Calling It Like We See It (Imminent Domain part 2)

“The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him.” (Psalm 50:1-3)

What if, from time immemorial, every single prophecy ever uttered was intended to do one thing only? In no way am I looking to detract or downplay the importance of what a prophecy is. What I am seeking to do, audacious as it may sound, is to streamline the whole process. I find that in a large church setting, when labels of “prophet” and “apostle” and such begin to be thrown around, it tends to eclipse the more baseline appelation of “believer”. Because we’re all believers. The incessant “name-calling”, for lack of a better term, might alienate those whose needs are hidden under layers of the exact same thing (name-calling) that happens outside the walls of church. But first: “Despise not prophesyings.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20)

“And this voice which came from Heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:18-20) Meaning, we can’t twist a prophetic word to mean what we want it to.

Eminent Domain

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)

I believe it’s eminently simple. Peter is referring to a specific time. He’s talking about when God spoke out of the cloud–“the excellent glory”– and testified again of Jesus and His life. David, in Psalm 91, is referring to a more emblematic mountain. The symbolic “Zion” in which God dwells all the time. God is there. He is shining and He’s looking down on us. And while I believe this is true, it’s also a symbol. Meaning we can’t fully wrap our minds around it in our current state. This is good–why would we want to sate our imaginations? Think about it. Dwell on it. “The secret place of the most High…” up there in the atmosphere where it’s, not freezing, but bracing. Where you feel more alive. Air might be harder to come by, but God’s got enough to go around. Keep climbing, you’re close. What I’m getting at here, is lining out the journey that all of us should endeavor to take. That of climbing the (figurative) mountain in order to “dwell in the secret place”. To essentially use all the grace and gusto and guts that God gifts us with to see things from His vantage point. And seen that way, I would say that prophecy should come easy.

Before we go any further, a mountain that is completely enclosed with a glacier is called a nunatak. Something that necessarily would have to be burned through before we get to God and before God can come down. Remember, “a fire shall devour before Him”. Hence the icyness in the church that has to go. Am I associating too freely? I don’t think so.

Ears to the ground

I believe it starts from the ground up. When we see that God is always speaking and always showing us that which we notice, we’ll begin to see patterns. And the more we orient our thinking to the ground rules He’s laid out in His word, the more we will know what He’s getting at. We’ll begin to see the world from His vantage point. Prophecies are wonderful. Prophecies are powerful. “But”, as Paul says very plainly, “whether there be prophecies, they shall fail.” (1 Corinthians 13:8) See, we are an integral part of what God is doing. And it’s only when we endeavor to get as close to God as we possibly can, do we take our places in the grand, overarching words that are spoken out into the future. Grammatically, the word “farther” is to be used when dealing with two objects in relation to one another, i.e. distance. “Further”, however, is used when referring to an intangible thing. Like furthering God’s Kingdom. But it’s up to us. God wants to come down, as it says in Psalm 50, that’s all I know. He wants to manifest Himself in new and exciting ways. How can we help Him with this? To determine to get as close to Him as possible in our day-to-day walk. He’ll be here before we know it.

“Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which Thou hast given me: for Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

And loving God–and loving on God–is the way up.

Sign Language (Imminent Domain part 1)

“And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.” (Luke 1:61)

Think about that for a second. The above is referring to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. The one who was to herald Jesus’ coming to prominence. The one to whom Isaiah’s prophecy pertained. “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3) Those present at the baby’s birth were essentially making hand-gestures as to what the father would have his son called. John had a very important position in God’s plan for that time. As an aside, you don’t know that you’re not the answer to some prophecy God spoke way back when–why not? Not every prophecy that has come from Heaven is contained in the Bible. God wants to do something in the world and He wants to use you. He knew you were coming and now you’re here! Welcome. Back to the above. So how would you sign to a mute father what he would have his son be called? I don’t know. It necessarily required a pen and paper (i.e. “writing table” Luke 1:63) and so Zacharias spells out “His name is John”.

“John” means “God is gracious”, by the way.

“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10, emphasis mine)

Whereas John was called to inaugurate the Lord Jesus–to be His forerunner to society–the above verse in Revelation says the testimony of Jesus is simply “the spirit of prophecy”. From John (“God is gracious”) to Jesus, to God the Father. And the Holy Spirit is in and among all of it, making it work in our world.

What is a prophecy? As the verse from Revelation rightfully points out, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Jesus came to point to the Father. And to make it possible for us to get there, I might add. Prior to His life, death and resurrection, it was impossible to have our spirit recreated (something the Holy Spirit does) so that we can actually enjoy Heaven. But the testimony of Jesus. It’s “the spirit of prophecy” but all prophecies should inspire one to “worship God”. Keep this in mind.

