really think they haven’t been given ample time to listen and turn and repent? What about me? If I stand in front of an oncoming train and wave that twig in it’s face defiantly, who is going to lose? Didn’t I have time to get out of it’s track? Did the train invite my death or did I call it on myself? God says, “Therefore I will also deal in fury: My eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.” (Ezekiel 8:18) Is that Your fault, God? Or has the train whistle not been warning enough? It’s not like it just snuck up unaware. If I choose to ignore the warning whistle, over and over again, the train won’t have pity, and it will be my own fault.

 
There is a time for everything. There’s a time to see, and to listen, and to hear, and heed. There’s a time to seek pity and receive it. There’s a time to hear from God and to cry out to Him. There’s a time that God hears and it’s a reciprocal time. In other words, if we won’t hear God, neither will He hear us. Maybe it’s time to put down our branches and get off the track. It’s a much more glorious decision to board the train and go where it’s going, under it’s protection than to be run over by the train.

 

P.S.  I’ve read that this gesture can be interpreted by some as a very vulgar statement.  I wasn’t aware of that earlier.   I choose to include it, because those being addressed in Scripture before Ezekiel were being THAT rude to God and sometimes we are too.  Sometimes, we are THAT deliberately offensive.

On Life and Fulfillment

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Photo credit to Stephen Cunningham.

 

“Then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations.” Ezekiel 6:9

It’s funny how we say this is an awful way for God to feel. But I wonder if we were married and loved the one we were married to with all our hearts and they “went a-whoring” and left us for others, how we would feel? And I’m not saying that anyone should run out and destroy their unfaithful partner. That’s not my point. Isn’t the truth that they have already not only begun destroying themselves, but destroying true intimacy itself? Aren’t they bringing turmoil into their own lives and into the lives around them? Aren’t they being caught up in twisted thinking that will one day lead to their own demise?

Had God’s people ever been warned? Had they witnessed the power of the true God versus the lack of power of the gods of other nations? Had they witnessed and been supplied by the provision of the true God? Did You, God, really cause their demise? Or were You there trying to continually call them back to the safety and provision of You?

The people were playing with what they shouldn’t be playing with, nations who didn’t care about them. They were making themselves vulnerable because they were no longer alert. They were allowing themselves to lose their identity in God, who was their strength, and falling into the lie of the nations that they were great of themselves. They were worshipping at empty altars that bring emptiness and desolation.

Paul talks of desolation, this word shamem in Hebrew, also. “For it is written, ‘Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; for more are the children of the desolate than the one who has a husband.’” (Galatians 4:27) What is this about? What is today’s reading in Ezekiel about? It describes “the inner barrenness of an unfulfilled life.” (Skip Moen) Shamem is about being desolate and amazed. It can mean one or the other or it can be both at the same time. It’s like looking around at the great desolation and destruction around you and being totally appalled and overwhelmed at the same time.

The reason judgment comes is because we refuse to live fulfilled lives. We were created to be filled fully with God, to bear His image throughout this world. This is true fulfillment, what we were created to be filled with, just like Adam when God breathed into him and he became a living soul. But we choose, yes we choose, to warp that image and defile it and create our own. We choose to live unfulfilled lives in these places of desolation, and we don’t even realize how appalling it is. But God does. He never intended us to walk in the wilderness. He hadn’t intended for Israel to walk there. They chose desolation instead of the kingdom. Aren’t we doing the same? And then we have the nerve to blame our consequences on God? And all You have ever been trying to do is to turn us back to our purpose, true life fulfillment in You.

The truth is that God doesn’t leave us alone in the wilderness. He was there for Hagar. He was there for the Israelites. He is there for us today, waiting to rescue us from emptiness and unfulfillment. We think self-sufficiency is the answer but the answer is in dependency on a God who is fully able. Think about it. Joseph couldn’t rescue himself from that pit his brothers placed him in. The Israelites couldn’t find their way out of the desert. Hagar couldn’t find water to keep her and her son alive. Moses couldn’t even lead a people on his own. The truth is not one of us is sufficient on our own.

Paul understood that. He was once a very self-sufficient man. But not once he met the risen Jesus. He shares, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God…” (2 Corinthians 3:5) God enables us in Him to do and to bear His image in this world, that we may fulfill our purpose in Him.

How could a barren woman have more fulfillment than the one with a husband? How did the desolate woman find more fulfillment? Because our fulfillment doesn’t come in our husband or in our job or in our position or in our ministry. Our satisfaction and fulfillment comes from God. This world is a wilderness and we have to learn to cling to God in the midst of it because clinging to the wilderness will always leave us empty.

Are you in an overwhelming place right now that seems totally desolate? Stop fighting God. Let Him come to You in the desolate empty place and let Him fill You. Run into His arms and let His ways become Your ways. Let Him redefine Your thinking and Your living by His standards, by His love, by His grace, and by His mercy. Let Him be the spouse that He promises to be to you and let yourself be His. Let go of the emptiness. Walk away from it and walk into His arms. You don’t have to stay there. You never did. He’s been waiting with open arms every minute of every day, right there with you, only you wouldn’t acknowledge Him or give Him the time of day. But He never stopped thinking about you or reaching out to you.

We can keep fighting a losing battle and trying to find fulfillment elsewhere. But it will always leave us empty and grasping for more. Or we can stop fighting and let the One who has always loved us, the One who created us, fill us full of Himself and we can live out our purpose in life and eternity. The choice is each of ours. Only, don’t get upset if you choose the consequences of self-fulfillment. It’s not like we’ve not been warned. The blame game is a losing game. Let’s take responsibility for our choices and let’s choose life and fulfillment.

