That God Would Interact With Us

“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

Think about the ways God has revealed Himself to you. Not just “revealed” but as the title suggests “interacted”. To where you came to a present realization that the Lord of Creation was both making Himself known and also inviting you to respond. Amazing. But no, think about it. Because it’s likely a lot more intricate and layered and deep than ever you knew.

“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?” (Psalm 8:4-5)

As I move forward with my life, invariably cresting seasons and mindsets that weren’t “all that”, I find opportunities to look back and reflect. Like those little dirt side areas on the shoulder of the road as you round a bend. You pull your car off to the side and step out to overlook the ocean. I look back at the ways I perceived the future (the future in which I now walk and live) and realize the content of what I saw may not have been totally God–I don’t really know what the future holds. But the capacity to see and hope and imagine and dream is totally Him. What I mean is, God has made me for this time, and you. And when you choose to remain in His hand while He prunes off what you might think is an asset but that is really holding you back, the horizon expands out before you. Look at Jeremiah’s Lamentation (3:36-37):

“To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not. Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?”

I take this to mean that the writer encountered a wide-scale reorientation of his plans and hopes and dreams. The context before and after includes some even harsher proclamations. But here’s the thing: God is interacting with you. God is ensuring you remain on the right road. Do you ever wish you could “shuffle off this mortal coil” and enjoy the pleasures of Heaven in your daily life? This is about as close as it comes. As a Christian, the primary source of enjoyment comes from walking and communing and fellowshipping in love with our Heavenly Father. Read all about it. Line up your circumstances and instances with what those who came before left for us to study and see if maybe, just maybe, the Lord might be giving you some extra-special personal attention. You’ll get through this season with everything good you possess (but may not be presently aware of) intact. All the recrement will while away and you’ll emerge a new and more distilled individual–full of power and purpose and the hard-won kernels of wisdom. They’re yours for the taking. God bless you.

“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)

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The Spectrum of Idolatry part 6 See Through

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5 NLT)

Something I’ve had trouble with my whole life is looking at other Christians as more than what they were. When once I’d witness a brother or sister in Christ striding across the stage or boldly proclaiming the Word of God to those standing by or even performing miracles on unsuspecting onlookers (all legitimate I can assure you), I would feel something akin to jealousy. I can distinctly remember feeling overawed at their composure and prowess and even things of selflessness like humility and joy and peace and love. All these things struck me as foreign and desirable. Desirable, yes. Foreign, no.

“But the hour now cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23b-24)

I remember once on the way to work thinking about Paul’s statement “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me”. After explaining the polarities of what he’d gone through in service to God and the Gospel, he sews up his story with that statement. This is the point. But from thinking on that verse, I remember having gone off on a tangent beginning with an initial thought that there were other Christians out there in the world who had done right by this verse–had appropriated it into their walk and didn’t experience some of the handicaps as did (and do) I. Before I go any further, let me just say that they are gifts. But moving forward, I’m telling you that the latticework of thoughts I had built up around incorrectly thinking on Paul’s declaration had effectively blocked me into my mental cage. My overthinking had prevented me from seeing a way out. Just when I began to think I had made some serious mistakes related to what I was going through at the time and that had prompted the weakness I felt that had led me to implore the power behind the verse in the first place, the Lord (Jesus) spoke to my heart and said “remember how I taught you” (italic His). And I got it. I suppose I should mention that the person on which I attached the ideal notion of “perfect Christian, successful and prosperous and without a trace of trouble” does not exist–at least not on this earth. If you look at someone that “nameth the name of Christ” (2 Timothy 2:19) and they aren’t giving glory to God for being in the desirable state they are, they quite possibly might be leading people astray. But that’s for God to judge and for me to pray and also not care about right now. When Jesus reminded me of the curriculum He’d brought me through and how it tied into the way He made me (the way I’m wired), it cleared away the tangles in which I found myself.

“But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (1 Corinthians 1:30)

Referring again to the aforementioned real Christians, I have nothing but love and respect for them. But if I’m going to emulate someone I don’t know and at present am unable to (everyone’s so busy), then the Lord can’t grow me up in the ways He would like. No doubt He uses others to rub off on us. But it’s idolatry if I only want to listen to them instead of striking out on my own with God as my guide. And no doubt anyone truly following Christ would want you looking at Him as opposed to them for your life. I can’t provide anything for you that you can’t get from Him yourself.

Paul speaks again in Galatians (1:11-12): “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Take what you need from those that inspire you–Christian and non–but then show it to God for notarization. The gifts came from Him in the first place.

