Good For Nothing

Ventured

Look at Paul’s willingness to “give until it hurts”:

“And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you;”  (2 Corinthians 12:15a)

Even when those who are benefitting from the sunshine of his love give him nothing in return:

“though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” (12:15b)

The truth is, we all have the capacity and even propensity to turn a cold shoulder on those we love, even to the point of betrayal. A classic example would be that of Peter, of Judas. In the case of the former, repentance was granted because Peter admitted he was wrong. Judas, it seems, never truly tasted God’s love and abundance to begin with, and so he never had a past relationship on which to fall back after he sold Jesus out with a kiss.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man (and woman) that trusteth in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)

God is so generous. He has given us “life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). He loves us, moment by moment abundantly. I find that when my mind races toward the future, I miss the beauty and peace that God has for me now. That’s the way of childlikeness. It flows all the time. It’s my responsibility to take notice, and to respond correctly.

“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10)

Jesus prefaces the above verse with an explanation of the master/servant relationship. He says that we are under obligation to wait on Him, hand-and-foot. And when we get to Heaven? As I erroneously understand this, a life of total, unquestioning and unwavering obedience, will only be seen as the minimum requirement for the “privilege” of existence. Hmm. Travel further down that rabbit-hole and look at it as well through this lens. (Lamentations 3:39): “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” Those two verses, in context with one another, seem to make the case for a hardscrabble life of toil and trial. Barely scraping by the skin of our teeth in an effort to appeal to and appease a harsh taskmaster whose only pleasure in life comes from…what? Loving us abundantly? Do you see where this is going? There’s a disconnect here somewhere. Does any of the above resonate with you? I find that this is an all too common misconstruance. Where we see God as if He were us. We don’t make a good god.

“How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with Thee.” (Psalm 139:17-18)

The truth is, we can never pay God back for all the things He’s done. Heck, we don’t even know a fraction of the gifts that He’s stored up to shower upon us. He is that generous. And the mere fact that we care enough to want to express a tincture of loving gratitude (as opposed to ignoring Him altogether) in return, makes His day.

Whereas Paul says “the more abundantly I love you…”, God loves us fully, all the time. It’s when we endeavor to fixate upon it and Him with our time and attention that it comes into focus. God needs us when we’re grateful.

“Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me.” (Philemon 1:11)

Gained

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Consider the Flowers

Coming up roses

“As for man (and woman, too!), his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.” (Psalm 103:15)

I remember as a kid stopping to smell some mini-roses and my astonishment at their lack of fragrance. That’s the crowning achievement of a flower I think: The fragrance. Magnolias with their mellow, buttery aroma. Lilacs and their fragile, cloying perfume. When I was a kid, my neighbors across the street had a Daphne shrub that bloomed little purple-white flowers in the Spring—to this day my favorite smelling flower. I also enjoy taking lavender berries and rubbing them between my thumb and forefinger just to get a jolt of their unique and pleasantly acrid fragrance. Full-sized roses are a favorite. The best way I can describe their fragrance is “sweet tea”. Turns out there’s a breed of rose with that name. I guess I wasn’t too far off. The word “floribunda” refers to rose breeds with large blooms clustered together.

“For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.” (2 Corinthians 2:15) “Savour”, i.e. smell.

See, we remind God of His Son. Jesus is spoken of in Solomon’s Song (2:1) as “the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys”. When God looks at the believer, regardless of what we think, He sees beauty, He smells it like a flower. Early on in the Old Testament, God literally took in the smell of the sacrifices and it pleased Him. I think the more that we spend time in His presence through whatever interaction we choose, the more we give off that aroma that is pleasing to God.

Anosmia is the medical term for loss of smell. I think we would definitely notice it were we to lose our olfactory sense. The ability to distinguish the types of food in your mouth comes from smell. Odd as that might seem, just pinch your nose with a bite of food and try and determine what you’re eating. Your taste buds only deal with the four base tastes (salty, sweet, bitter, sour). We rely, I think, more on our sense of smell than we know. So stop and smell the roses before they’re gone.

Pushing up daisies

“For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” (Psalm 103:16)

The truth is, we’re only here for a relatively short period of time. It behooves us to do our best to stand out to God in every way we can. Think about your sense of smell. Your olfactory bulb–that which you use to smell, other than your nose of course–is located between your eyes and set back an inch in your head. If you’re able (and not anosmic) take some time and focus on what you smell. Share it with God. Let Him smell the unique fragrance that you bring to His life. He created you to take you in in your entirety.

“And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed:” (Genesis 27:27)

An Issue of Blood

Under the blood

“Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39, emphasis mine)

Contrast Jesus’ entreaty for physical contact from His disciples with His caution for the opposite toward Mary just after His resurrection:

“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17, emphasis mine)

It wasn’t and issue of gender or of preference. Something happened between His resurrection, coming from the tomb to greet Mary Magdalene (the first person to see Him after His resurrection–quite a privilege) and showing Himself–literally appearing in front of them out of thin air (see Luke 24:36)–to His disciples, His “brethren”. In between the time of resurrection and His ex nihilo manifestation to the disciples at Jerusalem, Jesus had appeared before His Father in Heaven and sealed our salvation through His sacrifice. He shed His blood as a holy sacrifice and offering before God and made it possible for our sin to not only be forgiven but removed. It doesn’t matter how much sin you have, Jesus’ shed blood covers all of it. Admittedly, the sight of blood is not for the squeamish. The mere thought, neither. But! That’s just what you’ll have to work through in order to appropriate the forgiveness that comes through accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. Consider the other side of it, where the sight of our sin is equally revolting to the Lord.

