Forming One Line

“I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart.” (Psalm 119:32)

Leading up to the heart

The opposite, in fact. The coarctation of the aorta–the valve leading out of the heart–is when the artery is constricted and does not allow blood to flow as it should. It’s congenital, meaning one is born with it. Doesn’t mean God can’t fix it and thank God for medical science.

I have a confession to make. Going through my parents’ divorce, I waxed a tinge disdainful (litotes!) of “the health care profession”. I can say this and admit it because I’ve gotten over it. Growing up and from my perspective, I suppose a cavalier one, having been healed of God-knows-what at birth by God-knows-how, I never felt any irrational fear for my health or that I could look to that (modern medicine) as anything to fall back on. Now. Reason I grew the attitude I did after the divorce was because I felt abandoned by my mother–herself, a nurse. And so leveled this wrongheaded (and hearted) opinion at those entering and exiting (for work) the hospital up the street from where we lived. The attitude has come full circle in the ensuing days from the divorce as I (and my brother) have seen my father through three major hospital visits in five years. This is what I mean when I say “thank God for medical science”. Because there’s no doubt that He uses it. And no doubt that there are absolutely wonderful people–angels, really–who wear scrubs and lab coats and give of their time and their life and their knowledge. Forgive me the disdain. Forgiveness is the key to God enlarging your heart should you find restriction in your outflow. Like a spiritual coarctation. But we have been “born again”.

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23)

Just a quick thought, but do you think every time Peter heard the rooster crow in the morning, he was reminded of his betrayal of Jesus? Maybe for a time. But God is not one to beat you over the head for things you’ve done wrong. Peter was at Jesus’ side. Called to help Him as far as he did and he did the best he could. The thing about us as humans is God will let us go as far as we can in our own strength before we fall down. A sad correlation to coarctation is the lower half of the body is affected as such. Blood flow to the lower extremities is limited and may well cause problems later in life. Again, thank God for healing in whatever form it takes (because I know God heals supernaturally). But as His child, you know you’re heart is just like His right? The body will follow suit.

“Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath He set a tabernacle for the sun.” (Psalm 19:4)

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Blood In the Water

“Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17)

What do you have to do? Is it something that requires a backbone of steel and nerves of the same? Did you know that for whatever it is you’re called to do (it’s probably that thing on the periphery–right there–you wouldn’t dream of stepping into in a million years for fear of failing, yes), there’s probably someone out there in this world–many people, I’d wager–who could do that very thing with their eyes shut and hands bound (who cares)? But you’ve been awakened, given sight and also freed by God to do this. As was Jeremiah. He was called to do a highly specific thing for the Lord. And God equipped him to do it, I should add. Earlier on in the chapter, God, as Jeremiah says, “put forth His hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.” Um, before we go any further, do we need God to do that for us? Such a bold symbolism as God stretching forthe His right arm and taking His words–the very ones He wanted Jeremiah to speak–no more, no less (?)–and depositing them in the mouth of His prophet? Amazing. Because God would use them to “root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” (1:10) Huge things, no? Looking again at what we’re tasked with, giving a word from the Lord to a co-worker, encouraging our spouse. Breaching a wall of silence or misperception. The point I’m getting at is this: what you’re tasked with is no less important than the earthshaking things as was he.

“Then said I, Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.” (1:6-8)

How did God do what He did to Jeremiah? Follow me a little in my facetious pedantry. Did He carve out each letter (from what kind of material?) and glue them together making “words” and then stuff them in Jeremiah’s mouth? Did He serve him some sort of heavenly alphabet soup that, while chewing, in turn made up the words necessary (surely delicious)? This is symbolism, sure. However, for the Lord to do so bold a thing as put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth, and reveal Himself doing it, no less, must’ve meant Jeremiah needed it. And in a society where age and wisdom and experience are preeminent, it would make sense that God would do what He did and also that Jeremiah would see his youthfulness as a liability in working out what God wanted him to do. Think about standing before the privy council. Think about coming from wherever and whenever you just met with the God of the universe, having had visions and experiences as did Jeremiah, and yet coming back into “normalcy”, feeling the weight of your inadequacy and awkwardness (in a word, “youth”) in light of “their faces”. God will push you to the fore of whatever it is you’re afraid. He’ll ask you to speak what He told you in darkness. In the privacy of your time in His heart. He wants you to do this thing. He’s not daring you because you’re afraid, no. You’re afraid, because you’re supposed to do it. The fear came because the enemy saw what you were too young to see. But that’s okay with God. You have His attention and His blessing. He’s behind you to help you. He sees the end and you’re not going to fail. Trust Him. The first chapter of Jeremiah ends thus:

