Business In the Streets

“They say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest Thou?” (John 8:4-5)

It’s interesting to see the instances of Mosaic law one by one get superseded with God’s law of love. I would say (if I may) that that was one of Jesus’ chief aims–to live the law of love. As I write, I realize it could be argued that everything He did was done out of love. Of course it was. From His inception, or, conception, to His death, “for I do always those things that please Him.” (John 8:29b) And as “God is love” (so says 1 John 4:8) the conclusion is drawn. But place yourself in the time of the heading verse. Superimpose the incident onto any average Sunday at church. Hopefully the light of love is thrown about the place and that nothing along those lines is actually taking place. But think about the things in your own life that only Jesus sees. Things that He doesn’t condemn you for and that are no one else’s business. Is your church equipped to handle the above? What if something like this actually happened on Sunday morning? The “temple” (John 8:2) seemed like a cold place if you ask me. And when church doesn’t welcome those who want to lay down a burden, no one is going to darken the door. They might even stop thinking about it altogether.

“So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to His servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as Thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:21-23)

From that, to this: You do know just because you don’t attend a church, that it doesn’t mean you don’t know the Lord and enjoy fellowship with Him? Partaking of His presence means so much more than a scheduled jaunt to a building with a bunch of other people who believe and think along the same lines as do you. Paul writes two important maxims regarding “church”. In Hebrews (10:25), he says “not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together”. In other words, fellowship with like-minded and hearted brothers and sisters is vital. But again, it doesn’t have to happen in a building. Just make sure it’s happening. But before even that, you must realize the second: that “ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

This is how Jesus did what He did. Taking the presence of the Holy Spirit with Him wherever the Father led and interacting with every type of person. Some He rubbed the wrong way, no doubt. But it would seem it was necessary in their case.

Don’t be afraid of what you carry, “because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4b)

Handling the Introduction

Often do I interact with various people. They’re all at different stages of life as am I. The one thing that ties each interaction together under a common banner is that of love. Loving people where they’re at and not caring where they go–or telling them where to go. Even in mind does this paradigm work. If I entertain a thought of carelessness it will surely show in my eyes. Forget body language and all that, if someone looks in your eyes and doesn’t like what they see, it doesn’t matter how you’re standing.

“O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97)

“Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Psalm 119:165)

This idea of offense. Even that. Sentence fragments. As much as I love to run roughshod over the mores of English–because I know how it works–and play around, it doesn’t mean someone reading (and in the case of my life, watching) will get my intended meaning. The heart behind the words as it were. It is very easy to offend someone or to get offended ourselves. God would have us forgive our offenders. As much as we “love God’s law”, we need to realize God’s never done with us. The lessons of forgiveness and not holding against any person the slights they level at us in word or thought will come back around. If all we want is to see someone become a “Christian”–i.e. “saved”–and we’re not willing to do our best with the instance of interaction we do get (because the high privilege of leading someone to the Lord is God’s to deal as He will), it may well hamper their entry to the Kingdom of Heaven. Paul writes to the Romans (7:22-23) “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” In other words, He “loves God’s law” as David does from Psalm 119. But inevitably–as I find and am finding–the other gears on our insides, ones that turn an opposite direction to God’s thoughts, will seek to make their way into the machinery. You can’t have gears mesh if they’re turning opposite to one another. We have a new heart upon believing in Jesus. It’s our minds that have to catch up.

Giving Ourselves Away

“Freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8b)

A parsimonious position

Sometimes it’s hard for me to go one further and ensure the person with whom I’m interacting doesn’t get a stunted and stinted version of my best self. If I take a second and hark back to the beautiful ways God has interacted with and filled me up, there’s no reason for me to not be giving. Actually, the only reason I could cite may not even be a valid one. When I, by continuing to be present for whomever God brings across my path, give of my time, attention, whatever, I could be giving myself away. As in, revealing unprotected aspects of myself that aren’t in keeping with the image I present to the world. Hmm… Let me back up a bit.

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” (Colossians 2:13)

“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)

This is from where we start. Firstly, we can’t give what we don’t have and yet, as the Lord has effectively “freely given us all things.” (Romans 8:32b), we don’t have to worry about running out. God is the supply and the demand is heavy. But I’m worried about what? About giving up something I’m not likely going to receive in return. Something like a piece of my soul or a stretch of my future I’m not gonna get back. This is wrong.

