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.

 

Advertisements

Recondite (Re:Noun part 1)

Are there things that you learn, either about yourself or others, that you wished you’d never found out? What is it about knowledge that we think will meet our needs? And what about the things of the spiritual realm? Sure, it might meet a mental need in the sense that it fills a gap in our fact-base. Doesn’t necessarily mean that it will end in giving us the fulfillment we require. It’s what happened to Adam and Eve: “And the eyes of them both were opened…” (Genesis 3:7) But wasn’t that a bad thing?

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2, emphasis mine)

I think it’s a faith and trust issue. There are things that God in His wisdom daren’t tell us in spite of our nagging and pouting. He knows we wouldn’t be able to handle it. He asks that we trust Him, because He knows He’s trustworthy. He knows, But we don’t. Not to the depth that we should, at least. God help us.

“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29) Notice the things that you face in your life to which the Bible is conspicuously silent about. The Bible is not a divining tool nor does it contain a power all its own to direct us without the living guidance of the Holy Spirit. What it does contain, however, are guidelines and guardrails to our knowing God. And with reference to that, some of the harshest and hardest words that ever were released into the world are found in the pages of scripture (everything that tells us to deny ourselves, for one). And then we come upon this: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7, emphasis mine) Sometimes, that’s the hardest thing we face in spite of everything else: abiding in Him.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (John 15:4)

I believe that there are things that we’re not meant to know until we get to Heaven. Sure, in Revelation (10:4), John speaks of things he heard which he wasn’t allowed to record. Paul speaks of the same in his second letter to the Corinthians (12:4), “words, which it is not lawful (possible) for a man to utter.” And there are reasons. But if you feel something that you can’t place your finger on, and you know instinctively that there’s a deeper level to which you must humble yourself in order to receive an answer that’s more spiritual than mental, it doesn’t mean that God can’t or won’t show it to you. But I believe that a strict and loving self-discipline is required if we desire to see things along those lines while we’re here on earth. And most people (myself included) aren’t willing—at times—to continue on to know something secret, from another realm. And even then, why would we even need to know? A question to ponder as that situation probably will arise as you live your life before the Lord.

All of the above speaks to the definition of recondite. Hidden and esoteric information and knowledge that we think somehow gives weight and meaning to our feeble and transitory lives. The New Age movement has a highly skewed, very small market share on the spiritual realm. There’s even a concept (thing?) called the “Akashic Record” which supposedly contains all the knowledge in the universe, accesible only to the initiated. And yet totally bereft of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. That’s highly dangerous. I recommend staying out. Because the things that are hidden are hidden for a reason. Faith in God necessarily arises when the invisible is talked about and the unseen—with words—is given form. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, emphasis mine) And if the secret thing which you’re trying to glimpse is not of faith, it’s going to lead you astray. No two ways about it.

“A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.” (Proverbs 12:23)

Any secret, hidden thing that is brought to the light will withstand the acid-test of scripture. If what you’ve seen or found violates God’s word, that’s cause for alarm. The Holy Spirit is faithful to show us any lies.

Reification (Re:Noun part 5)

There are a couple of ways to think about this word. There’s the correct way, where you see it as it is. As meaning something akin to “substantiation”. The word’s root comes from the Latin res (long ‘e’), meaning “thing”. To “realize”, make real. Same root, same idea.

Or—and I don’t mean to confuse—you could play around a bit and place the emphasis on the next syllable. “Re-‘if’-ication”. That would be wrong and also just the opposite. To continue on with “ifs” ad infinitum is unwise. Maybe some reification is needed? That’s the idea behind this statement of Peter’s:

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” (2 Peter 1:10)

This can and has been one of the hardest things for people to accept, who receive Jesus as Savior. The hard work of reifying their faith and as Peter says, their “calling and election”. Yes, you accept Jesus and His invitation to be part of His Father’s family. You realize that you’re part of something that’s bigger than you and that will last for eternity, never to change and as solid as He. And then, as Solomon put it very crassly in the book of Proverbs (26:11) “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.” Sorry, but that’s what it says, and that’s exactly how some Christians act.