Distant Early Warning

The DEW Line is a row of communication towers commissioned during the Cold War to warn of any incoming threat from the Soviets. They stretch from Alaska, through Canada up to Greenland. They still stand, but have been deactivated since the mid-nineties. While the DEW towers were in many ways detrimental to the environment, think about what it takes to get God to come down. And if you look at prophecy as just that–a distant, early warning–it could shed a new light on both serving the Lord in our day-in-day-out activities and also God’s character as revealed through Jesus.

“I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue” (Psalm 39:1-3)

God is exacting. God is holy. While we are encouraged to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:15), we must realize what it took to open these lines of communication. John. Jesus. “Our Father who art in Heaven.” Laying the groundwork to receive the Lord takes time and pain and hardship. Think about what David, in the above passage, went through before He spoke out. The timing of God is what causes us to both speak and to hold our peace. It’s our responsibility to see that God can come down and change the world through His Spirit. And God wants to come down. But He can’t unless certain conditions are met. If we listen, we’ll see in our life, the signs that God’s been seeking to intimate to us in whatever way, that would begin to pave the way for His coming. And I’m not talking about the Second Coming of Jesus. I’m talking about inviting God to dwell with us in a fuller measure by His Spirit.

“But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” (Psalm 22:3)

Very High Frequency Omnirange

The VOR station enables aircraft to stay on course through a series of signals emitted on each of the 360 degree marks. With each giving a relation point with reference to magnetic north. Close enough.

Where is God? Sure, He’s in our hearts by His Holy Spirit. But He has a body. He sits on a throne and He wants to manifest Himself in our day to day affairs in ways He has been unable to for whatever (unbelieving) reason. When Zacharias doubted Gabriel’s instructions on what to name His son, he was stricken with dumbness. I’d wager to say both David and Zacharias were unable to speak for much the same reason. When God is doing something of utmost importance, it’s best to keep it to ourselves, and listen. God is always speaking. Always working out His plan on earth. Timing is everything and if we think nothing’s going on, we need to listen. God is sending His signals out circumambiently. All centering on one point. And that point is whatever you’re called to do. And what you’re called to do is to both worship God yourself, and exhort others to do the same. Gabriel came directly from the throne room to speak to John’s dad. “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God.” (Luke 1:19) The tangent began in God’s heart (prophesied in Isaiah) and it continues in yours. And your call coincides with everything else going on in God’s plan. As we realize the gravity of this, let us dial down the noise in our head and heart and tune in to God’s transmission.

And now, very simply: “In the multitude of my thoughts within me Thy comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19)

Darkening the Door

“I am small and despised: yet do not I forget Thy precepts.” (Psalm 119:141)

Shrinking to fit

It’s one thing to actively humble oneself in order that we might serve those who don’t see us as we are–as God sees us. That’s the way, by the way. If you haven’t already, you’re bound to run across people in your church or your workplace, or even your own family, who don’t see you as God sees you. The way to retain your personhood in light of a negative reflection is to keep your vision trained on God. And as God never has any identity crises, He’ll be sure and be that mirror you need to keep being yourself. It’s quite another thing to have to struggle in the face of lies and libel and slander. Libel, by the way, is written defamation whereas slander is something spoken that is intended to sully a person’s reputation or standing. And God hates all of it.

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” (1 Peter 2:21-23)

I find it amusing that slander and libel are punishable with fines and in some cases imprisonment, but the no-less injurious thing called gossip–something that happens with impunity within the walls of a church–goes unpunished. Rest-assured, God hears everything said. And it’s His ears that burn. If there’s one Person out there who is largely misunderstood, it’s Him. There are those who think they know Him but couldn’t be more off-base. And those who assume that He’s a certain way, represented by a church that is acting out of turn or out of order and while inclined to repent and accept Him, miss His true character. It’s a broad spectrum and all Jesus desires is that people walk in love. Which can’t be done unless we walk with Him. We cannot make God in our image. That’s idolatry. We cannot fit God into our mold.

As an aside, the Greek myth of Procrustes tells of a roadside robber who captured unsuspecting victims and cut off their limbs in order to make them fit into his bed. When you hear the word “procrustean”, it refers to the speaker or subject making something mean what they want it to, regardless of facts.

“For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.” (Isaiah 28:20)

When we don’t see God correctly, we will not see others as He sees them, either. This is the truth. God will continually bring you in and among those with whom your disinclined to associate in order for you to further dial in the love and compassion and forgiveness needed to see them grow in His care.

