Holding On/Holding Out (Holdings part 2)

“Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.” (Psalm 77:4)

What’s the holdup?

“Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed: but Thou, O Lord, how long? Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: Oh save me for Thy mercies’ sake.” (Psalm 6:2-4, emphasis mine)

What does it mean to truly wait on the Lord? To align ourselves with His timing? One way to look at whatever lesson  He’s teaching is to see that the only reason you’re waiting on Him, is because you love Him and you both know He’s real and also that He’s going to deliver. Come to think of it, those are the qualifications laid out in Hebrews 11:6. “…he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” God highly prizes our patience. We can’t see all the things that must be in order for us to receive our miracle and I’d wager that we probably wouldn’t be able to handle that knowledge if we did see it. So until then, keep waiting. Be “content with such things as ye have” (Hebrews 13:5). God hasn’t forgotten about you.

Withholdings

“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27)

When we wait on the Lord for whatever it is we need, there’s usually some part of us that needs to be retooled, fixed, overhauled or otherwise made more Christ-like. I find that the patience I show others is directly proportionate to the patience I’m willing to show God. As God is the deepest part of us, everything that we do with reference to others, springs from that center. When Jesus said “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40), He’s only telling it like it is. We are made in God’s image and remade in Christ’s because of our new spiritual birth. Any lessons we need to learn are to be learned prior to receiving our miracle. So be patient with others. Be kind and compassionate. God will put other people in your path who are just like you. Treat them the way you’d like to be treated, by others and by God Himself. A tall order but totally doable–with God’s help.

Strongholds

“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” (2 Corinthians 10:4)

I’m not saying it’s gonna be easy. The years it took winding up the ways of thinking that aren’t in tune with the character of Jesus may in turn take years again to unwind, to unravel. God’s gotcha, don’t worry. “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matthew 5:23-34) Jesus lays down guidelines for interacting with God. A pure heart towards others is what God requires of us. Granted, some people might shut themselves off from your penance but God sees that you made the effort. And in that case, it truly is the thought that counts.

Holdings

Job lost everything. “The greatest of all the men of the east” (1:3), he was reduced to a sorry excuse for a human being. Betrayed by his friends, his wife, his community, even his own body, it would seem that the answers to his dilemma were on another plane. Not one of those who commiserated with him had the answer that would allay his suffering and bring him comfort. However, toward the end of the book (42:11), we see this fact made plain: “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends:” God will do for us what we do for others. All of Job’s wealth and status could not prevent his life from being turned upside-down. And much like Jesus, everyone seems to have believed the worst of him. But just like with you (should you be encountering the same), God will speak from Heaven and set things in order. The truth will prevail. Just make sure you’ve made yourself ready to hear it.

By the way, the second part of that verse from Job reads thusly: “also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” How would Job be able to handle the added responsibility of a double portion of what he was initially unable to retain and maintain? I’d say that whatever he learned by going through the trials he did, enabled him to hold on to the blessing of a double-sized life.

“Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah: To Him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; lo, He doth send out His voice, and that a mighty voice.” (Psalm 68-32-33)

The Wonders Never Cease

“Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be His glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory; Amen, and Amen.” (Psalm 72:18-19)

It’s amazing how people think at the speed they do. The lightning-cascade of thought and meaning and consequence happens and their face screws and scrunches up into an image of detestation and disagreement. If they do. Disagree, that is.

Considering the encroaching tide of data that seeks to negate God’s station as Creator (and existence, period), you’d think more and more people of faith would be leaving the church, citing the age of the earth and the infallibility of science as well as His seeming lack of involvement. What with the ever-expanding sources of information and all. This attitude is something, I’m guessing, that those of a materialist bent possess. How can they not see it? Au contraire. My attitude, in spite of the complexity and wonder and beauty of the natural world, is precisely the same leveled at them with reference to God. How can they not see Him? Oh yeah:

