Biting Down

Actually, it should read “biting up” because it’s our mandible that works while our skull stays in place.

“Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.” (Proverbs 20:17)

I had a dream once where my mouth was full of gravel. And I dreamt it prior to reading and knowing this scripture. Solomon’s right, though. As I had lived my life in a shallow expression of my faith, there were (not too deep) depths to my person that needed cleaned from the stain of deceit. Like a spiritual root-canal. I once heard someone on the radio (a call-in show featuring a dream interpreter) say that a dream where your teeth fall out means that the dreamer is lying during their waking life in some way, shape or form. You have to be careful in taking dream interpretation from anyone other than the Holy Spirit, though. As He is the one in charge of the believer’s dream life, we’d do well to consult him with dreams and their interpretations. “And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.” (Genesis 40:8) But we all have teeth. Best not to bite down (or up, for that matter) on a rock. You’re bound to break something.

Cracking wise

“Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O Lord.” (Psalm 58:7)

To masticate means to “chew”. I suppose praying something like the above would prevent that from continuing. Much of the Bible is written in a symbolic mood. Metaphor, analogy, symbolism. Numerous times in the New Testament does Jesus “speak to them in parables” (Matthew 13:13) “because they seeing see not”. As an aside, my wisdom teeth came in straight. They’re still there. Doesn’t mean I’m any wiser for it, just that I haven’t had to inconvenience myself with dental bills and a liquid diet, however temporary, etc. Whenever I see teeth spoken of in the Bible, I think of confidence though. Wisdom does bestow confidence but I don’t go around thinking about it. With the exception of when they grew in, I don’t expend much thought in their direction. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I still have them. I have a friend who, when the time came to have his removed, found out he had eight. Both my brother and my dad have had theirs’ removed. My dad doesn’t have his tonsils either but my brother does. So do I. All this aside, looking at the above verse and seeing “teeth” as pointing to “wisdom-based confidence”, is an interesting, if apt, interpretation. All of what you see behind a simple smile belying a not-so-simple construct.

“He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth.” (Matthew 27:42-44)

Pulling teeth

The next verse details the three-hour midday darkness over the land. David in Psalm 22 (verses 7-8) foretells the defamation that everyone present throws up at Jesus. “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him seeing He delighted in Him.” All of this points to the definition of “casting in one’s teeth”. To deride and defame and slander. Usually in public. And Jesus definitely delighted in His father. Notice how the onlookers qualify God’s “deliverance” with “if He will have Him”. How sad to assume that they know the Father better than does the Son. As an aside, Jesus comes from the tribe of Judah. He’s spoken of by one of the elders in Revelation (5:6) as “the Lion of the tribe of Juda”. Rewind to the beginning of the Bible and see Israel’s prophecy over Judah:

“Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.”

Jesus was crucified on the hill Golgotha. In Hebrew it means “skull”. The prophecy of Israel has indeed come true, and “unto [Jesus] shall the gathering of the people [was]” and is. Some were there to testify to the truth of who He was and others wanted to kick Him in the teeth, drawing out His suffering and shame. I should add that they were lying, simple as that.

“I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill. Selah. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: Thy blessing is upon Thy people. Selah.” (Psalm 3:4-7)

They say the way to tell if a pearl is real is to bite down on it. If it has a rough texture, it’s real. If smooth, counterfeit. Furthering the teeth analogy, it says later on in Revelation (21:21) that each of the twelve gates is “one pearl”. That might be a bit of a stretch but consider also that anyone outside those same gates, as Jesus said many times, would be weeping and gnashing their teeth.

Grace Notes

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Grace period

The classic story is that of the thief on the cross. “Lord, remember me when thou comest into Thy kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) He believes in Him even as he’s bleeding out. The “malefactor” on the opposite side had just demanded that Jesus prove His Godhood by saving “save thyself and us” (23:39). The soldiers who put Jesus up had, just one verse before, done the same. “Save thyself”. The repentant thief doesn’t demand anything but a passing thought from Jesus. Presumably as Jesus enters Heaven triumphant. I can’t say this is what the thief thought as he confessed his sin before (beside) the Lord, but that is indeed what he got to experience, and more. In person. When we come to God, realizing that we are here by invitation. That everything we have is a gift in spite of deserving eternal hell and punishment for electing to go our own way. That it’s naught but God’s grace that sees us through the hardships of life, we are humbled to the point of interaction with Jesus. As savior and friend and companion and Lord.

