“Silly Rabbit, Trix are for Kids”

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Picture credit to General Mills.

“Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace!…” Nahum 1:15

To look at a summary of the three chapters of Nahum’s prophecy is not a very bright outcome for Ninevah.  It starts with God’s wrath against Ninevah, proceeds to the destruction of Ninevah, and ends with the woe of Ninevah.  But at the same time, it’s a message of good news to those who will listen and be effected by that listening to choose God.

Nahum starts out by telling how You are a jealous God, and how You revenge against Your enemies.  At the same time he reminds all how You are slow to anger, and great in power, and a righteous judge who can’t and won’t acquit the guilty.  Who can stand before You, really?  And then Nahum reminds the hearer that You are good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and You know those that trust in You.  You know every one who truly trusts You in Israel, even though she be scattered or under oppression.  You know any one who truly trusts You that might exist in Ninevah.  You know any one who truly trusts You today.

And that takes me back to thinking about what it means for You to be a jealous God.  Often, jealousy now has a bad connotation.  Men twist jealousy and use it for their own desires.  But You are God, and You are holy and right.  And though all things are for You and according to Your desires, all Your desires are true and good and right and for our benefit because they glorify You.  So what is different about Your jealousy?  The Hebrew roots denote an idea of becoming deep red.  But it’s more than getting that angry red face, it’s a defining character or quality of life.  Love, hate, jealousy- they are all right there together.  The feminine form means ardor, zeal or jealousy. 

Now Proverbs 6 and 27 tell us that jealousy “enrages a man.”  Let’s admit it.  If someone finds someone else in bed with their spouse, there will be a whole different attitude than if the same person were stealing an apple because they were hungry.  Could that be because we don’t love or hate apples, but we do love and value our spouse?  In man, jealousy has to be checked.  God understood that.  In Mosaic law, he made checks to protect wives whose husbands were unrightly jealous.  At the same time, Ecclesiastes 4:4 sees competition as a form of jealousy that motivates men to skill and labor, and in 9:6 jealousy is equated with zeal and right there with love and hate.

Phinehas was described as being jealous with the jealousy of the Lord (Numbers 25:11), when he gored Zimri and Cozbi.  And the Lord blessed him.  When Scripture speaks of the marriage relationship between You and mankind, it comes up in accusations of adultery.  David felt it as we hear in his declaration, “Zeal for Your house has consumed me…” (Psalm 69:9)  It’s that feminine form of qanna.  You, Yourself Lord, confess that You are a jealous God in Exodus 20:5, Deuteronomy 5:9 and more.  “In Exodus 34:14 it’s even stated that the Lord’s name is Jealous God (El-kana).” (Abarim Publications)

So maybe we need to re-evaluate what jealousy is really supposed to mean.  When I go to Webster’s dictionary and look at jealousy, it’s all about suspicion, and that’s just not what this Hebrew word is about at all.  But if I look in Webster at the word zeal, I start to see.  It’s “passionate ardor in pursuit of any thing.”  Only, God, You aren’t just pursuing anything.  You are pursuing Your glory which You deserve and our benefit because we were created to shine for You.  So You are all about being passionate for us and our purpose. 

Even Ninevah’s purpose was to shine for You.  But they had chosen another path.  Paul reminds us that there are vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor.  And God, in His infinite patience holds up His passion and pours it all out at just the right time.  Therefore, the vessels of dishonor become Your means of demonstrating the magnitude of Your passion for Your beloved.  It comes out as anger for those who injur Your beloved and mercy toward Your beloved. 

It’s not easy understanding this jealousy, but it’s worth taking the time to meditate on it.  Like in Exodus 20:5 where You say, “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.”  Stuff like this seems really harsh.  But am I really understanding it?  Are You a jealous God who holds the children accountable for the sins of their parents?  Is that what this really means?  But maybe I have to understand paqad, visiting, also.  It’s a good guess the meaning has to do with  to ‘attend with care” or “take note.”  There is usually a “positive action by a superior in relation to his subordinates.”  It’s often the idea of “‘making a visitation’ and points to action that produces a great change in the position of a subordinate either for good or ill.”  Some have looked at the Paleo-Hebrew imagery in the word.  In that case, paqad could represent “the expectation of a future encounter.”  What if it’s all about God visiting?  What if God comes to those children just as He came to the parents and offered a relationship with Himself?  What if the third and fourth generations have the hope of You manifesting Yourself to them too?  What if personal involvement with You was something they could attain? 