“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Most things can be deduced from their constituent parts. Most things. We look at matter and break it down and we think we know. Molecules. Atoms. Quarks, gluons, leptons. Higgs bosons*. Neutrinos. The wonders never cease. Rewind time back past six-thousand years and find that it goes back further, supposedly negating the opening volleys of the Book of Genesis (although creationists/intelligent design advocates might want to look at how the science they use to tabulate the age of Old Testament incidents is the same that says the earth is older than six-thousand). Okay. I’m with ya. But so is Jesus: Consider the story in Luke’s Gospel, of the road to Emmaus. When Jesus showed up and walked with them, they didn’t even realize it was Him. This is the state of much of the world, Christian and non. One of the two men might as well represent the non-believing, because we’re all in this together. Notice Jesus’ brilliance in expounding the events leading up to that time. “What things?” He asks them. He knew, though. “And” it says, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:27, emphasis mine) Look what Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthians: “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them.” It’s about Jesus. The Holy Spirit will witness to none other. I say all of that to say that our position as Christians is not to debate the fine points of geology and paleontology (note: not named after William Paley, don’t make that inference) or neuroscience with reference to the spiritual. That is, unless you’re called to do so. No, our job is to witness to Christ. His beauty. His wonder. His love. No one can resist that. Oh, they can, don’t kid yourself. The battle lines have even been drawn in unbelief over His historicity and Godhood and all that. It would seem that unbelief doesn’t know when to quit. But you know. You believe. How can they not see Him? The wonders never cease. And after He left the two at Emmaus, they exclaimed among themselves “did not our heart burn within us, while He talked by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures?” (24:32) The same thing is happening to a lesser or greater degree with everyone who doesn’t see Him. It’s not a matter of “the age of rocks”, it’s a matter of “the Rock of Ages”. (And no, I didn’t come up with that myself.) He’s walking with us, pointing things out, pointing the way. And when He opens our eyes to the wonder around us…

“For Thou art great, and doest wondrous things: Thou art God alone.” (Psalm 86:10)

When someone seeks to substantiate their existence, that most wondrous of gifts that God gives, on anything other than Jesus, they’ll ever search with smoldering hearts.

*As of writing, the Higgs hadn’t been discovered but something resembling it was seen on July 4th, 2012.

One Can Only Hope

Getting our hopes up

“Hope is the thing with feathers” says Emily Dickinson.

However, “riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:5)

In other words, don’t trust in money. God knows we need it—as a tool, as a necessity in some circles—but never put your hope in it. This can be a hard lesson to learn. In developed countries, it’s almost like the final frontier.

“And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in Thee.” (Psalm 39:7)

There are seasons of life in which everything on which we rely (others, ourselves, money, to name three) vacillate, fluctuate and disappear. Know that each and every challenge we face (“Challenges of the Season” says my dad) is directed by God and lasts as long as He allows. Hope, however, is not touched by those things.

“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.” (Hebrews 6:19)

Jesus is our hope, ladies and gentlemen. Prior to His life, death and resurrection (and ascension), we literally had no hope of ever getting fully right with God. Up till then, the sacred and profane were clearly defined and the slightest slip-up or astrayance (not an actual word) into that which God said was sinful was met with strict and sometimes dire consequences. Achan and his entire family were stoned and burned because he decided to covet—and then take—plunder from the city of Ai: “When I saw among the spoils…two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, the I coveted them, and took them; and behold, they are hid in the earth” (Joshua 7:21) Coveting is like a misplaced hope that eventually turns into theft. And that’s an extreme example. Sure, there are still things that we daren’t touch (“come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” 2 Corinthians 6:17), but we don’t have to worry about the mortal punishment that (now) doesn’t seem to be in line with the crime. We don’t even give a second thought to some of the things that concerned the Israelites. Life is now a “ministry of the interior”. It’s our motives and thoughts and internal attention (revealed in our actions) that God prizes. Faith. Hope. And Love.

There are all sorts of things to invest our hopes in, “But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

In 1887, physician and linguist Dr. Ludwig Zamenhoff invented a new language based on European roots and intended to ease the many disparate speakers into a common tongue. It was called “Esperanto” and it literally means “hopeful”. It was his hope that this common language—which apparently is easier to learn than any of the romance languages—would bridge the cultural gaps in his native country of Poland and then branch out from there. It never caught on as he’d hoped, but is still spoken today in places in Europe and some parts of Asia.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

Faith, hope, love. While those three things work in concert with each other, love is the greatest because it is connected to a Person. And the more we actively exercise the faith and hope that we possess in getting to know the God who both loves us and fulfills our hopes, then the more we’re able to convey that sense of hope amidst a world that is rapidly losing any reason to. Hope, that is.

Hope, along with faith and love, is a universal language. And when one can only hope, faith and love can’t be far behind.

Garden Varieties

Root

“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

The term “infructescence” comes to us from Botany and it refers to a state in which a fruit-bearing tree or plant, is able to bear fruit. It’s the stage following “inflorescence” (the flowering), which in turn follows the “frondescence” (just leaves…). It means that the plant is ready.