“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Disgraced

“Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” (Psalm 69:20-21)

Add to such disgraceful treatment the fact that Jesus was stripped naked after being forced to carry his cross through a crowd up to Golgotha and in turn crucified on the same, it would seem Jesus’ inward scars were deeper than the outward ones. Paul says “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17) Meaning he suffered through similar physical treatment as did Jesus in standing for what He came to deliver. As much as possible, Paul had earned some respite from the petty and worthless interaction of, say, people like the thief to Jesus’ left (?) and the soldiers and the crowd. Paul ends his letter to the Galatians with a blessing though. “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” (6:18)

In the book of Hebrews, the writer draws a parallel between the sacrifice of Jesus and the ancient sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament.

“For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.” (Hebrews 13:11-13)

The Christian life can be (at least for a season) one of embarrassment and reproach and disgrace. Standing up for your faith amidst a wholly secular society and being met with the unbelief of the onlookers behind a veneer of forced politeness is something every Christian who truly endeavors to follow Christ–without the camp–will have to experience and endure. Hang in there. The deeper the atmosphere of evil (read: godlessness), the more a sincere, if ignorant, believing Christian is looked upon with derision should they voice their faith. In the backs of the minds and bottoms of the hearts of unbelievers, there’s a disagreement. And depending on the state of their heart in humility, God knows whether or not they’ll accept you. Jesus says “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth Him that sent me.” (Matthew 10:40) Again, resist the disgrace. God will bring them along as you pray for and forgive them.

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory…” (Psalm 84:11a)

The Cloud of Knowing

“He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:15)

The Son is shining

Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit in this passage. Something that, prior to Jesus coming into this world and living as a human, was not available for us. There’s complex and dense theology behind the spirit/soul/body state of humanity. Mixed with an understanding of what happened to us when first we sinned (“But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Genesis 2:17), it can take quite a while to work out answers to questions, that, if God is real, must have salient answers. But again, Jesus says in the above passage that [the Holy Spirit] shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” Here’s a thought: As Jesus is the forerunner for a new way of life, “the firstborn among many brethren” (see Romans 8:29), does this mean the Holy Spirit was learning all the while–taking notes, so to speak–what it looks like for humans to live as pleasing to God and as exemplified and epitomized by Jesus? Not to say that there are things the Holy Spirit doesn’t know. Just that prior to Jesus, there was no one who’d lived as He so as to create the mold, the template.

“Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God. Dost thou know when God disposed them, and caused the light of His cloud to shine? Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of Him which is perfect in knowledge?” (Job 37:14-16)

This is Elihu speaking. One should take anything he says with a grain of salt or two because although the words he speaks are indeed true–God is perfect in knowledge after all–a reeducation of the basics of love and forgiveness and mercy was awaiting Job and his friends (including Elihu) a few chapters after. But look at what he says. Perfect in knowledge.

Flying colors

As an aside, there’s a phenomenon in meteorology called snowblink where a cloud reflects the white of snow from underneath. Never seen it myself but it sounds pretty cool. There’s another such thing called irisation where the spectrum is refracted through a cloud. Beautiful. I see that with frequency where I live. And so, starting with the glistening white and making its way through the cloud to where you have the dark of night or of space (is this too big a stretch?), you have a picture of the Holy Spirit connecting us from Jesus to God the Father. And there are colors off the spectrum that we can’t see. What colors do it for you? My favorite color is sea foam green. Its spectrum from mint to and through turquoise up to teal is beautiful. I also like the darker end of the spectrum. For instance, brown. I love orange and brown is merely dark, dark orange. I say all of this to say that all color is in the light. And Jesus is the light of the world

“Clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne.” (Psalm 97:2)

“While He yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.” (Matthew 17:5-6)

