Cynosure

“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5, emphasis mine)

*shudder*

When it says “the Lord is at hand”, it means the God of the universe is in and among what you’re doing—by His Spirit. Pick through (if you feel so inclined) the finer points of Old Testament rules and see what happens when people weren’t circumspect in their behavior with reference to outward comportment (a lot of people died). I know that’s kind of redundant because “behavior” is “outward comportment” (look it up, though comportment tends to be more on the proud side) but things do tend to acquire a little more complexity the closer you get to the Lord. That might sound all sorts of wrong but God is the same now as He was back then. The difference that we enjoy in the present day-and-age is due to the fact that Jesus did everything right. Faith might be simple but it’s undergirded by a complexity we will never be able to fully wrap our minds around. All the hundreds of rules (see John 5:39) that the Pharisees thought somehow brought them closer to God did Jesus walk in perfectly and yet the Father still withdrew His attention and His presence and turned His back on His Son just before He died. Let’s back up a bit:

“Who (referring to Jesus), being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7 emphasis mine)

Seriously. When it says right there how Jesus “thought it not robbery to be equal with God”, it means He didn’t seek to go forward into this world using His inherent godhood as a bludgeon to get done what He (Jesus) wanted to do. This is why He could deflect the compliment of “good” back to His Father (see Luke 18:18-19), why He would constantly remind anyone listening of the ever-present-ness of His Father (in a word: omnipresence). He would tell people that “the Father…doeth the works.” (John 14:10), that “he (and she) that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (the verse prior). Everywhere He went and with every person who was blessed to interact with Him got the same spiel: We should be paying attention to the Father. And so when Jesus enters this world, anything He would have seen as part of His “reputation” He shed and simply moved forward at His Father’s behest. But how does this apply to us?

“I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” (Psalm 16:8)

I like this one for many reasons. A particular fancy of mine is having scriptures in mind whose references span both Old and New Testament. I hear this a lot in sermons and conversation how the writers of the New didn’t have the New (Testament) yet from which to draw and so anything in which they were rooting their writings necessarily came from the Old. So when one crops up in the writings of Paul (for instance, see Isaiah 64:4 and 1 Corinthians 2:9) or in the case of the above, Peter, it’s like a bridge between the two and some sort of circuit is completed. But this is my mind, mind you. Another of the reasons I think this verse is exceptional is because David is showing us what it takes to see the Father as does he. Luke, when writing Acts (narrating Peter) gives it a little different exposition: “For David speaketh concerning Him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, because He is at my right hand, that I should not be moved.” (Acts 2:25, emphasis mine) At least in the King James, there’s a little bit different spin on it. It would seem David saw God. But in the Psalm up there, it looks to be maybe that David deliberately made the effort to do so. And I think the two go hand in hand. Because the more effort we expend in seeing the Lord, the more will He show Himself to us. And He always does more than we (see Psalm 97:11. Ephesians 3:20-21). So moving forward, take stock. Think about the elements of your own representation—and like Jesus, reputation—and see if it’s directing the attention of those watching back to your heavenly Father. But wait! Don’t automatically think that it isn’t. Because the way you are and the way you look, were made and given to you by Him. People see through God’s eyes and also look at Him more than they know (see Genesis 1:26-27) and if you believe in Jesus (i.e. are a Christian), then there’s already something different about you. Play it up. Purify your heart (see Matthew 5:8) and God will shine through. For sure.

In closing, I would just like to point out that people are amazing. Regardless of how they look on the outside, there’s always something about them that is mind-blowingly amazing (“Really? You’re the first person to fold a piece of paper into an airplane and throw it? That’s awesome!”). But worship the Lord. The adulation is due Him. Think about what it takes to get like this:

“And they (Peter “and the other apostles”, verse 29) departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41)

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This World’s Good

“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.” (1 John 3:17-18)