What if You are not separate from our human affairs?  What if You are involved and visit us?  What if You are so personally involved that You are a part of our life, but You won’t force it on us?  What if You come calling to be involved in our everyday life, and we can accept that invitation or not?  What if You, the Superior, comes to us, the inferior, wishing to invite us into Your good will and we can accept it or deny it?  What if Your qanna, or jealousy, or zealousness is about Your expectation for us to understand this and expect us to expect You and get ready for You?  And when I don’t prepare for You and I deny You, I suffer the consequences of choosing to be Your enemy instead of Your child? 

The truth is that You invite every person to be passionately connected with You and intimately involved with You.  We’re not mere slaves and entertainment as men were to the Greek and Egyptian gods.  You are committed to us and to manifesting Yourself to us.  You are personally involved.  But with that commitment comes an examination and intervention.  You come to do something in us that we cannot do in ourselves.  You participate in our changing.  You guard us from ourselves.  You pay attention to us not because You need to be appeased but because You are truly Father.  Your care and concern extend into the future.  Your character of  qanna, zeal, that right kind of jealousy, enters into Your children but only because they have allowed You to enter in.  And it enters our children’s children if they let it. 

In Revelation 3:20, Jesus declares, “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”  There’s this door that God has opened to us, since the garden of Eden, and He’s called the Tree of Life.  Once we could have entered it without having to deal with conviction or atonement or without any need for relief.  But now, we need all three.  We need redemption.  God is inviting us into relationship with Him, just like He invited the Ninevites way back in the time of Jonah, and still wanted to invite them, and just like He invited Israel.  But if You choose to avoid walking through the door of invitation, You reap what lies on the other side, outside of His protection.  And the beauty is, to walk into God, to enter into You, is to continue into something more beautiful than we could ever imagine. 

In the midst of whatever is going on in life, “the Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble,” and You do know, intimately, those who trust in You!  There is so much now to see, when we behold upon the mountains the feet of him that brings good tidings and publishes peace!  Isaiah 52 reminds us that You are here with Your people, that You reign so closely and so intimately that Your beautiful feet walk the mountains with us and bring us good news and publish Your peace and bring us happiness, and salvation.  I know that this isn’t just about Nahum’s feet and missionary’s feet because You tell us, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)  The beauty is that You publish this peace in You to all people, and You invite us into it, and You invite us to publish this peace with You.  But it’s an invitation none-the-less.

The truth is, those that You love, You reprove and discipline.  And we have a responsibility under that reproof and discipline, to be zealous and repent.  But it’s our choice how we respond.  You stand there at that door and knock.  We can hear Your voice and open the door, or we can hear Your voice and head to another door.  But only those who hear Your voice and open Your door will benefit from a personal, intimate relationship with You.  Then You will come to them, You will visit them, no matter what there parents’ choices were, and eat with them and us with You.  That’s the beauty of choice and free will.  I can come of my own accord and choose to visit with You.  I can choose to be Yours because the fact is You’ve always chosen to be ours.  Silly humans to choose anything else.  “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids.”  But God is for us and always has been and it’s ridiculous to choose anyone or anything but Him. 

 

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Of Fasting and Feasting

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“Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?’” Zechariah 7:5

So here is this specific day in verifiable history that some representatives of Israel from Bethel come to ask the priests a question as the temple is being rebuilt.  They want to know, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”  They are asking if they should continue to fast religiously as they have been.  When someone says, “Do I have to keep doing that?” it tells something about their heart on the matter, doesn’t it?

And the word of the Lord of hosts came to Zechariah, this man who has already been given 8 visions by God in one day.  Listen to God’s reply.  “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for Me you fasted?” Our motive matters.  You know our motives behind why we do what we do.  You knew exactly what was going on in their hearts just as You know what is going on in mine.

