Lehem Panim*

I love this idea, of staring God full in the face and knowing somehow that everything happening behind His countenance, His visage, is only good. Machinations ad infinitum that are “work[ing] all things together for good” (Romans 8:28). Thoughts that “tend only to plenteousness” (Proverbs 21:5—I mean wouldn’t He be the most “diligent” person of ever?). Thoughts that He thinks “toward [us]…thoughts of peace” (Jeremiah 29:11), etc. To know that every time you look at your Heavenly Father, He’s not only returning your gaze, cheek resting on His palm (the palm that bears your name—see Isaiah 49:16), looking wistfully back into your eyes, but that to the very depth of His being is love—just for you. I love this idea.

“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father.” (John 14:9)

Jesus gently chides Philip for not realizing what was there all along. And don’t worry, just because you’re not a part of Jesus’s entourage doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the same closeness and fellowship as did those who were walking around with Him while He did ministry. And yet referring to the last sentence of the first paragraph (also the first), it’s not merely an idea. God is always looking at you (see Psalm 11:7; 17:15) and He likes what He sees. I understand that He sees Jesus and His righteousness when He looks at us. But He also sees us. Get this: we have been recreated. We are, after believing on Jesus, that version of ourself we would have been had sin never happened. The “absolute superlative epitome” (I’m quoting myself) of ourselves, as it were.

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

So, in case you weren’t already aware, the above references Jesus, “the high priest”. One of the things about the Old versus New Testaments is that in order for Jesus to be who He was and is (and said He was and is), He needed to fulfill the office of High Priest. There are something like 613 little rules for something something in Judaic culture, I forget. And that’s just “the Law”. So not only did He have to do everything right, He had to fulfill all those 613 things to the letter—and then die. And beyond a certain point in Mosaic Law, I’m way out of my league and depth (same thing, honestly). This was to appease the Father. When I say that God is always looking at you with love, we have no idea what it means to transgress true holiness. God could have simply wiped out the whole earth with a flood simply because sin had gotten so rampant. Wait… But seriously, without Christ, you don’t get to see firsthand the loving side of God. God is holy (it’s why He sent Jesus to live as a sinless human, to win us back) and as we are fallen, we don’t get to see the machinations behind His face. We don’t get to “come…to the throne of grace”. We get a one-way ticket to an eternal separation from God after living a mere fourscore years (or thereabouts) on an earth that’s burning up (see Psalm 90:10-11, quoting Moses “the man of God”).

Now, referring again to the passage with Philip. Apparently, as Jesus says, if we see Him, we see the Father. Okay. If you want to look at God (“Why won’t God show himself?”), then look at Jesus—this is beginning to sound like a tautology, like circular reasoning. But let’s move forward: How do we see Jesus? It’s simple. Start treating people like they were the Son of God, like they were the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6). Start looking (and smiling) at and interacting with others as if they were the One who loves you most. You can realize this for yourself. And then God will reveal Himself to you. And He’ll come in a way you least expect. That thought is already turning in His mind even now.

“When Thou saidst, Seek my face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:8)

Hebrew for “bread of the face (or presence) of God”.

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Fulcrums part 1

“Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times.” (Psalm 106:3)

And I hate to sound fanatical but in spite of labeling both parties above as “blessed”, there is a world of difference between those who are “keep[ing] judgment” and those who are actively moving forward, as did Christ, and doing the things in this world—the “greater works” He refers to in John 5:20—that progress the Kingdom of God.

What is that hinge? What is that point at which you cease thinking about and praying about (and quite possibly worrying about) that which you’re called to do, and simply do it? What’s the small step the Lord is gently intimating to your heart? I find as I am merely in my early thirties that I have energy and drive and faculties and wherewithal and resources. And time. If you mix those together, assuming Christ is within, the Father’s expectation is that I would be doing what He’s put on my heart to do. Rest assured, He (Christ) is and I am. I balance my age against those older who may not have mobility, or those my contemporaries who may not have my resources. What about those who don’t have my faculties or my experience (and now I’m comparing the whole world with me, bear with me)? This isn’t about anyone but you. What is God calling you to do?