A certain—how-can-I-say-this—patina of confidence, a swagger, if you will, begins to tell when once you reach a certain threshold in the realm of finances. When the worries that still beset you surround, not “Am I gonna make it paycheck to paycheck?” but, “Can I afford a better brand (with cooler logo, no doubt) of the thing I’ve been wanting for some time now?”, you know you’ve made it. The Word of God is full of examples (some might even look to be counterintuitive to the way of thinking that comes with a beat-down and penniless way of thinking and of life). In other words, it’s easy to run roughshod over other people (regardless of their financial situation) if the confidence in which you walk around springs from your bank account. Because this world isn’t good (see Matthew 19:17), not in the slightest. It’s actually quite nasty, wholly antagonistic to the things of Jesus Christ. The King James wording in the passage up top calls an abundance of finances or provision “this world’s good”. But think about it: it’s at least one if not several steps removed from “God’s good”. And God is good all the time. When you walk around with the confidence of being able to throw a line in the lake and reel in, not just dinner (the fish), but enough money to pay taxes for two people (see Matthew 17:24-27), I’d say you have more than the aforementioned “world’s good”. Amazing. That’s when you’ve truly “made it”.

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Yes, charge them. Charge them double. Actually, I’m not sure if that’s scriptural. Perhaps found in some Old Testament annal, either way, I’m being facetious. But notice this. I find, if I may, that Paul encapsulates the point of my prior paragraph more succinctly and elegantly than I and with fewer words. But he makes another interesting point: namely “God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy”. God is lavish with His gifts and all He asks is that we get to know Him—a loaded statement if ever there was one. I was walking through a neighborhood tonight as the sun set. As I approached the back end of a strip mall (most of whose spaces were vacant), I looked across the street to my left and noticed a couple sparrows hopping on some pebbled concrete steps leading up to a real estate office. They chittered in the golden light. All around the scene was a stillness and beauty that you could not buy. The leaves reflecting a beautiful orange that offset the deep green of the shrubbery in which they made their nest. I felt that if I were to sit on the steps as the sun went down (be willing to wait, in other words), I’d be privy to some secret that only they and the Father knew. He gives us richly all things to enjoy.

“For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance many be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-14)

There’s a lot to this. If you struggle with bills and anxiety and money-related issues, please understand that God is taking care of you. Though there is a hard-won pragmatism that comes from struggling to make ends meet even as you work toward carving out a better life for yourself. God feeds the sparrows, says Jesus (or thereabouts, see Matthew 10:29-31). He will most certainly take care of you. And not that I look to add anything to what the Lord said—He, too, puts things simpler and more succinct than do I, what’s up with that?—but never lose sight of the little things of beauty that God wants to show you. Things—thousands upon thousands of them, if you’re paying attention—that bring joy to your heart and His. And with reference to giving and money and finances and all that? Here’s a good guideline:

“Every man (and woman) according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Dissociative

“And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) (2 Corinthians 12:3)

The map, the territory

These are my thoughts on the matter filtered through the writings of Paul and the other authors of the varying books that make up The Holy Bible. God knows. How much is God and how much is us? And how come Paul was unable to tell the reader for a certainty whether or not what he had experienced and what he was referring to had actually taken place the way we normally experience our day-to-day, humdrum life? He even goes so far to preface his statement (the verse prior) with “I knew a man in Christ”. Jesus is indeed the focal point for all this stuff and certainly all of life. Life spent “in the body, or out of the body”.

“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:8-9)

We’re human, that’s a given. God wanted a certain class of being and therefore we get to experience life as a bipedal hominid inhabiting more-or-less the same spatial dimensions as most others (at least when once we attain adulthood). And living in this body and therefore looking out our two eyeballs is pretty much the only perspective we might be able to enjoy here on this plane. Barring, that is, some augmented or accessorized window (read: cellphone screen, etc.). So how then does one explain out-of-the-body experiences?

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

John the Baptist had the right idea. He saw his cousin Jesus for who He rightfully was. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Inspiring something more than hero-worship, Jesus’s presence and personality (assuming you seek it out and allow the light to shine to the depth of your being, as opposed to mere mental ascent) touches the very core of your being. It is such a comfort to know that He and the Father and the Holy Spirit are out there awaiting our acknowledgement. I say all this to say that when once you see Him, you cannot help but live in the light He’s shown you. And the price you pay to enjoy this, now new, perspective is simply the laying down of our own will, our own self. Our own body (see 1 Corinthians 15:41-44).