Your heart, Lord, is filled with zeal and burning desire for Your purpose and Your people who are a part of that purpose.  You have continually chosen to reveal Your heart to Your people and here again, through Zechariah, You were choosing to reveal Yourself.  From creation, You have responded with zeal for us and You are waiting for us to respond with that same zeal and love back to You where we love You with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.  You woo us with Your promises and blessings and presence.  You desire to woo us into wholeheartedness because You are wholehearted.  When do You step up to us and say, “Do I have to love you?  Do I have to lavish Myself on you?”  I  suppose there was one day in history when You let that thought come into Your mind.  “ Lord, take this cup from Me.”  But You didn’t continue to entertain that thought.  Your answer wasn’t, “Yes, I have to die for you.”  Your answer was, “Yes, I want to die for you because this is the purpose and glory of God in Me, to love this much.”  God is love, really.

The temple was supposed to be a house of prayer, a place for meeting with God and encountering You.  This temple that was being rebuilt had come with its share of discouragement during its rebuilding.  Why?  Because humans get discouraged.  Humans take their eyes off of their greatest Encourager.  So You had raised up two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah to inspire them again.  But even after that encouragement, they needed to be reminded and repent. 

Now most of these fasts had been initiated in response to tragedies that had occurred during the Babylonian captivity.  They weren’t God ordained fasts in Scripture.  Since a new era was dawning, should they continue those fasts?  It’s not a bad question, except that they had been observing the fasts based on ceremonial commitment, and that is never the idea of a fast before the Lord.  You, Lord, are looking for hearts that are coming to You in repentance and soul searching.  You are looking for souls that aren’t coming to You because they have to, but because they want to be right with You and right with others.  You want those to come who are truly weeping because they want a deeper relationship with You and feel they are missing something.  You want those to come who are showing how dependent they are on You.  If I have to come to You and ask You, “Do I have to fast?”  then I am already revealing my heart and my lack of zeal for You.

Fasting is not about duty.  Fasting is about relationship.  Fasting is not about having my prayers answered until after I’ve sought for my heart to be right.  Fasting is about lining up with You and seeking Your will.  Fasting is all about You and all about me becoming all about You.  Fasting is all about me lining my zeal up with Yours. 

The main part of fasting is to be sorry for my sins and to seek Your glory to be released in greater measure.  Fasting has to be accompanied by  “a genuine desire to know, love, and obey the Lord.”  It takes radical dedication to the Lord.  It takes Your grace to fast and pray wholeheartedly. 

It’s easy to avoid fasting.  It’s easy to avoid setting our hearts straight with You.  It’s easy to keep on keeping on the way we are.  It’s tough stuff that takes commitment to come before You and say, “Lord, what is wrong with me?  Show me what is not right in my heart and life and change me.  These things are so wrong in my life.  I need You so desperately.”  It’s easier to feed my own desires.  It’s just easier to eat and be happy and go along my “merry” way.  But it’s not better.

I’m so glad You didn’t love us the easy way.  You sought to love us with all Your strength, all that You are, all that You have.  It’s not too little for me to think that, wow, I want to love You back like that!  It’s not that I ought to, even though I ought to.  A love like that inspires me to love like that.  A love like that swells up inside of me not because it’s forced to but because it is realized.  It empowers me in Itself. 

But the problem wasn’t just with fasting.  Even when they feasted, when they ate and drank, it was all for themselves.  The whole focus wasn’t on their relationship with the Lord or His purposes and I can fall into that same danger.  Fasting is for remembering God and lining myself up with Him.  Feasting is for remembering God and being grateful and rejoicing in Him because we’ve lined up with Him.  Both are because of a desire and acting upon a deeper relationship with You.    We demonstrate that relationship through our obedience, not because of “have to’s” but because of an outpouring of love from our own hearts and lives back to You.

Spending time with You in fasting and seeking Your face leads to a right relationship with You.  That right relationship with You leads to seeking justice, mercy and compassion for the lives around us.  It leads to loving You, God, and loving people.  It leads to obedience because we get it, not because we have to.  It leads to despising evil.  It leads to caring for and doing something about the widow, the fatherless, the strangers.  How can You bless me if I won’t even listen to You and walk in Your ways?  Why would I even expect You to?  If I want You to bless me, then my only choice is to have a right relationship with You, and to line my thoughts and actions up with You, because You are the blessing and every blessing comes from You and is in You. 

