Getting Warmer

Just a little closer…

One appeal of any public function or get-together, where you don’t know anyone attending, is the warm inviting nature of the strangers you have yet to meet. At least, that’s what one hopes. You take a deep breath, pull open the door and step inside. Well, someone is usually there to open the door for you at church.

In a church atmosphere, where sometimes the last reason for attending is because you want to, the parishioners are the deciding factor as to whether or not a newcomer is going to return. When my parents divorced, few people we encountered at the numerous churches we visited as a (broken) family really understood what it was like to have the family unit dissolve. And fewer still, it seems, were able to do more than simply understand—to give that which was required to rebuild one’s soul.

“He restoreth my soul” (Psalm 23:3)

Okay, so the above verse says that God is the one who restores one’s soul. Whew! Because I sure don’t know how to do that. I know (barely) what it took to get myself back to a hundred percent (or whatever percent I’m operating at now). One ingredient is time. I hold up my hand, counting off on my fingers. I suppose another ingredient would be hope. Hope can be a pretty amorphous thing. Hope is good, but hope must necessarily be rooted in something, really someone. Namely, Jesus. “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). Hope is essential, but what about the substance needed to nurse a hurting soul back to health? I know what will hinder the convalescence: a cold shoulder. A person who attends a church looking for something as-yet undetermined is not likely to return unless they sense warmth in the atmosphere. And what if your church was the last resort for them? It is essential that we as Christians are attentive to the unspoken, unformed needs of the strangers in our congregation. Social mores might prevent us from delving into a person’s business right off the bat. But there’s nothing keeping us from intimating to others the strong warmth of the Holy Spirit (“the comforter” John 14:26) that let’s them know they’re loved, accepted, appreciated, validated, etc. The list goes on. Everything God gives us through our struggles is intended to spill over to others to help them along in their journey. And the warmer we get to God, the warmer we’ll be toward others.

“If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire” C. S. Lewis Mere Christianity

 

“For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

Let the gravity of God pull you closer.

Scratching the Surface (Truth/Beauty part 3)

“He hath made every thing beautiful in His time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

But what about stuff He hasn’t made?

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” Charles Darwin (emphasis mine)

Keep this in view as we proceed.

Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Quite simply because it’s our eyes that take it in. At least in the case of something visual. Music’s another story. Music is beautiful and is taken in by our ears. This might sound pedantic and obvious but I just want to say that I’m going to be speaking on the subject of physical beauty. Form, that is. What part of us apprehends beauty? Knows it’s beautiful? God knows.

Try and look at something beautiful from a dispassionate, objective standpoint. Beauty is inspiring. Beauty can be strengthening, too. But beauty is necessarily subjective. Beauty is nothing without something else to compare it to. This might not sound like a logically solvent statement, but: all things are “beautiful” in comparison to something else. And in the case of people, there’s always going to be someone more beautiful than the next. Is this a curse? It all depends on how you look at it. It’s in the eye of the beholder. And as we are created in God’s image, I’m going to say that it’s God’s image who we’re comparing people to when we observe their beauty.

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” (Genesis 1:27)

And this is why, from a semantic standpoint, Darwin cannot say what he did and have it make sense in light of God. In other words, things (people, flora, fauna, etc.) are beautiful because God made them that way. Because God is beautiful. And if you must strip God from biology and the natural world, then strike “beauty” from your vocabulary. What you see (people, flora, fauna, etc.) is. Nothing more. Nothing less.

“Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2)

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3)

“Confidence in the flesh.” This refers to the old way we lived, before we accepted Jesus. Our old nature. It also refers to the inherent confidence that our physical appearance bestows. Michaelangelo’s David stands as the epitome of (male) physical beauty. Like Adonis, for the Hebrews by way of Italy. It does make me wonder, though, how his act of carving the statue conflicts with the fourth verse of Exodus chapter 20 (the second of the Ten Commandments): “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…”. Food for thought. Helen’s face “sailed a thousand ships”, started a war. What a senseless waste of human life. Both Abraham and Isaac’s wives (Sarai and Rebekah) were “fair to look upon” (Genesis 12:11, 26:17 respectively). So much so, that the two men lied to the powers that be, saying that they were their sisters, so as to keep the Egyptians and the Philistines from killing them for their wives. Like father, like son. What are we to do with the beauty that God gives us? Worship it? Lie to keep it? I must say, that there have been days of depression and misery where I thought to myself that I could worship the female form. Thinking its beauty would necessarily make my own life beautiful. So perfect is it. But then I remembered that God was real. And that He was more beautiful. Could it be that the female form is the physical expression of the Holy Spirit? Again, more food for thought. And, even if it were, it doesn’t mean you worship a person, any person other than God.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

