Room to Let

“I will be glad and rejoice in Thy mercy: for Thou hast considered my trouble; Thou hast known my soul in adversities; And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: Thou hast set my feet in a large room.” (Psalm 31:7-8, emphasis mine)

Imagine yourself emerging from a cave of decades-long exile, squinting at the sun as it rises. I envision a hillside, a stones throw from a little village. Perhaps it’s taking place around the time of Christ—doesn’t have to. Can’t you just feel the wind though? Rustling the leaves of what few and sparse shrubbery dot the expanse, maybe kick around a little dirt and tousle your hair. If I had one word to sum up the feeling I’m looking to create with this picture it’d be freedom.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (Luke 4:18) Says Jesus.

A sense of enlittlement

Jesus did it. He spelunked for three days and three nights in the “heart of the world” and got as deep as the Father required in order that He might pay for our sin and secure our freedom. Moving around in this world takes a whole lot more than we might realize. Everything from stable tectonic plates to all that stuff you may have forgotten (or neglected to learn) from your High School Physics class (like gravity). From those things, to some vestige of caloric energy, etc. What about the shape of your blood cells? And this is just your body. Moving around in your body. What about your thoughts? You drive to work and stop to grab coffee on the way. Not only would you not be able to get coffee if you didn’t have a job, but you might feel so absolutely overwhelmed having just gotten the call on the way that you lost your job that you mightn’t even stop for that coffee. On second thought, if you really received a verbal pink slip on your way to work, after a brief life-inventory/existential crisis (the intensity of which might be contingent on how much you liked your job) on the side of the road, you probably would go get some coffee. And while the pressures of life would most definitely flood in and seek to inundate fairly quickly, you’d probably also have a fleeting feeling of pure freedom. Freedom, or “liberty” as the King James terms it in the following verse:

“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

Noncompete clause

“For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalm 73:3)

This isn’t to say anyone you see coming or going as they please is “foolish” or “wicked”, no. But it’s good to have this verse, and really, the whole of Asaph’s psalm, to show us where our foci (plural of focus—but really, we should only be focusing on God…) and motives lie. With God, you may feel for any number of reasons that you can’t do what you want. You might be tempted to look with envy at others who seem to be more upwardly mobile—or even mobile in general. But think about this: you have freedom of mind. You can dream and hope and pray. You can fellowship with Jesus right where you’re at.

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. Abide in me…” (John 15:5, 4a)

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The Main Course (An Extended Metaphor)

“For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.” (Romans 14:2)

Causing a stir

How do you do it? Assuming you had no fear nor hangups, how do you keep all the pots on your stove from either boiling over, or burning? Pray tell. Even as I type this, I think about the extended metaphor that is the whole “pots on the stove” thing. Let’s extend it a little further, shall we? Is it about nourishment that you look to do what you do? Let me just interject here the big things of life. The ones I look at as those many and varied pots on your stove. Firstly (and these are in no particular order), there’s finances. To quote Richard Florida, “Yes, people want enough money to live in the manner they prefer, but…” Extending the pot metaphor, without money, you’re going to starve—figuratively, literally, whatever (i.e. life can get hard). But then there’s relationships. Without the former, are you willing to even approach someone knowing you don’t have a commensurate bank account? Food for thought. Third (and this one’s multi-faceted) is vocation. What do you want to do with all those pots? Are you making a several-course meal? Or do they complement one another at all? Do you fast and limit your gustatory fun (essentially holding your breath— mixing metaphors!) to go to school? Maybe. If that’s what you feel. If your vocation requires you to do something along those lines. But then what could you be doing for yourself if you elected to not go to school for a bit (if at all) and develop abstract aspects of your person that no school in the world could help you with? Like truly knowing the Lord. Think about this though: did you know you can be hungry (i.e. have an empty stomach) and not feel it? You can feel like food’s the last thing you want or need. Recovering from my infrequent flus (complete with stomach aches), I would swear to myself I’d never eat again. And waste away even worse. I would say that this part of our EM (extended metaphor, of course) points to the aforementioned “fear and hangups” thing. Eat something! It’s for your health. I digress.

“Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.” (Acts 27:34)

Referring again to vocation, how are you going to use it? Do you stick with the cuisine of your forefathers or do you branch out? Do you pick the cuisine that would earn you another star in the eyes of the critics? I hear it’s best to have four (as opposed to five). You realize you’re cooking for one, right? The whole “vocation” thing is a tricky recipe. If you haven’t a developed palate, you don’t really know what’s to your liking and as such may well not even crack open the cookbook. Start small. Water crackers, etc. Do you vocate (yes) for yourself or for someone else? Dispense with the idea of selfless altruism for a moment and think about how, if you aren’t a developed person in the first place, you won’t have anything to serve anyone else—or to serve anyone else with. “Dumb waiter” indeed.