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1:17 NLT)

The Spectrum of Idolatry part 5 Image and Likeness

“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)

We get God. What an amazing trade-off. If I, through the abdication of my self–the giving up of everything I’d worked so hard to attain and maintain–get something higher, I’m all for it. But it’s an act of the will you understand.

“He must increase but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Wean

It can be hard looking beyond both ourselves and also other people in order to receive what we think they’ll give us. I may be prescribing something that isn’t there but follow me here. At least let me describe it. If you only look outward to other people for things, intangibles that only God can give you, then you have a long way to go in life. God supplies us with those things of hope and encouragement and peace and purpose that we may incorrectly think others have and can give (or from whom we can take). Besides, no one wants to appear existentially needy in the face of everyone else. To so wear one’s heart on his sleeve that anyone observing turns away for fear is not how anyone wants to live, I think. I can attest to feeling tinges of this mania.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” (Genesis 1:26a-27)

Ween

Following the point made here by the Lord, it would seem that when we look at people, we’re actually looking at God. Is that too simple a one-to-One supposition? Think about it. At this point in my life, I most certainly haven’t wrapped my mind around the near-dichotomous simplicity of His statement. But growing up, all I saw was that God looked like a humanoid, if that makes sense. Two arms, two legs, His head in the same place as ours. This would be the default way of thinking “up” from my station as a human. And because I’ve always believed in God, I didn’t have any trouble positing Him in my mind. I couldn’t make out features, mind you. But the whole “image and likeness” thing was understood along these lines. Then as I grew up and grew older, the Holy Spirit began to intimate to me that I was indeed looking at Him through my own eyes. I needed a higher vantage point from which to see Him. I needed to see Him through the, how can I say this, “mind of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:16). God must reveal Himself to you, in other words. The word “image” in the above passage from Genesis has the connotation of “idol” in the Hebrew.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man… Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 1:13a-14)

And this is where idolatry comes in–on a human level. It’s one thing to love people. To unspool your heart out to others and give toward meeting their need. It’s all done towards the Lord. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40b) Says Jesus. Idolatry may be divorced from physical objects. But looking at people with the same vision God has given us to see–and that is supposed to be directed towards Him–is idolatry. Just because people are amazing and beautiful and intriguing and most certainly worth loving–inside and out–doesn’t mean it’s a substitute for knowing the Lord.

“Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.” (Lamentations 3:40-41)

“Wean” and “ween” come from the same root. While the former is more common and means to slowly disabuse (right word?) oneself from what might be a perfectly healthy-yet-now-outmoded thing, the latter word is almost the inverse. That they come from the same Indo-European root is intriguing in that the both deal with desire. The former meaning the end of one and the latter meaning to hope toward something.

“Whom have I in Heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” (Psalm 73:25)

 

The Spectrum of Idolatry part 4 Example and Shadow

“For if He were on earth, He should not be a priest, seeing there are priests that offer gifts according to the law.” (Hebrews 8:4)

Back up a bit to the psalms and see what the psalmist had to say regarding the outward working of inward devotion:

“I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me. Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High. And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” (Psalm 50:8, 14-15)

It would seem the psalmist got an inside angle on what God is really like. Panentheism is where “God” is resident in all things. One conclusion you’ll draw if you follow this theology is that all things are sacrosanct as all things fall under the category of “God”. God is everywhere. Okay. This doesn’t sound too different from a simple explanation of who the Holy Spirit is. But you (or I) don’t just get to see the Holy Spirit without putting forth some effort in His direction. The Holy Spirit is invisible but He is indeed all around us. Continuing the passage begun at the top of the page:

“Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed thee in the mount.” (Hebrews 8:5, emphasis mine)

The author of Hebrews is seeking to point out that Christ lived in His body, all of the various and sundry symbolisms the Law of Moses created. There, in His flesh and blood, is the outworking of a heavenly pattern. And Jesus was not seen as the Christ by everyone while He walked this earth. God (in Christ) will show up where you least expect Him. This is because of an inherent strain of unbelief. He revealed Himself to Moses in a burning bush. He walked alongside two disciples making their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus and they didn’t know it was Him. One of the things God likes to do to His people is surprise them. Sure, it helps to be on the lookout to begin with. But the finer-tuned your perceptions may be, the more unique the visitation. Consider this:

“Clouds and darkness are round about Him…” (Psalm 97:2a)

What do you think of when you read this? Obscurity. That’s what it brings to mind. Shadows. Just because God shows up in ways we least expect–even in ways that may seem scary and terrifying while they’re happening–doesn’t mean it’s not Him. Thing is though, if you know the Lord, He certainly will surprise you but you will also have peace about the encounter. When once you think you’ve wrapped your mind around God, He will be sure and upset your (already outmoded) notions. But how does all this refer to idolatry? Here’s how: No physical object you come into contact with is going to do you any good if you don’t know the Lord already. With Jesus’s death and resurrection, the physical has taken a back seat to the spiritual. But now that the Lord has risen and reigns, physical objects are again holy.  Though not in a way that makes them venerable and worthy of worship.