Growing pains

“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.” (Galatians 4:19-20)

And this is what it takes: pain. Paul, in the above passage admits that he doubts the true character of the Galatians, who, it says, wanted “to be under the law” (4:21). He didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t change the message of Grace in order to fit their skewed definition. And he didn’t “lop off any limbs” in a procrustean manner, in order that they might fit into his mold. No. He’s the one who suffered. And Peter says “For even hereunto were ye called.” Church can be an ugly battleground of misperception (seriously) and misery. You can walk in on Sunday and clash with a brother or sister through no fault of your own. God help you. And if God has you continue to attend, then you may well be the one to hurt and suffer through the birth pains of seeing “Christ be formed” in them. It takes time and it’s something that necessarily gets God’s attention. We get the privilege of feeling a bit of what Jesus went through for everyone–in order to get a few of us back.

As another aside, the word “odin” (pronounced odeen) in Greek is the word for “childbirth pain”. No relation to the Norse myth.

There are vacant rooms in God’s heart. Hollow places that may never be filled. But you’re there. Revel in that. Know that the Father is holding you, even as you hold up your brother or sister in Christ and see that they move in. We must forgive the offense in order to allow the Holy Spirit to begin working on their heart. And the joy that you bring to God more than makes up for the misery we feel from rejection, misunderstanding and lack of validation. If you’re experiencing this or have, my heart goes out to you.

Non-Anonymous (What’s In a Name. part 5)

Near as I can tell

“But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” (Hebrews 2:6)

The writer of Hebrews is speaking of David though they don’t identify him by name (see Psalm 8:4-5). The writer of Hebrews doesn’t identify themselves, either. And while it’s comforting to know who penned the Word of God–the very words that we have been given to reorient our thinking in this world–it’s not necessary, I guess. While I’m not a professional theologian or Bible scholar, the tenor of the epistle seems to flow in line with the other things Paul wrote. But since it doesn’t explicitly say, I suppose it’s not my place to wrangle and wrestle out some answer where none is provided.

But look at what they’re quoting. That’s where it’s at. They (Hey, it could’ve been a woman who wrote it. I’ve heard that argument.) are reiterating the astonishment of David that God would take notice of us. That He would essentially stoop to our level to see how things were going, maybe die for us if need be. And I don’t mean to be flippant, need was. “Though the Lord be High, yet hath He respect unto the lowly…” (Psalm 138:6a)

The son of man that thou visitest him…

With that word “visitest comes the idea that God is inspecting, selecting, looking out for, watching. The same idea is expressed in the story of the Prodigal Son. Where Jesus speaks of the Father waiting and watching for His child to return.”And he arose, and came to his Father. But when he was yet a great way off, his Father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:22) We’re not anonymous to God. It’s when we dwell on the goodness of God to seek us out, one by one, and establish a one-on-one relationship with us that we see the enormity of the Call. Let alone the fact that He made us in the first place.

“For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” (Isaiah 45:4)

This is God speaking to King Cyrus, letting him know that even though he subscribed to a different pantheon, and didn’t know the God of the Hebrews at all, that wasn’t going to stop God from calling him out by name, using him for His purposes, and naming him (an additional name is the connotation in the Hebrew). The name Cyrus essentially means “sun king”. “King Cyrus” is almost redundant–or resplendent, depending on how you look at it. Point is, God is working through him to secure a stable future for His kids. He says the same thing to His children in Isaiah 43:1, “I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”

As far as I can tell

“He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names.” (Psalm 147:4)

God is an individual who has taken pains to re-reveal Himself to the world. Not just through His Son, but through the Body of Christ.

“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building.” (Hebrews 9:11)

Here, the writer of Hebrews is referring to Jesus establishing “the temple of His body” (John 2:21). As the letter to the Hebrews is essentially a guidebook on transferring from one Covenant to another, from an outward dwelling of God, to an indwelling by the Spirit, it’s fitting that the author would refer to Christ forming a place “not made with hands”, i.e. something that God Himself has made. And while the writer of Hebrews says God put us “over the works of Thy hands”, the building “not made with hands” is talking about our spirit. The essence of who we are minus our body. It’s who God sees first when He looks at us. It’s who He uses, anonymous or not, to get His business done in this world. How many times do you interact with people who don’t know your name? Who don’t know you from Adam? I would say a lot of our human-to-human interaction takes place without learning one’s name. And as we represent God, essentially symbolizing Him to the world at large, it’s Him who we’re meant to leave an impression of. Anonymous or not.

John says “No man hath seen God at any time” (1:18). Granted, there are places in the Bible where God speaks to people face-to-face (Moses, Jacob, Job, etc.) and that’s true. But I believe what John’s referring to is our being able to precisely define His features as we would any human being. That’s something that Jesus had to stand in for.

“Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship HIm must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

God calls us by name. A name that He thought up and that fits us perfectly. It’s our place, now, to respond.

The Hollow

“Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while…” (Mark 6:31)

Come ye yourselves apart…

Where do you go when you feel you’ve fallen apart? Have you ever felt shattered and let-down–hard? Jesus, in the above verse, is inviting John’s disciples to a change of scenery while they mourned the death of their teacher. There is dignity and fulfillment in mourning. Admittedly, I can’t say I can touch or have felt the depth of sorrow they had encountered seeing John forcibly taken from them to rot in prison and then lose his life in such a gruesome manner. The struggles and frustration that I face pale in comparison. But it doesn’t mean Jesus takes any less interest and concern in what I’m going through. And as I fall apart and have fallen apart in the past, He has been faithful to pick up every piece of me and replace it where it belongs. Even pieces that I thought were lost or that were simply forgotten about. We are infinitely complex. Up till now, it would seem He’s the only one who truly understands us as we are. This is especially important as we are growing in His care.

Foot-in-mouth

“So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before Thee. Nevertheless I am continually with Thee: Thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” (Psalm 73:22-24)

Notice the backbone of Asaph’s realization here. It wasn’t that he had made a grievous mistake by idolizing those who had prospered even as he suffered in their wake, though that was at the tip. If you look further down, as God revealed the truth behind what was going on (and going down, literally), Asaph saw that he himself was in the hollow of God’s hand. All the complex and fear-inducing storms of life cannot touch you there. But fear is real. Fear of failure. Of famine. Of the consequences of our bad decisions. Fear of falling apart without someone there to catch us. Asaph the psalmist realized that he was always being held by God. It’s just as true for us as it is and was for him. And as God holds onto us, the deep circumstances themselves will unravel in His time and fall apart of their own accord. Replaced with simplicity, focus, peace and truth. And love, first:

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

Hand-to-mouth

“So He fed them according to the integrity of His heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of His hands.” (Psalm 78:72)

Another declaration by Asaph. The Hebrew word (tabuwn) translated “skilfulness” also connotes intelligence. If God made me, it should follow, logically, that He knows how to put me back together. At the top of the page, Jesus invites John’s disciples “into a desert place”. I would say that most of us, myself included, view dry spells and dry areas as having little or no merit for our calling and our life. Maybe we’ve been through a “desert experience” or two, and they always seemed to flow in line with the mother-of-all-desert-experiences–the Israelites’ time in the wilderness. A time of necessary hardship after a divorce from a formerly pleasant (read: secure; Egypt) place on the way to our Promised Land, whatever that may be. But life ebbs and flows. Even if we’ve encountered a measure of peace and victory from where we were, God is always guiding us into greater things. I believe this. And as we are multi-layered, sometimes more and more desert experiences are necessary. But look at what Jesus tells them. He says to “come…apart…and rest a while”. Sometimes, the barrenness of your day, your week, your life, presently, is intended to get you to rest. To allow yourself to settle in to God’s care and trust Him on a level deeper than you had ever done, were ever accustomed to, and also invited to. An altogether different take on the desert.

This came to me the other day: “It’s not until you’re strong enough that God allows you to suffer.” Is that true? It’s not gospel, but I do find an interesting point therein. I believe if God allows us to fall apart, for lack of a better term, it’s only because He trusted us in the first place to share in the sufferings of His Son. See, Jesus knows what suffering is. He knows what it feels like to fall apart with no one to put Him back together. Granted, “A bone of Him shall not be broken.” (John 19:36) But that was His physical body. Who knows how He fell apart inside when He was crying out as to why His Father had forsaken Him (see Matthew 27:46)? I believe any feeling of falling apart necessarily puts you on a level at which Jesus undersands intimately. He’s there with you in your fragmented state, waiting for you to rest so He can patch you back up, stronger than before.

“He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3)

Our Constituents

Parts of speech

“Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words.” -Zhuangzi

Also known as Zhuang Zhou. He was a Chinese philosopher form the fourth century B.C.

From that, to (two hundred years later) this: “Rem tene: verba sequentur”

That was Cato the Elder speaking. It’s Latin for “Stick with the subject and the words will follow.” Two statements from the annals of History that either contradict or complement one another, depending on where you’re at with either “meaning”, or “words”. Or both.