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he (and she) that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

Think about it. You have this weight and this substance. A life more-or-less mundane and ordinary and perhaps you’d rather be doing more than where you’re at (this applies to me, no doubt). But when touching the out-of-body experience, may I suggest looking at it in light of allowing God more free rein with the container that is your body? If, as John suggested “[Christ] must increase” (yes, I’m equating Christ with God), look into letting Him take over your hands and feet. Let your hands and feet be His, ask what His will is for your life—knowing first that He loves you more than you could ever imagine—and then act accordingly.

“I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)

Tell Him the same. Believe that He has more for you than you can attain where you’re at. It isn’t about receiving more and more stuff, it’s about letting the Father work in you and then work you into the narrative He’s writing over humanity. The good thing about this kind of experience is it never ends but only grows (glows) brighter and doesn’t have any harsh side-effects or extreme crashes.

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they may have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Whatever you want is covered under the banner of “life…more abundantly”. Vehicle, vocation, avocation, etc. Just know that you may have to be moved out of the way for a little bit in order for the Father to work you back into His (surely better than anything we could work out for ourselves) version of your day-to-day, humdrum existence. All you have to do is ask.

Confidence Game

“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him:” (2 Timothy 2:11)
I like how Paul opens with the first part of the above. A “faithful saying”. Put differently you might say it’s something you can “bank on” (how interesting). Perhaps you might word it otherwise as a “trust issue”, yet another finance-oriented term, depending on how you look at it. But think of it as a game, something taking place within the confines of a set space and a set of rules. Rules that, God the Father Himself, however omniscient/omnipresent/omnipotent, abides by.

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us:” (2 Timothy 2:12)

But Paul here is talking to Timothy about Jesus Christ. Think about the Trinity. Jesus is a human, like you and I. But the Father is His own class of Being. One of a kind, actually. And yet He chose to reveal Himself to the world in the person of Jesus in order to both show love and atone for sin. These are the rules of engagement. Seen from the perspective of the Father (His vantage point—way up there where the light is a constant orange/blush color and it’s freezing cold—absolute zero—but you don’t feel it, the clouds drifting lazily by) it might look as if life’s a game. And the only reason I say this is because of what Christ has already said: “It is finished.” (John 19:30) He has won this game, the game of life. And yet, moving forward, it very well may look to be something the exact opposite of rule-based (seriously, how much of life is out of your control?) and, also, fun. What kind of God is this (see Psalm 115:3)? Who flouts convention and throws around lives and circumstances like so much dead weight, looking for someone to worship and love Him in return? Sounds like your garden-variety dictator/voyeur, shallow in personality and callow in real-world exposure. But this is what Paul points to when He references Christ’s sufferings. I mean, who doesn’t want to be up there? Free from the trappings of gravity and time? God is holy. He must “[abide] faithful”, as it says below, in order to keep this plane functioning correctly. Yet Jesus came and got His hands dirty, so we could experience a pleasant eternity. And all He asks that we do—whether we are entering the Kingdom for the first time or continuing on in a life of love—is “believe” (see John 6:29).

“If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

If you’re reading this and perfectly content with your lot, your space—without God, more power to you. But know that Jesus and the Father are One. Along with the Holy Spirit, they form a complete picture of existence-as-a-sentient-being. While we are not God and never will be, we were created in His “image and likeness” (see Genesis 1:26-28) and the sufferings of Christ, provided you accept Him as the only way back to the Father, will ensure you get to taste what might be described as the purest Out of the Box experience a human could ask for. God cannot deny Himself, as it says above. And He cannot deny us when we deny ourselves under Christ. This is the source of all true confidence. Where the prize is under each of the shells, all the time. God reached down from His throne on High through the person of Christ so you could be up there with Him. Where the only air you need is the Holy Spirit.

“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and His children shall have a place of refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)