Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Wink

“Why doth thine heart carry thee away? and what do thy eyes wink at, That thou turnest thy spirit against God, and lettest such words go out of thy mouth?” (Job 15:12-13)

Raining on the parade

Eliphaz the Temanite levels this stinging invective at Job. I’ve read Job was anywhere between 70 and 140 at the time of his testing. Eliphaz begins his statement, asserting that “With us are both the grayheaded and very aged men, much elder than thy father.” (15:10) Ouch. Dropping that hammer on anyone, superseding their lineage in such a rude fashion, is bound to put salt in the wound. Job had gone through more than, I would say, most, and not one of his friends had any genuine words of comfort to add to the encounter.

“Then Job answered and said, I have I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.” (Job 16:1-2)

But the point I would like to illustrate here begins with that word wink. In Hebrew, it’s razam and Strong’s defines it as a “twinkle” in the eye. I’m not one to credit any of Job’s buddies with any rightness or what-have-you, but for Job to be able to “wink” at all the criticisms flung in his direction, takes a youthfulness coupled with a resolve borne of years of discipline. Not an easy thing to surmount. Think about it. Read through Job and each time his turn to speak comes around, he gracefully holds his own leading up to his God-given exoneration. God did have some things to iron out in Job’s life, however, but they had to do with Job’s understanding of just who God is and how He is incomprehensible unless you’re humble. But the wink? That subtle and fleeting expression of nonchalance? That way of looking at life, hard as it may be at present, that shrugs off the crushing circumstance-based fear? God is all for it, if I may.

And I’m not talking about “foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient” (Ephesians 5:4). Yes, Paul does ask “That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate” (Titus 2:2). But there’s that fine line of playfulness I’m seeking to pull out of this tapestry of Job’s life and examine under an impartial light (See? Right there.). Because if you lose your sense of humor and your lightheartedness, life will dry up and you’ll age faster than you ought.

Paralelipiped

Not sure how it applies. It’s a three-dimensional parallelogram. But it’s the last part that reminds me of this verse–it’s just how I think:

“But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” (Matthew 11:16-17)

Jesus is referring to the non-plussedness of the multitude there to hear Him speak. I find this attitude seeks to infect a lot of life. A cynicism that has at its root an indifference to simple beauties and joys. God asks Job in chapter 38 (5-7): “Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” This is substrate. The joy of God is the basis for our world and our lives, don’t let anyone tell you different. To try and kill that in a person is of utmost cruelty and abomination. I’m just talking, but if you’ve experienced it firsthand, my heart goes out to you. Here. God will restore your joy if need be. All you have to do is ask. And don’t worry about unraveling the circumstances you think caused it in the first place. He’ll work it out.

“And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” (John 16:22)

Putting the Fun in Funambulism

“When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.” (John 19:13)

“Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

Hitting the pavement

The bottom floor, so to speak.The verse from Hebrews comes back to me at times I feel I’ve made one too many mistakes or done something irreparable or strayed a little too far off that path I feel God would have me tread. Which is impossible. If all I can feel is I’m walking a tightrope (that’s what funambulism is, by the way), the slightest step to the left or right of which will cause me to fall, life gets dry and miserable quickly. I cannot maintain the level of perfection in which Jesus walked. When I was a kid, I’d imagine how easy it’d be to walk a tightrope (more of a thin cord in my mind) with grooves scored into the soles of my sneakers. If only it were that easy.

“Whomsoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken…” (Luke 20:18a)

It starts here. God the Father draws us to His Son and in light of Him, we see just how broken we are. As He begins to build us up from His cornerstone, other parts of us come to light and they, more than likely, are not in keeping with everything inherent to Jesus’s character. This isn’t bad news. Anything not based on His temperament and personality is bound to be alighted upon by the Holy Spirit. This is what it means in the verse from Hebrews at the top. “Save[d] to the uttermost” means that Jesus will not skimp on nor overlook any aspect of you that’s not really you. He made you, by God (I can say that–because I’m really talking to myself) and He’s not about to let some erstwhile vestige of your character not be overhauled to be in keeping with Him. It’s a long process–one that’s never over. It says “He ever liveth to make intercession for [us].” This means He’s always praying for us.

Keeping taut

I think about the ways my dad taught me about God. An oft-used analogy he’d pull out was that of a rope descending from Heaven, the which if you’d give a tug, you’d immediately feel a response. Now, sometimes the tugs we give stretch out over days, sometimes weeks. I guarantee you that if you want to feel God, He will make His presence known. It boils down to belief. How much do you believe God has your answers? Enough to keep moving, one foot in front of the other until God shows you how wide and broad His love for you is. The bedrock on which you find yourself?

God hears our every prayer. Yes, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:” (Psalm 66:18) and this is true. But if you continue to press in, should there be something you need to pray through, in order to have God hear your prayers, He’s faithful to show you. When you accepted Christ, you’re standing in Heaven is guaranteed for all time. You are one of God’s children, the umbilical of which will never be severed.