There’s a difference between acting and being. And when Peter talks about our calling and election, he’s talking about growing into that which was preordained for us. Now, after the timeless miracle of spiritual re-creation has taken place in us, it’s time for us to begin living according to the way that Jesus laid out for us. And before I go any further, it’s never about the things you do on the outside. It’s always about the invisible actions of the heart, will and conscience that precede any actions that would be considered moral or “right”.

“…for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” Peter is referring to the list of things to “add to your faith” (2 Peter 1:4). Things like “virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity, love” (verses 5-8) Just pick any one of these and chew on it. If you’ll notice, all of these things are qualities of the interior. All of our actions should spring from these nodes. Jesus’ did. And when this doesn’t happen, our “calling and election” is not made personal, not reified. For our lives as Christians, what endeavor is more important?

Predestination. A similar thing to a “calling” and an “election”. That’s just great. You walk around knowing that the God of the universe wants to have something to do with you. But where do you go from there? See, God revealed Himself in Jesus. To a degree, at least for the human being, He reified Himself. If that’s confusing, work through it. After Jesus came and went, He left a template—as varied and as unique as we ourselves are—to which we can aspire. Get this: “It is enough for the disciple that he (and she) be as [their] master, and the servant as [their] lord…” (Matthew 10:25, emphasis mine)

Our “calling and election” begins and ends with Jesus. Our hearts are the same, it’s our minds that need changing.

Make it personal.

Redaction (Re:Noun part 4)

“Speeches measured by the hour die with the hour.” Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson was a major proponent of succinctness in his speeches. He was a voracious reader throughout his life. Having gleaned this style from his study of the classics, he then put it to use in being concise and direct and to the point when he addressed the crowd. He never was one to show confidence and charisma in public speaking. Not that that’s a bad thing.

Panegyric, simplistically defined means praise. Big, bold, loud praise—directed toward a person. The word is translated from Latin, and originally from Greek, both meaning “belonging in a public gathering or assembly”. A more detailed definition is eulogy. A speech or address to a crowd in honor of the subject after their passing. I would have to say that your usual, run-of-the-mill panegyric doesn’t apply to someone after they’ve risen from the dead. As my dad would say, “the funeral’s over when the person rises from the dead.” Pretty much.

“For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17, emphasis mine)

Jesus’ resurrection is the crux, the turning point of the whole narrative of the Bible. You could say it began when He was born in a manger in Bethlehem, but even that was for one reason: So He could die. For us—for our sin and sins.

“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whoseoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” (John 16:2)

What did it take for Paul to change from someone who “persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9), certainly thinking that he was “doing God service”. From someone who, as he says in Acts (26:10) “when [Christians] were put to death, [gave his] voice against them”, to someone who, “determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)? Paul was the most ardent and persecutory Pharisee among his peers. But through the love of Jesus, he effectively changed into someone who was able to “glory in [his] infirmities.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) He stands as one of the greatest, if not the greatest conversion story in the whole Bible. Certainly the New Testament.

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15, emphasis mine)

All of this happens because Paul was called by God and He responded. Paul was naturally gifted at oration. He had no problem standing up and addressing the crowd: “Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.” (Acts 13:16) He then proceeds to genealogize Jesus. He says in verse 30, “But God raised Him from the dead.” (Acts 13:30) This takes guts. Behind the simplicity of that statement lies the inherent power of all of Heaven. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we therefore can be changed into whatever God had in mind when He first thought of us, then proceeded to create us. We can now receive forgiveness for our sins! We’re here now, for a reason. For this season.

It doesn’t take much. The entire Gospel can be summed up and explained with a few short lines. Jesus came. He lived. He died. He rose from the dead. He loves you. Or you can compose symphonies and sermons and panegyrics ad infinitum. Just make sure you don’t leave out the fact that He’s still with us. That’s where the power is.

Jefferson published a book entitled “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth”, known now as “The Jefferson Bible”. It’s essentially the Gospel of Jesus minus anything supernatural. In what might be the ultimate example of ill-advised redaction (editing for a favorable reception upon publication), he ends the book with the stone being rolled over the tomb after Jesus’ burial.