Just because someone (male or female) looks good on the outside says nothing about what they look like on the inside. I believe this lesson takes heartache in order to learn. Physically, everyone looks the same on the inside. Heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, etc. Obviously, Jeremiah is referring to a different sort of “heart”. He’s talking about our soul and spirit. And spiritual beauty is truth. Yes, kindness, love, compassion, empathy are beautiful. But those things can be faked. Only truth–truth with reference to Jesus–is beautiful. And when someone leads with their physical appearance only, it says nothing about the development of their soul along the lines of Jesus’ revealed truth. Let alone the development of a personality, sense of humor and the like.

“Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)

Same goes for a man. Because someone who fears (reveres) and worships God will deflect any attention back to Him. Anyone who would use their appearance to get someone’s eyes off of God is misappropriating the beauty with which they’ve been gifted, effectively misusing it to acheive a selfish end. “But thou didst trust in thine own beauty…” (Ezekiel 16:15) This is what caused Lucifer’s fall. “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty…” (Ezekiel 28:17, come to think of it, Lucifer was a musician too) And when I think that all I am is a body that looks a certain way, I’m doing God and myself a disservice. In other words, merely scratching the surface.

There is more to this life than physical beauty.

One Side of the Mirror (Truth/Beauty part 2)

“”Beauty is truth, truth beauty”, that is all

Ye Know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

The last two lines of Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn”. I don’t pretend to understand the entirety of the context and I’m not a student of Neo-Classicism—the era to which Keats is referring in his poem. As these topics have been bandied about ad nauseam for thousands of years, I’m hard pressed to see any advancement in our culture toward a cohesive answer. If anything, the lines have blurred into the opposite ends of the spectrum. I do know beauty when I see it, though. Hummingbirds. Japanese maples. Mantids. And I’m not even touching on the human body here. And what’s more important? Does one supersede the other? Is it truth? Beauty? Are they mutually exclusive? I think one of the greatest tests of our faith necessarily deals with our response to these to overarching ideals and concepts. Because we may be able to apprehend truth with our minds, but if our spirit has not been recreated by the Holy Spirit upon believing in Jesus, our ability to recognize truth will be hampered and hindered. I think this is why there is beauty. Beauty is. But upon viewing beauty, said sight should remind one of the most beautiful. And if it doesn’t, whose fault is it? Is there fault? Maybe the thing that’s beautiful on the outside is not truth on the inside. And on it goes. Our need for truth remains.

Truth is a different matter. Unlike beauty, truth isn’t necessarily something that’s seen, so much as it’s apprehended. By what? What part of us apprehends truth? Our mind? Our spirit? Our soul? I’m going to do my best to keep this succinct.

“Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)

First of all, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) I love this question of Pilate’s because it shows a middle-aged man’s as-yet primitive grasp of such a primal subject. A Roman! Cultured, sophisticated, erudite, regal. Ignorant. Pilate’s wife knew, though: “[She] sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him.” (Matthew 27:19) Think about coast-dwelling animals who know. They know that a tidal wave is coming. The wife of Pontius Pilate was sensing something that she couldn’t explain. Call it intuition. Call it ESP. Whatever. She knew not only that Jesus was a “just man”, but also that whatever agony He’d be experiencing, it had infiltrated her dreams. So much so, that she desired her husband leave the matter alone. Surely, her distress influenced him when, “he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person” (Matthew 27:24).