Typeface

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

The letter kills

Religion is blamed for so many things. And rightfully so when you see that the very root of its word means, from its Indo-European origin, “to bind”. The legalities of religious practice and expression, bereft of the presence of God, are dry and boring, pointless and ultimately detrimental to the spiritual life of those inclined to practition. It’s then so convenient to point a finger at the Body of Christ and level the accusing words of “fraud” and “hypocrite” at them. Without knowing the God they represent. Jesus speaks of the Pharisees:

“All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind burdens and grievous to be born, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:3-4)

I can’t think right now of a truer expression of false religion than the above. And it’s one thing to oppress an individual through the aforementioned means of legalistic rulekeeping. It’s quite another to go forth and conquer and acquire territory under the banner of one’s rules and regulations. Much fruitless debate springs from rewinding the argument back to a governmental construct placed over the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And before I go any further, if one doesn’t believe in God, “religion” is the gestalt that is seen, rather than the face of Jesus.

Unto whom do I owe?

Jesus said “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do”. He then talks of the motive for which these things are done–the spirit, so to speak. At the risk of repeating myself, He says “but do ye not after their works.” In other words, do it for yourself, between you and God. This is Who your religion is aimed at and Whom “religion” flows unto. And when James says “visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction”, he’s talking about representing God to them. Going one further, “keeping [oneself] unspotted from the world” means staying true to Jesus in the face of a world that would sully your religion (read: testimony) and make a mockery of any tradition handed down from God.

Here’s the best way I know to look at religion in this day and age: “…for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:24b)

 

Echolalia

The peace of God happens when you obey Him. What I mean is, when you walk with Him, He lets you live in His peace. If Christians truly believed that God had their best interests at heart, as His children, then they wouldn’t worry about getting their needs met. And tell me if I’m wrong, but if we all had our needs perfectly supplied, wouldn’t we have all the peace we ever needed?

“Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because He trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

God’s peace isn’t simply the absence of conflict. Conflict and chaos is (as in, extant). It’s a negative tide that will encroach and fill and flow in if you let it. As we live in this world, “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other. This is the…doublebeing? (As opposed to “doublespeak” and “doublethink”.) that we live in. It’s the natural order of things. And if it were to cease, it would be Heaven. This is why God gives us His peace in the midst. A taste of that which we cannot have in full purely by virtue of existing in a fallen space.

When it says in Isaiah that, if our mind were “stayed” on God, we would have perfect peace, is it really that simple? Uh, it actually is. But simple and easy are two different things. We also deal with the accruing consequences of past actions that become the part of the threatening tide.

“And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” (Romans 16:20)

Now, assuming you’ve dealt with any negative spiritual forces encroaching upon your station, God’s peace will slowly diffuse with whatever portion of your mind you choose to devote to Him. And remember “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much…” (Luke 16:10). If you parse out your day and your mind and deliberately commit certain aspects of such to God, He will infuse each with His peace. Needs are easily supplied. God’s peace is something that’s impossible to attain unless directly from Him. He’s good for it.

In closing, if all you can do is speak back to God what He’s spoken to you in His word, that’s a good place to start.

 

I’m Decent

Really?

Culpae poenae con esto

“Let the punishment fit the crime.”

Condign

God is so merciful. If you’d have seen Him in the Old Testament (as had Job), you might’ve come away with a harsh, black-and-white relief of His character and personality and person. Granted, the Old Testament figures whom God called and chose and used truly knew Him. And to know Him is to love Him. Also, He is the same now as He’s always been. But if one’s heart is not right with God, they may well miss out on His soft, gooey center for all the inhospitable and outrageous dealings He had with those who crossed the line–and got what they deserved.

“And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, and slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of evil.” (Jonah 4:2)

Look at Jonah. He presumes to know all about God and as such, decides to run away. But when he tells God He’s “slow to anger”, if you step back and think on it, when God is angry, it’s because of days and months and years and years of wrongdoing, not taking the slightest instance or moment to acknowledge the more savory and salutary aspects of who He is. Ignoring Him for but a moment will cascade and if left unchecked, will turn into an avalanche. This is God speaking to Job (40:7;41:10-11, emphases mine):

“Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.”

“None is so fierce that dare stir him up (regarding “Leviathan”): who then is able to stand before me? Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.”

After which, Job answers with a tone befitting one who has seen God (at least in a measure) and therefore can speak intelligently on the matter (42:4-6): “Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare Thou unto me. I heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Come dine

Here’s the thing. We will never be able to bring more than that which we are, to the table. God has…designed (?) it thus. If we wander around on this world through the channels in which we’re accustomed, thinking, however subconsciously (seriously, unless God shows up and shows you, you don’t have access to the thing that’s keeping you from Him) that we can do something for God and somehow circumnavigate the way of Jesus Christ, we will miss the feast. We’ll be without, whether we’re looking in or not. God doesn’t want anyone left out. This is the Gospel. This is what Jesus came to show and reveal and live and make available. The table has been set and you’ve been invited. A seat is reserved and a placard with your name rests on the linen. But what about the judgment of God? What about the consequences of our actions? What about it? It has all been forgiven, once and for all and for all time. This promise runs so counter to human reasoning that something, called faith, is necessary to understand it. Jesus has invited you, how could you turn Him down?