God’s apron strings

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” (Psalm 23:5)

Here’s the thing: God is good. He’s a trustworthy chef and His menu is unequaled. I began this thought with the notion that it falls to us to keep these things of life astir. And by neglecting them, they most certainly will spoil. But in closing, I find that with Him and in Him, all metaphor tends to fall away. In the Bible, all idiom, metaphor, symbol, etc. vanishes (“But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” 1 Corinthians 13:10). The metaphors—extended and non—are gifts with which we’re able to frame the heavy, complex (And we haven’t even paired the wine!) issues of life. All I can say is put the spoon in God’s hand for a moment and see how He does it. At least let him in on your recipe(s). Take some time off in your mind and let him whisk up the most amazing, interlaced meal of your life—one that will in turn nourish you for the work to which He’s called you and also everyone else who shows up at your table. Blessings to you.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man (and woman) that trusteth in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)

Burning Up In the Atmosphere

“Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean…” (Numbers 31:23a)

There are times when you feel you need something and don’t know what it is. You see a horizon and you know you want it but you don’t know what it takes to get there. But you know your Father. That’s as good a place as any to start. And remember: “for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of,” (Matthew 6:8) and “before ye ask Him” no less. But in light of the aforementioned horizon, i.e. that thing you really, really want, know that were you to step into that season of life–the one in which you’re enjoying the relationship or career or whatever beautiful thing that only He can give you–and not have gone through some sort of purifying process to make you stronger in light of the inevitable temptation you’re going to face–you may well end up going back whence you came. The thought of losing the watershed is a harsh one indeed. This is why we have the Lord’s patience to keep us from losing our head and also a piece of our heart.

“…nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water.” (Numbers 31:23b)

I know that the above verse from Numbers points to a very specific thing from the Old Covenant. The ritual cleansing of the spoils of a battle with the Midianites. But in light of metaphor and symbol, know that anything you feel, be it the heat of (what you might think is) God’s censure or the pressure of a flood, it’s there for your good. It won’t last. It can’t. But “now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:” (1 Peter 1:6b) I’m sure Peter knew what he was talking about. Imagine slowly sinking into the water after you’d just stepped out of the boat to walk to Jesus. He continues on: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold which perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1:7) It certainly refers to the Second Coming, yes. But it also applies to the drawing closed of one season in favor of the dawning of another. When Jesus comes back around to give that much hoped-for blessing, you’ll be able to bear it. And also enjoy it without having to worry about losing it. Strength is the natural outworking of the patience you expend waiting on the Lord.

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” (Isaiah 43:2)

Peter had guts. So do you. It’s one thing to take a step on the water and fail. Quite another (lesser) to not even consider doing something no one in history had ever done before. I’d wager to say the horizon shows itself to you because God’s preparing you to reach out and grab it. Blessings to you.

The Spectrum of Idolatry part 7 An Idol Is Nothing

“Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me; There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god. I am the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (Psalm 81:8-10)

What is it that gets your attention and keeps it? Anything from fear to, not hope but anxiety, to obsession. All along the spectrum that God freely provides do things of tangibility or intangibility seek to wrest and arrest our attention from Our Father Who Art In Heaven. Keep this in mind as all of the positives of the aforementioned spectrum are resident in God the Father. They both originate from His heart and emanate from there into the world, as well. But where then, for the believer in Jesus Christ do any of the negative perceptions of God come? We know that God is our Heavenly Father but do we really know Him? How can there be, alongside this newfound Father-child relationship anything that would keep us from looking Him full in the face and throwing our arms around His neck in embrace?

Idols of the King

Idolatry takes many forms. If you’ve read up till here from part one of this series, you’ve seen ancient idolatry in the form of Pagan gods, simple objects and even our brothers and sisters in Christ. But what about an idol in the form of a wrong perception of the Father? That’s a new one. One of the most important life lessons to learn, in my opinion, is that of seeing the Father as Jesus saw Him. As the most loving and kind and awesome person you’d ever want to meet but that is actually closer to you than you ever dreamed possible.

“And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of Him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.” (1 Corinthians 8:2-4, emphasis mine)

A wrong perception as to God’s true character could come from anywhere. From peers to parents and anyone in between. Pastors and mentors and any number of figures who mean well but don’t know the Father as do you. You may be childlike in your faith and understanding. But this doesn’t mean that your heart isn’t in sync with the Father’s. As Paul writes in the above passage, it’s the jumping-the-gun that we as humans tend to do that prevent, not just us from truly understanding any topic, but that also prevent God from knowing us. God the Father knows the hairs on your head and every last minute detail (how do you think He’s able to do for you the little things He does?) about your person. But does He really know you? Do you know Him? Keep pressing in.

King of the monsters

“For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:” (Psalm 55:12)

When I was a kid, I fell in love with the old image of Godzilla from the fifties. This giant monster leveling buildings and breathing fire and destroying the destroyer. I even had a dream about him. While he didn’t show in the dream, he made his presence known. I’ll explain. It’s the middle of the night and I find myself, wheelchair bound, on one of my neighborhood streets. My friends are standing by, I presume having rolled me up to where I was. The feeling of helplessness and paralysis was not pleasant, rendering this dream more of a nightmare, really. But we’re all there and the wind is blowing. At about this time, my four or five friends and I hear something akin to the Tyrannosaur from Jurassic Park (though this dream would have happened in the late eighties–predating that movie) slowly stomping towards us. It dawns on me that it’s Godzilla though I can’t see him. At this point, my friends up and abandon me, leaving me at the mercy of the approaching monster. My physical paralysis turns to a fear-based one and it’s then that the dream ends. This dream haunted me for years. It wasn’t until recently–coinciding with the release in May of the remake–that I really saw what the dream meant. If you’ve ever seen either the original or the remake from 2014 (forget the 1999 version), you know that Godzilla isn’t the bad guy. And neither is God.

“Now concerning spiritual gifts brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.” (1 Corinthians 12:1-2)

“So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.” (Deuteronomy 32:12)