“And there followed Him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed Him and lamented Him. (Luke 23:27)

What is truth? This might be an easy question to answer. With words, sure: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, emphasis mine). There. See how easy that was? But again, if Jesus says He’s the truth, how difficult is it to truly know Him? To truly make the effort to “deny [ourselves], and take up our cross, and follow [Him]?” There’s only one way to know Jesus. And that’s to love Him more than we love ourselves. And without the help of the Holy Spirit, it’s impossible. Don’t despair.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly…” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Jesus is on the other side of the mirror looking back. And while we may not fit the description of a Jewish male, early 30s, our spirits, our insides are one, when we believe on and in Him. We are just as beautiful as Jesus when we are “born again” (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:23). Also, “there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Here, what Paul is saying is surely multi-faceted, but also eminently simple. The truths in God’s word become the guidelines and guardrails in which our lives as Christians operate. To where truth is seen and beauty is apprehended. And it’s all with reference to Jesus.

Through a looking glass with love stares back a Savior waiting,

For us to see right through ourselves and offer what He’s taking.

Physiognomy: About Face (Truth/Beauty part 1)

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, is the mouth the doorway? And maybe the ears dual chimneys… If this makes you angry, smoke would necessarily emit from those two places.

“The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them.” (Proverbs 20:12)

When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see? What do you feel? Are you pleased with your appearance? Y’know, it’s God who made you to look the way you do. Our face is a reflection of God’s creative ability. Sure, there’s genetics and plastic surgery and innumerable other factors that make up our appearance. But all of it is built upon the foundation that God gave you when He thought you up. You might be a spirit, but you live in a body. And so much is communicated by the face alone. That’s one of the definitions of physiognomy, by the way: determining one’s character and personality from one’s facial features.

“God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause His face to shine upon us; Selah.” (Psalm 67:1)

“For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; His countenance doth behold the upright.” (Psalm 11:7)

Another word for face is countenance. It’s more detailed, a fuller definition than face, however. David said that God was “the health of my countenance” (Psalm 42:11). Could this mean that God is the one shining through David’s face? It certainly worked with Moses. After Moses received the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai, Moses had so soaked in the presence of God that “his face shone while he talked with him”. (Exodus 34:29) So much so, that “when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses…they were afraid to come nigh him.” (verse 30)

“And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.” (Psalm 104:15, emphasis mine)

Think of the sweetness and sincerity in a child’s face. Winsome, gentle, unassuming. The purity of God’s character shines through them as they have nothing to hide. They’re transparent. Somehow, as we grow older and age, we lose that innocence when we begin harboring selfishness and begin to…want to see ourselves first. When we look in the mirror and all we see is ourself, then that’s all others will see, as well. That’s how it works. Who do you want people to see when they look at you? Conversely, who do you want looking at the world through your eyes? God wants to reveal Himself to the world through us. And it starts with that inner vision. “Blessed are the pure in heart” says Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel (5:8, emphasis mine), “for they shall see God.” He’s speaking of that inner vision of God. Something that gets clouded over without proper maintenance. Without gratitude, worship, praise. The things of inner beauty.

“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in Heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

The myth of Narcissus speaks of a young man, very handsome, who wasted away and died from seeing his reflection in the water and not wanting to leave the sight of such beauty. Contrast this with Jesus, who, it says in Isaiah (53:2), “hath no form nor comeliness (beauty); and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” Jesus was beaten so badly prior to His crucifixion, that He was nigh unrecognizable. “His visage was so marred more than any man” (Isaiah 52:14). While Jesus may have been a horrifying sight to behold, bearing our sins on the cross of Calvary, His inner beauty remained–and remains to this day. The reason why it says that we wouldn’t desire Him in this state–of grotesque deformity, of bloody, raw suffering–is because that’s what we looked like on the inside, spiritually, because of sin. The sin that He bore on the cross and left in the grave when He rose from the dead. Look at Him now:

“And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in His strength.” (Revelation 1:16) John (who wrote Revelation) was His closest disciple. Even He didn’t recognize Jesus in His glory when he saw Him on Patmos.

“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

Keep your face to the Son.