There’s an old work of Christian mysticism entitled The Cloud of Unknowing. Its succinctly summed up in realizing that one must empty their mind of their own thoughts in order to realize God in the here and now. To accept “the cloud of unknowing” as the entryway to knowing Him. And that’s a simplistic synopsis. I can agree but only up to a certain point. Because we, in and of ourselves, are entering into knowing God better and better but without the Holy Spirit, don’t know what’s already in there that’s of Him. It’s more a matter of wrestling with the thoughts and sharing them with God in order to see what He thinks. To “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) John says “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” (1 John 4:2) The Father spoke through the cloud and testified of Jesus. I would say that the cloud was the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit that’s inside you from the Father. Talk to Him. Anytime our thoughts are directed toward the Holy Spirit, it’s either the Father or the Son doing it. I don’t believe anyone thinks about the Holy Spirit in a respectful and loving manner unless directed so by God. The more we build upon those interactions, the more we will consciously and unconsciously live as Jesus did and please the Father.

“Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come.” (John 16:13)

Points Taken (Landmark Study part 2)

“But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” (Luke 11:20)

With the finger of God…

At what point…?

The signs are everywhere. Rewind down from the stance of anti-theism to atheism to agnosticism. Keep going through unbelief to doubt to belief to faith. To where you’re actually walking with and enjoying the love and presence of Jesus via the Holy Spirit. Brought to you by God the Father. By His fingers, and hands and arms. And heart.

“When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him? For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him (and her) with glory and honour.” (Psalm 8:3-5)

If you believe that God is the Creator, everything, then, should point back to Him. As much of what is preached and proselytized from the pulpit of Science is predicated by the belief that everything arose ex nihilo, how is one supposed to look to God when it looks like He’s not there and never has been? And I’m not necessarily seeking to convert any atheists with this. I’m merely looking to shed light on some things from my vantage point. One that is unapologetically steeped in a Judeo-Christian belief system.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4a)

“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” (Proverbs 11:28)

The Hebrew word translated landmark is “gabuwl”. Strong’s terms it “territory” and “boundary”. In other words, an established marker. A border holding something in and maybe, by implication, keeping other things out. The idea behind the above verse from Proverbs is that there are things that were done by our forbears that, far from disrespecting and disregarding, we are to build upon and learn from. To relearn a discipline from the ground up takes more time than our generation has to spare. I find that with a shallow representation of Christianity, the lack of a robust standing in society on the part of believers (really, it applies to any faith) follows. Any secular society has in every case moved from religion to myth (and magic) to science–jettisoning belief systems that aren’t empirical and/or demonstrably true. If Science were to disregard the shoulders of the bygone giants on which they stand, our culture would collapse. And when the church neglects a more fundamental (yes) faith, not steeped in denomination, but in the reality of God’s love and presence by the Holy Spirit, you can see why so much regarding the church seems to be in decline. More than merely a drop in attendance.

All points bulletin

“Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be.” (Deuteronomy 11:24) There’s that word again, this time translated as “coast”.

Everytime God does something, be it an original act of creation or the recreation of a human spirit, there’s the sense of a boundary. A watershed or a before-and-after marker. And when Christians don’t press in to God (not just a more ardent and arduous outworking of “faith-based stuff”) then the miracles and markers out of which their faith has both sprung and grown, will fade and wither. To where Christians fail to see God the way Jesus did. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” says David (Psalm 11:3) Those things upon which our individual faith rests and relies which in turn take their source from the original things God did and does are the very things that ensure He continues to be seen and known. By us (Christians) and, dare-I-say-it non-believers. Each point in space has a number. You cannot remove any one. It’s impossible. But in between? I think that’s where God is.

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

In other words, Paul is saying to make it real. To re-realize the things that brought you to God in the first place. If, citing secular pragmatism, you have begun to doubt whether or not the things that at first seemed like they could be God’s influence have to your mind turned into something–anything–less, try faith on again. Look to God and ask Him to give you a fresh outpouring of His presence and provision. Ask and ye shall receive. It’s simple as that. Paul continues in verse eight: “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” The truths of God, while just as true as they’ve always been, may have faded from view through our neglecting to look at them in light of Him. That’s fine, but turn around. God didn’t place that marker in your life (whatever it may be) for you to totally forget about it. It’s almost as if, by neglecting and ignoring the things He did for us in the past, we are, by omission, omitting the landmarks. To where they seem ancient by comparison and in retrospect.