Jesus, You set the example of fasting and prayer for us.  I mean, You were God so You didn’t have to fast and pray, but You wanted to because it was all about relationship with God.  It was all about honesty of Your whole life and person.  You did it to show us how we could have a deep relationship with You.  Just like with Zechariah, You were showing us the zeal of God for us and how we should be as zealous for Him.  In Your heart was a burning desire for Your people and Your purpose.  We see that in You. 

I need to ask myself if I am like these men of Bethel or the church of Laodicea.  Am I hot or cold or just lukewarm as I come to You when I fast and when I pray or in my obedience in life?  Do I think I’m rich, and prosperous, and not in need, when really I am wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked?  This is what fasting gives me an opportunity to find out, as I take the time and effort to actually fall before You and draw near to You.  Is my heart looking to find out these things?  Or am I just going through the motions.  I’m so glad You love me enough to reprove me and discipline me, so teach me to be zealous and repent.  I want to hear Your voice.  I want to open the door and let You in where ever I need to in order to set things right in my heart, my mind, and my life.  I want to have an intimate relationship with You where we sit at the table together.  I have ears, so let me use them to hear, to listen, to be changed, and to obey.  You know, I can’t eat at the table with You if I don’t sit down at the table with You first. 

This is a bigger thing than ceremonial worship and obedience.  This is true worship.  It has nothing to do with an outward show unless that comes from a changed heart leading to a changed life.  It has everything to do with sincerity and seeking.  The poor and contrite tremble at Your words and I want to also.  I want to be changed by Your words.  I want to be filled with chased and racham, mercy and compassion.  I want to show goodness, kindness, and faithfulness after that of Your own heart to others.  I want to show the kind of love or pity that a woman does for the child in her womb, just like You do for me.  I want to reflect You before others.  I want to bear Your image.  I want to reflect Your heart to the world.  I want to show them how much better the culture of God is then the world’s culture.

Lord, I want to come to You with a repentant heart.  I want to learn to seek You like that and Your will in my life.  I don’t want You to turn me over to myself.  I don’t want to reject Your words.  I want to respond to You and experience Your responding to me.  So Lord, teach me how to pray and fast and live wholeheartedly.  I’m not good at it, but You are, and You are the best Teacher ever.

The Light Has Dawned

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Photo credit to Julenine Rijon Balinas Llacuna.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Faith of a Harlot

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“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2:26

Dead is dead.  You know it when you see it.  A spiritless body is dead.  Even more so a body without the Spirit is far more dead.  It holds a pretense to life, but it’s really just walking a lie.  It’s the same with faith.  Faith without works is dead.   Take the energy out of faith, remove the source of faith, and faith is dead.  Let’s be honest here, maybe faith was never alive in the first place, because it needs to be energized from the Energy Source where faith comes from, and if it hasn’t, then it’s not faith at all.

It’s not like James is posing the argument of which comes first, the chicken or the egg here.  He’s saying the Spirit must be dwelling inside us to give us life.  If the Spirit is living inside of me and giving me life then I will exhibit It’s energy.  That word for “works” is “ergon” and “energy” is it’s root.  There is the energy that the Holy Spirit imbues us with and then that energy must flow from us.  Here’s the problem.  If we’ve never become dependent on Your energy, Lord, if we’ve never learned to walk in faith in You in the first place, then there is no way that Your energy can flow from us.  If You aren’t the Source of my life, I haven’t got life at all.

“Ergon” is active zeal.  But it’s not just that I’m excited about the Lord or about obeying Him or about things in His Word.  It matters where that zeal comes from.  When Jesus performed miracles, John used this same word for that “performance.”  Skip Moen says, “in the New Testament, it is the action that follows submission to God.”  And I would offer that it is God’s response through the one submitting to Him.  It’s the heart and compassion and energy of God being expressed through the one who has submitted himself to the heart and compassion and energy of God.

When I see or hear about a person in need, when someone shares their need personally with me, what is my response?  Do I say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.  Let me pray for you.”?  Or am I just as concerned with what I can give them or how I can step in and help fill their loss?  Are they just on my mind at that moment or am I thinking of ways that I can step in the gap for them?  Am I concerned about what resources beyond prayer I have that I can offer them even if my own resources are feeble?  Would I lay down what I have for them?  Or would I just pray for them and sympathize with them?

