Full Coverage

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity.” (Psalm 32:1-2)

Taking cover

The Hebrew word translated in this verse as “covered” (kacah) appears elsewhere as “hid” (Psalm 32:5). The idea is that you don’t see it anymore because something else has been positioned, superimposed, placed atop and hiding it from view. And as this is the Old Testament, the idea of covering sin is about as high as it got. David had insights that were ahead of his time, however: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)

“Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:2-3)

But with the advent of Jesus, God the Father amended a feature that allowed us to gain a standing before Him that is lightyears ahead of anything we could ever look to carve out on our own. As the system was irrevocably broken because of original sin, coupled with the legalese accompanying the worldwide project begun under God’s sponsorship, the whole model would now need to be overhauled. Fast-forward to the Greek of the New Testament. Now we read things like this:

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.” (Colossians 2:13)

Can you imagine the joy and the wonder that Paul experienced having been shown these finer points of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The dawning realization that there was something deeper at work than the long-held and revered traditions of the Law? To begin to glimpse a vista in which the legalese keeping us tied to animal sacrifice as a means of atonement…has dissolved? Something you can read about and think about but not really feel until you bring to God any guilt you might sense for analysis. The mere words don’t do it justice, if that makes sense. This idea that you are forgiven beyond all imagining, now and forever, is something that has to be believed and then experienced for yourself.

Got you covered

The hard outer coverings of, say, a ladybug, are called elytra (singular: elytron). The word is Greek in origin and means “covering” or “sheath”. It isn’t the same “covering” spoken of by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (11:15), however. The word in that verse refers to “something cast all around”. It’s that and more and with the coverage we have under God’s new covenant. The words in God’s contract with the human race and ratified by Jesus’ life and death speak to a standing that anyone BC didn’t get to experience. When Jesus went and “preached unto the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19) these new terms, a brand new paradigm had been drawn up and propagated. The finest print you could ever imagine. It’d take years and years to read all the context. Or! One could simply believe that Jesus is and did what the Bible says He did and does.

There’s a lot to this. Just think of Jesus walking through the leaves of the Bible looking to tell you for yourself that which you need to know to appropriate all He wants to give you. I don’t know how else to say it. The unraveling of all our shortcoming and mistakes and wrongdoing is now a reality. Something that comes as a bonus of having met the Lord.

“For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence before God.” (1 John 3:20-21)

 

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Severance Package (Mispocha part 3)

“I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots.” (Psalm 81:6)

“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17)

Even as I sit here and write this, a friend with whom I shared a brief but deep and–to my mind–important relationship has just walked into the coffeeshop. At present, we have both seen one another though he doesn’t know I’ve seen him. We met two years ago through a mutual friend that has since moved away. I don’t know the state of his heart and he hasn’t moved to interact with me since he walked in. Three months ago, he sent me a long and pointed instant message full of all the things he’d observed about me during our time hanging together that he didn’t have the forthrightness to tell me point in time. I look over and see him sitting at his laptop and briefly bury my head in my hands. Our brotherhood in Christ remains but anything above that level was severed.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Reason I quote the top two verses, especially the one from Galatians, is because God will only have you love someone in close proximity for so long. As Jesus does indeed show up by His Spirit whenever you fellowship in His name, issues and longstanding wounds will surface. They’ll come to light because God wants to deal with them. I admit that I did make mistakes in our friendship. But my friend was not forthright in love in calling me out. And honestly, the phrase “calling me out” regarding the things I did that he didn’t like is even too harsh a tone for what he noticed. Nobody’s perfect. The things that unite the Body of Christ (can I call it the Mispocha of Christ?), really the one thing that makes us one is love. His love. In a word, Him. “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” (John 17:11)

When you think about the varied character types that made up the fledgling church, it’s a miracle anything was able to happen at all. Jesus had to instruct them to “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) From where I sit, I cannot see how anything can happen in the way of reconciliation between my friend and I. I could go to him, ask him how he is. The tone of the message he sent, however, was shot through with disrespect and cutting misconstruances. I have since forgiven and continue to should the pain enervate. It’s one thing to run afoul with those who don’t share the same spiritual parentage as you, but disagreements within the Body tend to have an uglier patina and a harder unraveling.