And then two hundred more years go by and Jesus says this: “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63)

What are the words that God speaks to you? Are you listening? Yes, He uses your native tongue. When I was a kid, I figured the only way I’d be able to hear God speak to me was by hearing a voice, akin to my own thoughts, sounding in my head. And yes, He can do that–when once you’ve so saturated your mind with what He said in His word that a mentally audible voice won’t disturb the tranquility and natural order of what He’s already established for your mental capacity. As such, I don’t often hear Him speak to me in English. That idea–that God had to speak to me one way only–came to me over twenty years ago and it’s taken all that time and more to realize this: God is always speaking in every way. I heard that from my dad and while he used different words to express the idea, I didn’t really know what he was talking about at the time. He would tell me that God was always speaking, that I could be having a conversation with the Lord throughout my day and while I wanted to feel that tether, that umbilical, I really didn’t know how to go about making it happen. He would add on the caveat “And God is always speaking through His Word”. That’s where I’d have a hard time, a disconnect as it were. Because I really had no desire to study my Bible. I’d much rather have played Nintendo or with my Legos or draw. I had a New King James version (still do somewhere) and while I memorized easily the things contained therein, because I didn’t interact with the Lord much, they never began to glow with the life inherent. This tome entitled “The Holy Bible” rests on your coffee table or as an app in your smartphone and within its leaves or lines of code lay the very essence of God’s person as communicated through whatever language makes sense to you. And while the mere words made sense to me, the meaning didn’t come across. Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Seeing this quote in light of God’s word, the meaning is Him. And as we can never fully “get” Him, we must always come back down to meditating upon and ruminating on the Word of God. But not to the neglect of Him as a person.

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me that ye might have life. I receive not honor from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.” (John 5:39-41)

What are the words that “do it for you”? Please understand, language is subjective. This is why we have such things as synonyms and finer definitions and elucidation. And what about vernacular? Patois. Parlance. Pidgin. All the way from that–to other languages. Your native tongue. It’s all communicative and it all carries weight. But the words of God? It’s when we use these systems–for lack of a better term–to make real to us what God is saying to us, do we really begin to glimpse the heart of God. And it begins growing in us like a pilot light and as we pour on more fuel and stoke it with loving and worshipful interaction throughout our day, the flame will grow higher. His meaning, His presence and Person will manifest through those words. All the words contained in the Bible are meant to “testify” to Jesus. He was speaking in the above passage to the Pharisees who, He says, “have not the love of God in [them].” That’s what it boils down to.

“The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” (Psalm 12:6)

Look at the quote from Zhuangzi again: “Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words.” Now look at anyone you love. Do you “get” them? Is that why you love them? I suppose it’s different for everyone and as everyone is literally a world unto themselves, it takes a lifetime to truly know them. This might sound silly but if you take Zhuangzi’s quote too literally as applied to that person whom you love, and as the best word to describe them is their name, you cannot very well forget the words (i.e. their name) when once you’ve gotten them and their meaning–why would you want to? It might be out of context when applied across an inter-relational human spectrum but with reference to God and His Word? You cannot forget Jesus. Everything He is, is behind His name. All the words in the world mean nothing if they’re not pointing you to Him.

“For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:9-10)

Turn it around now, and look at the quote from Cato: “Stick with subject and the words will follow.” How did God reach you? Was it through another person (for me, it was my father)? Through a sermon? Did you pick up the Bible out of curiosity and then receive the Lord? Whatever way you came to know the Lord is between you and Him. But I find that unless we truly delve into the Word–with the Holy Spirit as our guide, I might add–we won’t know Him as He truly is. Admittedly, I may be taking Cato’s quote out of context here because He is talking about literature and writing, after all. If we dwell on a subject long enough, as he’s exhorting in his quote, the words that apply to said subject will bubble and percolate out of you. You’ll be able to form and attach them and create a mold into which the formerly amorphous understanding of the topic can in turn be poured and with which you can in turn explain it to others. But with God? With someone whose only containing apparatus in history has been Jesus Christ, and as Jesus is perfectly elucidated through the Word of God, we must turn to that even whilst we walk with a God (i.e. Jesus) of whom we’ve only received an infinitesimal glimpse.

I find then, that the two quotes go hand-in-hand. Yet Jesus’ words of “Spirit and life” trump both.

Places, please

By the way, it’s been over two-thousand years, now, since Jesus spoke in the pages of the Bible.

“Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men. Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” says Paul (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)

Think about your life. Think about the name with which you’ve been graced. Do you know what it means? When once you’ve met the One who thought you up and spoke (for lack of a better term) you into this world, you begin to realize that God is indeed speaking all the time. He speaks through your senses and through art. Through, not just the lyrics of a song, but through its hook. Through the melody and the bridge. Through that shade of blue on the canvas and that cloud in the sky that looks like a duck (it’s called pareidolia, but it’s also a duck). Even, dare I say it, through Legos and Nintendo (!). God is and always has been talking to you, calling you closer. Calling you by name. Though it wasn’t until Jesus came and lived and died and resurrected that you could be a position to hear Him speak to you through the Holy Spirit in your heart (and mind, if He so chooses, and you so desire).