Jesus, You were a man of action and energy because You were a man of God.  And at the same time You were the Son of God, therefore exhibiting God’s character, since You are God.  If I want to know what it looks like to have faith and what the works or energy of faith looks like, all I have to do is look at You and look at how You responded to people in need.  You acted.  You expended Your spiritual and physical energy, Your Youness on them.  You expended so much, that You expended all of You.  You held nothing back.  You are my ultimate example.  So, how does my faith compare?  Compared to that, do I even have faith at all?

This was a real issue in the church in James’ day.  It’s why he wrote this.  Is it any less an issue today?  And let’s not just be concerned about the church.  What about my own heart?  Did God have James write this to speak to my own heart?  How can I meet someone in need, how can I meet someone who is destitute, who is without food and clothes, who doesn’t have money for medical care, who’s children are sick because they are malnourished, and just go on with life as usual?  How can I only meet their needs once a year and think I’m doing good?  How does that help?  How have I been an instrument of God’s energy in that person’s life or even my own?  What does that have to do with You, Lord, more than me just trying to feel like a good guy doing the right thing?  But is doing the right thing so easily done?  Or does doing the real right thing take true sacrifice and continual commitment?  Is the right thing something that really takes the heart of the Right One doing the Right Thing in me?

Sometimes faith isn’t a pretty thing to us.  It was awful gruesome looking on Jesus.  It got Him cast out, people wanted to tear Him apart with their teeth, and people just wanted to beat on Him, and then they couldn’t even look at Him.  Some of His own followers said, “This is too hard.”  Following You, meant a radically changed life.  Not only was it a radically changed life, but it was a life committed to Your way.  No, it was even more.  It was a radically changed life committed IN Your way, committed in You.  See, You were the first One who demonstrated the action and energy of faith.  You showed what the results of faith in God look like.  I believe, therefore I act upon it.  I believe, therefore I let God have His way in Me.  I believe, therefore I am God’s instrument, to act upon His ways, to demonstrate His energy, to exhibit His zeal.  Yes, I am to be zealous for God, but faith is also about being zealous in God.  I am to be zealous from Your zealousness in me for all the things that You are zealous about.  Your zealousness ought to leap out from me if You are in me.

I can read the Bible a thousand times a thousand times and believe the words and say that they are good and true.  And my life can be just like that Bible, full of wisdom, sitting on the shelf, pulled down to read, set back up on the shelf, treasured knowledge in my mind.  All that wisdom, all that truth, all that potential for God’s energy, just sitting there, just sitting, just sitting, just sitting.  But when does the life and power of Christ, of God, of You, begin to do more than sit?  When does it become more than words shared?  When does it become my life, my energy, my zeal?  When can I not leave it on the shelf?  When do the words become such deep encouragement that not only do I become passionate about them but that I am overwhelmed by passion in and for You?  When does it become so real that You become more that wisdom from a book?  When do You become the work, the energy inside of me?  And when does it get to the point that the energy of You can’t be held back in me?  When does it get to the point where the God and Jesus and Holy Spirit of this written word becomes the Spirit of the life and actions of Christ in and through me?  When do I get from a book to the Word living and acting through me?

It’s so easy to center on our own families and to center in serving where we are comfortable, or maybe slightly uncomfortable.  But is that really faith?  Does that really take God energy?  It’s funny, I was blessed by my husband to receive an ebook I was really excited about, “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes.”  And I’ve been reading and rereading a section on the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew.  There are some women mentioned in that genealogy, which is usually a man’s place to be mentioned.  So that was pretty unusual for Matthew to do that.  And I can’t help but ask myself, “Why, Lord?  Why these women?”  And I don’t have all the answers. 

I started journalling my devotion on that yesterday, on those women, but I couldn’t finish.  Because Bathsheba really throws me for a loop.  So I’ll just have to ponder her in the Lord for a while.  But one of the other women was Rahab, a prostitute of the city of Jericho.  And funny that her name is the one that just popped up in James.  It’s funny because I was searching out information on Bathsheba this morning, not Rahab.  And just this second, as I was typing this paragraph, I looked up and there was Rahab the harlot.  “Likewise, also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?”

Rahab didn’t do a good thing.  Rahab did a thing that could have gotten herself and her family killed by her own people.  She was a traitor to her own people.  She didn’t do a good thing.  She did a radical thing.  She did something that went totally against the grain.  She laid everything on the line, everything.  Maybe she had nothing to lose, but I think she had everything to lose.  And why was she willing to do that?  Was it because she was already putting her faith in God and He was beginning to energize her for His will?