“For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee.” (1:18-19)

Do it.

Giving Blood

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Galatians 3:22)

Redhanded

Yes, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31) but turn back to Isaiah (49:16) where God says “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands”. Deeper than a tattoo, God literally has your name carved into His palm. That’s gotta hurt. Everything Jesus went through for us was for us. “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Most times, even if we’ve gone through seeing the Father as a strict and loveless rulegiver, we have a hard time taking that extra step and realizing that He’s indeed the nicest person you’d ever meet. He’s your Daddy. Whether or not we had a good earthly father has no bearing on the eternal character of He. It’s just that before we appropriate the “life…more abundantly” (John 10:10) Jesus died to give us, we must realize that, not only is life a gift to be enjoyed. And by not acknowledging Him as the giver it’s the same as theft. But we must also realize that Jesus’ blood is on our hands.

Redshift

“Peter saith unto Him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” (John 13:8-9)

Redshift happens as objects recede from view–galactically. The light from said objects turning back to the red end of the spectrum. Psalms (103:12) says “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” This is true. “Cast into the deep end of the universe”, as it were. This is who you are in Christ. And it is one thing to acknowledge who we are in Him even as we assimilate and appropriate the promises of faith inherent to the station of a son or daughter of God. But we are, in some sense, more. What I mean is, we are individual pieces of God that are walking around on this plane, tethered to Him by the unbreakable bond of the Holy Ghost. And no matter how far we recede or how we feel (provided we don’t break that Holy-Spiritual bond), we can never undo what He has done. But again, it flows back to the sacrifice of the Son. None of the blessings we receive could have happened had not God sent His “only begotten Son”. I used to kid with my dad that without me, he wouldn’t be celebrating Father’s Day. But I guess I have a brother too…

Redline

A double entendre hides within. A red line through a word or a sentence. Something must be edited out or amended (or emended, or appended, or…?) God knows. But it also means in a very broad (mechanical) sense, an upper limit. Now, the sky’s the limit (blueshift happens when objects come closer), yes. But you are called for a purpose and a time and a season. I find that when something happens of inexpressible freedom or joy or beauty, after the fact, there was always a purpose in the feeling of liberty. Yes, we have “all the time in the world”. But there will come a time when we’ll answer for all we’ve done. The idea that we can do anything at all is limited by schedule and resource and reality. We might feel invincible, just try cutting yourself or crossing the street without looking (Actually, don’t.). There are strictures in place that would prevent us from overheating and melting down. Before you launch out on your irrepressible career, let God know you’re grateful for all He’s done–for you. Get into specifics if you feel so inclined. Meet with Him to discuss matters (He’s always there waiting). I find that as seasons come and go, the time spent acknowledging God in whatever way is what stands out amidst the sea of infinite possibility. We won’t get to do all we want while we’re here. But this doesn’t mean you can’t dream and let the Father show you worlds beyond your imagining. His peace though. His peace is what keeps us grounded (in the best sense of the word).

“Wilt Thou be angry with us for ever? Wilt Thou draw out thine anger to all generations? Wilt thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee? Shew us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation. I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints: but let them not return again to folly. Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him; that glory may dwell in our land.” (Psalm 85:5-9)

Happy Father’s Day.

Open-heart

The heart has chambers

Physically, four. Ironically, an atrium—in this case, as a literal room—is open to the sky. The heart’s atria, however, are the two upper chambers. The ventricles, the two lower. None of which should in any way be compromised physically by a breach in their respective walls or ceilings. That wouldn’t be a good thing.

