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)

Effluvia

“For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14b)

Your life isn’t effluvia, bear with me. I want to lay a groundwork for things bearing a transitory nature. Like fear and hopelessness and depression. It helps to be humble to begin with in looking at things like this. Because if you see your own life from a standpoint of humility and gratitude, you (I, whoever) will be well on your way to seeing your hangups in the same light.

“Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.” (Isaiah 27:4-5)

Did you know that the fear you see and face is absolutely nothing before God? Akin to an exhalation of bad breath, the moment of which is gone almost as soon as it comes. These are our fears and insecurities in light of God’s strength. Now, don’t get me wrong. The emotional aches and pains of years past take their toll and certainly are real. We can’t reach out if all we’ve encountered is snapping jaws and unkind words and looks and manipulation. But God isn’t beset with such things. He sees us in light of Him. This is why He asks that we take hold of His strength.

“…in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10b)

“…for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

Notice the tone of the above two verses. Paul and then Ezra (the scribe, who wrote Nehemiah) show us up in light of God’s commanding presence and power. Beautifully does it render our helpless state and “Our Father who art in Heaven” so willing to help us. Take a hold of God’s strength and step through the things your afraid of. What are you afraid of? I could list a few things. I also would assume they’re on the same spectrum as most other people’s. Through invalidation and disappointment, the unwillingness to step out into the greater things God’s calling me to do. Effluvia. Nothing. That’s what it is. Nothing and less-than-nothing to the one who conquered death.

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)

You may not be called to die. But some fear is only conquered by the active and conscious step in its direction. Whereas Jesus was called to give everything up in order to satisfy the sacrificial model, we only need follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And this doesn’t mean we can’t ask for a new perspective on what’s keeping us back. God’ll show you. Just ask Him.

“Deliver me not over to the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:12)

God is happy. God is joyful. It’s His joy that is our strength

Bellwether

Plangent complaints

“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-3)

The leader’s instinct is in you whether you know it or not. If only for yourself and none other, you’ve got it. Lead yourself well and you’ll be able to do the same for others. I feel it though, I feel the risk, assuming you’ve been reading up till this point–and even as I write–that I will end in sounding just like everyone else out there who inspires others to become the best version of themselves. It sounds, when I read it (their’s), that “what worked for me will work for you”. And that’s simply not true. Notice what Peter says “not by constraint, but willingly…of a ready mind”. I like this. Because it seems to be happening naturally and organically as opposed to something done because we’re being chased into that corner. A bellwether is a ram that leads the flock. I’m reminded of Jesus as “the good Shepherd” (John 10:11). The word also refers to any forerunner of a trend. The Indicator, in other words.

“And the Lord said, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-33)

Transparent as a bell

At present and with reference to leadership, the thing I want most is focus. If I end in being an “ensample” as the King James words tupos (from the Greek implying everything from “scar” to “statue”), then that’s great. Sure, I’d love to have a wide influence and lead a group or what-have-you. It’s then that things get dicey, though. Alongside true leadership are the parallel temptations of manipulation and also a shallow voyeurism (only doing things to “be seen”). And I don’t want any of that. To me, true leadership comes from the heart of one who is submitted to the leadership of Christ. When Jesus says “follow me”, it means “follow Him”. It may sound like naught but allusion and metaphor, but try it on. Taking from Him as to what true servanthood looks like will in turn teach us how to be a servant to others. This is the essence of leadership.

“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

One thing truly is needful. Be it your job or place or your family. Admittedly, Jesus isn’t referring to any of those things. In my opinion, it’s any and all of those things and others, done in a Christlike spirit and around which, all of life begins to rotate with the same impetus. As you live your life, head down, hopes high, you will be an inspiration to those looking. And trust me, more people are looking at you than you may well realize.

In closing, let me just say that I don’t really care. Growing up and out of my shallow (not in a bad sense) and naive view of how the world works, I look back and see the horizons of popularity and influence for what they were: mirages. It may be lonely at the top but here’s the thing. Firstly, not if you’re there with Jesus. Secondly, you’re nowhere as close to the top as you thought you were, trust me on this.

“Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:10-11)

Sciamachy

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)

Irrelevant revenant

The very real fears and struggles we sense–and face, respectively–are aimed at the upside or inverse of what we already possess. And of what we’re called and created to do. Say your fear is simply being yourself. It’s not that you’re doing anything wrong (at least you don’t feel it) but you’re just sensitive. To what though? I can’t tell you how many times I would feel off to my vacant periphery some eidolon impression meant to distract me. I’ll look up from writing and typing and inevitably misspell a word. A diversion. Something to slow me down or interrupt my train of thought. Is this evil? Is it something of evil? Who did it? Coffeeshops I frequent patronize the same types of people all over the city. I’ll look up as someone walks in and look down and have to reread the passage in order to re-rail my train of thought. All of this speaks, not to the presence of people who distract and any spiritual accompaniment, but of my strength of mind. How focused am I on God? Because His presence pervades to the very depth of being. No entity (human or otherwise) can touch you there. This is why Paul wrote what he did at the top. He continues:

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God…” (Ephesians 6:12-13a)

Jesus effectively defeated Satan and his host. When Jesus died on the cross, the devil lost his keys. He lost what power he had over this world. But rather than keep this power for Himself, Jesus gives it to us.

“The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath He given to the children of men.” (Psalm 115:16)

The Lord is holding your place. And the fear you sense when you look out over the horizon–any horizon you feel called to traverse–is a shadow. The darkness is real but it doesn’t hold a candle to the light on your insides. And with reference to my struggles with intangible feelings and perceptions and whatnot? Who knows. I do know that I’m supposed to be doing whatever it is I’m doing and so therefore all confusion and darkness and superstition will clear up. But if you ask me, something’s out there. But God is greater.