“But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” (Ephesians 5:13)

There’s a difference between the searching light of the Holy Spirit and any inwardly directed scrutiny borne out of what those around (whether in body or in memory), think of you. I believe God shines His light into deeper and deeper depths and will continue to do so until we go home. But any fear that arises from opening ourselves up and letting God flow through us to the neglect of those in need, needs to go. As God holds us and every aspect of our life in balance, the beautiful things in your life can be shared with whomever the Holy Spirit leads you to.

Love, joy, peace, etc. Let it burn inside and roil around a bit. And then give it out. God bless you.

I Am Not Making This Up

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16)

I could tell you the same thing but I’d be resorting to circular reasoning. And if you’re not already inclined to believe (read: humble yourself), you’ll see the flaw in my logic. But no, seriously. I am not making this up. I may be borrowing what I write and, therefore, you read. But it’s not like I’m saying anything other than what’s already been bandied about a million times over. Does that sound argumentative or pessimistic?

Peter, above, says “we…were eyewitnesses of His majesty”. And so, beyond a certain point the same applies to me. I can’t keep talking about this stuff unless I’m crazy or, I too have been an eyewitness. Well, I haven’t actually seen Jesus with my eyeballs. Part of the reason is because I wasn’t alive back then and every other part must necessarily (yes) require faith.

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

Here’s the thing about faith. It’s something that is given if you really want it. If you (figuratively in this case) “sell all that thou hast” (Luke 18:22). It doesn’t take the divesting of stuff into a forced asceticism to realize the supernatural. It takes a heart that is willing to accept Jesus on His terms. There’s no other way around it. How hard is it to say I’m sorry and to care about others’ feelings more than your own? Sometimes, it’s impossible. But you realize you’re already forgiven, right? This, then, is a kernel of faith.

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

For instance, play the part. Dispense with all the modern-day jargon as to how wonderful you really are and how you can do no wrong and how you must save yourself. Put that on hold for a moment and think of yourself in the worst terms imaginable. Then layer on top of that all the mistakes you’ve ever made. All the lies you’ve told, all the ways in which you (wow, I’m getting negative here) could have been there for someone but chose not to. All the things you’ve ever done wrong. And steep in it for a second. Like wading through a swamp. I’m not just trying to create need. I am actually quite serious when I say that you can severely alter your day and your mood should you face your past and then let it overwhelm you.

Now, continuing on with this thought experiment, think about Jesus. Did you know that He lived a whole life for you? The thirty-three years (thereabouts) He walked this earth were like a trial run. If you’re not quite that old, think about your life as not even starting till after that age. If your life is all you have and you were then asked at the outset to give up about half of it even before birth, how would you respond? Would you be upset? I can imagine so. There are things that haven’t happened in my own life that make me want to crane my neck up to God and ask Him what the deal is. I digress

“Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23)

Peter’s talking about Jesus again. Meeting Him changes everything. The way you work, the way you play. The way you feel and the way you act. It all comes under His banner. I am not making this up. And for Him to take His life and give it up after just getting started (and also rubbing all the powers-that-be in all the wrong ways–seriously), means we could at least approach thinking about (and quite-possibly doing) the same.

Amensalism

“For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong. Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents the children.” (2 Corinthians 12:13-14)

Apparent parasitism

Sure, God would have you take care of those less fortunate. “For the poor always ye have with you…” (John 12:8a) says Jesus. But then Paul says “that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10b) I find that there are similarities to footing the bill, monetarily, for those who don’t make an effort to rise above a certain standing, i.e. not getting a job–I’m not thinking of or referring to anyone in particular–and then those who don’t endeavor to obtain any joy from God and so must mooch off you. Assuming you have the joy of the Lord. These things, of love, joy and peace–the very things that money can’t buy–are the target abstracts that people see about you (and all about you) if you’re walking with God. And this is where the parasitism comes in. When you bask in the presence of Jesus with the time you have and you go out in the world, you will give off a fragrance that directs people back to the father. But like a flower that closes, you don’t have to let people live off what you have–if they’re not willing to get it themselves.

“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” (Ephesians 4:28)

Remorseful remoras

“For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.” (2 Corinthians 2:2-3)

Now, we all do it. Anyone giving off a glow, naturally attracts attention and if we’re starving, we’re sure to look that way. Cite the “halo effect” and how, maybe, they really don’t have the qualities we thought they did upon further inspection. But this doesn’t stop you from at least thinking about them. The answer, if I may, is to look to God. “Ye have not, because ye ask not.” says James (4:1). There may be some things to work through–check the next verse (“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”). But even before all that, in the first chapter (verse five) of his letter, he says “If any of you lack wisdom, let him (and her) ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth (chide) not; and it shall be given him.” See, we don’t need to take from others what we need. Theft is theft, whether its property or emotional or whatever. God doesn’t approve (*tsk* *tsk*) and you will have to pay it back sometime. Nothin’ to be afraid of, no. Just circumspect.