My prayer for you is that if you have somehow lost sight of God, to where you’re not even sure He exists or just in doubt as to His true character, that you would receive a reigniting of your faith. Paul says this to the Romans (12:3): “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly…” In other words, humble yourself. Am I sure God exists? Yes. And I don’t mean to sound argumentative, but if you’re reading this and a non-believer, are you absolutely sure He doesn’t? Try it on. Humble yourself. Ask for a sign, a landmark. The rest of the verse reads “according as God hath dealt to every man (and woman) the measure of faith.” There. In between the points is God. The slightest whisper of belief and God will reveal Himself to you. He loves you. That’s the point.

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement” says C. S. Lewis. Not sure if it was him or Charles Kettering who originally said that. Depends on your source. I find that the definition of both success and failure (as they are both subjective and not mutually exclusive) really depends on what it is you’re looking to achieve. Work it out. As an aside, and in closing, one ancient landmark I’d personally remove (cast out with the finger of God?) is the Roman god Terminus. He was the god of landmarks and boundaries. And he’s not welcome back into my circle.

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Landmark Study

The branch of Onomastics (the study of names) that deals with names of places is called toponomy. By extension, the name for “mountain naming” is oronymy.

Marked difference

“Why leap ye, ye high hills? This is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever.” (Psalm 68:16)

Anytime God does something for us, it’s a good idea to call attention to it in some way shape or form. How fresh are the miracles that He enacted to bring you up to where you are today? Do the victories that seemed so far off at some point in your past come back to remind you of their effectiveness as similar things begin to again press? While God is good for miracles upon miracles, I’m sure He appreciates it when we remind Him of the mercies and grace with which He blessed us heretofore.

In Genesis (28:17), Jacob wakes up to realize that he had spent the night outside “the house of God”. He says “this is the gate of Heaven”. It says in verse nineteen that “he called the name of that place Bethel” which simply means the same. Later in Exodus, Moses commemorates God’s miracle of water from the rock by calling the place “Massah, and Meribah” (Exodus 17:1-7). While the miracle indeed took place, those two names are variations on “testing” and “quarrel”, respectively. Indicating that the peoples’ doubt and disbelief, while heated, was no match for God’s power to overcome. Look at the book of Numbers. The people again complain against God and God sends fire down to literally burn up the malcontents. That’s pretty drastic. And that’s what that place is remembered by. “And he called the name of the place Taberah (“burning”): because the fire of the Lord burnt among them.” (11:1-3)

I’ve lived in the same area most of my life. It’s not too big a city and I’ve spent time on either side of town, if that makes sense. I’ve had my share of joys and tragedies in every neighborhood from which I’ve moved and if I find myself in those parts of town again, the memories come flooding back. Strange, too, is the fact that I can reconstruct each of my former neighborhoods from their dreamt counterparts. Mix all these things together and you have a geography, a world map as it were, for my life. And if you pan out and look at things with a wide-angle view, you’ll see that the place you find yourself is where God has called you for now. While you may be inclined (or not) to leave for calmer waters/greener grass/another shore, what-have-you, there’s always something to be learned from the city or locale in which you live. Think about how God can be glorified where you are and where you go. The thing about the inner space of the place is its atmosphere. How does it feel there? I don’t mean to sound ethereal or weird but sometimes I wonder just where it is I go when I dream. Because each dream has a feeling to it. And many dreams over a period of time share a similar feel.