Solving for time

For me, having never completed high school, the last Goliath I had to slay was obtaining my GED. If you think about it, high school math is not that big a deal (it wasn’t) but the fear of the unknown was something I could not think my way through. I had to step, one foot in front of the other, and move forward. And while I did indeed pass, the material I covered in the months-long cram session (seriously, I cut out all my “extracurricular” activities in the week leading up to the test and solely focused on the math) spanned six years of compulsory mathematics. Quite the feat, if I do say so myself. But thank God that it was a pass/fail system because in the hour-and-a-half I had, I answered forty questions (five without a calculator). Four or five of which I guessed, hand in front of my eyes (not really, I had to see where to click) and one I left blank. I ended with almost half the time to spare and I barely edged out the score needed to see green. It was like all the aforementioned fear channeled down through the “x” variable (the unknown) and now it’s gone. And so now I can go to college. But not before taking a(nother) placement test. And there’s even a pre-placement test if I feel like continually halving the distance between me and my “education” ad infinitum. This is where I feel the aforementioned “moving forward” urge. God knows.

Solving for distance

“For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but Thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them.” (Psalm 44:3, emphasis mine)

Balance that, though, with the lesson from Deuteronomy 11:24: “Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours…” Yes, God has given you your destiny, your place in this world. He has purchased it with His Son and He holds it out for you on, not a silver but, a gold platter. It’s yours even now. But there are things to work through. Systems are in place and the people are there as well. “An innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22) too, if I may. Don’t forget your heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Holy Spirit, too). They’re all urging you on, wooing and drawing you to that place of beauty and joy and purpose. It’s hard, I know. It looks impossible but with Him “nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). I’m here for you too.

Integer Vitae

Okay, so this morning I left my apartment wearing a yellow t-shirt and mismatched red and blue socks. As in, one red (more of a maroon, really), one blue (indigo). But it’s the primary colors, you understand: I knew today was going to be momentous. Let me just start by saying that about the only thing I feel any twinge of guilt over is pulling into my apartment complex parking lot with my music playing a little too loud for the community. But I really don’t know what it sounds like on the outside (awesome) of my car, so I couldn’t tell you. Aside from that, I have a clean conscience, legally speaking. But as I approached my car, I noticed an officer on a motorcycle pull down my street. I get in my car and see as I pull out the driveway that he’s idling about three or four car lengths up from my door. Spoiler alert: I am beginning to feel what would be the edges of an anxiety attack. So I pull up and parallel park in front of my door and run in for a bottle of water and to blow my nose, not so much because these things are needed but because I am subconsciously hoping he might be gone once I get out, see if maybe he might not be waiting for me. As I cross the grass and re-enter my car, a second-nature sense of being observed comes over me. Sure enough, I pull out into thin traffic and he does the same, right behind me. I am followed for two lights and after he takes a small opening from the number two lane to pull around and in front of me, he weaves through the rest of the traffic and turns right, after stopping briefly at the red.