Here’s what she told the men she was hiding, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that your terror has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.  For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when you came out of Egypt; and what you did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side of Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.  And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”  The point here is that lots of people were afraid.  Lots of people in Jericho knew the truth.  But Rahab, this dear prostitute, responded.  She, of all those people, committed her way to the God of the Hebrews.  She had committed to God and God had committed Himself to her.  That’s why she could act the way she did.

I know she committed to You, Lord, because of something else she asked the spies.  “Now, therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD…”  She made them promise, because of her act of kindness that they would return like kindness to her and her family.  That promise isn’t what stands out to me.  It’s not an I rubbed your back now you rub mine kind of deal here.  She chose for them to swear unto her by You, Lord.  Her trust was not in their kindness, because our kindness was fleeting.  I’m sure a prostitute would know about the fleeting nature of kindness from men.  But she understood a deeper and stronger and true kindness.  She was counting on and acting upon the kindness of You, Lord.  She was counting on these men and their people acting upon the kindness of God.

Now, we can stand here and commend Rahab and commend the spies.  But are we living like that?  Are we willing to make someone else’s problem our problem?  Or do we have the “not my problem” mentality like Cain.  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Well, in Christ, yes, I am, and yes, you are.  Shouldn’t we be asking, “What do you really need most?  If I don’t have it to give to you, I want to do everything in my ability to find a way to meet that need for you.”  I want to have eyes like You, to watch and see the real needs.  I want to see the people who need their hands to be held or need a hug.  I want to see the ones who need clothes, or shoes, or Bibles, or encouragement, or food, or medicine.  I want to not only be their advocate, I want to give of myself for their need, even if it means my loss.

See, Jesus, I know that You didn’t worry about what You would lose to gain me.  You looked ahead to the joy of gaining me and each child that You won to You.  I want to have that kind of heart for others.  You can take my stone heart any day and every day and give me a new heart alive in You.  That old heart is no good.  And if You need to take me through my own losses to understand the depth of Your energizing, then take me there.  You are worth it all.  And meeting the needs of Your children, is worth it all.  I know.  Because You already showed the worth in the price You paid for each of us.

Well, now it’s our turn.  It’s our turn as believers, as TRUE believers, to share what You have shared with us.  It’s my turn to meet other people’s needs as You have met my needs and continually meet my needs, both spiritual, physical, and emotional.  It’s my turn to take the compassion You’ve expressed upon me and imbedded in me and express it upon others.  It’s my turn to take Your radical life and let it be expressed through me.

Rahab could have believed everything she heard.  She could have acknowledge that the God of the Hebrews was the supreme God.  She could have acknowledged that He was going to wipe out her nation.  Acknowledgement alone is not faith.  Faith is acting in the energy of that acknowledgement of that belief.  Faith is letting the knowledge and the words become life in your life.  Faith is living that shows you are believing.   Faith is stepping out in action upon those words You believe.  See, faith “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1)  It’s the essence of your expectation and confidence.  It’s the proof of things you can’t see.

Rahab didn’t see You, God, face to face.   She saw Your evidences everywhere.  She heard the word about You.  She trusted in a God she couldn’t see because she saw the energy, the proof of You all around her.  I have a God who leaves proof of Himself all around, and not just in the things, but Your proof is in the people.  See, Rahab saw Your proof in the Hebrew people.  She saw You were with them.  And I think that gave her the hope that this same God could be with her.  So she took a step of faith to come on the side of the Hebrew God.  It was a risky step of faith, but that’s the essence of faith, of stepping out into the unseen future of You and with You.  Faith is the energy of me giving up my energy to let You replace it with Yours.

I keep wanting to wrap things up, but it doesn’t quite wrap us so neatly when I want it to.  Because here I am scrolling down through Hebrews 11 and I see Rahab commended a second time!  “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.”  It’s not enough to hear.  It’s not enough to know.  I must be energized by that knowledge, that belief, that faith, and I must stake my life on it.  I must be willing to risk it all.  Because if I don’t risk it all, I lie in danger of those who believed not, and I just may perish with them all.  As for me, I’d rather have the faith of a harlot.