Say unto this mountain

“Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be.” (Deuteronomy 11:24)

Seen this way, with the vagabond spirit of much of the Old Testament, the first half of the Bible seems to be a study in reclaiming territory for God. Think about the Bible as a whole and while all the activity of the Old Testament takes place in the “Fertile Crescent” (there’s actually a place called “the wilderness of Sin”) , it slowly centers in on Bethlehem. “Beth” means “house” in Hebrew and “Bethlehem” means “house of bread”. Jesus was born there and then raised in Nazareth. And after that, while much of the rest of the gospels take place in Jerusalem, with the exception of Acts, the New Testament is dealing with things of the interior. God called Paul to map out the territories of God’s heart as revealed through Jesus. This is why I feel that no matter what one does with their life, prior to knowing Jesus, the best thing to do on top of that is learn to write. By attaching words to the places you go inside (metaphor–read: thoughts, feelings, dreams, etc.), the more you can see what God is doing in those places in your heart and mind. Because it’s all present with Him. The past is alive and ready to reveal the lessons therein.

“But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:1-2)

And yet, while it says that God dwells in a house on the top of a mountain, He also lives in your heart. Pretty cool.

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Tragic Flaws

Jesus is speaking here to His disciples in Gethsemane. The Pharisees, led by Judas, are about to break in and arrest Him. You know the rest of the story.

“If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.” (John 15:24-25)

Dead to rights

There’s a lot to this. When Jesus says “they had not had sin”, what He’s saying is, without a greater revealed standard to aspire to, there’s no logical basis for conviction of sin. And conviction is always a good thing. Condemnation not so much. Jesus says He wasn’t sent by God “to condemn the world” and that if one doesn’t believe, they are “condemned already” (John 3:17, 18 respectively). Notice how the only sin He’s citing in that passage is unbelief. As Jesus has come, God now has reason to convict those who don’t believe.

“Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.” (Hebrews 12:9-10)

Also known as the hamartia, the tragic flaw is that thing in a person that, no matter how anfractuously the story winds (like a snake) and twists and turns, will always bring them down in the end. It’s the downfall of the protagonist. What’s so tragic about it is there’s no escaping it. When first we sinned (whenever that was, it’s different for everyone), it was…not acquired, but activated in us. The phrase “as soon as you’re born, you begin to die” is apt and true. Both physically and spiritually. Paul speaks in his second letter to the Christians in Corinth of “the sentence of death in ourselves” (2 Corinthians 1:9). The next verse speaks of God “Who delivered us from so great a death”.

In the book of Numbers, God tells Moses to “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole” (21:8). This, to counteract the epidemic of snakebites in the wilderness. Two verses prior does is say that “the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people” because of their incessant griping and whining and complaining. My opinion is , while it says plainly that the Lord caused it to happen, it means something more akin to “allowing” it. The idea behind anyone refusing to believe and how they are “condemned already” is that there is this construct in the ether where sin is dealt with automatically because this is God’s creation. Paul says “that we might be partakers of His holiness”. This creation is holy. And if we’ve believed on and in Jesus as the atonement for our sin, our spirit is holy as well. As an aside, it’s funny how a similar but different thing symbolizes the medical profession. While the caduceus–from Greek myth–is a staff around which are wrapped dual, winged snakes. The simple, unpretentious “fiery serpent on a pole” symbolizes both Christ on the cross (yes: “For He hath made Him to be sin…” 2 Corinthians 5:21) and also, true healing. Weird.

Dead to wrongs

“For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” (Romans 7:9)

That’s the same idea expressed by Paul as was spoken by Jesus. He talks about the commandment coming but it’s actually good news. The good news is that there is a better way to do that which needs to be done, namely live. And this is what it means to be “dead to sin” (Romans 6:2). Upon accepting Jesus, we gain spiritual and eternal life. All feelings notwithstanding. It really is this simple. Is it easy? Sometimes. But most times it’s excruciatingly hard to dig through the layers of old thinking that are now our responsibility to overcome. When once you push through that clingy and clayey top layer of soil, so to speak, you begin to grow and flourish by leaps and bounds. And if you’re already dead and buried, there’s no other place to go but up.