I am numb. The only thing I know to do is go to the source so I head downtown and stop in to the police station, pausing for a moment on the sidewalk a block away to deposit my almost-late jury duty summons response (“get back to me in a few months”). Aside from the aforementioned noise-ordinance worry, this would have been the only other thing that might’ve been cause for concern. But I mean, would they really send an emissary to chide me for not getting back to something so innocuous as jury duty? I’m overthinking this. So I walk into the station and step up to the window, knowing—as I did driving over—that I have the right to “face my accusers”,  to call to task anything that might include or involve me against my will. The kind woman behind the glass put me at ease and narrowed down the officer in question. I think back to him pulling around me on the main road, coiled black wire stretching from his headset to a battery pack on his belt, and turning off and remember a short story idea I had many years ago. Of a lone demon accosting a simple peasant’s family, landing on his roof and causing a ruckus (I mean, what more can they do?). But the scary thing was that it portends—as the demon would have been more of a lowly sub-pawn—something, uh, momentous. Powerful, cosmic, whatever. Like a war raging all around but that the person in question is ignorant of. She tells me that I can call dispatch and either have him meet me at the station or else give them my number and he’ll call. I elect to do this and the lady at dispatch helps me as well. I’m feeling better and as I take a seat across from the window begin to feel, in spite of the cameras watching and the plainclothes officers coming and going, pistols-on-hips, much better. Five minutes pass, then ten, and I figure I’ll just have him call me. I get up to leave but choose to walk back through the door and thank the woman behind the glass. She starts: “Oh! He radioed five minutes ago to tell me he’s on his way! I should’ve told you, sorry!” So I again choose to stay but realize I’d already told dispatch to have him call me. Now I’m putting him through the paces—and I don’t mean to imply that the officer is in any way like a demon (God bless him). So the anxiety has faded (I already intuit that this has been an excursion in futility) and now a sense of foolishness attempts to set in. And so I take the bench, more akin now to a child waiting outside the principal’s office than some self-interested and overly concerned citizen. Five minutes pass and the door to my left opens and out steps this tall, powerfully built man with close-cropped gray hair and ice blue eyes that could melt steel. An air about him as if he were pulled from something exceptionally more important, which he was. He wouldn’t shake my hand. I ask him politely what the deal was earlier and he gave me the honest response. After a couple other terse exchanges, I apologize and thank him for obliging me. He turns and exits through the door from which he came. I waved with my whole left arm as I exit ashamed, not choosing to thank or apologize this time (sorry). The constituent thoughts of the past half-hour blending into something resembling a thorough shame colored with my ever-present self introspection based in what is “normal”. You’ve gotta know that I imagine all the stuff those involved would be saying about me in the wake of this ridiculous exercise. Around this time I realized what had happened: anxiety attack.

But here’s the thing. I am this close to cresting what would have been my ultimate downfall. I am this close (holds up thumb and forefinger, really) to digging out of a past, not colored or checkered or anything, but really hard. And anything along the lines of what I was anxious, panicking over this morning doesn’t need to happen. The polarization of the parts in question (I see a police officer outside my house so I go down to the station to interrogate) is actually pretty drastic. But then again, I knew something was up when I left the house dressed like that.

Going Dark part 2 Buddy System

My friend Colin got baptized this morning. He and our buddy James drove out to Applegate (the river—more of a creek, as opposed to the lake) and took a dip. Actually they waded in, I just observed. Phone in hand, from the concrete block next to some garish, multileveled pipe thing. The pipe was left out of the frame, in case you couldn’t already guess.

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, He cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)

The Lord had put on Colin’s heart to take the plunge. After having been separated from his wife and baby girl this past month for some complex reasons, he found himself back in our neck of the woods, literally. He had made his way from Crater Lake where he danced before the Lord and after losing his balance on a log, found himself splayed out on his back with his face to the sky and a sharp, jagged rock in his side. And he immediately saw the symbolism. It was time for a change. Beginning with his ablution, he is finding himself on a new path. It wends its way through town (he graduated high school right over there) and back up north to Hermiston to see his folks. We’re both writers and we’re both passionate about education. About the Word of God. I myself got baptized last Summer and while it’s something the Lord commands as “outward proof of inward devotion”, the act necessarily boils down to a one-on-One choice before the Lord of one’s life.

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

I met Colin two days ago. I find it remarkable that the paradigm of “friendship” would fall so simply and solidly upon two perfect strangers. I was going into work, getting coffee before my shift—as is my wont—and I noticed a gentleman with a Giants cap studying a big, worn out Bible, the once gilt edges showing more gray than gold. I had a cup of water I wasn’t going to finish and so walked across the flagstone tiles to the men’s room to pour it out. I asked the Lord prior to leaving the restroom if I should interact with him. I can’t explain why I would have gone back over to the other side of the coffee shop (oh yeah, because my americano wasn’t quite ready) but picking up my cup, I threw a “God bless you.” his way and he returned it. It reminds me of Elizabeth’s meeting Mary from Luke (see 1:41). The Spirit in both of us clicked, resonated. I left for work and a half-hour or so later, he sidled on into my place of employ and asked where the Bibles were. What began as a subtle and inconspicuous interaction (that I could’ve shrugged off had I not asked the Father whether or not I should interact with someone I’d never met) led to dinner and a beer that night and to this morning where I would witness something so momentous as three guys performing the ritual that shows the very symbol of rebirth (Colin has been a Christian his whole life). Rebirth as Christ delivered it to the human race.