“But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)

Where things stand

Hypostasis is a multi-faceted term (of Greek origin) with three distinct definitions. The first and simplest definition refers to an undergirding or basis for an idea or concept (hypo-stasis: literally, under-standing). It gets a little deeper in definition theologically. Hypostasis, theologically speaking, refers to the substance of each member of the Trinity when viewed as distinct entities within the contiguity, or oneness, of their Person. Think of a box (this is how my dad explained it to me as a kid). The depth, height and width are distinct from one another yet all make up the volume, the body of the object. Hypostasis. Jesus is an individual but He’s also just as much God as is the Father and the Spirit. They are one. The third definition of hypostasis is a medical one. It refers to a pooling of the blood in an organ due to lack of proper circulation. There it is again! Blood. We have it, we need it. Jesus shed His blood for us. Maybe that’s why He mentioned to His disciples in the above verse that “a spirit hath not flesh and bones”. He didn’t say anything about blood. Certainly, a spirit doesn’t have blood, but does He? I don’t think so. His physical life was spilled out that we might live spiritually.

“And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind Him, and touched the hem of His garment.” (Matthew 9:20)

All this woman had to do was touch Jesus. The life in Him, healed her. The same holds true for today. Press through the crowd. Make an effort to reach Him, to touch Him.

Hemopathic refers to any disease of the blood. ‘Hemo’ being the Greek prefix for ‘blood’. And while that’s a medical term that refers to a physical state, the issue of sin affects everyone. It’s never a matter of ethics or morality (or sin, really). Anymore, and it’s always been this way, by the way, without Jesus there is no recreation of the human spirit. It’s now a matter of believing that God loves you more than you love yourself. After, of course, believing that He’s real and that Jesus is who He said He was and is. Mary knew beyond the shadow of a doubt who Jesus was. She loved Him and knew that He loved her. While He may have forbidden her from touching Him physically, they were one in spirit. The same thing happens to us upon believing in Jesus. And while Heaven is the dimension in which these things of the physical slough off and give way to the spiritual, the understanding necessarily begins in our hearts and minds upon touching Jesus there, first.

“And hath made of one blood all nations of men (and women) for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us. For in Him we live, and move, and have our being…” (Acts 17:26-28a)

Jumping to Conclusions

“…even God, who quickeneth (resurrects) the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” (Romans 4:17b, emphasis mine)

Faking it

“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;” (Titus 1:3, emphasis mine)

Faith is a mystery. To the non-believer, it’s bunk. A fairy tale. Something to be dismissed with a wave of the hand and a hard glint in the eye. To the believer though, faith is still a mystery but it retains its ethereal-yet-real beauty even as we are in the middle of something we can’t explain—fully as we’d like. Faith in God—and Jesus—is the ideal. As we age, we may grow out of our desire for an imaginary friend and, maybe, stop believing in the fairies at the bottom of the garden. It’s also a synonym for ‘confidence’. We express how we’ve lost ‘faith’ in the ‘system’, whatever system that holds power over some aspect of our lives. The faith to which I’m referring here is something subtle, fleeting. Like light when observed from one vantage point over another. It’s there. A quiet stirring that might look for a moment on the present and then launch out into the future and into possibility. Oh it’s quite real, I assure you. Whether you invest that vision in God. Or in something more transitory like some democratic process or tangibly evident observation, it’s faith. Call it what you will, you can’t live without it.

“And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.” (John 12:20-21, emphasis mine)

The realm of possibility is alive all around us. Look at language and the mind. Now, some tongues are better suited to express a fuller dimension of imagination than are others. The English language is well-suited for make-believe. The subjunctive clause is used to express ideas and instances and possibilities that, while they may not have happened yet, are on the table, so to speak, for consideration (In this case, future subjunctive: if I were to see Jesus) Who knows the reason why those Greeks wanted to see and speak to Jesus in the above passage? Admittedly, the King James words it a bit wonkily (by today’s standards), but it comes close to a subjunctive mood. “We would see Jesus” essentially and to my mind speaks to their great desire and also confidence at being able to get to Him. Something akin to a strong conviction. He was a busy guy, thousands followed Him around at the height of His ministry. And billions today vie for His attention. But your faith isn’t hampered by numbers, is it? He says if you have faith as “a grain of mustard seed…which indeed is the least of all seeds” (Matthew 13:31-32) you can remove mountains. Ideally, though, our faith is to be used to realize Him before appropriating a blessing or solving a problem.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, emphasis mine)

Making it

“Now faith is…” (Hebrews 11:1)

Don’t doubt. You truly can do anything you put your mind to, no qualifiers. Provided science or politics can and will support your ambitions, I should add. There’s a dark side to this though: God has given free will to His creatures (us). The world is alive and abuzz with opportunity and excitement and achievement. Much of it is beneficial and even necessary (not to mention mind-blowing). But when we mistake the direction at which progress is to be aimed and miss the heart of God, He’ll let us go on creating and dreaming and achieving and imagining—without realizing His Son, who makes it all possible. The worst kind of conclusion.

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not…in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you…” (Matthew 7:22-23a) He’s not lying when He says this.

How ’bout this, instead:

“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)