“And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh. That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ…” (Philippians 1:27) The King James synonymizes our Christian walk with the word “conversation”.

Syntax is a real thing, you know. The order in which our words come out and make sense to the hearer. Like language in general, syntax is subjective as well and each one has its own. A language’s syntax reflects on the thought process of the culture. Our’s (American English) is no exception. But think about what God is speaking. God spoke to Adam and Eve. To Abraham and Moses. Fast-forward to Bethlehem: “And the word became flesh, and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14a). God is speaking, but now He’s speaking through Jesus. Everything Jesus did was–how can I say this–God’s thoughts on the matter. Transmitted through His Son. He is now in conversation with us.

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

And this is where syntax comes in again. As applied to us. I’m not going to go so far as calling you a verb or a noun or even a particular word. I am going to say that God wants to speak to the world through you, just as He did Jesus. He wants to speak through His entire body the same way. And as we “walk in the light” (1 John 1:6), God is going to get His message across to this world. That’s what this is all about. God dwells in Heaven and because of sin, the two worlds were separated. God bridged the two through the Law and then through Jesus. And Jesus makes it possible for us to reflect the atmosphere of Heaven onto this world. God is speaking. Not just words, but meaning. This is where Zhuangzi can be quoted again though only up to a point. Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Once those who’ve never seen, tasted, heard God, “get” Him–through you–they won’t forget you, but they won’t necessarily need you the same way anymore. You will have introduced them to their Author. And God will then speak to them and through them as well. It’s not called our “conversation” for nothing.

In closing, one more quote:

“Words are good, but there is something better. The best is not to be explained by words. In the end, one returns to a wordless beholding.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

How does this apply? As God is always “speaking” to us in every way, we can do the same with Him. It isn’t just words from us God hears. He hears and feels everything we would send to Him in loving communication. He is not limited by language nor by distance. Because of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we are connected to Him. The slightest tug and you’ll feel a response. As a kid, I may not have felt the connection, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t there–it was. It’s a matter of transmitting something, anything to God and building upon that relationship.

And the conversation we find ourselves in today, will continue throughout eternity.

Traversing the Impassable

Wading in

“And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,) That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city…” (Joshua 3:15-16a)

A similar event to the parting of the Red Sea. You don’t really hear about Joshua and his troupe crossing the Jordan as often as you do Moses. While Joshua had his own unique exploits, the parting and crossing of Jordan were no less spectacular. Granted, the Red Sea was, well, a sea and Jordan was just a river. Without God, they’re both impossible to ford on dry ground. From there to here, then. God tells Joshua “as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.” (3:7) No sense comparing your circumstances to those of another. As long as you’re totally invested in what God is having you do, don’t concern yourself with the size or natural outworking of your ministry or following (especially in this age) or what-have-you. The purity (and therefore effectiveness, see Luke 16:10) of your calling requires that you give it your all. Step into the water. God will prove Himself strong for you. Don’t give up and don’t give in. Instead, wade in. While water might symbolize the impassable and the impossible, it also symbolizes God’s glory: “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) Remember, the river Jordan crests “all the time of harvest”. I may be going all over the place with allusion here. Point is, God has the ability to make things good for you. The symbolism inherent in these stories is meant to both build your faith and buoy you until God makes a way where you saw none before.

“And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:5)

Waiting out

Rewinding a generation back to Moses and their flight from Egypt, to the banks of the Red Sea. Moses tells the people to “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will shew you to day.” (Exodus 14:13) Does God love you enough to deliver you? It’s one thing to wait out miserable circumstances that you had no hand in stirring up. It takes time to untangle hearts and iron out feelings and repay things owed–material/immaterial. Does the love of God shine through during these times? And what about circumstances that we did cause? Do we look for the love and understanding of the Father when we wait out circumstances that we can’t figure out on our own? One of the most powerful realizations to have during times of confusion is that God understands. He does.