A Personal Revelation

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Photo credit to Madeline Tejano Mostrales.

 

“…that the living may know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever He will, and sets up over it the basest of men.” Daniel 4:7

 
You would think that Nebuchadnezzar would have learned already. I mean, there was Daniel to interpret his dream that no one else in the kingdom could even tell, let alone interpret. What did Nebuchadnezzar gather from that? Well, he worshiped Daniel, fell prostrate before him. That’s definitely a humbling experience for him, but pretty much a “no-no” according to God. Yet he did come to the conclusion that Daniel’s God “is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets” (Daniel 2:47) That’s good to know and it’s good to put God at the top of the list, and know that God can do what the other gods can’t. But it’s also still saying that there are other gods even though God is the Top Dog. It seems as though Nebuchadnezzar still was giving himself lots of choices to run to, although Daniel’s God was the best of the best. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not arriving at the destination at all yet.

 
After that lesson, he raises up that larger than life image. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow down and worship it, are thrown into the fiery furnace, and come out unscathed. Nebuchadnezzar announces how their God “sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in Him…and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.” Now that was a novel idea for this polytheistic kingdom. These guys worshiped one God and only one God, while the world around them worshiped many. But what did the king learn? Obviously not that God was the only true God. But he did learn that there was “no other God that can deliver after this sort.”

 
Now, I don’t want to fault King Nebuchadnezzar more than any of us. Sometimes we are just as thick-headed and dull as he was. Sometimes, I suppose, it’s much easier to hedge our bets, and hold onto what we’re used to. Sometimes it’s easier to stick with tradition and not rock our boat or anyone else’s. Sometimes it’s easier to let someone else be bold and make a stand and just be the one to commend them. Sometimes it’s just easier to accept it all than to count the cost and take a side. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay where we are because it’s comfortable and we are in control. I mean, who really wants to admit that I’m really not in control? Who is ready to hand that control over so easily to a God who is all powerful and may decide to do things differently? Might as well hold on to the control. Then I can decide, right?

 
So now we come to chapter 4. And Nebuchadnezzar starts off by saying he’s telling this story and that he wants to tell about the wonder and might of that high God in his own personal life. We find that God sends another dream to Nebuchadnezzar. This time again, none of the counselors can interpret the dream except for, guess who? Daniel came in, yeah, Daniel is his real name, because the king admits he changed his name to Belteshazzar after the name of his own god. Maybe he was starting to realize the irony of that act. Because here was Daniel’s God continually showing Himself.

 
Now Daniel hears the dream. And what was his reaction?  He was devastated. It really bothered him. For an hour he was handling within himself what he knew. And the king saw but told him not to worry, but to interpret it. So Daniel told him that as great as he was, and as great as his kingdom was, that God was saying he was going to be driven from men and live among the beasts, not by other men, but by these angels, these watchers of the dream. He would be like a beast of the field, eating grass like the oxen, wet with dew, for seven years, until he acknowledged that God rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to who he will. And at the end of the seven years, when the king learned this lesson, he would be returned to his kingdom’s rule.

 
Did Nebuchadnezzar stave this off? Daniel counseled him, “break off your sins by righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.” But 1 year later the king was walking and thinking of his kingdom and shared, “Isn’t this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” Boom! A voice from heaven, (yes, this is dramatic! but God is that way) “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken; ‘The kingdom is departed from you…” And the dream was fulfilled that same hour. Nebuchadnezzar was driven from men, ate grass like the oxen, his body was wet with dew, his hairs grew like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds claws.

 
Thank goodness he had good counselors that kept his kingdom during this time. Maybe Daniel was in charge and reminding them, “This is only for seven years and God will return him to his position. Let’s just keep everything going till then.” But at the end of those seven years, Nebuchadnezzar looked up instead of to himself, and became a thinking man again, and remembered God and blessed the most High, and “praised and honored Him that lives for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.” So what else did he learn? “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and no one can stay His hand, or say unto Him, ‘What are You doing?’ He learned that God is the King of heaven, all His works are truth and His ways just, and that those who walk in pride, He is able to abase.

 
And this is where we are left with Nebuchadnezzar. But maybe the question is, where does that leave me?  Am I left like Nebuchadnezzar acknowledging that God is the best choice among lots of choices? Do I acknowledge the wonderful things He does but refuse to surrender to Him alone? Do I keep seeing His hand in my life and lives around me, but I refuse to worship Him? Am I excited and living for moments and miracles instead of living for the One True God?

 
Daniel knew God. God shared things with him. God shared things with him in a way that flowed out to others. Nebuchadnezzar knew about God. He watched from the other side of the fence as God interacted with Daniel. But I even wonder if at the end, when Nebuchadnezzar felt the touch of God, if he just looked up or if he became His like Daniel. Was God his Counselor? Or did he remain his own final counsel?

 
Back in Daniel 2 the king had told Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”  Jesus, in both Matthew and Luke declares, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” The beauty of revelation is that even in the Old Testament to this pagan king, God was doing everything to make Himself known, not for His sake, but for the sake of Nebuchadnezzar and all the people under his influence.