“But with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26a)

I understand that God is all about reconciliation and love among the Family. But look at what Paul went through with Barnabas. It says “And the contention was so sharp between them that they departed asunder one from the other.” (Acts 15:39a) Both of them wanted to serve the Lord but neither could reconcile whatever caused them to separate. They had run together into the crowd at Athens after having been mistaken for gods (see Acts 14), and now this. I respect my friend and still have love for him and I’m confident things will come around in the future. But with respect to now, only the Holy Spirit has access to those things that would keep us from fellowshipping in Him. Come to think of it, that’s why Jesus had the disciples “tarry in Jerusalem”. For the intangible glue of the Holy Spirit to be delivered. Maybe that’s what is needed in this case.

“O Lord, Thou knowest.” (Psalm 40:9b)

A Direct Line (Mispocha part 2)

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?” (Job 38:4-5)

“Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.” (Psalm 104:5)

Lines in the sand

Mispocha is a Yiddish word referring to a large and inclusive family made up of those both related by blood and otherwise. It’s so easy to adopt those outside your blood relations. You just do it. I have at least two other mothers. Three uncles I identify as such. Scores (a “score” is twenty) of grandparents and innumerable brothers and sisters. They’ve all come in time–ironically, after the dissolution of my original family by divorce–and when we interact through a local real-time network (as opposed to virtual), it’s always encouraging and uplifting. You should try it sometime.

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

It’s almost as if Jesus is saying the coveted and exclusive position of “disciple” is worth more than all that. Worth more than the familial bonds we all take for granted. Closer even than our own life to ourselves. Jesus should come first. Were we to then take this out of its context though and use it as an excuse to hate those we love, we are misunderstanding what He’s saying.

In the same vein

“And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in Heaven.” (Matthew 23:8)

If we continue on in life and define it from our own experience up, we will miss what God wants to do, i.e. miss what He’s looking to start and establish for this earth. The main point of God’s story is He wants a family. He put us here and he used our parents to do so. Moving forward though, as we all have gray areas and voids within, it falls to our brothers and sisters (and mothers and fathers and uncles et. al.) to complement one another. I’ve had to work through legitimate (but not acceptable, if that makes sense) hatred for both parents as the fruit of the divorce grew and rotted on the vine threatening to sprout and grow in my life the same.

What color should the coat of arms be? I find it amazing how black and white lines are used in Heraldry to signify color. Black is “sable” and it’s represented by a cross-hatching of lines. Blue (called azure) is horizontal black lines on white and red (“gules”) is made of vertical. Green (vert) and purple (purpure) are alternately left and right diagonally with orange (called tenne) a left-to-right diagonal hashed with vertical. Pretty cool. By this same logic, it would follow that every single pair of corduroys I’ve ever owned, regardless of color, has been red.

“The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” (Psalm 16:5)

“A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in His holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5)

“Who layeth the beams of His chambers in the waters…” (Psalm 104:3)

Will the line be unbroken?

Here’s the thing. God is not called “Father” for nothing. Out of all the name’s with which He’s revealed Himself to us (His children), He ever stands under the banner of “Our Father who art in Heaven.” Jesus came to both rebirth our spirit that was dead and also reunite us by an unbreakable line, into His lineage. Our families, however comprised can and often tend to be murky and confusing and frustrating–at least beyond a certain point. I know I’ve felt my share of the depth of oppressive familial baggage. When you encounter the inward parts touched by whatever our families couldn’t provide, God makes up the balance. He alone can clear up the murkiness and then build, line upon line that which we need to become whatever it is we are meant to represent in His family. All it takes is one straight line from which to, in simplicity, follow back to wholeness and healing.