The Human Element of Surprise

I used to think I had it all figured out. I thought I could be smarter than God. Even as a young child (five years?) I thought up a construct whereby I ask God what I’d be doing in five minutes—and then just do something else. Yes, even then, I was seeking to exert my will over His and show myself to be smarter than I actually was. What I overlooked, however, was the realization that I wholeheartedly believed in God without what “progressive” or unbelieving adults might consider “tangible” evidence. Really, my preoccupation with reading the future and trying to break into the mind of God had more to do with the fact that I was living in a family with only one active parent and another who was merely pretending at pretty much everything. It behooves us to stop pretending, it really does. Were my future more secure, as filtered through the eyes and heart of an involved parent, one who brought to the family their unique parental undergirding, I wouldn’t have had so amorphous an idea of what the future was. I probably wouldn’t have been free to think along such childishly existentialist lines, I would have just lived out my life and embraced the future without seeing other possibilities. But, boy, can that mindset really get you into trouble once you back up a notion of eternal now-ness with a feeling of contented detachment from God. This is why struggle and toil are necessary at times. To keep us on the straight and narrow. God loves us. I digress.

A friend of mine once said, very matter-of-factly—as if it were something that nobody’d ever realized—that “time travel to the future is possible because we’re already doing it”. *blink blink* I guess he has a point. The future is being made as we step out onto it. And into it. My future, your future, is guaranteed because God is giving it to us, one moment at a time. Even this, though, is not enough to alleviate the crushing misery of present and depressing circumstances, should we be experiencing such. There’s something else that’s needed. What could that be?

I’m writing this from a standpoint of hope in my future. Sure, there are things that I’m doing, sewing seeds of said hope that will (hopefully) produce as the days, months, years progress. But there’s also something that’s intangible, at least ungraspable from a merely mental effort. I believe that God is leading me in both the very broadest sense and also whenever I choose to acknowledge Him on a moment by moment basis. Question: can we as Christians hope to be led of God moment-by-moment, when we ignore Him in those moments? Something I shall ponder. Not to the neglect of His acknowledgement, mind you. Benjamin Franklin said that “lost time is never found again”. This is distressing if I don’t believe that God “works all things together for good to those that love Him, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

See, God holds all of our futures in His hand. Yes, we want the blessings that we think He’ll supply us with. If that’s what we think the highest is. Comfort, ease, purpose and peace. The truth is, God wants us to spend our moments, our days, our futures in a reckless pursuit of knowing Him. And knowing Jesus. His love. His peace, “not as the world giveth” (John 14:27)

I say all of that to quote this: “God is sovereign, but I am responsible”. This quote from J. I. Packer sewed up the problem I had where I saw myself free from, not only a tangible future, but also free from culpability and responsibility in my actions and interactions. I was disconnected from reality, as it were. And I’m not ashamed to admit. Yes, God has all knowledge. God sees all. And much has been written and argued throughout the centuries by men who’ve sought to wrap their minds around such an out-of-this-world concept of someone who possessess the attributes inherent to God. But the truth is, without humility, we’ll be bumping our heads on a ceiling of pride whilst time goes by and we’re without its flow, afraid to get our feet wet.

In closing, I will say that Iceland is a unique place. Culturally, they welcome mistakes because, to them, it shows that effort is being made. If we are making a sincere effort, then God can work with us. God can steer us into the future that we so desperately desire but seem powerless to realize on our own. God is waiting on us to acknowledge Him in love.

Every Type, Every Stripe

“All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord; and shall glorify Thy name. For Thou art great, and doest wondrous things: Thou art God alone.” (Psalm 86:9-10) Every type.

People the world over experience God in different ways. Even those in your local or home church have things going on in their lives in which God is working in ways that are foreign to your understanding. His ways. His means.

Jesus speaks to the deep places in the human. It transcends language. It supercedes cultural borders, societal labels, even gender types and roles. We are all human beings with spirits, alive or dead. And this is what Jesus touches on first and foremost.