 
I think of Paul, who was a persecutor of believers, who was like Nebuchadnezzar only puffed up in religious pride. But then God humbled him also, this great man by the world’s standards and probably his own. And he makes this statement, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8) And he’s not talking about knowing about Jesus. He really means KNOWING Jesus, and knowing Jesus so much that he would be found “in him, not having righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death…I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own…Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (Philippians 3)

 
Yes, God uses even the basest of men and women, boys and girls. He puts us each where He wants us and for His purposes. I can’t explain it all and I never will be able. But I know that You, Lord, give every one of us the opportunity to know You if only we would humble ourselves before You. People may be angry, they may ask, “God, what have You done? What are You doing?” What’s the answer? “I’m trying to reveal myself to you, if only you would get it. Child, I’m doing everything just to reveal myself to you.”

Unwrapping the Knowledge

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Photo credit to Minden-Press Herald.

 

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” Hosea 4:5

Not just any people, but God’s people are perishing, are dumb, are silent, are failing, are being cut down and undone utterly. Why? For lack of knowledge. I’m wondering if “lack” here is the best interpretation of the Hebrew beliy. I mean, the truth is that Paul tells us “that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:2) So there was no “lack” of “knowledge” as we think of these terms. It was there. They had it. So what was the problem?

You tell us the heart of the problem with your subsequent words, “because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you.” Therefore, I see, that one can have knowledge right there in their grasp and yet still not have knowledge. I can have a “form” of knowledge, yet it be totally worthless to me because I don’t acknowledge the knowledge for what it truly is.

The Psalmist in Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me.” But this is just the problem. The people of God turned their hearts to focus on worthless things and in so doing, treated their relationship with You as worthless and might I say, worth less. Your pleasure, Your will, Your image became to them good for nothing compared to the other things that lured them. They treated Your ways as garbage or trash and went after other gods who offered them things the way they wanted them. In treating You like garbage they fell into worshiping that which was garbage and that which couldn’t deliver anything but lies and harm.

That word translated as lack here is a strong emphatic word in Hebrew. It’s a pronouncement about the character of a thing and in this case, of a people. It’s usually about moral character. It’s about people choosing to “practice and promote disobedience to God and man” even though they have all the knowledge to know better and do better. But You look at their life and call it worthless, not because You see no value in them, but because they are depriving themselves of their own worth and their own purpose upon this earth. These people were choosing to defy God and practice and promote what was totally against Him. They would choose to defy their very purpose in creation. Now that’s a sticky situation.

So, what kind of knowledge was lacking or made worthless by the people? The knowledge of God. It’s the heart of all true knowledge. Solomon shared, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) That doesn’t just mean that we can know about things because we are afraid of God. It’s not just about a proper perspective on life. It’s about respecting and honoring God for who God is, for all the magnitude of who He is. And then it goes beyond respect and honor into a personal, intimate relation with Him as someone who is alive and cares and shows that care.

Do I know that God cares for me? Do I know the depths of Your caring? Later in Hosea, he will use the term “knowledge of God,” daath Elohim. And the truth is that knowledge in the Hebrew sense always means more than knowing with Your head or having a strong theological background. It’s all about being human, every range of it. Knowing, really knowing involves every aspect of the emotions, the will, and the intellect. The head and the heart work together. Head knowledge effects heart knowledge and, I suppose, vice versa. It’s not just cognitive. It’s not just rationalized thinking.

When examining the Hebrew word most often used for knowledge, yada, Heschel suggests it this way, “an act involving concern, inner engagement, dedication, or attachment to a person. It also means to have sympathy, pity, or affection for someone.” It’s the farthest cry from correct doctrine. It’s greater than obedience. It’s far greater.

“Hear the word of the LORD, you children of Israel: for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.” (Hosea 4:1) God’s broken heart is crying out to his children. We see Your heart in the image of the marriage analogy. How would our hearts feel if that were to happen to us? Wouldn’t we feel it? Well, God feels it too because it’s not just reading about a relationship, it’s an actual real living relationship with real live attachment and commitment and hearts involved. God feels everything, all the hurt, the humiliation, the sorrow, the betrayal, and more. He knows the consequences of His lover’s choice. He knows what she is missing and what she will receive instead. Her problem is she is lacking a heart knowledge. She doesn’t get it. She doesn’t know Him at all or she would never leave His side. She didn’t even know what she had when she was there with Him. How tragic.

Knowledge is not about information. It’s about reciprocal feelings. It’s about reciprocal sympathy. It’s about feeling the way God feels, understanding how God understands, loving as He loves, acting as He acts, enjoying what He enjoys. And it’s not even about us each doing it on our own. It’s about doing all this along with You, God. It’s about a relationship of enjoying You as much as You desire to enjoy us. Knowledge is knowing You intimately and enjoying You intimately and personally as much as You enjoy us. It’s delighting in You as You delight in us.

But Israel and Gomer aren’t the only ones not weeping over the intimacy they are missing. Many nations and many of us in the nations are not weeping over the love we’ve thrown away and wasted and lost. We’ve numbed ourselves to the pain of separation. We no longer agonize over You, who ought to be our dearest One. There is no heart for You. And that’s the saddest part.

And then we read and hear about the divorce rate skyrocketing today. But here we have the contrast of God’s love. Because He holds on to the people of His own choosing. He refuses to let them go and give up even though they don’t even care about how He feels. They make love to everything You hate, and yet You continue to love and call them back. They choose to become animals instead of the Beloved. But You don’t give up hope.

No, it wasn’t because Israel lacked information. And it’s not that we lack information either. It’s that we lack “sensitivity, empathy with God.” (Skip Moen) Are we any different? Do I feel what You feel, Lord? Do I share the same sensitivity? Do I cry with You? Do I agonize over what You agonize over? Do I care enough about You to be willing to die to more than myself? Do I care enough about You to be willing to just die to whatever I had to, even if it meant death itself? Because this Husband gives more than I could ever imagine. His life, through Christ, was spent for mine, not out of duty, but out of immeasurable love. He owed me nothing, yet gave everything. And this is GOD who did that. This is GOD. This is the ONLY GOD who has ever and would ever go to those extremes for the love and redemption of His people, His own creation.