“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” (John 4:36)

God has called us to bear fruit for Him. As Jesus has introduced that analogy for us, we’d do well to consider just what it means for our life. In the above verse, Jesus is talking to His disciples who were flabbergasted that He’d even deign speak to a woman. But He knew. He talked to her, validated her and dealt with her sin then sent her on her way, full to overflowing. She went back and won over the entire town from where she’d come. She came to the well to fill her waterpot and left with a full heart. One touch from Him will fill you up and in turn create a harvest.

Shoot

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

Jesus must be referring to the prophecy in Isaiah 11. The first verse speaks of a “Branch growing out of [Jesse’s] (David’s father) roots.” It really doesn’t matter what variety of fruit you are called to bear, everything we do when we abide in Jesus out of love and worship is fruit that glorifies God. But it’s the abiding that causes it to happen. He’ll see to it.

Fruit

So what is the “fruit” to which He’s referring? Consider this:

“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:18)

For instance, when we endeavor to live “peacably with all men” (Romans 12:18), God’s fruit can grow and be harvested. This is one of the ways that God “advertises” in this world. Your peace—that which you work hard for through the trial and toil of your life to procure—will be felt and enjoyed by those around you. And when they ask (they probably already know) where it comes from, declare.

Herein is the Father glorified. Because His peace is altogether different than the “garden-variety” offered by the world and its denizens.

It’s Summer. The skies are blue and the weather’s warm and clear. The Greek word for ‘harvest’, by the way, is ‘therismos’. We get the prefix ‘thermo-‘ from the same, referring to ‘warm’. In other words, it’s high time that the body of Christ bore fruit for Him. I’m not saying it isn’t happening the world over, but look at the confidence expressed by the Lord: “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields (!)…” When’s the last time you heard of one person leading their entire town to the Lord? Come to think of it, John chapter four. It’d be so cool to see this happen today!

There’s one fruit I don’t get though. It’s called breadfruit and it’s from a tree in the mulberry family. Apparently it tastes like bread, also potatoes. Very starchy. Whatever. To each their own. As long as your bearing fruit, no matter the variety.

Salut!

Out of Our Misery

Perish, the thought

“Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment. Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.” (Ecclesiastes 5-6)

Death is not the escape you might think it is. And don’t think me morbid, but have you ever been so miserable that death is looked upon as a “sweet escape”? More of a cop-out, really. Why should we quit now? As Solomon said, “a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.” Before I go any further, I feel I must add that the person he’s referencing in the above passage may not be entirely in tune with God, it doesn’t quite come through in the translation. Humor me here.

Time marches on. That’s one of the best consolations when going through a time of intense trial and suffering. It can’t last forever.

“Trust in the Lord and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:3-5) That’s all well and good, but look again at what Solomon said: “the misery of man is great upon him“. Depression is a monster. Whatever type it is, if you need help, don’t hesitate to get it. But pray about it. Don’t let it be something that you go through without God. Because it will pass, that much is true. The ideal, however, is that we get to know God better on our way through the valley of the shadow of death. And when it says that “God will give thee the desires of thine heart”, sometimes, nothing on the outside (or inside, it would seem) testifies to the truth and hope of that statement.

Banish the thought

So what does it mean when it says “a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment”? Greater things are going on in our life and our world. David continues in his passage (from Psalm 37:6). He says “And [God] shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.” That’s what you were waiting for: Exoneration. Understanding. Wisdom. A sense of victory about your deep circumstances. An end to the confusion and depression. There have been times in my life where the unanswered questions were so many and so dense, that even Heaven itself did not seem like the escape that would have silenced the misery. That’s deep. But I knew that there was something I was not seeing right. Some glimmer of understanding that would clear up the confusion surrounding the circumstances in which I found myself (and had gotten myself into). “Time and judgment”. “Righteousness and judgment”. Those things were like the silver-lining on the storm clouds that helped me to know that there were brighter and beautiful days ahead. And it’s because of God that I even saw any hope at all.

“For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?” (Ecclesiastes 8:7) But you know God. And God knows you. He also knows how long it will last. The mediation takes time. Let Him carry you through it to brighter and more beautiful days. And when you get there, you’ll have learned the lessons necessary to never go back again (unless you’re invited to return to help others in the same cell).

In closing, the word “sepulchral” refers to a tomb, while the word “pulchritude” at first glance might sound like it means something similar. It actually means “physically beautiful”; they’re from different roots. Quite the opposite, actually. Look for the beauty in your misery. It’s there.