“With my whole heart have I sought Thee: O let me not wander from Thy commandments.” (Psalm 119:10)

God aims for us to bring everything we notice to Him, to “acknowledge Him” in all our ways (Proverbs 3:5-6). This is a tall order and I find that many of my ways of interaction and comportment have been forged over the years to be done without thinking. As second nature. Forgive my forwardness here, but how much of the minutae of our day, of our heart, do we take to God in some way, shape, form, or vestige of “acknowledgement”? We may do everything in a state of “second nature” but we have a new nature now. As God has given us a brand new heart (yes) upon accepting Jesus, we’d do well to fill it with only those things that have been blessed and scrutinized by God.

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” (Psalm 119:11)

That’s the one. Throughout human history, God has been speaking. He spoke initially and I don’t believe He’s ever silent. If we can’t hear Him, it’s probably because our heart is attuned to another wavelength. The thing here is, God spoke through every author that’s featured in the anthology entitled “The Holy Bible”. And He’s speaking to you. Out of the thousands of verses and hundreds upon hundreds of chapters straddling the strata of life, God’s Word is a literal love letter—to you. A love letter. I used to think that statement was corny and contrived. I don’t anymore. Every thing recorded therein is meant to draw you to Him. To fill your heart and paint a picture of the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Check it out if you feel so inclined. It’s one book whose author is ever-present when reading.

Auricles/Oracles

“If any man (or woman) speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (1 Peter 4:11)

Auricle is an older name for atrium. Whereas the word “auricle” derives etymologically from the same Latin root that gives rise to “ear”, “oracle” on the other hand comes from a root meaning “to speak”. They might be homophones but they’re also (almost) antonyms. I digress. Peter, in the above verse, is talking about the things we proclaim in church. Because God is still speaking through His children, it behooves us to stay connected, to stay attuned to the same wavelength as He. This will ensure the things that we speak line up with what He already said in His Word.

“Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; mine ears hast Thou opened…” (Psalm 40:6)

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

“He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:22)

What is God speaking to you? Through you? Find the words and verses and passages that speak directly to your heart and hang everything else you hear on those pegs. What speaks to your heart may speak to another’s in a different way, maybe even in a different translation. The point is, God is speaking. Just make sure what you hear is from His heart. Out of all the noise in the world today, listen for God’s “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). Is your heart open to the sky?

“From the heart it has sprung, to the heart it shall penetrate.” Ludwig van Beethoven

An Issue of Blood

Under the blood

“Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39, emphasis mine)

Contrast Jesus’ entreaty for physical contact from His disciples with His caution for the opposite toward Mary just after His resurrection:

“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)

It wasn’t and issue of gender or of preference. Something happened between His resurrection, coming from the tomb to greet Mary Magdalene (the first person to see Him after His resurrection–quite a privilege) and showing Himself–literally appearing in front of them out of thin air (see Luke 24:36)–to His disciples, His “brethren”. In between the time of resurrection and His ex nihilo manifestation to the disciples at Jerusalem, Jesus had appeared before His Father in Heaven and sealed our salvation through His sacrifice. He shed His blood as a holy sacrifice and offering before God and made it possible for our sin to not only be forgiven but removed. It doesn’t matter how much sin you have, Jesus’ shed blood covers all of it. Admittedly, the sight of blood is not for the squeamish. The mere thought, neither. But! That’s just what you’ll have to work through in order to appropriate the forgiveness that comes through accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. Consider the other side of it, where the sight of our sin is equally revolting to the Lord.

“But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)

Where things stand

Hypostasis is a multi-faceted term (of Greek origin) with three distinct definitions. The first and simplest definition refers to an undergirding or basis for an idea or concept (hypo-stasis: literally, under-standing). It gets a little deeper in definition theologically. Hypostasis, theologically speaking, refers to the substance of each member of the Trinity when viewed as distinct entities within the contiguity, or oneness, of their Person. Think of a box (this is how my dad explained it to me as a kid). The depth, height and width are distinct from one another yet all make up the volume, the body of the object. Hypostasis. Jesus is an individual but He’s also just as much God as is the Father and the Spirit. They are one. The third definition of hypostasis is a medical one. It refers to a pooling of the blood in an organ due to lack of proper circulation. There it is again! Blood. We have it, we need it. Jesus shed His blood for us. Maybe that’s why He mentioned to His disciples in the above verse that “a spirit hath not flesh and bones”. He didn’t say anything about blood. Certainly, a spirit doesn’t have blood, but does He? I don’t think so. His physical life was spilled out that we might live spiritually.