“For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” (Isaiah 28:10)

Bimetallism (Mispocha part 1)

“Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.” (Psalm 68:13)

Interesting verse from the King James. While it says pots, it’s actually the “sheep pens” or “stalls”. The Hebrew word is shaphath. It refers to being shut in and corralled by God in order to learn something. What He’d have you know. A very special place to be. You can look out the bars at those who come and go as they please. Know, though, that “he (she) that is called in the Lord, being a servant (essentially a slave, point in time), is the Lord’s freeman” (1 Corinthians 7:22a). Hence the allusion to the dove from the psalm. You are free within to move around. Within your body, I should say. While a sense of personal freedom to travel the world under natural auspices is a heady thing, to compare it to the freedom in Christ offered and delivered by the Holy Spirit is folly. And no sense in comparing oneself to anyone else for that matter. Paul continues in Corinthians: “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” (verse 23) In other words, serve others as unto Christ. Because people, in and of themselves–God bless their darling hearts–don’t sometimes have what it takes to fill you up. Whether they’re a brother or sister in Christ, or not.

Either Or

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

As an aside, were you to design your own coat of arms, one of the many rules you’d be expected to abide by is that of tincture. Namely the placement of gold–called Or–and silver–Argent. There is an order to all things and something important as the crest representing your family must follow a pattern. Heraldry is a complex and awesome art and science.

“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.” (2 Timothy 2:20)

“Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:20-21)

Paul talks a lot around and about distinctions in class and race and how the blood of Christ unites even as it separates along those lines. Nothing is sacred, in a sense, except the holiness of God. Read all the latitude you want into that statement. Everything must be alloyed with love and an individual’s conscience attuned to the same Holy Spirit as was (and is) Jesus’. The point here is, yes, Paul says that God has indeed made some vessels for “honour” and some for “dishonour”. But if we neglect the simple fact that the thousands of choices we’re free to make make us into who we are and are becoming, we will indeed end in being a vessel of “dishonour”.

What does it take to be “in a great house”, a “vessel of gold” or “silver”? Y’know, there’s an alloy called electrum of gold and silver? Or that. More heat, more hammering. You can hammer out gold and silver and metal and form it into something at once more durable and also more beautiful. Because metal is malleable (malletable?). You cannot, however, hammer a vessel of earth or wood. These things come about in altogether different ways. I have read that anything under gold and silver in Paul’s list is a vessel of “dishonour” but practically, I don’t think so. I could be wrong. Some of the most beautiful containers are polished wood and some vases (pronounced “vahz”) of pottery fetch more than their weight in gold. It’s a spectrum, a family. And spiritually, it’s more about what we’re carrying that what we look like on the outside.

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-35)

Uhh… A hard word to be sure. If Jesus actually said that, evidently it needed to be said.

 

De novo

“And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelations 21:5)

When it was new…

The idea of newness is enticing. Separate it in your mind and look at the concept as an abstract. What does it mean to be “new”? To feel “new”. Jesus, speaking at the end of the age heralds a new one. One in which “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (verse 4) If you could buy that feeling of newness bereft of any context or reason, would you? For sure, it’s a heady thing to encounter that moment where time stands still and a watershed is erected, for lack of a better term. Before and after and now.

We don’t have to wait for the newness of which He speaks in order to feel newness here and now. I find that circumstances and fallout from decisions past bear fruit after their kind. Things I’d done (or not done) play out in a vector from A to now to Z. Thing is, God has the power to divert the rails on which we ride in such a subtle way that we may or may not even know when the change began–when the light started to get in. Best to pinpoint anything of beauty we can and run back to God for approval or just His opinion. The trees may be in full bloom by now, but there was a time around three months ago (give or take) where the tiniest of indicators presaged the beauty we see on display presently. A thousand clues that were new. Happening all the time.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