The light at the end

Because It’s Been Long Enough

“But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil” (Psalm 92:11, emphasis mine)

What do you do when things get stale? How do you turn up the fire of devotion when it smolders and flickers? Don’t let it die out. And rest assured, even if you can’t even see embers, know that it’s spreading beneath the surface. You’re still alive ain’t ya? All it takes is a little prodding, a little gratitude. Mix in some worship and interaction and the Holy Spirit is sure to remind you of something that you can follow–like a rabbit trail–back to a white-hot fervency for God and His love for you.

“And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:3, emphasis mine)

The concept of revival begins in the heart and mind of God first. But I believe that for a widespread revival–of discipline, simplicity, love and power, much like was exhibited in the Book of Acts–necessarily begins in the hearts and minds of a few individuals and branches out from there. There are men and women the world over who have been going through a process directed and scripted by God to bring about much change in small ways in their locale, their neighborhood and their community. You’ll hear about them soon enough.

And this is where I take issue with the term “fundamentalist”. That word has been so mud-stained, dragged through the street, as to have the most negative of connotations when used in the public square. It needs to be rescued from the landfill of language. And as with everything in Christianity, one must look to Jesus when defining the truth of things. Jesus was the most fundamental fundamentalist ever to walk the earth. When I think of “fundamentalism”, I see visions of minimalism and simplicity. And power. The impetus of which is that white-hot love of God. I don’t mean to sound stupid here, but the “fundamentalism” of today implies a backward and bigoted sect of religious Christianity–akin to a cult–that refuses to acknowledge “anything that disagrees with their interpretation of the Bible”. And I’m not here to haggle over individual or denominational interpretations. Fundamentalism, to my mind, has more to do with getting down to the black/white of love and judgment. Of mercy and forgiveness and compassion. Of intensity and charity and radical, if painful, selflessness, than the aforementioned slander. “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” So says the writer of Hebrews (12:4) And because of the liberty and freedom that many Americans (Christians, included) take for granted, they’re not likely going to have to, either. Let’s look again at the term “fundamentalism”:

The writer of Hebrews (again) put it very simply (11:6): “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he (she) that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Can’t get much more fundamental than that.

I believe that God would pour out His Spirit upon us if we were to follow that simple exhortation, to seek Him with all of our heart. Jettison the larger picture (for now) and focus on your world. Invite God in if you haven’t already and show Him around. He knows it all anyway. And if you don’t understand or have the faith, then talk to Jesus. He’ll introduce you.

Revival happens in the heart and mind of the individual before spreading to the congregation, before spilling onto the street.

There’s another (though slightly less-so) overused Christian-ism, the acronym: “B.I.B.L.E.” It stands for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. That’s cute. I would like to point out, however, that this attitude of “hurry up and leave” as such, has infected much of mainstream, main-street Christianity. Why should we be in such a hurry to go to a place where our newfound faith can’t be exercised amidst toil and trial? That might sound naive and self-serving, but what if all the faith that you were able to take to Heaven with you was just what you were able to exercise while here on earth? Some people would have very little upon setting foot on the streets of gold.

“Do you like fresh fish? It’s just fine at Finney’s Diner.” Dr. Seuss

Early Christians used to meet in secret. In an act of divine conspiracy, the Greek word for “fish” (Ichthys, Greek: ΙΧΘΥΣ) is an acronym for “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior”. That’s pretty fundamental. As an aside, the writer George Bernard Shaw proposed that the word “fish” in English could (and possibly should) be spelled “ghoti”. With the “gh” from rough, the “o” from women and the “ti” from nation. An acronym for that might be “Go Home On To Infinity” or some such. I know I’m radically digressing here. It would seem that the original acronym was so fundamental, so irreducibly complex, as to be perfect. ΙΧΘΥΣ. Perfect. Focus on Jesus. Everything, then, is fresh, new and beautiful.

“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” (Psalm 60:1)

Losing Our Illusions

I’m going to take this verse out of context to make a point. Hear me out:

“Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?” (Matthew 23:19)

Maybe that’s one of the reasons that idolatry is so ridiculous. It’s almost like Jesus is essentially saying that any object that you would seek to present to God is not worth anything unless it has died first, burned to a crisp on the altar. And with reference to idolatry, it would seem that all that the idol-worshipper is working with is a (dead) object, in place of the true God.