I can run around in the midst of my own lies, living any way I want, but it would just be an utter waste of my life. There is absolutely nothing that compares to You and Your love God. Absolutely nothing. I can choose my own way and disregard You and start perishing today. Or I can regard You in Your fullness and know You better than I know myself. I can delight myself in You, the only God who delights Himself in me. And in that kind of knowing and experiencing and living it out, I can see the desires of Your heart come to life in mine as Your love blossoms in me. It would be a shame to be destroyed for lack of knowledge when you held that knowledge right there all along and never experienced it because you never even opened it up and looked inside.

A Twisted Purpose

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“Why do You make me see iniquity, and why do You idly look at wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; and strife and contention arise.”  (Habakkuk 1:3)

Habakkuk may have lived in the 7th century B.C. but what he was going through is still relevant to our lives and times today.  Can you imagine asking God this question?  I’d say it’s a bit of an accusation, and not just a question.  “Why do You make me see iniquity?  Why do You idly look at wrong?”  Life for Habakkuk and the people was filled with destruction and violence and strife and contention.  He’s not exaggerating either.  Assyria, their oppressor, was great and powerful.  But her greatness was looked at from those oppressed as though they “had been bled to build her.”  She was a nation of “trampling, stripping, and burning,” dashing little ones against rocks, dragging kings and hanging them in cages from their gates, lining the temples with defeated gods, requiring great tribute, rapaciously insolent, plundering, violent, forceful, crushing.  Assyria rained down violent judgement over all they stormed over.  The violence was indescribable and all cried under them.

Imagine calling out to God.  “Lord, how long must I call and You don’t hear me, and You don’t respond to save?”  “How long will You let this terrible violence continue?”  “How long must I look at this wrongness?”  “How long must I see this depravity grow and continue and infect more and more?”  Imagine the law being paralyzed.  Imagine no justice.  Imagine the wicked having their way and what is right being perverted. 

What does it really mean to be perverted?  It means to turn from the truth or to turn something from its proper use.  It’s distorting something from its true use or end.  According to Noah Webster reason can be perverted by misdirecting it; laws can be perverted by misinterpreting and misapplying them.  Its turning from the right to the wrong and calling it right.  And the sad thing is, what Assyria was guilty of then, the elite in our governments are following suit in today. 

Look at our own nation, can you believe it?  Our officials are breaking the law, but the law is paralyzed by corruption, and the guilty powerful walk free to extend further corruption.  Where is justice?  The ordinary citizen reaps the sting of the law, but not those in power.  The law is rewritten.  What was once truth according to a higher authority is distorted to fit man’s agendas and people’s desires.  Our own purpose in this world is distorted as our nation’s laws are misinterpreted, misapplied, and rewritten.  Nature itself is perverted and twisted. 

But the prophets knew, and Habakkuk knew, that God would have the last say in the matter, and we can know the same thing.  We hear God’s thoughts in Psalm 50:16-17, “ But to the wicked God says, ‘What right have you to tell of My statutes and to take My covenant in your mouth?  For you hate discipline, and you cast My words behind you.’”  Now listen to that.  Habakuk is saying that the wicked are surrounding the righteous, and inflicting wrong judgment.  Who are these wicked?  Are they only people who have never heard of You, God?  Are these wicked only the “pagans”?  But You broaden that base of the wicked in this Psalm.  You define the wicked in an unexpected way.  And I think we need to ask, how did things get so wicked?  What led up to this?  Who created the wicked?  What is wicked?

Maybe the wicked us not what we expected.  The wicked, or rasha, in the Psalm are those who say they honor God’s statutes.  But that’s part of the problem and the development of what is to come.  There are those who proclaim to know God’s will, but rewrite it to suit their own.  In all their outward claims, they profess to be believers, but they won’t accept Your mandates, Your delights, Your abominations.  These people profess You as Lord, and know Your commands and Your words, and can even speak them, and even speak of Your love, but instead of calling them Your beloved, You call them rasha, wicked.   Why?

Because in reality they hate any kind of discipline.  They won’t let You correct them.  They wanted Your love their way, not Your way, and so they rewrite it.  As a matter of fact, they hate (sane) the thought of it.  They are hostile to it, loathe it, and despise it.  The words of the Lord become something to be rejected, repugnant, and even the thought of anyone else honoring them is despicable.  And it’s not just that the discipline was unacceptable to them.  It’s that Your instruction is repugnant. 

Remember Cain and Abel?  You offered Cain a way of life and Abel a way of life.  Both Cain and Abel knew You.  But for some reason, what was beautiful and inviting to Abel was abhorrent to Cain.  Fulfilling Your purposes was wonderful to Abel.  But not so for Cain.  Cain did not want to fulfill Your purpose for him.  He chose to fulfill his own.  Instead of choosing the path of wisdom and life, he chose the path of self-knowledge and death.  He knew the truth but denied the verity of it in his life.  He cast it behind him as trash.  And look at the effect it had on the world around him.