“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6, emphasis mine)

During the time he was in town, Colin reconciled with his wife and they’re headed to see one another (she’s in California with their precious girl). So praise God. But if there’s one thing Colin has taught me (understand that I’ve only known him for less than a week upon uploading this post but going forward, will know him for all eternity), it’s take risks. More outgoing than I, he spoke into me a resolve to do and be and walk without fear. Momentous as that may sound, it’s a watershed. And I know I’m on a different (better) path than I was just a few days ago. It’s gentle, but I can feel it—I’ve learned something new. And I suppose I proved before God my willingness to learn by stepping out in faith just before I made a new friend. Don’t be afraid. We are the Body of Christ and if we push through our (already outmoded) preconceived notions that the Holy Spirit wants to overhaul, we will realize it—I mean make it real.

A Forthcoming Relocation

Hey!

I am in the process of relocating all my stuff (and, going forward, all my future stuff) over to joshingram dot com (here: joshingram.com). I’ll keep putting the posts I do up here, and there. But after a while—say, a month or so—that’s gonna be “where it’s at”, dontcha know.

I really appreciate any reads and like and subscriptions! Lemme know if you need prayer for something.

Blessings, Josh

Staying Informed

As opposed to staying infirmed, am I right?

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:5)

I find that out of all the things in my day that propel me to do what I will (not that I’m being selfwilled, mind you) it’s the love of Jesus that directs me. Okay, that just sounds a little bit too saccharine and, uh, pitch perfect to be actually true. But it is. I even have chapter and verse to back it up:

“For the love of Christ constraineth us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14a)

The word “constraineth” there, admittedly from the King James Version (my favorite) is hammered out in later translations as “guides” (I like that one), “compels” (or propels, maybe?), “presses” or “presseth”. The Weymouth translation cognates it “overmasters” and the International Standard says “controls”. All good and all no doubt apply in a little different shade that maybe speaks to a distinct way of looking at life at large. And indeed Paul pleads with the Christians at Corinth and looks to be pulling out the finest bargaining chip of ever: Jesus loves you. We (Paul, Timothy, et. al.—2 Corinthians 1:1) know this and we want you to know this. It has changed our lives and it informs everything we do (in a word: constraineth) and all I can say is go with it. It’s the purest high you could ever experience. But there are depths through which you must go before you taste it. It isn’t about some outmoded (outmoded because Jesus did go as low as one could in order to win the permanent mountaintop feeling) suffering/punishment paradigm. I feel this kind of dreamy joy and all-around rush-of-blood-to-your-head feeling is actually quite serious with the Father. He wants to raise your roof and have you affect things wherever you go with this, uh, information. But first, look at Christ:

“Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” (Isaiah 53:1-2)

Read the next verse. It’ll break your heart. No, seriously, here it is:

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” (verse 3)

I suppose that would be the infirmed part right there. I intuit and suspect that some of the hesitance to “throw in with Christ” and accept Him as Savior and, in a word, “overmaster”, comes from an incorrect perception based in a subconscious image of Him as the prophecy from Isaiah describes. Make no mistake, unless you had a soft and pliable heart in first century Israel, you may not have known Jesus was who He was (and is). It says so right there, He (can I say this?) wasn’t much to look at. I’ve often wondered about this passage, thinking that it necessarily pointed to His “visage” (see the end of Isaiah 52) while on the Cross. But I think it simply points to His relatively plain appearance. But His character? His “inner man”, so to speak (see Hebrews 5:8-9 and Ephesians 3:16-17), was born, forged out of the sufferings He endured. Our simple (but not petty) day-to-day run-ins with those less-than-inclined to like us are akin to icing on the massive multi-layered (and disgusting) cake that He baked and ate. He was “despised and rejected”. Do you suffer from that? Jesus knows. He’s been informed and also infirmed. In total agony, but things changed.

“And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering.” (Luke 9:29)

Does this mean that the more you pray, that God will change the way you look? I doubt it. But He will give you something akin to an inner image more in line with how He sees you. To where you’ll stop worrying about outward image. Oh (I just remembered something)! His love. That’s who He is. And as you meet with God and—here’s the thing—look into His face, His love will diffuse into you and it will inform everything you do.