“And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under Heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites (essentially Iran), and the dwellers in Mesopotamia (Iraq), and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia (Asia Minor), in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene (Northern Africa), and strangers of Rome, Jews and Proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?” (Acts 2:5-12)

Don’t doubt…

I find it somewhat disconcerting to read this passage and sense the dissonance among the body of Christ in America. And maybe I’m not viewing the situation through the right lens. If I’m not “believ[ing] all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7), then I’m not looking with love. But if there were any country that exemplified the melting pot of Jerusalem (everyone present was there to observe the Jewish festival of Pentecost) in the above passage, it’s America. And I’m not trying to tie this country to prophecy or come across as patriotic. What I am saying is that we, we have an obligation and also the auspices necessary to see this atmosphere come back around in our time. Our place. Look for the opportunities that present themselves (really, it’s God presenting them to you) in your locale. While there may not be a varied cultural ethos where I live, I do so love meeting people from all over the world. The odd individual who hails from Germany, Poland, Australia, Korea, Tunisia, etc. Their attitude is so refreshing to encounter merely because of its difference. They laugh at the foibles inherent in American mores and in turn describe where we are more laid back. Each one, though, created by God and each fulfilling their role in the majestic tapestry that makes up His world.

“He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.” (Ephesians 4:10)

A citizen of the world, Jesus seems to be a busy person. Much has been written and told of visitations from the Lord of Creation—from across the globe. Those who have had personal encounters with Him wherever they may be. He seems to have been constantly on the move during His three-year itinerant ministry. But while He is “set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2), who’s to say that He doesn’t get up now and again to stretch His legs and tour the globe? Food for thought. And just as the gift of tongues was exhibited during Pentecost, it would necessarily be lived through Him as He called and culled from every nation and every tongue, garnering a body of believers that are humble, hungry and seeking the truth. By the way, it’s the Holy Spirit who makes any and all of this possible.

“And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2, speaking of the Holy Spirit)

The stateside mission field is “white already to harvest” (John 4:35). Jesus speaking of the bumper crop of people who are ready to hear the good news of His Gospel. An ironic statement, too, as the whole point here is that it’s not just about “white” people. Or black. Or any other race. It’s about the human being on a global scale. Every type. Made possible by the life, death and resurrection of just one man. “Who in his own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” His stripes, eh? Every stripe.

“And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel…” (Mark 16:15)

Your world, wherever that may be.

Wasting, not wanting.

“For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.” (Isaiah 43:1)

God is extravagant in every way. In forgiveness. In mercy. In love and tenderness. Think of what it took to get Jesus to come. The combined prayers and petitions of generation upon generation. Thousands of years of toil and hardship. Obedience and sacrifice and pain. And was it wasted? Not in the slightest. Jesus paid the ultimate price, not only by taking on human form, but also experiencing a torturous, humiliating death—as a human. And feeling everything. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” and woman. (Hebrews 2:9, emphasis mine)

“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)

“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:18)

This might be a difficult statement to wrap (warp?) your mind around, but if you were the only person in existence to have been created, Jesus would have died for you. This necessarily takes a lot of love for oneself. And to truly have that, one needs to grasp, however feebly, the substrate fact that God loves them.

When you know you’re called to do something, how do you know? Are you less than satisfied with anything less? That’s a pretty good indicator. Don’t let anxiety get the better of you, though. “Be careful for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6) And cultivate contentment wherever you are. “Be content with such things as ye have.” (Hebrews 13:5) All those things aside, (actually astride—without carefreeness and contentment, we’ll never become the full version of who God says that we are. And worry is a waste of time: “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?” Matthew 6:27) we are moving forward, changing everyday into the person that God wants us to be. That He made us to be. Anytime we think we’ve arrived, and our vantage point is supreme, always know that there are better ways of seeing things. Life is more complex than we know. And the more we learn, the more we realize just how much there is that we don’t know. This is the secret:

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

It might seem that the more time goes by, the more days and hours are spent wherever you may be in your holding pattern, that God has somehow forgotten about you. That He’s just wasting His time (and yours!) by having you toil on in what seems like an endless and dim mine. I’m telling you right here to stay the course. God has a different calendar and schedule than do we. And His thoughts are higher than ours. Because once you get to where you’re going on the way to wherever it is you’re headed to next, you’ll look back on these days and see the expenditure that God procured through Jesus to equip you for the assignment that He has for you. It’s something that only you can do and only you will do. Stay the course. Let the layers of who you used to be fall off and be “renewed in the spirit of your mind.” (Ephesians 4:23) There are beautiful, wondrous days ahead. Know this. But also take time to reflect on all the effort God had to expend in order to get us to this place. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

But it cost something: “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” (Hebrews 5:8-9)

And after its all said and done, we get this: “And I saw a new Heaven and a new earth: for the first Heaven and the first earth were passed away…” (Revelation 21:1)

All for you. All so God the Father could get you back.