“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

Because of sin, things have to pass through a death-cycle (for lack of a better term) in order to be made holy before God. It’s (now) the natural order of things. “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:” (1 Corinthians 15:36), says Paul. Jesus said the same: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 12:24)

When Jesus compared the gift to the altar, what I think He was saying was that without the right heart intent—without the willingness to give up that gift to God by immolating it on the altar—whatever it is you wish to present to God won’t be received like it could, or should. But how does this apply to idolatry?

The following piecemeal passage from Isaiah delineates the process of idol-making and idol-worship (44:14-20):”He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak…for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto…he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god…a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

Firstly, he’s blind and he has no introspection nor circumspection to know it. Strike one. Secondly, everything he does with the object is self-serving. And please understand, I don’t mean to be drawing parallels between something that you give to God, and that which you keep for yourself to worship. Semantically, those two things are diametrically opposed. But a mere object can be one thing or another, it’s all a matter of heart-intent. While we don’t worship gods of stone or metal, any object that we put in place of God, unwilling to yield up to Him, becomes an idol. Guilty (me). But the corollary is not “God doesn’t want me to have anything”. Please understand, God is the ultimate giver of gifts, but any gift that He gives won’t turn our heart aside from Him.

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:1)

So it’s all a matter of what you do with the thing in question. All foolishness aside, if you give it to God and let it die, effectively showing Him that He’s the one you care about more, if it’s something that needs to be resurrected, He’ll imbue it with His life. He’ll bring it back to life. Then you yourself won’t have to worry about maintaining and sustaining it. And I’m speaking not just to physical objects, but also to plans and purposes and dreams and destiny. Trust God to resurrect that which you desire and watch Him do “exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Quite Contrary (What’s In a Name. Part 4)

“Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” (Psalm 68:18, emphasis mine)

Maybe it should read “yay! for the rebellious also”.

The name “Mary” in its Hebrew form, means “rebellious”, or “bitter”. This being said, I find it amazing to see the way Jesus interacted with several women whose name essentially means the active opposite of what God stands for. It made Him no nevermind. That’s the beauty of God. It doesn’t matter what your name is. If need be, He’ll change even the definition of that which is used to define you to the world. “Gifts” indeed.

Look at Jacob: “Yaqob” means “heel catcher” or “supplanter” (deceiver) in Hebrew. And with him, it started early. It was prophesied that “the elder shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23) Warring with his brother in the womb, it would seem he was destined—from a merely human perspective—to ever grasp for more from an attitude of gnawing poverty. As he was born after Esau, you can understand how when he wrestled with the angel, he said “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” (Genesis 32:26). The angel (some say it was God, Himself) did indeed bless him by changing his name to “Israel”, saying “as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (verse 28) What a gift. But it cost something. When the angel touched him, he acquired a limp that lasted for the rest of his life.

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:23) This is Samuel speaking to Saul. Saul had sought to obtain knowledge by means other than what was proper before the Lord. Whereas Jacob wrestled with God, something that’s not recommended (you can’t win), at least it included God. Saul’s heart was never fully right with the Lord and when he consulted the woman with the “familiar spirit” (1 Samuel 28), effectively bringing up Samuel from his death’s rest to speak with him as opposed to God, it was all over for his kingship. That which had been a gift from God was never truly spent in His service. So the title was bestowed upon David.

While the titles “Czar”, “Tsar”, “Caesar” and “Kaiser” originate from the same etymology (each meaning “king”), the Hebrew name “Sarah” means “queen”, from the word “sar” which means “ruler”. Interesting.

“Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” (1 Corinthians 4:8-9) Paul continues, describing the contrast between the sufferings and hardships he and his fellow apostles had to endure while the Corinthians enjoyed the fruits that came with their toil. As we see with Jacob, there’s always a price to pay.

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:21) As an aside, “Anna” means “favoured” in Hebrew.

Mary, the mother of Jesus was chosen (in spite of the meaning of her name) to receive the greatest gift anyone could ask for: “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

“…that the Lord God might dwell among them.”

Sensitive Cargo

“And He said unto them, it is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.” (Acts 1:7)

I would like to begin by citing Paul’s exhortation to “Despise not prophesyings.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20) The Rapture is indeed a sensitive topic among modern-day, mainstream Christianity. And while the word ‘rapture’ is nowhere to be found in any English translation, the idea that Jesus is ‘coming back’—in some way, shape and/or form—was introduced by Him initially and filled in by the disciples and Paul. If you have the desire to understand such things (Daniel, Revelation, etc.), I suggest studying it out with the help of the Holy Spirit.