“And when the King came in to see the guests, He saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And He saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the King to the servants, Bind him hand and food, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:11-14)

If you’ve accepted the Lord, you’re chosen. Simple as that. Say, “Grace”. Eat up.

An Overlook (Gens du monde part 2)

“Surely Thou didst set them in slippery places: Thou castedst them down into destruction. How are thy brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when Thou awakest, Thou shalt despise their image.” (Psalm 73:18-20)

Asaph, in the above passage, is complaining of a similar thing as was David in the seventeenth Psalm. There are those, as he refers to in verse 12 as “the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.” Nothing wrong with having lots of money for its own sake. Paul writes to Timothy and puts his finger on “them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded.” (1 Timothy 6:17) But, as my dad taught me growing up, “money is a tool”. It’s so easy, especially once you’ve tasted want and lack (supposedly) to see a little bit more money as, not just a blessing, but a mirage without knowing it. And when Asaph says “Thou shalt despise their image”, it means those who stood out and boasted and bragged about substance that wasn’t really, and are no better than a dream that got your hopes up only to dash them upon waking. When all is said and done, God sees right through (and loves) everyone.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (John 12:24-25)

That’s stark. But that has to be the core of your attitude toward this world. Jesus says “he that hateth his life”. It’s not talking about self-loathing and inwardly-directed derision. It’s referring to the fact that our old life will grow up like a weed and choke out the life of God in us, if left unchecked. In Paul’s above exhortation to Timothy, he closes out the thought with “the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;”. If we lose sight of this side of God’s face, we will indeed view him as a monster (remember the Likeness Monster? Hilarious.). Paul says in Acts (17:25) that God “giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.”

Here’s a point I want to get across, God is not two-faced. Unlike Janus of the Roman pantheon, God is love. And He’s always looking at you. One of the problems I have with a judgment-based outlook and worldview is that it tends to be blind to the devil and his machinations in the world. Yes, God is love and the punishment for choosing to live in sin after accepting Christ is severe. Don’t wanna touch it nor even look at it. But if you rewind back to your birth in Christ, to where God worked all the surroundings and everyone involved (believer and non) in your favor–leaving the ninety and nine, so to speak–just to retrieve you from the jaws of hell, you’ll glimpse His tenderness and lovingkindness toward you. This is bedrock. And this, I fear, is what gets layered upon with all the stuff of the world when we let it affect us and shape us beyond what God would have it do, if that makes sense. And what’s the remedy? If you find yourself caught up in a way of living that isn’t outwardly sinful but that neglects the God who invited you in, tell Him. Let Him know that you want “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3) and know that it doesn’t begin with your outward appearance or any of that. It’s an inward tenderness in return that sees life as a gift and all its accoutrements, too.

“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 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 toward God.” (1 John 17:21)

A Likeness (Gens du Monde part 1)

Gens du monde is French and it literally translates to “men of the world”. It means, however, simply those who are at the apex of society. The movers and shakers and doers. Those who stand out in their field and call the shots.

“From men which are Thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly Thou fillest with Thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes. As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.” (Psalm 17:14-15)

Surely you’ve heard of the Loch Ness monster? You’ve met him? Amazing. But we’re talking about the likeness monster. Actually, that’s just a really bad pun. I suppose I should start at the beginning. David prays to God in the first verse: “Hear the right, O Lord, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips.” In other words, his heart is resonant with the words he speaks. I find it takes time to reach that state. To where he can pray in verse two: “Let my sentence come forth from Thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal.” He goes on to outline the ways God had tested Him (“Thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing…”) Skip ahead a few verse to number seven and this is the point. David is talking about those who, while well-meaning (?), did not have his best interests at heart–to put it politely:

“Shew Thy marvellous lovingkindness, O Thou that savest by Thy right hand them which put their trust in Thee from those that rise up against them.” (17:7)

Those that rise up against them

And yet, now that Jesus has come and instated this paradigm of forgiveness and of “turning the other cheek”, how do we deal with those who “rise up against us”? Because while it may not happen in the life-threatening, physically violent ways David dealt with, there are those who are opposed, however subtly, to our peace of mind and well being and joy in the Lord. Really, the only way God would have you “deal” with them is by forgiveness. There is nothing to be gained in vengeful retaliation. I have learned that Jesus loves everyone and even though you may view them as detrimental to your emotional and mental state, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t some part of them that can rub off on you, a beneficial quality from which you can learn. Even as you bless them with whatever it is God intimates to your heart. This is one of the ways to make friends in this world. I admit that I may be playing fast and loose with the King James Translation here. It’s the version I use primarily and while it may be antiquated by today’s standards, I feel it holds a deeper current of understanding for those who would be inclined (or led) to stick with it and align their thinking with its cadence and flow and meaning. Then again, I could be wrong. But I know God uses everyone at some time or another. Do they know it while it’s happening? Do I? God knows. As He is the Creator, He has that prerogative. To use people.

“And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31)

And yet what do we make of this? Where does it stop? If we are “in this world, but not of it”, what does it look like when once we’ve crossed over the dividing line of the first part of the above verse? “Us[ing]” this world and “not abusing” it? God knows.