Naming Names (What’s in a Name. part 2)

Namensvetter

A German word if ever there was one. Literally translated as “name cousin”. It’s interesting how other languages have one word for a concept that takes at least two in English. I’m sure it goes back and forth. Where English has other languages beat is in the synonym department. A dozen words with such subtle distinctions as to render the foreign language speaker lost in a sea of same differences. Language is a fascinating phenomenon. And when it says “name cousin”, it means a person or thing that shares the same name as someone, or something, else.

Even the word noun. That part of speech that’s used to describe a “person, place or thing” comes from the same word as “name”. “Name’s” “name cousin”.

So, my name’s Josh. Short for Joshua. Incidentally, Joshua is the Greek form of Yeshua, which as you may know, is Hebrew for Jesus. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “just joshing you”? The phrase originates from the late eighteen-hundreds where one Josh Tatum, a deaf/mute young man, got the bright idea to cover nickels in gold alloy and pass them off as five-dollar coins. He did quite well for himself until he was caught. And thus the phrase was born. I’m pretty sure that my namesake is deeper than that. Hopefully it has nothing to do with the phrase that essentially means to joke around and be generally inane. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be sarcastic and silly. But when it comes to choosing my appellation, that which is the overarching definition of who I am and what I represent by my given name, I’d like to identify myself with the original origin. Joshua means “God is salvation”. And boy, am I far from perfect (but that’s beside the point).

Whenever we call someone by their name, we are essentially repeating a word that contains the definition of its sound. What is your name? What does it mean? Is it positive? It should be. Have you ever thought about just what goes out into the ether whenever your name is spoken? We’d do well to strive to live up to what we have that defines who we are. What’s in a name? It’s more powerful than we know.

“But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” (Isaiah 43:1, emphasis mine) God is salvation. God is everything His name says He is. God is everything that Jesus showed Him to be. That’s why He has that name. Because God saves.

Names are funny. Sure you can study linguistics and etymology and discover the meanings and origins of the words we use. Cite the similarities from other languages and reverse engineer the language you speak all the way back to its Indo-European roots. And further. But names are a different story. The study of names however–the proper names of people, is called Anthroponomastics. Yay!

The second chapter of Song of Solomon, first verse, opens with “I am the rose of Sharon”. Jesus is that rose. His name is all that’s needed to bring all the power of Heaven to bear for your life. And this is why it’s important to know Jesus. Not just “Christ”. His name is Jesus, “Christ” simply means “King” in Greek. Of course, He’ll answer to both, but you’re on a first name basis now…

Juliet asks,

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Not with Jesus though: “for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

What’s In a Name. (What’s In a Name. part 1)

Not a question.

Consider this amazing statement of David’s (Psalm 138:2): “I will worship toward Thy holy temple, and praise Thy name for Thy lovingkindness and for Thy truth:” listen, “for Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy name.”

What more imperative do we need to make the study of God’s word one of the most important things we can do for our life? God gives us His word in a concerted master stroke over the centuries and then it culminates in the revelation of Jesus Christ. As a person. As the living word. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) The whole “disposing thereof” is airtight.