“And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind Him, and touched the hem of His garment.” (Matthew 9:20)

All this woman had to do was touch Jesus. The life in Him, healed her. The same holds true for today. Press through the crowd. Make an effort to reach Him, to touch Him.

Hemopathic refers to any disease of the blood. ‘Hemo’ being the Greek prefix for ‘blood’. And while that’s a medical term that refers to a physical state, the issue of sin affects everyone. It’s never a matter of ethics or morality (or sin, really). Anymore, and it’s always been this way, by the way, without Jesus there is no recreation of the human spirit. It’s now a matter of believing that God loves you more than you love yourself. After, of course, believing that He’s real and that Jesus is who He said He was and is. Mary knew beyond the shadow of a doubt who Jesus was. She loved Him and knew that He loved her. While He may have forbidden her from touching Him physically, they were one in spirit. The same thing happens to us upon believing in Jesus. And while Heaven is the dimension in which these things of the physical slough off and give way to the spiritual, the understanding necessarily begins in our hearts and minds upon touching Jesus there, first.

“And hath made of one blood all nations of men (and women) for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us. For in Him we live, and move, and have our being…” (Acts 17:26-28a)

Recrudescence (Re:Noun part 2)

“Blessed and holy is he (and she) that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, satan shall be loosed out of his prison.” (Revelation 20:6-7, emphasis mine)

Without waxing eschatological, I’d like to take a look at just what happens when we encounter things that crop up either when we least expect them or after we thought we’d dealt the death-blow to that recurring habit or hangup. And with reference to the passage from Revelation, who knows why the devil is going to be let loose? I think it has something to do with an active opposition to our free will and God allowing those on the earth to encounter struggle and hardship so as to overcome by His power. Much like what happens today, I might add. And it wasn’t until relatively recently that I began to see the epic battle scenes of Revelation as something that, I would say, most of humanity is not going to be privy to viewing while they’re taking place. Oh, they’ll feel the effects sure, but to view something like that would be mind blowing and more-than-creepy. I digress:

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity (that’s what satan means, by the way: “adversary”–in Hebrew) consider: God hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after Him.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

One question before we begin. How many of us (myself included) really take the time to enjoy those “times of refreshing” while we are experiencing them? Food for thought. This isn’t to say that God’s the one who causes evil things and temptation to happen—He allows them. And to a great degree, allows what we allow.

“I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt Thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes…” (Psalm 101:2-3a)

This isn’t a call to an irrational prudery or a self-righteousness that denies the power of God at work when we experience the tempation to sin. It’s about guarding the influences both spiritual and natural that would seek to take our attention away from God. I feel that most people would read the above passage and relate it only to issues of lust. And, there, it certainly applies. But what about other things of garden-variety coveting? Whatever it is that we choose to look at and consider and observe–from new patio furniture to that extra piece of pie to another person to any thought, however innocent-seeming–that seeks to divert our attention from God will indeed do that very thing down the road. This is why we take our thoughts to Him.

I believe that sin happens with reference to God first. The moment we got out of touch with Him, whether we felt it or not (when we don’t feel it, is that a sort-of mercy–or blindness?), is when we got on the track that leads us down to where we end in falling down and needing forgiveness.

