Epithalamion

“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32)

The error of eros

Paul has just finished lining out the Christian concept of marriage. Almost by way of admission does he add the above. A “great mystery”, he says, right after quoting Genesis (2:24). Jesus does the same in Mark’s Gospel (10:7). “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife.” Not that Paul is superseding what Jesus said. In much the same way Christ expounded from Genesis the point of a match made in Heaven, Paul comes after and expounds for the Ephesians what the whole point is. That we would learn through the give and take of a marriage covenant, the relationship between Jesus and ourselves, as His bride.

“Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.” (Song of Solomon 1:4)

O, my God. That is so supercharged as to render the most calloused of hearts splayed out and ready for romance. Or is it? A cursory reading would see it as a beautiful love poem infused with the sights and smells of Ancient Israel. In turn, a modern reader may be hard-pressed to then go one further and see it as symbolic of our relationship with Christ–especially when presented with the reality (and the why) of Christ’s death and resurrection. While Solomon’s Song is chock-full of allusion and metaphor and simile, pinning down a flat-out and overtly sexual meaning is almost a waste of time. Just because it uses the word “love” and “loves”, doesn’t mean it doesn’t only mean the kind of love Christ shows us. Life is over so quickly and therefrom, the real difficulty arises. It isn’t about coupling and copulating and cohabitating. It’s about meeting and knowing Christ.

Agape over agape

“But He said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” (Matthew 19:11)

“For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.” (1 Corinthians 7:7)

Evidently Paul had “receiv[ed] this saying”. He had found such grace in the eyes of the Lord, knowing what God had done for him by way of atonement that the inverted void of seeking out a mate had been sated and slienced. And filled. It can be hard, extraordinarily hard to so orient yourself around an eminently spiritual way of looking at life that you essentially forget you don’t have a significant (human, physical) other. This is why Jesus says “All men cannot”. Because if you want or need someone, if God made someone for you and you know this like you know yourself, then Jesus will be either/or until the right one comes along. So easy to read. A little harder to write. Impossible to live without help from on high. And when Paul says “This is a great mystery”, I think he knows what He’s talking about. To him, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Somewhere in the middle he had evidently given his heart to Jesus, the one who gave the same for humanity and then the deal was sealed. If you haven’t for yourself, I strongly urge you to meet Jesus and to “comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18b-19). Any and every type of knowledge.

It’s the only thing in life greater than finding your soulmate.

“And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:9)

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The Spectrum of Idolatry part 2 From Pillar to Post

“And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the Lord, that was before the porch of the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 15:8)

Fast forward a few verses, through the formalities of what it takes to truly clear idolatry out of an entire culture, through the harsh punishments given to those who don’t comply, who aren’t inclined to “seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul;” (15:12), and we come upon this little afterthought (15:17):

“But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days.”

Two, almost minor, details. The first of which goes against, it would seem, something Asa did at the beginning of his reign. The fifth verse of the prior chapter says Asa “took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images”. If he already did this, evidently there were those who had endeavored to make the climb to reinstate another form of worship not directed to Jehovah. Okay (actually not okay). It then says that “the kingdom was quiet before him.” This little mention plays into our own life in a big way in the sense that if we don’t endeavor to keep the little things present before God, the very real victory He wins for us will slowly slip and attenuate and may perhaps be in danger of falling apart altogether. Paul says “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (Galatians 5:9) In other words, it doesn’t take much yeast to cause the loaf you’re baking to rise. If you’re called to eat “unleavened bread” (figuratively, as were the Israelites literally: Exodus 12:8) then the high places must go, too. They must be cut down. But here’s the second point.

“He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:9-10)

So God has just given you a victory. You went through an amazing season, a series of struggles and trials that threatened to quash your soul. But you persevered with His help and now look at you! Is it what you expect? You knew it was coming and now it’s here. Are you disappointed with the “spoil”, so to speak? In God’s wisdom, He doesn’t always do exactly what we expect in the timeframe we expect because we wouldn’t still feel inclined to continue to seek Him, perhaps. I find that, rather than fix my circumstances and the settings that caused such, sometimes the trials only come to build up my spirit and soul in ways that I never knew needed strengthening. The above passage from Psalms speaks to the right perspective on the victory God gives. And also what is important through it all: stillness. Asa’s kingdom was “quiet before him.” We must revel in this. Maintain that sanctity of holiness in which God’s presence now dwells by the Holy Spirit. Maybe not much has changed on the outside, but you see it with fresh eyes and a renewed sense of purpose. You will vault over what struggles still await (you know this now) but take a little time and, as it says, be still. And after some prayer and thanksgiving, get to work on those “high places”. Your heart is right before God.

“For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds feet, and setteth me upon my high places.” (Psalm 18:31-33)

Terroir

“A man that hath friend must shew himself friendly…” (Proverbs 18:24a)

This is the way. If you want to have friends, you must be a friend, in other words. You have to terraform the locale in which you find yourself–bloom where you’re planted, as it were–in order to allow the Lord to come around with that which you need. Jesus says “a prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” (Mark 6:4) Meaning it can be extraordinarily hard to come by true friends where you’re from. One decompresses from their disciplinary ordeals the further they get from ground zero. When once you are allowed a little leeway and vacation from your stomping grounds–the place in which God is using you for change–you begin to see where you are for what it is. A relatively dense and dark corner of hell that needs redecorating. And as you spend time with the Lord in those places on the fringe, you’ll be well equipped to bring the atmosphere of Heaven back to the place from where you hail. This is terraforming, God’s way.