Habakkuk’s world and our world are reeling from the effects of this repugnance to God. And the repugnance, just like with Cain, is directed not only at God’s word and God’s ways, but at anyone who attempts to honor You, Lord.  God’s plan for life and way of living it is abjectly being rejected as well as anything that reminds of it.  It’s sad, but the attitude of Cain is rampant in the world today.  And maybe more people than we think really do know the truth and that’s why they are so adamantly against it.  It’s the same problem faced by Adam and Eve in the garden when staring at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or when Cain kept contemplating how his brother’s goodness made him look.  They threw “away the wisdom of God and substitute[d] the ‘freedom’ of deciding on their own.” (Skip Moen)

Imagine how hard our nation is working at putting God’s words behind them.  In the schools, in the law, in our lives, God’s word is being dismissed, and removed from sight so it can no longer act as our guide.  But the truth is that it can only temporarily be held back or delayed because no matter how much any man or all men would try to be gods, they aren’t and never will be.  There is only one God who shall always be God.  You can worship any god you want, but it doesn’t make him more than a god.  It just teaches you to worship emptiness.

But the hope in this chapter of Habakkuk lies in the fact that what appears to be undefeatable evil, who has been raining terrible judgment upon people, is getting ready to come under judgment herself by the Chaldeans, a terrible nation itself.  That’s good news?  One oppressive nation oppressing another?  Actually the good news is that You are from everlasting.  You know the plans You have and will see them completed and You will do what it takes to mold Your people.  The potter doesn’t keep all his vessels. He only keeps those that yield to the shaping of his hands.  You are the Holy One, shaping the nations into Your holiness.  Those who will not yield, shall be defeated one day.  Those that yield, shall be His beloved.  They are the ones that “are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

So maybe that’s the problem with the wicked, whether they profess to know You or not.  Maybe the problem is not seeing Your word and You for who You are.  So those who see You for who You are now, even in our imperfect vision, we live after You and Your ways because we want You to purify us so that we can be like You.  We receive and submit to Your molding hands, Your correction, and Your instruction.  We learn to submit when it’s difficult and we learn to submit when it’s pleasant because we’ve found a Law that cares and loves and protects and imparts true life.  I mean, after all, what is lawlessness?  Isn’t it Godlessness?  If Jesus came to fulfill the law, and appeared in order to take away sin (lawlessness), and in Him there is no sin (lawlessness), then maybe what we all need is to step into Jesus, who is the law of God manifest on this earth for us.  Maybe,  just maybe, what the world needs is to surrender to the law of God in Christ Jesus, and choose life and love and liberty in Him. 

I can’t help but think if Cain had known God more deeply than his jealousy, how would the world be a different place?  If Adam and Even had known God more deeply than they wanted to know things for themselves and be their own gods, how would the world be a different place?  What about John Doe?  Or Jane Doe?  Or me?  Or you?  There are lots of angry people in our world today, and maybe if instead of choosing to be angry, they stopped to get to know You, Lord, maybe people would really learn what it is to love one another as You commanded.  And maybe people wouldn’t feel alone and like they were falling through the cracks because they would have You abiding in them and they would be adding in You and Your Spirit would abound in love and praise in the midst of us all.  Yeah, there are bad things going on and I suppose they will get worse.  It seems to be a historical trend.  But the good news is that God is not finished. You are still at work in us.  And I can bank on the promise that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Brother’s Keeper

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Photo credit to Brittany Cunningham.

“…[A]m I my brother’s keeper?”  Cain, Genesis 4:9

I wasn’t intending to think about Cain.  But here I am, yet only momentarily.  I’m more thinking about his attitude.  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Lord, You answered, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”  That “What have you done?” is ringing ever so loudly in my ears.  I wonder if it was ringing in Cain’s ears or if he just crowded it out?  Because the fact is that Cain and Abel, and me and every person ever created were created in Your image.  You made us in Your image, after Your likeness.  That means that we were created to be like You in character and action and belief.  We were created to represent You on this earth and over all the earth, one to another.  That’s why, Cain, you were supposed to be your brother’s keeper.  That’s why I’m supposed to be my brother’s keeper and we each are supposed to be our brothers’ keepers.  Because God, You are our Keeper, and we were created to be like You. 

“What have you done?”  Cain rebelled against the very essence of who he was.  “What have you done?”  He robbed himself of the glory of who he was created to be.  He became something he originally wasn’t.  He became deformed in a sense.  He despised his own purpose and the purpose of his own brother.  Here he was created to glorify God, to walk in His image, to be like Him and he threw it all away for what?  A life making his own decisions?  A life influencing others to live by their own choices?  A life not caring for others and not caring to teach others to care for others?  A life not valuing God and returning His glory to Him?  A life teaching others to disregard You, Lord, and esteem their own value instead? 

And what got me thinking about these things is reading Malachi.  It’s only 4 chapters so it’s doable in one sitting.  But Malachi, in my simple mind, is about the same kind of thought going on.  You, God, are reprimanding the priests, the Levites, who were chosen and appointed to take care of their brothers by representing You rightly before them.  But, like Cain, they were anything but their brother’s keepers. 

I think of what You invested in each of us.  I mean, here You are God of the Universe, Lord of hosts, and it’s not just so You can “lord” it over us even though You have every right to do so.  You invite us into this personal relationship with You, the Lord of hosts.  You invite us to be Your representatives.  That’s what Cain was supposed to be.  That’s what the Levites were supposed to be.  Not just because You made them, but because You are more than worthy of being represented in loving worship by those You have given life and everything to.  It’s not just a mandate.  It’s personal. 

Here’s what You asked the Levites, “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?’ says the Lord of hosts to you…” Paul, to the Romans, also appealed to his brothers, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  This is the relationship we were created for.  This is our purpose.  But let’s take it a step farther.  The King James Version actually uses the words “reasonable service.”  This is our rational, reasonable worship back to You, God.  This is what makes sense of our lives, when we respond in this way.  Anything else is messed up and we have to ask, “What have you done?”