Belvedere

“Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high…” (113:5)

God’s vantage point? Does He have a “vantage point” or does He simply see everything?

“Who humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in Heaven, and in the earth.” (113:6)

Should your thoughts instantly stray into fields in which God can’t be present or active or such, try and rein ’em back in for a second. If you don’t understand that there is more than one power at work (the other being an awfully confused-looking mess with a cohesive head), then it’s easy to either blame God or disregard Him. And now, I feel I’ve gone on the defensive. Let me start over:

“The Lord is high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens.” (113:4)

And He’ll lift you up if you want to see it. It takes time and effort and discipline. But if you must know, humbling oneself–i.e. lowering yourself–enables Him to take notice and therefore lift you up.

“He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; That He may set him with princes, even with the princes of His people.” (113:7-8)

See, He did everything for us. Scattered the stars where He did and planted us on the firm foundation of His Son. Everything, then, is about enjoying the view through His eyes. But how does one look through God’s eyes? I think we know. Love. Compassion. Kindness. Christlikeness in heart and mind. If you endeavor to see the world as does Jesus, even as you live in and among those who may or may not know you, God will show you things. He’ll intimate to your heart and mind details that most miss. He’ll get you up in the middle of the night to pray. To meet with Him. To touch base and then turn over and go back to sleep. He’ll carry you through the clouds and then show you the silver lining for each one.

“Praise ye the Lord. Praise, O ye servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and for evermore. From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised.” (Psalm 113:1-3)

Decompression

There are times I’ll walk in a building or a room–a place–where I’ll feel so radically different from the carefree, happy-go-lucky comportment (it’s my mind, not yours)  I found myself in prior to laying a hand on the door. Stepping across the threshold, I feel as if I have both come up from a deep sense of centeredness and composure only to find I’m in an inversely dense and foreign-feeling atmosphere. What is this? Why is this?

“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light…” (1 John 1:7)

Approaching approachability

So I look to my left and to my right. Sometimes I’ll pull out an earbud so as to take in the aural ambience. But I still feel it. There are times when I’m so focused on whatever it is I’m focused on–be it God or some train of thought or what-have-you–that I come across as either standoffish or weird. Or autistic? Asperger’s? I don’t know. And it’s not my place to speculate as to why I feel the responses in people I do. Does this make it seem like I’m somehow doing anything other than the aforementioned “stepping across the threshold”? I assure you, aside from grasping the door handle and walking in to the place, I have done nothing but bring to bear my person in this place. This is what comportment means, I should add. I can’t help but remember a shade of connotation in its definition along the lines of “insincere”. But this nagging doubt is silenced with the two dictionaries I reference as I’m writing this. But my interaction. Because there isn’t any with anyone to speak of. I step up in line and order my coffee. I look the barista in the eye but only for a fraction of a second. The ones I don’t know, anyways. I then replace my earbud and wait. And yes, I am listening to music–not just looking like I am.

One thing I constantly battle inside is this notion that I should somehow come across as more approachable. As more in tune with the “ambience” I mentioned above. This is only partially true. I am who I am (yes) and so long as I’m not hurting anyone, I don’t have to answer to anyone else’s unspoken expectations as to who I should be. But! There comes a line when once you grow up into a more adult version of yourself, that you cross where God becomes the one whose attentions and whose solutions soothe any trace awkwardness from childhood. And if one is not in tune with God for themselves, they won’t get you. God gets you though.

This is where the word “decompression” comes to my mind most times I encounter what I have endeavored to explain. You may not know why you feel what and why you do. But the Holy Spirit knows. And if you respond to the atmosphere you sense by hardening and inverting, you may well miss something or someone He has placed in that very place, to bless you. Decompress slowly.

“In your patience possess ye your souls.” (Luke 21:19)

Zero Defects

“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown but we an incorruptible.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)

On our laurels…?

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

How do we relate to this? A God that without Jesus, we cannot relate to. A God, who, without Jesus as interlocutor and savior we cannot look at and call Father. So when Jesus says “be perfect”, we must get His idea of what perfection is. And then we go and make a mistake and then think perfection is unattainable. Or forget altogether about this integral part to the Sermon on the Mount.