“…and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24b)

But what does this have to do with “friendship”? Because a friend is one of the best things in the world to have. Even those diametrically opposed to you in heart, mind, worldview, etc. can be your friend (this is true and it isn’t kindergarten). Jesus says “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness” (Luke 16:9, emphasis mine) meaning be responsible with money and respect it, essentially. And if He uses that word to describe the thing the love of which is “the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10), it goes without saying that you can become friends with anyone–provided they’re inclined, as well. Jesus is that friend that sticks closer. He calls us friends. And we get our model from Him in everything we do.

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)

But it’s a joyous and wonderful thing. As each place is radically different in feel from the next, the more time you spend where you’re at, you both alter it by diffusing the presence of the Holy Spirit even as the place influences your own person. Like a fine wine, the influences of which tell the longer you linger. You become a true reflection of your little plot and also the Lord remakes it into a place fit for a king. And He is the King of kings.

“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:15)

So be a friend. It might go without saying in the world of adults who’ve come back around to seeing all the childhood attention grabbing and high school posturing for what it is. But it still needs to be said. “Friend” is overused and misunderstood and quite possibly undervalued in the world at large. But not between you and Christ, right? And please understand, it may have taken all of five minutes to read the above but the process takes years.

The Spectrum of Idolatry part 1 On One Hand

“Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law. But when they in their trouble did turn unto the Lord God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found of them.” (2 Chronicles 15:3-4)

Let me just start by saying that we, in the era of the New Covenant, enjoy this privilege bereft of the actual disconnect, because of the Lord Jesus and facilitated through the Holy Spirit. But it would seem we’re at a place not too different from what is described in the first verse of the above passage. Because there are times when it feels as if there is no God (let alone the “true” God) and that there’s no need for any of the aforementioned “teaching priest” or “the law”. A sea of subjectivity greets us at every turn and we are hard-pressed to make sense and meaning of all the dilution we feel. Forgive me for prescribing this condition thus. I feel it fits though.

Off-handed, off-footing

“And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.” (1 Samuel 5:4)

Idolatry can be a hard thing to pin down. Because without a true glimpse (essentially an image) of God from which to work, you don’t really know the thing you’re looking at isn’t God. “Thou shalt have none other gods before me.” (Deuteronomy 5:7) says God through Moses. Couple this with Jesus’s reprimand of “get thee behind me Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Luke 4:8), it would seem that anything other than Jesus, no matter how impressive or holy-looking, will lead you away from Him. The above passage speaks of a time when the Ark of the Covenant had been taken from the Israelites and was holed up at the temple of the Philistine god Dagon. Dagon was a god of fertility, represented in symbol by grain but by statue of what might be akin to a bearded merman. So powerful was the presence of God (“the true God”) that the statue of Dagon fell apart overnight. The correlation for us in these times plays in to the passage at the top of the page.

Offsetting, Off-putting

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)

“Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:13)

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

The idea behind this proof-text is that God the Father is the one with whom we have to do. The one around which we orient our feelings. Be it “hope” or “fear” and the spectrums of both. Granted, we must work through fear when approaching God but we have the promise of something better from which we launch. When it says in Peter to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts”, it means bring Him into each and every and the innermost chambers of your heart. Don’t worry about clearing out the traces of your old life without acknowledging God first. He will shatter our illusions and any other gods that reside within.

Patrilocal

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

I believe that if we truly knew and therefore walked in this knowledge that God is our Father, it would change our world. Not just “the world at large” but our own little world. The one in which He and you dwell together. The one in which no one else is allowed. Like “thy closet” (Matthew 6:6) but the size of a planet or something. One on which you and he walk around in love with one another.

“For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (Hebrews 2:11)

The Latin phrase in loco parentis means “in the place of a parent”. There’s a reason Jesus puts His finger on the bond between parent and child. “Call no man your father upon the earth” (Matthew 23:9) is a stark statement that for all intents and purposes–depending on how close you are or were–would look to create a void that cannot be filled. I acknowledge that both parents did what they could. But when once a person would come to Jesus for themselves (in the truest sense of the phrase), all earthly ties must be severed on a spiritual level. I believe everyone’s parents do the best they can. I have ebbed and flowed through that statement regarding both my mom and my dad but now I hold to it. And I hold nothing against either of them. But without realizing that God is my Father and that without Christ doing what He did to reunite us, I would not and could not become all I was meant to be.

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” (Psalm 27:10)

I had once this image of God sitting on the couch. Behind him was the picture window, blinds closed. It was day and I assume a bustling neighborhood (different than mine) outside. All about him was an unassuming patriarchal air. Were I to focus in on detail I suppose I could see his shirtsleeves rolled up and his collar open. Having just come home from work, he was simply relaxing. Ready for questions or concerns or just personal time. This is God the father. And because of what Jesus did by coming and living and dying for us, we have now this bond upon believing.

“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)