“for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

“Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38)

Recrudescence is a medical term that refers to a condition or disease that breaks out anew after a period of dormancy or remission. Paul asked through his desperation: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) He encountered the same thing as do we all: the recurring temptation to sin in whichever way is unique to us. The good news is that our spirit has been recreated by the Holy Spirit upon believing in Jesus. This is part and parcel of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You are not who you once were. Your spirit is now made of the same stuff as is Jesus’–mind blowing. One of the simplest and subtlest ways in which the devil seeks to derail us from a path of holy living, is to get us into unforgiveness. I would have to say that a lot of what we encounter that conspires to get us to “lose control”, so to speak, is in order to get us into unforgiveness. The “crude” part of the word is the same, etymologically, as raw–bloody. Asepsis is when the blood is made pure of a poison that was infecting it. When we forgive, be it ourselves or others, it’s like the exhalation of all the bad stuff that we don’t need. And all of that is made possible by blood that Jesus shed for us on Calvary. All our sin is already forgiven.

Here’s the thing. While the easy answer of “just don’t sin” doesn’t really apply across-the-board with many people who struggle with recurring habits (best to not even say it), the solution for each of us is within reach. It starts with Jesus and ends with Him too. Find it for yourself and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons (and daughters) of God.” (Romans 8:13, 14) You can do it.

 

Black, White and Red

All over, really. And not to be confused in any way with the newspaper, Stendahl’s novel of 19th century France, or Ancient Egypt for that matter. As an aside, the Upper Kingdom of Ancient Egypt was found to the South while the Lower Kingdom was to the North. It was so named with reference to the flow of the Nile River. The “lower” part being where it drains into the Mediterranean Sea to the North. Along the same lines, their “Book of the Dead” actually was meant to show how life should be lived. Life on the other side, that is. Another example of Egyptian counterintuition. No wonder the Israelites had to get out of there.

“Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.” (Matthew 5:36, emphasis mine) In most Bibles, that verse–as it was spoken by Jesus–would be rendered in red.

In the Red

Normally, when someone reads this, they think that whatever business is being referred to is suffering financially. Unable to turn a profit, it looks to lay off employees, tighten the belt and brace for the worst. The “red land” of Ancient Egypt was the barren desert on either side of the arable and fertile banks of the Nile. Seen these ways, the “red” indeed looks to be a negative. Something from which to distance oneself. Blood tends to have that effect, as well. I’ve never been keen on the concept of vampirism. Always repulsed. Our blood is red because of the iron content. When’s the last time (unless you suffer from hemochromatosis–too much iron) that you thought about the trace minerals needed to survive and thrive? Our blood is red because of the oxidation of the iron in the blood, simple as that. Oh, we have white blood cells too, they’re just outnumbered seven-hundred to one. I say all of this to say that, while it was against Mosaic law to drink blood (see Leviticus 3:17), condemned, too, by James in the New Testament (see Acts 15:29), imagine what went through the minds of those who were commanded by God to sacrifice an innocent lamb or cow for wrongdoing. When they watched the blood drain from the neck of a helpless animal. The same should be realized in us when we think of Jesus being broken open for our sins, bleeding out on the cross. The sight of blood is revolting. But His blood had to be shed because of sin. And because of our own the only real safe place is to indeed be “in the red”.

“But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matthew 9:12-13)

In the Black

While the “red lands” of Egypt may have been barren, useless to plant fields and crops, the Egyptians were able to mine minerals (one of which had to be iron) and precious stones. Conversely, the “black lands” refer to the land nearer the Nile. When the river crested and flooded the banks, the water would provide the conditions necessary to grow crops in order to feed the people. It’s no wonder the Egyptians worshipped the river as a god. A similar impulse affected the Syro-Canaanite peoples that the Israelites encountered upon leaving Egypt. Their “Baal” was also a god of fertility and harvest. Nowadays, when idolatry is practiced in a more purified and concentrated way, the worship of money is a god of choice for many who don’t look to the true God to both supply their needs (in the black) and also to cover their sins (in the red). “In the black” might be good for business but check your heart. When standing before God, no one wants theirs that color.

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37)

In the White

“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5)

Snowblindness happens when you stare at snow in direct sunlight. It’s so bright that without special glasses the eyes are injured from the intense whiteness. And that’s the best that this earth can do as far as white. But the whiteness of Heaven? Quoting the angel Zauriel from the JLA: “Only spirit can bear Heaven’s touch.” Well said for a comic book character.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11)