Remandment (Re:Noun part 6)

Once more from the top

Albert Einstein’s definition of Insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The children of Israel exhibited this kind of behavior during their forty year trek across the desert. Some lessons can be learned only one way. And if we don’t submit to God during the time of trial, we’ll be forced to repeat the lesson in order to learn what He would have us know. Yes, God wants to make us happy, healthy and prosperous (I believe), but if we’re not willing to partake of “Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:14) in order to understand how to deal with the freedom, then God may allow us another prison sentence, or desert experience in order to learn. Smart! And please understand, just being miserable is not the same as sharing in the sufferings of Jesus. This is no laughing matter, however. What’s tragic is that the generation of Israelites that were released from Egypt were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. They all died in the wilderness. It was their children who got to go. God was so upset with the parents’ stubborn unbelief that He allowed them to wander aimlessly around the same closed-loop for forty years. A trip that would have taken eleven days if marched straight through. But, thank God that we have others’ mistakes to learn from.

The writer of Hebrews says this: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection;” (Hebrews 6:1) Let’s just stop right there. Many people when they accept Jesus are unwilling to, or at least unsure of how to, renew their minds to do the very thing that the writer of Hebrews is referring to here. Perfection—spiritual perfection—is understanding how much God loves you. It will eventually work its way out into our behavior. And if we’re not making the effort to renew our minds to God’s truth, we’ll end up remanded, or sent back to some other form of trial (it is a legal term, after all) in order to learn the lessons God wants to teach us. The writer of Hebrews (I’m not sure who it is. I’d like to believe it was Paul but I can’t say) continues on in chapter six by listing off several basic doctrines of Christianity with the implication that there’s no need to go over those things again. But then in the third verse, he says “this will we do, if God permit”. What I believe is being said here is that God is always ready and willing to patiently show us what we don’t know.

Once more with feeling

Here’s another aspect to this: please don’t beat yourself up with morbid, tormenting thoughts wondering what your life could have been if you’d made the right decision out of the gate. There’s lots of pride wrapped up in this way of thinking (I’m not God). This mental construct took firm hold in my mind many years back. I could not get over the abject feeling of regret and sorrow, thinking that I’d wasted the best years of my life. Things began to change when, by God’s grace, I started thinking more about God’s feelings than my own. Sure, my life had its fair share of misery—what about God’s? If I had regret, wouldn’t God have regret too? I began to see God’s feelings as more important than my own. And He cleared out the darkness in my mind. Praise God!

This is what God is getting at in any lesson: learning to feel Him and know Him above our own feelings and self-knowledge. God bless you!

Once more for good measure

All of the above aside, if you find yourself going back to the desert for reasons unknown. And if you have peace surrounding the whole issue, maybe God is having you go around again, not for yourself, but for someone else? Food for thought.

Recusing Ourselves (Re:Noun part 3)

How often will you hear this today: “don’t judge!”?

Okay, maybe you haven’t heard it today but I can almost guarantee you that you’ve heard it in the past week.

I find it interesting to hear in society, the same words that Jesus spoke over two-thousand years ago, but used incorrectly. You’d like to think and hope that someone would be intellectually honest enough to investigate the origin of a phrase that they so readily and liberally misuse. When they says “don’t judge”, what they could be saying is, let me have my sin and eat it too! Well, there is no doubt that people are hungry. But sin is not going to fill that need. And when you think about it, He didn’t say “don’t judge” and just leave it at that. When Jesus says “judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1), He then goes on to say “for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged”. Did He just overrule His previous statement? What do you think? By the way, the connotation for judge as it’s translated into English is simply to choose. To decide. Not condemn.

To recuse oneself means to bow out from any interaction that might possibly be offensive or accusatory. As Christians, it means to be absolutely non-confrontational when dealing with someone–Christian or non–who is living in and commiting sin. Whoever wrote the book of Hebrews (10:38) said “if any man (or woman) draw back my soul shall have no pleasure in [them]. What they’re saying here is directed at the person (Christian) who has chosen not to act like or live like a Christian anymore. But the writer expresses their vote of confidence by saying “but we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” Unto perdition you say? Perdition basically means ruin or destruction, ultimately leading to death. Should I say something if I see someone doing something that could lead to what the writer of Hebrews is referring to as perdition? Should I judge them? Maybe not in the way that is commonly thought. I think that whenever you hear the word “judge” (as a verb), you automatically think of condemnation. And God is never about condemnation. It’s the devil who is the “accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10).