Worshipping You like You require, like You created us to, and like You expect and desire and deserve is logical.  Yeah, it’s actually the Greek word logikos.  It makes wonderful sense.  But just like the Levites in Malachi’s day, we go around like Cain asking, “How have we polluted you?”  When all along we despise You and all that You stand for.  We disesteem Your character.  “Oh, how do I do that, Lord?  I love You.”  I do that every time I don’t value what You value.  I do that every time I don’t detest what You detest.

“’For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to My name, and a pure offering.  For My name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  Does that seem too much to ask of us, to make much of Your name?  No, not at all because it’s logical to make You great since You made us in the first place.  There’s not a moment in any day when You aren’t great whether we make much of You or not.  You ARE great.  It’s not just about saying, “God is good,” or putting up crosses, or Jesus’ name on billboards.  Your name is all about who You are.  It’s the essence of You.  You and Your character and all that You are and have been and will be is great among the nations and will be.  You created us to proclaim that with all of our lives as an act of living worship declaring with like character the glory of You among all the nations.  It’s what You called the Levites, the priests, to, and the nation of Israel, and it still applies to believers today.  Peter tells us, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…” (1 Peter 2:9)  We still have the same life purpose since the beginning of creation.  What are we doing with it?

You, God, have not changed.  You are still the same and always will be.  “…’For I am a great King,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and My name will be feared among the nations.’”  Am I doing my part to honor You?  I suppose sometimes we want You to give us direct commands like, “Thou shalt!” or “Thou shalt not!,” in order for us to acknowledge something.  But the fact is that since You invite us into relationship with You by creating us with this glorious ability to represent You and live in You, why do we need commands to do what we we were naturally created for?  Isn’t that an illogical notion? 

Malachi refers to something called a covenant with Levi.  You, Lord, say, “‘So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand,’ says the Lord of hosts.  ‘My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him.  It was a covenant of fear, and he feared Me.  He stood in awe of My name…’”  Who hears of the covenant of Levi?  But if I go back to Deuteronomy when the sons of Abraham are being blessed, I hear it and read of it.  I see the heart of it, this privilege of glorifying You given to men, to mere men!  “…[F]or they have observed Your word, and keep Your covenant.  They shall teach Jacob Your ordinances, and Israel Your law; they shall put incense before You, and whole burnt-offering upon Your altar.” (Deuteronomy 33:9,10)  You gave them a purpose, to be Your image and Your likeness before the nation and before all nations.  And blessing would come from that relationship with You.  It was more than about offering incense in a container or sacrifices on an altar.  It was about the aroma of true worship in prayer and life.

But the problem with the Levites, and Cain, and us is that sometimes, or all the time, we “’have turned aside from the way.  You have caused many to stumble by your instruction.  You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  Whose way am I teaching?  What kind of brother’s keeper am I? Here’s the logic: “Have we not all one Father?  Has not one God created us?  Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?”  Why are we faithless? Why am I?  Why do I choose my own way over what’s logically and inherently good?  Why do I choose falsehood over truth?  Why do I choose the unnatural over the natural.  Why do I rebel against who I was created to be and what I was created to be in You?  Why do I trade in the glorious for the inglorious?

You warn, “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”  Guard that breath of life itself that God has placed in you.  Protect it.  Pay attention to it.  This purpose of yours, follow it through.  This life of worship you were created for, live it.  Don’t settle for false worship.  Don’t be mislead by the lure of divorce.  It’s not logical.  It’s not what You were created for.  We were created to be united with the One who created us.  Everything in our life ought to resemble that purpose.  Anything less is illogical.

When will I delight in that purpose?  Because if I don’t, if I rebel against my purpose, then Jesus will come “like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.  Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord…”  I was created to “fine” like You.  Have I lost my “fineness”?  Do I have to be “re-fined”?  What is my worship like?  Is it anything like You require?  Is it anything like what You deserve?  Is it anything like what You demonstrate before me in Christ?

“‘For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed…Return to Me and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  I’m the one who changed from my original purpose, not You, O Lord.  You have remained the same.  I’ve robbed You of Your glory by desiring to be who I wanted to be or have life as I want it, when You created me for something more sublime.  But You don’t give up on us.  Thank You, Lord!  You tell me, “‘Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house.  And thereby put Me to the test,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.  I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear,’ says the Lord of hosts.  ‘Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  Is this just for Israel?  No, if I return in full faith and give the worship You deserve and require, I will see You be glorified in me and around me.  Who do I think the devourer is?  Is it just another nation?  No.  Peter tells us that we need to be “sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  ( 1 Peter 5:8)  If I want You to rebuke Satan in my life, then I have to live in Your image and be made into Your likeness.  I have to enter that covenant relationship on my part.  I have to worship with all of me the way You require.  And what of the vine and bearing fruit?  John shares Your own words, Jesus, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser…Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me…I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

This is such good news for me.  I can live out my original purpose.  I can be my brother’s keeper by honoring You, Lord, first in all I do.  My life can be all about worshipping You with every part of my being.  I can rejoice with my brethren and bring other brethren into Your kingdom.  I can be restored like those in Malachi.  “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another.  The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed His name.  ‘They shall be mine,’ says the Lord of hosts… ‘But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.  You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall…’”  I can receive healing.  I can go out into the world rejoicing like a calf leaping from it’s stall.  My name is written in His book.  I can esteem You with all my life.  I can live out worship in spirit and truth.  And You will turn my heart to be my brother’s keeper when my heart is turned to You. 