This is where it began. When we believed that Jesus is who the Bible says He is, a kernel of pure rebirth ignited on your insides (not nearly cut, dry and encapsulated as that platitude–you get the idea) and God started something new in your existence. Whether you felt it or not, it was something fresh and exciting. The term de novo simply means the same. Starting from the bottom up, to where God got down to the very depth of your being and touched on a level to whom no one, not even ourselves, was privy and proceeded to thread His love through the fibers of your being. Seriously. Some rewording of the first part of the paragraph to the beginning of this sentence has happened in the heart of every believer in Christ Jesus. Sadly, there was a servant who answers back “lo, there Thou hast that is Thine.” (Matthew 25:25b) There is so much springing from the newness and into perpetuity. It’s the last descriptor that gets me: “perpetual newness”. I suppose that would be one of the hallmarks of Heaven. Where everything is new all the time. Not a saccharine sheen of impermanence and cursory shallowness. But an atmosphere so imbued with the presence of the Holy Spirit where the excitement and enthusiasm we feel upon being reborn or getting a new toy or waking up from the most restful sleep imaginable (a broad spectrum…) has indeed been boiled down to its essence and scattered upon the four winds. But here and now.

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God…And this will we do if God permit.” (Hebrews 6:1, 3, emphasis mine)

The writer of Hebrews lines out a few things in the second verse you can look up if you feel inclined. I love the third verse though. Because there are people (including me) who need it really simple. It paints God as the best of teachers desiring for us to go on into deeper and deeper realms of understanding and wisdom and love and Christlikeness. But also as a tender Father who would give you a refresher course if you need it (or two or as many as needed). It takes effort to seek out newness. The right kind of newness. The kind that scales and continues and…

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:26-27)

 

Dark Ages part 2 Dark Filters

“They looked unto Him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.” (Psalm 34:5)

Continuing on in the same vein as part one, think about the concept of the “keynote”. That first note sounded from which the rest of the song plays out, and rests. Now, as God cannot be seen with our eyes (at least not like you or I) we must resort to a system of metaphors and similes and analogies and parallels in order to “see” anything and in order to actually see Him as He has made Himself available for viewing, so to speak.

“And the Father Himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape.” (John 5:37, emphasis mine)

“Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance.” (Psalm 89:15)

Layers

People talk all the livelong day about “inner beauty”. But what does inner beauty look like? And how does one wrest their attention–living in a physical body themselves–from the purely physical to something both invisible, and also spiritual? Because while the inner workings of the human body are indeed beautiful (The circulatory system is beautifully complex–and also exponentially more important than perfect hair or skin, I might add.) a glimpse, even a fleeting one of God, is necessary in order to prepare oneself for a life lived to the fullest. And also necessary to see any kind of beauty correctly and in its proper context. It’s not the inner beauty beneath the skin to which people are referring and to which they are drawn. And holiness in any area will enable us to see God.

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

“Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: Thou hast the dew of Thy youth.” (Psalm 110:3, emphasis mine)

David the psalmist continues to describe attributes befitting someone really special. “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (vs. 4b) I’ve read it refers to Jesus and I’m inclined to believe it. Leading up to David’s declaration of “Thou hast the dew of Thy youth”, he speaks of “strength” and “power” and then he says “the beauties of holiness”. See that. What do you think of when you ponder holiness? Because it does require more than just a passing thought. Holiness is a way of life that, as it says in the verse above from Psalm 89, enables one to “walk…in the light of [God’s] countenance.” His face. There’s a reason the bride is veiled during the wedding ceremony. A reason why some couples elect to practice certain rituals in the presence of one another without laying eyes on the other. Because the deeper the beauty, the more important and also beautiful said beauty really is. To where we can do something to see God, even as we speak of it in terms that are foreign to that which we use to “see”. Everything in life, from the way you look, to anything you would deem beautiful–is intended to reflect upon Him. Otherwise, it’s subjective to the point of irrationality and dilution. It’s not “beauty”. It just “is”.

“Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:5)

Elements

God is so good. He has this storehouse of blessing that is ours for the asking and the appropriation. Things you’d never expect and never even think to want. Things that are beautiful. In speaking to the question raised in the first part, the reason I might not think I’m beautiful at times has no bearing on what I sense on my insides nor on what I look at in the mirror. The truth is, God has made it possible to look just like Him on a spiritual level. We take after “Our Father in Heaven.” And I don’t mean to be blunt, but rising from that level to an outer one (whatever it may be) is really ours for the working-out. Based, of course, on the principles found from the heart (Word) of God. Not, as some might seek to legislate, based on what other people think or don’t think.

You are beautiful. Not because I say so, but because God does.

Dark Ages part 1 Unattractive Truths

“Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground.” (Psalm 89:44)

How firm a foundation?

“Then Job answered and said…He hath stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown from my head.” (Job 19:1,9)

Job continues to line out all the ways things had changed for the worse in his world. Think about what he points to in the above passage. He says God is the one to have altered the way he was esteemed in society. Both verses point to royalty in the case of whomever it is God is dealing with. I find several passages in the Bible that refer to an upset in a very base basis for our confidence in this world, namely our appearance. Here’s one:

“In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls (essentially a “netting for the hair” says Strong’s), and their round tires like the moon (a pendant).” (Isaiah 3:18)

What day? Admittedly it refers to a specific point in time as it is a specific prophecy. Who knows if it’s come to pass in the way it was orated. Thing is, the double standard of relying on outward appearance only in interpersonal comportment is just that. I find that anything under–as in below, less than–Christ-like interaction with those of the opposite sex feels like flirting. Or at least that’s what seems to be under the surface. As I am innately shy after a certain point for any number of reasons (but am told I’m cute by those who would know) I find it hard to interact with ones whose motives aren’t necessarily on the table to the casual (causal?) observer. It’s not you, it’s me. Paul tells Timothy to treat the “younger” women “as sisters” (1 Timothy 5:2) And thank you Paul, for that. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to resort to that piece of wisdom in interaction with girls at church. The idea behind boys and girls, men and women as friends only, and with no hint of romantic or otherwise relational capacity is allayed and answered by appealing to the love that Jesus showed women.

“As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman without discretion.” (Proverbs 11:22)

Picking our poison

Seriously. There are times I see women out and about (especially now Summer’s here) where I feel like–not whistling–but shouting “Don’t kill anyone!” And I hope I don’t come across in any way as chauvinist whatever. Lest you think I equate myself with Jesus and therefore see myself as above people (women) in some way, shape, form, understand that the basis for life is as Jesus exemplified. It is not, as is commonly thought (and taught) to “procreate”. Nor even under the revisionist definition of “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Life is about meeting God and finding out what He put you here to do. That’s what your body is for. What it merely looks like in so doing is ancillary, tertiary even. Made possible by the blood of Jesus.

“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” (James 1:23-24)

I have a confession to make. There are times I go about my day where I don’t realize what I look like. No, it has nothing to do with the fact that my clothes don’t match (I wear a lot of black) or my hair doesn’t look just so. It has more to do with deriving some sort of confidence from my appearance. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t consider myself photogenic and I sometimes forget (as referred to however metaphorically in the above passage) just what it is I do look like. There’s that kernel of confidence (that I think some people possess and play to the hilt, and as a weapon), that I feel I’m missing at times. I don’t understand. There may be something there God has to tweak or realign or what have you. Then again, part of me here feels I’ve only strayed into coming across as overly honest to a fault and yet I also don’t feel I’ve hit the depth of my person. Not that it’s any of your business; something reserved for God alone.

“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh, If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:” (Philippians 3:3-4)

He’s not talking about appearance, he’s talking about taking confidence from his abilities and standing and talents and “pride of life” as John would term it (1 John 2:16). Job lost all that and more whilst being overhauled by God. Best, then, to focus on this and let God pick up the pieces and put them back in their proper place:

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he (and she) that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” (1 John 2:16-17)