“And while they looked stedfastly toward Heaven as He went up, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

So what’s the big deal? Jesus said “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” (Luke 12:40)

A cargo cult is a tribe of indiginous, usually island-dwelling people, cut off from developing nations, who, when occupied by missionary or military groups, start a form of worship based on and around the occupiers’ technologically advanced accoutrements. When the tribe can’t (or refuses to) see that the equipment is something other than supernatural or divine, they form a cult around it and around those who brought it. After the invading group leaves the island, usually having promised another shipment to come, the tribe continues on for years expecting a “delivery from the gods”. The “delivery” being nothing more than normal cargo and supplies outfitting the occupiers, etc. What’s so sad is that for years, the tribe lives in expectation of something that, not only is viewed incorrectly, but also never coming. The practice was so-named around the time of the First World War and to this day, there are still a few cults scattered around the globe.

“But ye have not so learned Christ;” (Ephesians 4:20)

I can’t help but think and feel that non-believers view the Rapture—and the Second Coming—as a widespread form of the “cargo cult”: passionate-yet-deluded believers in something that’s never, ever going to happen. Even to the point of derision (“Jesus is coming. Look busy”) Firstly, as Christians, it should go without saying that we believe that Jesus is returning. Whenever the Father chooses, He’s going to tap His Son on the shoulder and say “it’s time”. As an aside, the study of the “end-times” is called Eschatology. But that’s as far as this goes because I’m not here to debate one side over another. The Body of Christ is somewhat divided over the interpretation of scriptures that deal with end-times issues. The only word that I can offer is one of pragmatic hope. Jesus says at the beginning of His Parable of the Talents, “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13) In other words and expressed in a similar vein: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) What Solomon here is saying is to do the very best you can in the place you find yourself. The place to which you’ve been called. And whether or not Jesus comes back tomorrow, or we’re all raptured on 12/21/2012 (if you’re reading this after that, God bless you), it isn’t our place to be overly concerned about such things.

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)

“If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (John 21:23)

The Head of the Class (For This Cause part 4)

“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32)

“The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.”—Aristotle

While his Four Causes may not have originally been meant to quantify and qualify a group of people united under an ideology (Christianity is more than ideology, bear with me), Aristotle’s rules for the coming-into-being of a thing—be it a table, a chair, or a meal—fit solidly around the Body of Christ as an object in itself. In other words, there is metaphor to be found when viewing the Four Causes through the lens of Jesus.

And now we come to the end.

The fourth and “Final Cause” of Aristotle is “the object’s ultimate aim or purpose”. That which all three work together in order to see it off. Simply put, just as Jesus came for many reasons, all of which go back to His having obeyed His Father from the outset, our role as a body is the same. Any of the myriad things we do, they’re meant to be done to the glory of God. And another name for the ‘Body of Christ’ is the ‘Bride of Christ’.

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

The beautiful thing about Mary is that, in spite of all of the practical and necessary work that needed to be done, she decided to skip ahead and simply enjoy Jesus. And in the end, that is what we’ll all be doing in Heaven.

“…Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” (Revelation 21:9)

Contrary to some popular belief, Jesus did not marry prior to His crucifixion. While this might be obvious to some, the concept that Jesus desired a wife merely for the same psychosexual relational reasons as any man are spurious and ridiculous. All that aside, the worldwide church that He started is meant to unite with Him in a depth of relationship that even angels haven’t had the privilege of enjoying. (“Which things the angels desire to look into.” see 1 Peter 1:12) We get the privilege and honor of being members of Jesus’ Bride. Please don’t think this some elitist fantasy. The qualifications leveled at those in attendance are stringent and strict. Suffering. Loss. Pain. Hardship. Some of which is brought about by us, in ignorance. Life as a Christian is hardly a cakewalk in the park. We are called to share in the sufferings of Jesus, and much like the unmarried believer spoken of by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (7:35), to “attend upon the Lord without distraction”. If you fast forward to Revelation, the same is being done in Heaven: “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him.” (22:3, emphasis mine) Not sure what image crops up in your mind upon reading that, but if you consider whatever it is you’re already inclined to do here, I would say that it’s the same thing you’ll be doing there. So why not serve Jesus in that capacity now? Go to the head of the class.

“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2)

Anna saw it. She had essentially married herself to God after losing her husband early on. “And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. (Luke 2:37)

Mary, Martha’s sister saw it. So did Mary Magdalene. These women were geniuses because they superseded and surpassed all the superfluity of show and went to the head of the class. There’s more to life and love than earthly matrimony. It’s merely a metaphor for the ultimate aim of the church: to marry Jesus. That’s the “Final Cause”.

“For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)