Lord, You promise to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers,” when we start accepting our true purpose in You.  I want my relationship with You and under You to be the most right thing in my life so that You will bring every other relationship into right perspective.  I’m not just realizing today that You created me and each of us to be our brother’s keeper, but I am realizing that I need You to make me so much more than I have been.  Help me to be so committed to Your required worship that it becomes natural.  Let me so delight in You that I feel the way You feel and I see things the way You do.  Help me to think about You and Your ways so much that You inhabit my every thought and it comes out reflected in my life.  Continually remind me that I am my brother’s keeper.  Why?  Because You are my keeper and my brother’s keeper and I was created in Your image and in Your likeness.  This is who I am and anything less is unnatural.

“What to Me and to You?”

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“Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”  (Matthew 4:7)

I need to stop and think about this one.  How can I put the Lord my God to the test?  I mean, He’s my Creator right?  How do you put your Creator to the test?  This makes no sense to me, yet we all wind up being guilty at times of doing just this.  When I’m the one who deserves testing, when I’m the one whose “metal”  and character needs to be proven, I set up situations in my life where I guess I wind up challenging God and trying to get Him to fall under my approval.  What am I thinking?

I’m so grateful for Jesus’s words in Matthew.  I’m so grateful that Jesus, as a human like me, was tempted, or tested.  I’m so grateful because in the middle of His temptation, He demonstrated to me the heart attitude I ought to have every moment of my life.  Because if I don’t have that heart attitude that is followed by right actions, I won’t make it successfully and victoriously through those temptations.  I’m so grateful for this true life account and the others in Scripture that have been shared with us for our benefit.  I’m glad that You gave us these accounts so that I could have the instruction I need to walk victoriously through my every day life circumstances, Lord.  I’m glad that these stories are a reminder to me that I don’t stand alone and I don’t stand as master of my destiny.  Because if I start thinking like that, like everything is all about me and my approval and my satisfaction, then I am going to fall, and I am going to fall big time!

But the truth that will keep me from falling is remembering.  And part of what I need to remember is that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.”  I’m not alone in my struggles.  It’s part of humanity.  Even Jesus had to go through it.  But I’m not just not alone because others are going through these things too.  We could all just fall under the power of these temptations just as easily as the next guy, right?  But the good news that gets us through is that “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  Oh, that’s great!  You give me a way out, Lord.  Now I wonder if that’s what Paul is really saying here.  Or is he saying, “God, You are faithful.  You are my way out of temptation.  If I cling to You, if I love You more that what is tempting me, if I hunger and thirst after You most, if I remain focussed on You and desire You and Your approval, then, and only then You will get me through the test and I will escape because You alone are my Escape.”

That’s what You Jesus, demonstrated before us that day that You were tempted by the devil.  You were hungry for real food.  God’s word says so.  Since You were hungry for it and had that desire for food, that was something the devil could use to lure You to want food more than obedience to Your Father.  “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  Simple enough, right?  But You were ready for that subtle attack.  I mean, after all, You are God, and You could have commanded those stones to become bread.  You would soon turn water into wine.  No big deal, right?

Let’s think about that day.  Jesus, his disciples, and his mother Mary are attending a wedding.  It seems as though Joseph may have died by this point in time making Jesus the “man of the house” in Mary’s household.  Mary, like women are prone to, sees a problem evolving and wants to mend any conflict for the others before it happens, so she let’s Jesus know of the situation.  Obviously, she has no doubt that He can take care of the problem.  But He gives her a snarky response, right?  “Woman, what does this have to do with me?”  But what if this wasn’t a snarky, disrespectful remark?  What if the title “Woman” was used as an endearment?  And what if the literal translation of the Greek is rendered this way, ““What to me and to you, woman?”  What if Jesus’s response to Mary wasn’t disinterest, but inviting Mary to think about how this situation, this circumstance relates Mary and Jesus together?  What if Jesus is really inviting his mom into the solution with love?  What if He’s asking for her cooperation?  And cooperate she does.  She goes and tells the servant, “Do whatever He tells you.”  And Jesus turns water into wine and because Mary cooperated with Him, his disciples believed in Him.  I’m thinking that includes Mary believing even more strongly.

So we hop back to You, Jesus, refusing to turn stones to bread?  Why?  Because You chose to cooperate with God instead.  You understood the question before You ever asked it of Mary.  “Son, what is this between You and Me?”  And You remembered God’s words and knew what it was.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  I can hear You thinking, “I love You and Your honor more than my own honor and glory.  You are way better.  Glorifying myself would break our relationship.  It’s not worth it.  You are worth everything!  And what is mere bread anyways compared to You? Yes, I’m hungry, but You’ll take care of me the best way.”

So the devil tries again and figures, if hunger isn’t the issue, maybe a desire for power or pride could be.  Maybe he can get Jesus to misquote Scripture for His own benefit, to make Himself look good and spectacular before others.  “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”  That’s Scripture, right?  It does say that.

That reminds me of Paul’s words to Timothy.  “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  (2 Timothy 2:15)  Paul isn’t talking about having a theological, intellectual knowledge of God’s Word here.  He’s talking about making it so personal, and cooperating with the Holy Spirit, in order to  listen and learn to dissect it correctly.  See, it’s a divine message, so we need to cooperate with a divine Counselor to understand it correctly.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2 that the Spirit helps us understand things of God, and teaches us how to interpret spiritual truths from His Word.  “What to me and to you, right?”  A lot.  Everything.