“Who can understand his errors? Cleanse Thou me from secret faults.” (Psalm 19:12)

There’s a branch of Theology that doesn’t get much press. It’s called Hamartiology and it deals with sin. What it is, how it affects us, etc. David prays in the above verse for a deeper understanding of what he might be doing to offend God. See, God loves us. He sent Jesus to pay for all our sin, so look to Him. God continues to draw us closer and we continue to molt, so to speak, shedding the layers of old, dead thinking that aren’t in keeping with the recreated spirit that we possess because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Don’t be afraid to look at your sin (and sins) objectively. This might sound odd, but it’s not who you are anymore. The caduceus may have two snakes, denoting duality. But the thing about Jesus is that you and He are one. And He left your sin in the grave when He rose from the dead.

“I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved me.” (John 17:23)

Behooved

“If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” (John 13:17)

Jesus has just reiterated by example the way a leader serves. The above was spoken to the disciples after the Last Supper and after He “had taken His garments, and was set down again”. He asks, “Know ye what I have done to you?” (verse 12) If we don’t know, it’s no one’s fault but our own. Jesus lived His life for us. And so it behooves us, i.e. it’s beneficial, that we seek out a greater and greater understanding of what He went through and subsequently provided, for us.

Ignorance of the grace is no excuse

Jesus says “if ye know these things”. Do I know these things? I find a lot of what I know, I barely utilize. For instance, the zoological term for “hoofed mammal” is ungulate. The horse sheds an underside layer of hoof (called a frog) several times a year. And under the Old Covenant of Moses, certain animals were allowed as food based on the fact they were “clovenfooted” (Leviticus 11:3). Does this information help me? Not much, honestly. Just words with meaning and free association, bereft of any real impact. Beyond integrating it into this paragraph, I really have no other use for it. Jesus says that if I know the things, the ways, I’ll be happy if I do them. From knowing, to doing. If I take the words in the Bible–the words of God and Jesus–and don’t do them, they remain mere words.

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.” (Psalm 69:30-31, emphasis mine)

I find that devotions are good, but worship and praise and thanksgiving throughout the day are almost more important.

Growing up, I had a hard time getting down to the living out of my faith. While I have a certain way I think based on my influences, etc. it didn’t make the road down which I was asked to carry my cross any easier. And it isn’t that I’ve stopped carrying it. The point I’m getting at is that, inside, we must yearn for that glimpse of God that we can in turn build upon to where the things we do are in concert with the state of our heart and mind. Here’s an example. Do you consciously think about the people you see when you shop for groceries? Do you realize that all the things of your day led you to be in the store at that time and with those individuals? Because if you’re following God in your thoughts, your day will follow suit. Look around. Time will stop for you because the closer you get to God, the slower time flows. Pray for people. Any that stand out, pray for ’em all and ask God to bless and forgive them. We all need His grace and love and forgiveness. As you go about your day, doing the things that Jesus would do (inside and out), He’ll use you in so many ways, you won’t be able to keep track after a certain point.

“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:32-33)

Ignorance of the law is excused

I love this scorched-earth policy (so to speak) of God in finding everyone guilty just so that He can love us and show us the right way to do things. Because, contrary to some notions, there are things we can do. But it all springs from truly knowing Jesus. And prior to doing things on the outside, we must do things on the inside. I think this is where the greatest struggle of life happens. Consciously seeking to train our focus on Jesus, so that we allow Him to place us in situations where we can act out the ways of God with people who don’t know Him. This is like, next-level Christianity. Whether we’re being observed and judged by a non-believer has nothing to do with the fact that God always sees everything that goes on inside us. It behooves us to realize how focused He is on us. How much He cares for every detail and every facet of, not just our life now, but also its trajectory.

There were, it seems, different levels of understanding into which the disciples grew. In verse seven of John’s thirteenth chapter, Jesus tells Peter “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” We all know that at this point, Peter had yet to deny Jesus. Thing is, Jesus had already washed his feet, literally. He even prayed for Peter “that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32). Jesus prepared a place for Peter to enter after he went through the trials that saw the layers of his old thinking slough off (kinda like a frog) and reveal who he truly was underneath. We can do the same for other people.

And Jesus has done all these things for each of us. It’s the appropriating and living and doing of these things that ensure we’ll be happy. Simple as that.

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)

“Freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8b)