Beginning from the bottom, it’s a gift when the Lord shows us up. When He reveals to us the wide swaths to our character that are very unperfect. And then when we think, however incorrectly, that “zero defects” (the detectable ones, you understand) is what it means to “be perfect”, I think we may’ve missed the boat. What do you think?

“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:4)

I think the connotation of “perfect”–because it’s the same Greek word as when it was translated from Jesus–is more in keeping with the definition from James’ letter. And not to downplay in the slightest what Jesus said. But when James writes “perfect”, he’s talking about becoming more and more who the Father made you to be.

Did you know God loves you? God loves you whether you made the same mistake a thousand times or walked in the acme of obedience all the livelong day. The kernel from which to build up is this realization. To walk around, one eye on your Heavenly Father, knowing that we are His will and that He values our observations and wants and desires and needs. It’s those very things that He’s building in you to make you complete.

“For in [Jesus] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power:” (Colossians 2:9-10)

Warning: May Contain Thoughts Designed To Hurt You

“Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

So there are six things with which to fill your mind. Six categories of “acceptable”, if that makes sense. For the sake of equanimity, I’m going to lump “virtue” and “praise” in with them for an even eight. The reason why we need eight is to mirror the “Big 8” food allergies. They are as follows: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat. I’m grateful that I don’t have an issue with any of these. With the exception of soy, I should say. While I’m well aware that soy is in most everything processed these days, I cannot drink soymilk straight up. In spite of loving the taste, I do get something I would identify as an allergic reaction. And I don’t mean to make light of the seriousness related to food allergies as I know (and love) people who can’t touch the stuff.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)

Paul’s referring here to a requisite in the Old Testament. Thing is, there are still things to which this rule applies. Things, as inversely cited in the top passage, that we dare not ingest as they would not sit well and may well end in a spiritually allergic reaction. Things like hate and condemnation. The temptation to look the other way and therefore invalidate an individual. That fleeting glance at another person you think would satisfy a spiritually-existential need by way of lust. The rush to hurry the person in front of you and unsettle them. These things will the Holy Spirit tag and prevent you from taking in. But it takes time and discipline and the active acquisition of good stuff. Fill your mind and your pantry with that which isn’t gonna kill you.

“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.” (James 1:14:16)

It’s worth the time it takes to dial down the noise in your head to know if that which you think will turn out as salubrious, actually will–and not just appear so on the surface. If only our thoughts had those disclaimers that appear on the packaging identifying the facility from which the food of which you’re about to partake, came. And the equipment on which it was processed. The Holy Spirit is here to help!

First Impressions

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8:10-11)

“That I may know Him…” (Philippians 3:10)

I want to know the Lord. If I’ve heard of a God who will love me from somewhere unreachable except by death and with a strength that supersedes it, I want to know Him. If I hear about a person who would grant “peace that passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:6-7) I’d be curious to see what that felt like, if possess it. If someone told me that my “sins” could be forgiven and my slate wiped clean for all time, I’d be more than curious. If someone told me that hell was real but that I didn’t have to go, I’d ask. I’d want to know the God who took the time to single me out and tell me these things.

I accepted the Lord when I was four years old though I truly didn’t get to know Him until my late teens. I know Him now, as I near thirty, better than ever I have. But my life goes on and I find that He’s always one step ahead of me. When Jesus says “follow me” (Matthew 4:19), He’s not just using rhetoric. And as you follow Him, you get to know Him. And the more you get to know Him, the more you want to know Him. He is the most loving and intense and ever-present person you will ever get the privilege to meet. And it is most definitely a privilege to know Jesus.

See, all we have is our life. There are those, wildly successful and mindful of whence they’ve come who count the Lord as the Prime Mover of those successes. If you turn it around, there are people whose lives have completely fallen apart who still haven’t reached an upper limit to their pride. If you think my point in illustrating counterintuitive ends of a spectrum is to prove anyone can meet the Lord, that’s true. But my real point is, it doesn’t matter what echelon or realm or sphere or demographic from which you hail, Jesus wants to meet you. I can tell you from personal experience that when you meet Him, your life will fill in. Not only will every existential question that tickles or torments the periphery of your thinking be silenced (and answered) with His peace, you will know the Lord. I think about all the stages of life on which happen outrageous and noteworthy events. And this simple introduction trumps every accolade and achievement the world over. To meet your Creator. I pray for your introduction, in Jesus’ name.