Isaiah, chapter thirty, opens with God expressing His dismay and shock at His children looking elsewhere for what they need. “Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!” (verses 1-2) It would seem a similar thing is happneing in Isaiah’s time as happened during Moses’. The children of Israel tell Moses “For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14:12) to which Moses gives his response to “stand still”. He then makes this powerful declaration: “for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.” God wants to effectively deal with, once-and-for-all, the things that have been plaguing you throughout your life. Issues of addiction and powerlessness he wants to replace with self-control and courage. Lack of insight and vision does He want to fill with a perspicacity that sees what’s going on and continues to look at Him in spite of what your feelings tell you. And He can do it no other way than to have you be still. “But let patience have her perfect work…” (James 1:4a)

“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; in returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength…” (Isaiah 30:15)

That’s a hard one. The last part of that verse says “and ye would not.” The cycle repeats itself many times over and generation after generation. So prove that last part wrong. God wants to do new things, big things and when we find ourselves inundated and in over our heads, it’s times like these that we must lay down our logic as to how to unravel things and simply press in to God. It’s actually not hard. The difficulty arises when we think we know better than God which way we’re headed.

Press/Release

The press

“And when they could not come nigh unto Him for the press, they uncovered the roof where He was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, He said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” (Mark 2:4-5)

Props to this guy’s friends. Can you imagine the scene? The whole city of Capernaum seems to be congregating around the building where Jesus was. So busy was it that the four men who brought their friend to see Jesus for healing, dismantled the tiling of the roof and lowered him down into the house . Right in the midst where Jesus was obviously doing something more important. A similar thing happened with the woman who had “an issue of blood twelve years” (Luke 8:43). On His way to see Jairus–the “ruler of the synagogue”–to heal his daugher, a woman pressed through the crowd in order to receive healing for something that had both bankrupted and also blacklisted her. One touch of “the border of His garment” made her whole and also socially acceptable again. He says “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” (vs. 48) Jairus’ daughter died while this was taking place, by the way. Which instance would have been more important? What order could one impose on the parsing out of Jesus’ time and miracle-working power? It’s not our place to say. It’s our responsibility, as Jesus is everywhere by His Spirit, to press through. Jesus wasn’t late, by the way. He made His way to Jairus’ house and brought his (twelve year old) daughter back to life. There’s more than enough to go around. Press through. Don’t let the busyness of your church, your city, wherever, imply that Jesus isn’t on His way to see you and give you what you need.

Pressing in

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” (Psalm 22:1-3)

This is David speaking. As the Psalms are essentially songs, this one sounds more like a dirge. So pure is this expression of exasperation that Jesus quotes it Himself upon His death. Did you ever think about the fact that you will never, ever get to experience what it’s like to have the Father turn His back on you? That’s enough of a shellshock to render the humble heart speechless with gratitude. Notice David’s dedication to the cause. Whatever it was that caused him to cry out to God “in the daytime” and “in the night season”, was quite the pressing matter. Literally squeezing the agony out of David, one day at a time. I love the phrase “night season”. As if we were living on one of the poles where it’s dark most of the day and all Winter long. Will you hold out? God’s looking at you. You don’t get to experience that kind of suffering without invitation. Keep pressing in and hold out for God. The last part of the above passage is the answer: “Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel”. Praise God. You, alone, possess the ability to create an atmosphere where God can show up and change the locale for His glory and His purposes. He’s coming, don’t doubt.

Pressing on

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Paul here uses the metaphor of running (as he does in many places) to illustrate the attitude of persitence that we as Christians desperately need. If you run, you know the feeling. Everything within you is telling you to give up and give in. To quit. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:42b) says Jesus to His exhausted disciples. They had arrived at Gethsemane and were no doubt spent. It’s the middle of the night and all the oppression of hell is bearing down on these men. It’s interesting to note that “Gethsemane” means “oil press” from the Hebrew. So intense was the weight placed on Jesus (Atlas has nothing on Him) that it squeezed out “great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) I think if we meditated more on the fact that Jesus didn’t have to do what He did, it might ease some of the weight of our own lives–if that makes sense. Because He never gives us more than we can carry. He knows the feeling and He invites us to bring it to Him: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)

Release your burden to Jesus and let Him give you His in return.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)

YOUR CALL

Fits and Starts

“Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.” (1 Corinthians 7:22-23)

Paul, writing to the Corinthians, of the counterintuitive Christian mindset that should, should accompany, how can I say this? Indentured servitude. Essentially slavery. As the Gospel of Christ spread by word of mouth and conflagrated into a full-fledged underground movement, those who found themselves serving others in whatever capacity, were tempted to get rankled over the fact that they had other “lords and masters” who vyed for their attentions, spent their time and essentially stole their life. Where is the “liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17) that Paul speaks of? Aside from the fact that the Christians in Corinth found themselves high and dry in an atmosphere of debauchery and licentiousness–like the worst of Mardi Gras all the time–I don’t know much about Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. But this concept of delightful servitude! Who in their right mind would want to serve another–call it what you will–when they had received the palpable freedom that Jesus Christ worked and slaved and died to give them? But that’s the way it is. We find ourselves now, in a world where up is down and vice-versa. Where if you truly desire to become something or someone, you have to lay that down and serve others. You have to place your will and your whims at the feet of the One who gave them to you in the first place.