What are some of the things in the Bible that describe the importance of understanding, not only the words contained therein, but also the importance of knowing the Living Word? Because, let’s face it: “the letter killeth” (2 Corinthians 3:6). And before I go any further, what Paul is saying here to the Corinthians is that the law is the law. What it says, goes. The law of God as handed down to the Israelites through Moses was immutable. There was no way around it, in other words. Even worse: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all“, says James (2:10, emphasis mine). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The Old Testament law is what holiness looks like when put on paper. All of the inherent messiness of human existence is, in a sense, not taken into account one whit. Because of original sin, it’s not perfect—not even close. Therefore God must judge. This is why, from a very narrow, almost selfish perspective, it’s so remarkable that God would even lift a finger to help the Israelites out of their predicament(s), time and again. Same goes for us. Because God is holy, we are not. And this stringent, strict holiness is what Jesus walked in perfectly for thirty-plus years. I’m digressing, I know, and I will digress a touch more when I say that, in my opinion, Jesus’ ministry of grace and of the interior began when He received the full measure of the Holy Spirit at His baptism in the river Jordan (see Matthew 3:16). All digressions aside, in order to understand what it means to have the entire revealed law of God be not only, “above Thy name” as David says in Psalms, but also contained in Jesus as the Living Word, necessarily takes the Holy Spirit. The spirit of the law. That’s what Paul is saying. “Who (God) also hath made us able ministers of the new testament (grace, after what Jesus did for us); not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6, emphasis mine) It’s the same Holy Spirit who Jesus was baptized with at Jordan. It’s the same Holy Spirit who is symbolized as flowing, like water from Jesus’ side when He was pierced by the spear as He hung on the cross (John 19:34). And it’s the same Holy Spirit who’s there with you whenever you study your Bible. And “it’s” not a thing. He’s a person with feelings, agency, will, and above all, the same qualities as both the Father and the Son, yet without a body. Wrap your mind around this: you are His body. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) We’d do well if we never, ever forgot this ever again…

So, what are those things contained in the Bible that show the importance of what I asked earlier? The answer is whatever the Holy Spirit wants to emphasize for your life. Simple as that. Just ask.

“But the comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26, emphasis mine) When we submit to the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit, we are taught by the best.

“But go ye and learn what that meaneth…” (Matthew 9:13)

The Agency

It does sound kinda conspiratorial, doesn’t it? Extradimensional beings with wills and also the power (to a lesser or greater degree) to enact said will. That’s the kind of agency to which I am referring. I’m talking about sentience. Essentially consciousness or self-awareness.

“And the men which journeyed with [Paul] stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.” (Acts 9:7) This is referring to Jesus, by the way.

How often will you be walking somewhere, lost in thought, busy with the activities of your day and your life, and you walk by someone? A dark figure off to the right. And it was a tree, a lamppost. You knew it was a person because you felt it the moment you saw it in your peripheral vision and when you looked to confirm, that agency that you sensed immediately dissolved. Is it anything? Was it anything? Who knows. You keep walking. You didn’t even stop.

I think for some people, the concept of a higher order of being is a mystery. It’s something that they can wrap their mind around, sure. But it’s not something they feel. Consequently, without the capacity to feel God, they simply don’t believe. The other side to this is, those who are sensitive to God, and feel Him, might come across as, or remain an enigma to those who think that humans (i.e. carbon based) are all that make up the plane on which we live. When you put it that way… What I mean is, some people feel alone in this world. But not lonely. Anyone else who would sense (the best verb I have for it) anything else would be either weird at best, schizophrenic at worst.

The side of the angels

The belief in God from a Christian perspective, necessarily includes the realization that angels and demons also are. This isn’t something to delve into from an objectively curious standpoint. Any angel that is holy is going to direct attention back to God and anything that’s not holy would certainly want the curious individual to divert their attention from Him. And that’s the conspiracy. Simple as that.

“Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” (Colossians 2:18)

Sometimes, it seems that things happen in this life that are beyond our knowledge base and without our understanding. Notice the direction your mind goes after you experience an “unexplainable” event. Understand that, to the a non-believer, everything has a perfectly rational (read: natural) explanation. But fact is often stranger than fiction. Please understand that I’m not trying to open a window into the supernatural. What I am trying to do, however, is shed light on the way we perceive it. The Holy Spirit is the one who maintains and explains things that aren’t discernible through mental means. But again, “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, emphasis mine) Did you catch that? Spiritually discerned. Do you think that could apply to Christians? Any Christian who is not walking with God as they should, nor making an effort, could very well be missing out on the cues and clues that the Holy Spirit is seeking to intimate to them.

The writer of Hebrews (5:14) speaks of “those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” He’s speaking of the word of God. It is of utmost importance that we know how to view these things through the lens of God’s word. Through Jesus who is the living word.

“And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name. And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from Heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in Heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20)

It’s the last sentence that keeps us from looking off in some other distracting direction.