Effluvia

“For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14b)

Your life isn’t effluvia, bear with me. I want to lay a groundwork for things bearing a transitory nature. Like fear and hopelessness and depression. It helps to be humble to begin with in looking at things like this. Because if you see your own life from a standpoint of humility and gratitude, you (I, whoever) will be well on your way to seeing your hangups in the same light.

“Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.” (Isaiah 27:4-5)

Did you know that the fear you see and face is absolutely nothing before God? Akin to an exhalation of bad breath, the moment of which is gone almost as soon as it comes. These are our fears and insecurities in light of God’s strength. Now, don’t get me wrong. The emotional aches and pains of years past take their toll and certainly are real. We can’t reach out if all we’ve encountered is snapping jaws and unkind words and looks and manipulation. But God isn’t beset with such things. He sees us in light of Him. This is why He asks that we take hold of His strength.

“…in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10b)

“…for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

Notice the tone of the above two verses. Paul and then Ezra (the scribe, who wrote Nehemiah) show us up in light of God’s commanding presence and power. Beautifully does it render our helpless state and “Our Father who art in Heaven” so willing to help us. Take a hold of God’s strength and step through the things your afraid of. What are you afraid of? I could list a few things. I also would assume they’re on the same spectrum as most other people’s. Through invalidation and disappointment, the unwillingness to step out into the greater things God’s calling me to do. Effluvia. Nothing. That’s what it is. Nothing and less-than-nothing to the one who conquered death.

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)

You may not be called to die. But some fear is only conquered by the active and conscious step in its direction. Whereas Jesus was called to give everything up in order to satisfy the sacrificial model, we only need follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And this doesn’t mean we can’t ask for a new perspective on what’s keeping us back. God’ll show you. Just ask Him.

“Deliver me not over to the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:12)

God is happy. God is joyful. It’s His joy that is our strength

Transition Lenses part 1 Moving from the morbid to the mundane

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25)

Can you imagine what it’d be like if you had a name that over time and through lots of real-world examples changed to mean, uh, corporeal newness? I see a dual oronymic trend at present in taking established names and changing their spelling ever-so-slightly. And also in resurrecting names that have heretofore been dormant and ignored for several generations. Of course, this is my individual observations and I digress, too.

“Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord, by this time He stinketh: for He hath been dead four days.” (John 11:39)

It takes time. I wonder what Lazarus had to relearn. Motor skills, simple tasks, mores, etc. I’m just being speculative. Without memory, we’d have a pretty hard time making it day to day. And when you come back from the brink of wherever you were–be it death or any of its less-serious bedfellows–sometimes integrating into a more normal-feeling way of living can be difficult. It’s these times that, I believe, Jesus takes special and personal interest in us. Sure, He loves us the same, day-in-day-out and He’ll “never leave [us] nor forsake [us].” (Hebrews 13:5b) but we all need special attention at times.

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:8)

Sometimes, though, it takes one little step at a time. I believe we can think about and do and even concentrate on more than one thing at a time. But if you find that what does it for you while you traverse what you are, is slowing down and only doing one of those (things at a time), do it. Don’t be afraid of the implications of relearning what once you knew and then forgot. The writer of Hebrews says this: “And this will we do if God permit.” (Hebrews 6:3) Referring, of course, to the “foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (1b-2) In other words, if you need it, God’s good for it. He’ll re-learn you everything you need to know. But it takes time. God is at once eminently personal and also the “Lord of Hosts” (2 Samuel 7:8). He’s got widescale, world-changing things He’s bringing about and too, He cares about the slightest cry of your heart. Any place you need the resurrection power of Jesus in your life, He’ll be sure to impart it by His Spirit. Think about this:

“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, emphasis mine)

Jesus is alive for you. Lazarus may have arisen from the dead. But Jesus was the power behind it.