He also gave you (and me) this: “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (2 Corinthians 1:22)

The portion of the Holy Spirit you received upon salvation is like a down payment on Heaven. Having worked through the difficulties of having to work on this earth and all that entails, I’m not inclined to see Heaven as a place where one kicks back, feet up, while angels feed me grapes one at a time. When God ordained the Sabbath, I believe it was necessary. And what was one doing the other six days? Working. This world takes hard work–it requires it. And if we’re not willing to put in the hours to see that things run smoothly, things could very well grind to a halt. Same goes for our walk before the Lord. Tally up your thoughts and realize that Paul said to “bring every [one] into captivity” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

False starts

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with my eye.” (Psalm 32:8)

Our “call” if you could call it that, is a mercurial, fluid thing. I find that as life goes on, the things I desired and the doors I sought to go through, change. The kernel of impetus remains the same, but I find that it grows and blossoms into something that necessarily involves more than just myself and is greater than the sum of its parts. The age-old adage of “follow your heart” holds true, yes. But if I’m following my heart, and someone else is following their heart, is there a greater “heart” at work? Yes. But rather than focus on the call, the further out I (we) get, the more imperative it is that me and my brothers and sisters in Christ are not just hammering out the vision that we now share, but that we all, individually and now corporately, are following God. All things flow back to Him. And this is where falsehood is so deplorable. When once you’ve dealt with the falsehood of your own heart, are you going to be patient with others who aren’t seeing things like you? Who says that you’re the one to lead? Again, it all goes back to the verse at the top of the page. We never get beyond servanthood. “Art thou called being a servant?” The answer is yes. Paul says that you’re either serving someone else or you’re serving Christ. It’s actually Jesus serving others through you, whatever your call. And I don’t mean to be flippant or disrespectful.

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles” (Ephesians 3:1)

Inside Track

It’s not called our “walk” for nothing.

“The steps of a good man (and woman) are ordered by the Lord, and He delighteth in [their] way.” (Psalm 37:23)

Perambulate

To walk about. In referring to Australian Aborigines, the Walkabout is more akin to a Vision Quest. A leave of absence from the rest of society in order to find oneself, to get something that was theretofore unavailable to the seeker in the closed-off and disjoint place from which they came. I find walking essential. A quick stroll around the block. Opting to walk, instead of drive, to the store. Really, any instance where one foot must be put in front of the other–numerous times, I might add–in order to reach a destination. I feel more in touch with a baser level of existence when I walk. But where am I going? It’s not enough to just hoof it. I’m serious. Walking clears my head. It gets me out of the prescribed way of thinking that says I must always be doing something at the pace of everyone else. That’s a hard one to outstride, I might add. Life is best lived in relation to God and His pace.

“what doth the Lord require of thee, but to…walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)

Peregrinate

It means the same. A deeper shade of “searching” begins to show, however. Now, you’re not just wandering around, you’ve caught the scent of something. But what? The Hebrew word derek means “road”. It’s translated in the Psalms as “way” and “ways”. It’s referring to God’s word: “Teach me, O Lord, the way of the statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.” A road comes and goes. We didn’t pave it and upon setting foot on it, don’t know where it leads. While it’s one thing to “blaze a trail”, as Christians, we can’t go anywhere that Jesus hasn’t paved the way for us, first. This is why He says “whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) When He says “take up (my) cross”, it means to surrender this notion that I can find what I’m looking for on my own. That, out of all the paths available to me, even the ones that I’d like to wear in for myself, Jesus knows where I’m headed and where I should be going. And don’t immediately think that the two are already mutually exclusive.

“For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his goings.” (Proverbs 5:21)

Peripatetic

Aristotle taught as he walked. His ‘Peripatetic school’ was so-named for that reason. While the word does refer to his school–and his way of doing things, it also simply means to just “walk about”. Jesus taught as He walked as well. And as He was always following the Father, we’d do well to follow Him. A one-track mind has both positive and negative connotations. I suppose it all depends on where that one track is headed. Stay the course. If you find yourself on a path that you begin to glimpse is leading nowhere, take heart. Jesus walked every path, even the one you’re on now. And abandoning every metaphor and simile and aphorism, I will say that He has the ability to turn the track on which you are (metaphor! It’s kinda hard…), to where He knows you’re supposed to be headed. Trust Him. He’s already walking alongside you by His Spirit.

“All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.” (Psalm 25:10)