Moving forward, in 1 John (5:16), it says that “if any[one] see their brother (or sister) sin a sin which is not unto death, [they] shall ask, and they give him life for them that sin not unto death.” Or, maybe perdition as was mentioned earlier? See, sin has consequences. But what John is saying here is that we can forgive said sin and allay (Some? All?) the inherent consequences for our brother or sister in Jesus.

“All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.” (1 John 5:17)

Contrast this whole judging/not judging issue with this verse from James (5:20): “they which convert the sinner from the error of their way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” How can this be done if we’re not supposed to judge? To decide?

Try this on: What about judging with mercy and forgiveness? These two things are absolutely essential to life because of this fact: everyone sins. Everyone deserves to be “judged” and judged, whatever connotation and spin you put on the word. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) So next time you get the urge to shed some light on the mistakes of others (checking your own hypocritical heart first), be sure to lead with love, mercy and forgiveness. The tough stuff will melt in the face of those three things. And like a river breaking through the ice floes of Winter, the Holy Spirit will flow through our lives to touch others.

“By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil. When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:6-7)

Retrenchment (Re:Noun part 7)

Taking one’s side

If you’re suffering, don’t stop now!

I could regurgitate an endless list of platitudes and homilies designed to encourage the suffering individual. There are so many. I’ll just tell you my favorite: It’s the Sword Analogy. Are you familiar with it? The swordsmith heats his sword in the fire, then he hammers on it, then plunges it into the water to cool it down (see Isaiah 43:2 and  Psalm 39:10). This process is repeated hundreds of times. Fire, hammer, water. Rinse. Repeat. The end result is a blade with a razor sharp edge and a soft core. It can bend without breaking. Peter Carey, in his book Wrong About Japan notes that at the time of writing (2005), there was only one traditional sword-maker left in all of Japan.

“It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:26)

Taking the plunge

So you’re going through a hard time, eh? What if God (and only God—He’s the arbiter) decided that your period of suffering was more of an ellipsis…? What would you do then? Would you give up and quit? Do you know God well enough to believe the best of Him when you’re in the middle of a blinding sandstorm? Let me remind you, once the sandstorm is over, you’re still in the wilderness. After all, the sword went through the forging process to go into battle.

Here’s a cup of cold water for you: Read Jeremiah chapter 35. It introduces us to a nomadic Hebrew tribe called the Rechabites. They were commanded by their patriarch Jonadab to live in the desert as well as to observe other monastic restrictions. They stayed true to their ascetic calling and God rewarded them greatly (verse 19). Many great figures of the Bible spent time in the desert: David (see Psalm 63:1), Elijah (1 Kings 17:5), John the Baptist (Mark 1:4), Jesus (Matthew 4:1), Paul (Galatians 4:17), etc.

I can’t tell you why you’re suffering, or when it will end. What I can say is that if you yield to God, he will adapt you—spiritually, mentally, physically—to the harsh conditions in which your particular desert-experience is taking place. And if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. You’ll also be qualified to help others who are in the same place. And there are billions of us out here (see 1 Peter 5:9).

“For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of Summer. Selah” (Psalm 32:4)

The prefix “xeri-” simply means “Adapted to conditions in which little-to-no water is present.” Or some such. When David says in 1 Chronicles (11:17), “Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem”, three of his men slipped through the garrison of the Philistines to do that very thing. Upon returning with the precious water, however, David does something drastic. Something that, to this day, I’m reminded of occasionally at indiscriminate times and places: “…but David would not drink of it, but poured it out to the Lord, And said, My God forbid it me, that I should do this thing: shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy? for with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it. Therefore he would not drink it.” (11:18b-19)

Taking a sip

“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I ay unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

The former passage isn’t the only place in the Bible where blood is compared to water. Jesus’ shed blood is akin to the water from the rock at Horeb (see Exodus 17). That’s what it symbolizes. The atoning for our sin in the parched and dry desert of the world. If we stay here long enough, provided we keep our heart right before the Lord in worship and thanksgiving, and also in “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10), i.e. inviting Him into our suffering, He’ll see to it we’re satisfied. More than satisfied.

“He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.” (Psalm 78:15)

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” (Psalm 23:6)