 

 

Coadunate

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.” (Acts 1:14)

Do you know how hard that is? Not just the men, “with the women”, but this: “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)?

His Exigency

I find that while no one person is the enemy (“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood…” Ephesians 6:12) getting on the same page as those, complex though they may be, with a thousand different outward trajectories, can be the struggle of our lives. Or at least of the season in which we find ourselves. But in order to advance to that which God the Father has for us and is preparing even as we step into it, it’s necessary. We need each other. And by God! We need to lay down the fight. How to do this? Your viewpoint is just as valid as mine but if neither are willing to humble themselves, God’s Kingdom cannot advance as He wants.

“Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying It is because we have taken no bread. Then understood they how that He bade them not beware of leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6-7, 12)

As Jesus and His disciples travel by ship from one coast to another, He reminds them by way of admonishment to take heed to the strains of thought they took in from outside sources. While the Pharisees were the illogical outworking of a perfect adherence to the Law of Moses, the Sadducees were the opposite, in a sense. Oh, they professed belief in God but stopped there. The floated above the fray on intellectual underpinnings more in line with a modern-day humanism bereft of real  world application. I would say that the two are the polar opposites, akin to the “right hand” and “left” from Isaiah (30:21) from which “a word behind thee” keeps you from touching. For a time, God will allow you to anfractuously stray into ways off the path He has for you but after that time, the only way forward is the “strait gate” (Luke 13:24). All the strain you’ve gone through–you know what it feels like–becomes a marker that, after your season comes to an end, is clearly defined from that which God has for you going forward.

God has things He wants to get done and to do for you. They may well involve people to whom you’re not accustomed to giving the time of day. This makes no difference. You can either while away the loans you received for this education. Or you can set foot, one in front of the other, and press on. God help you.

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:1-2)

Mabushii

“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32)

Defendant

That’s how it starts. We know we’re guilty, this ambiguous, if vacuous stain tells on our conscience and we try throughout our life to erase it. Thank God you have a conscience, by the way. Supposing one doesn’t, doesn’t mean the Lord can’t break through. Just a little extra prayer, patience, petition would be needed, I suppose. I, for one, am grateful the Lord used my Dad to, sort of, uh, munificently hold me back even as I grew older–to ensure I knew how to feel correctly. But then I met Jesus for myself and as time went on, He allowed me to understand how He stood in my place. How He made it possible for me to stand before God, not in my own righteousness but in His.

Diffident

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.” (Proverbs 4:23-24)

But it doesn’t mean the struggles weren’t over or they weren’t still there. I suppose, citing the latter verse in the above passage, a main issue the Lord worked me through was that of making sure the words I spoke resonated with the new life within. Just because we have a new birth in Christ Jesus doesn’t mean we still won’t deal with Satan or any of his attendants or thoughts or what-have-you. As a Christian, though, the missives, or “fiery darts” as Paul put it (Ephesians 6:16), were now aimed at the downside to my temperament. I would receive no help from the other side, so to speak, as I had sought to align my conscience and now my words, with Christ. Being a writer is the natural outworking of a gift (from God) designed to traffic in words so as to elucidate things invisible–both in me and in God. It’s just how it is.

Dissident

“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.” (Psalm 50:2)

Again, the battle’s not over. Just because I received a piece of myself, wrought irreducible through the fires of hell and torment and depression, doesn’t mean I just ignore “the Lord that bought [me]” (2 Peter 2:1). If I lay down and accept the beauty of my present to the neglect of “the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4), it will while away (see Psalm 39:11) and I’ll be left high and dry. Things won’t work. This is why we all have our respective “thorns in the flesh”. But any fear as to the turning-around-and-using-against-me the things for which Christ died and left in the grave is now gone. I have an obligation to do as the tippy-top prescribes. To use what the Lord has given me to in turn bless others.

Sacred Oceans

“They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses.” (Psalm 107:27-28)

Aimless and nameless

I’ve found in the relatively few number of days in which the Lord has allowed me to encounter my share of confusion and estrangement, the summation in a word. Whether that word came as a literal word or as a string of words in a legible sentence, it came. It came just the same. Be it a turn of phrase in a song’s lyric or a verse that came back to my mind via the Holy Spirit. God is faithful to distill the days and also the lesson inherent to the season in a sound bite.

“Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then they are glad because they be quiet; so He bringeth them to their desired haven.” (107:29-30)

Plaintiff and claimant

Even if it’s only the other side of the ocean you’re crossing. Whatever it is you want from God through your season of trial, He’ll do it. When Jesus told the disciples “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name” (John 16:24), it’s almost as if He’s letting them know that the time had come to call in favors. Not that God owes us anything He hasn’t already promised (think about it), but maybe you get the idea. The payment for remaining true to Elijah was twice as much anointing to affect God’s will. All Elisha had to do was literally keep his eyes on his mentor as ridiculously distracting events sought to tear them away (see 2 Kings 2).

“That the Lord may continue His word which He spake concerning me…” (1 Kings 2:3a)

I like words. I love words. I scour my dictionaries when I have time and any I don’t know (there are lots), I try and remember. One will occasionally stand out even as it fills a crucial piece in my soul. Like, this is something meant for me to know and use. Words like ebullient and aubergine and ekphrasis. All point to untouched depths to my being. Watery places from which God–prior to my finding them–hadn’t called forth dry land. These words swam around in my mind and heart and solidified (thixotropy–its opposite). And now I don’t feel those voids.

Take heart. Whatever you need God to do for you, He’ll do it. Even if you don’t understand why you do or don’t do the things you should or need, take heart. And take God at His word.

“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)