I need to be related together with God through His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, You were related that closely together with God.  You were so intimately intwined and related that You could pick up false teaching immediately and counter it.  you knew the heart of God’s Word.  You knew the intent.  How?  Because Your life was all about being in relationship with Your heavenly Father.   “I and my Father are one,” were words straight from Your own mouth.  You said it because it was true about your relationship.  And when You were only 12 years old You said, “Didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?”  That’s not about following an agenda or a list of do’s and don’ts.   It’s about being so close with God, spending so much time with Him, that You know His heart and You follow and obey Your Father’s heart, Your Father’s will.  You knew how to be about what Your Father was about.  Spend enough really personal time with someone and you come to know that about them.

And because of that intimacy of Your relationship, Jesus, You answered “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”  JeYou knew that You had no need to prove that Your heavenly Father would be true to His Word.  After all God is Truth.  God is Faithful.  We’re the one’s that need to be proven.  And here it was time for You to be tested to show who You really were and where Your heart really was.  We’re the ones who need to be tested to see where our relationship with and to God lies.  God’s relationship to us never changes.  We’re the ones who prove whether we know Him at all our not.  We prove that by how well we know His words and how well we live them out by faith.

John tells us that if we love ourselves most, we’ll lose ourselves.  But if we love God most, we’ll have life eternal.  Not only that, but if we love Jesus, we won’t just do God’s commands, we’ll be related with them.  I won’t just do them because I have to.  I’ll understand their importance to my life.  They will be relational to my well-being because God is relational to my well-being.  Loving Him is relational with loving everything about Him which reciprocates His love and the love of Jesus so that I experience it in it’s fullness.  Actually, He was the first to reciprocate His love to me before I ever knew how to love Him, so that I could relate and come to love Him!  I don’t ask God to perform to prove Himself.  I participate in what He’s already begun.  I partner with Him continually by following His lead, not expecting Him to follow mine.

If that wasn’t enough, the devil continued to try again by taking You, Jesus, up to the top of a mountain and trying to lure You to seek Your own glory by giving You the world.  He actually asks You to bow down to him and worship him.  Strange thing is that God had already promised You all the people and all the nations of the world.  So why would the devil’s offer be any kind of lure?  Well, I suppose it’s often more inviting to get what I am promised now instead of having to wait until later.  Immediate gratification  seems to cause a lot of woe.  I mean, even in something as simple as being a little hungry.  I don’t necessarily wait for the healthy thing.  I satisfy my hunger by grabbing for the quick and easy snack.  Therefore, I struggle with maintaining my best weight.  If You took the kingdom the devil’s way, You wouldn’t have to go to the cross.  Well, that would be easier.

But thank goodness You demonstrated that it wasn’t at all about immediate gratification or finding an easier way.  You could answer with all Your conviction, “Get out of here, Satan: for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.”  In other words, God’s expectation for us, for us to be accepted is to adore Him, you know, our Creator, above everything else.  And the proof of our adoration is exhibited through our service.  Serving God means doing the work or service or homage that is required.  I can’t minister to God that way unless I know what He requires.  And I don’t have the freedom to decide the requirements for myself or do it my own way.  Worship is ministering like the faithful steward who knows everything about His master.  It’s being a Joseph for God.

Joseph had such a good relationship with his master that everything was his to be in charge of.  His master trusted him that much.  And Joseph’s heart was for God and his master so much that he wouldn’t touch his master’s wife even though tempted.  How could he stand through all that?  Because first and foremost he worshipped and obeyed God.  He heard God asking him, “What to me and to you, Joseph?”  And Joseph knew that everything balanced upon that relationship between God and him.  And You, Jesus, more than any of us, were demonstrating the power of that reality before us so that we would be able to ask ourselves that same question.

“What to Me and to you?”  I need to ask myself that question in every circumstance, in every situation, in every trial and tribulation.  How is our relationship, Lord?  How can we be relational in the midst of this circumstance of life?  How can I participate with You?  How can I know Your will?  How can I obey You?  How can I please You more and be accepted?  I think it would behoove me to join in Paul’s prayer that I might be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; so that I might walk worthy of You, and pleasing to You, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in how much I know You; being strengthened with all might according to Your glorious power, to all patience  and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto my Father, who has enabled me to be a partaker of His inheritance, of all that is in Him and of Him and through Him! (Colossians 1)  I don’t keep your commands and do Your will, those things that are pleasing to You because I have to.  I can do them because of experiencing Your great love for me and because I have grown to love You so.  It’s not a “have to” thing.  Not when I delight in You.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Trusting in the Lord becomes so much better when I realize that He is to be delighted in.  The more I trust Him, the more I learn to delight in Him.  The more I trust and delight in Him, the deeper I find myself committing to Him.  And the more I commit myself because I adore You more and more moment by moment, the more I see Your hand in my life and around me and the more I’m willing to rest in You and learn to wait patiently.  You become so worth the wait and so worth the trial and so worth the closeness of falling at Your feet, of having You pick me up, of having my Father come and rescue me.

Jesus, You experienced that rescue.  When You refused Satan’s copycat lures, the heavenly Father sent His angels to feed and encourage and love on You.  And when I refuse Satan’s copycat lures because I know what it is between God and me, then He will be there every time to rescue and encourage and nourish me too.  It is written, “If a man loves Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23)  Lord, may I desire Your closeness, Your presence, more than anything else.  May I desire You so much, that I keep Your words, no matter what is going on in my life.  May my every thought be more captivated by You than by any other desire.  May my thoughts always be about what You are to me and what I am to you.