Curriculum Vitae

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

Just because someone doesn’t feel the push to go into ministry doesn’t make their vocation any less important to the Lord. As Jesus was a carpenter prior to his emergence into society-at-large  as a rabbi, we’d do well to reflect on our position in the workforce and the world, whatever it may be.

“And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.” (Acts 18:1)

Our best work is done…

Finish that sentence. The verse above refers to Paul. Think about other figures in the Bible (namely most, if not all, though I haven’t checked) who held down gigs that were other than standing in a pulpit proclaiming the Word. There was Stephen, called upon to fill a role as a waiter (Acts 6). We have Lydia, a “seller of purple” (Acts 16:14) and then there are the various blue-collar workers the comprise Christ’s rabbinic entourage (references throughout the opening chapters of the gospels). Point is, the “ministry” is what you do.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

As you may know, curriculum vitae is like a résumé but more so. They’re typically sent in for higher-order academic positions. Know, though, that it’s Latin, literally, for “the course of one’s life”. The road our lives take may wind in and out of any number of jobs, side jobs, careers or otherwise and while none of those positions define us, God would have us learn things about Him and about life that we would learn no other way.

In the twentieth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus talks about “the kingdom of Heaven” (verse 1) in terms of hiring and day labor. While all of the applicants get work and all of them work for a “penny” (the minimum-est of wages, I might add), Jesus sews up the parable with the counterintuitive “many be called, but few chosen. (20:16)” In the chapter, a couple things stand out, namely the notion that anyone serving the Lord is on his timetable and in his employ. The idea of working for profit is introduced, but we’ll talk about that in a moment. As Christ is a storyteller par excellence, one can glean so much from the simple ways in which he weaves together the ingredients to his parables. Implied throughout the story is this notion of non-judgment upon those who haven’t been serving the Lord as long as others. Yes, the vineyard metaphor most-likely pertains to the Church—as in church work—but Jesus considers the whole world to be the factory floor for his operation. So this means that we are always working for him whether we realize it or not.

Saving for retirement

“Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.” (1 Corinthians 7:21-22)

So, what Paul is saying here is to stay true to one’s gifts as given by God. This doesn’t mean that one’s career or vocation can’t change but that any lateral movement in the place one finds oneself must be done at the leading of the Holy Spirit. Moving on because someone wants more money or more perks is not the highest order to which one should aspire. Climbing a ladder doesn’t necessarily fill the will of God if that ladder doesn’t reach the right place. Contentment is worth more than all the money in the world. I love Paul’s little instruction there: “care not for it”. In other words, don’t let a less-than-desirable job oppress you or define you or squeeze God’s joy out of your heart. You can do so much for Him wherever you’re at. A paycheck is merely a bonus.

And if you do feel called to the ministry, more power to you (see 1 Timothy 3:1).

Superorganism

“For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:3)

Colony Collapse

What does it take to attain to a level of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ that we’re willing to give up even our own salvation so that others may themselves come to the Christ that we know? One of the things I think we struggle with—subconsciously or otherwise—is this attitude that we must merely put up with certain individuals until we can either not have to speak to them again or at least excuse ourselves from the room. This coolness is the exact opposite of the fervent love that Paul expressed in the verse up top.

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

“And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.” (Luke 15:9)

So, we (the Body of Christ) are not technically a superorganism. The Western honeybee colony is a little more heartless and mechanical than the Church. There are, however, some things to be learned from the inclusiveness to be found in the lowly beehive. Things like teamwork and selflessness and things done according to an order and a pattern (see 1 Corinthians 14:40). Above, when Paul says “all the members suffer with it”, he’s describing a closeness that Christ envisioned, desired (desires) and indeed died to provide for His Body. And when it’s all we can do to darken the door of a building on a Sunday morning, maybe join a Bible study group mid-week and then do the bulk of our interaction and fellowship through social media, I think we’re missing the point of what Christ came to give us. The Body of Christ is supposed to be the most tightly-knit, welcoming, and loving group of people the world has ever seen. In contrast to that, the superorganism certainly helps itself but individuality is nowhere to be found.

“And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate;” (Nehemiah 8:1a)

Cross pollination

The thing about individuality is that God gives it. And He gives it more the closer you endeavor to get to Him (see Psalm 134; James 4:8, Luke 21:19, et al.). But watch out. If you’re for whatever reason looking to exclude yourself to the neglect of whatever and whomever the Lord is calling to influence, pray for, and in a word, love, watch out. One’s individuality should never come at the expense of the love and attention we’re meant to bestow on those, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who maybe aren’t where you’re at. After a while, the metaphor of a superorganism breaks down with reference to the Body of Christ. We’re One (see John 17:21), but that doesn’t mean we’re hiding in and among every one else, essentially doing our own thing. There’s a balance.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons (and daughters) of God.” (Romans 8:14)

In closing, all I can say is pray for balance. Some people need more love and attention and help than others. And it’s hard to know when to turn off the tap and let them rely on God. It’s certainly not a smart idea to block the Lord from dealing with someone directly—even if it means letting them suffer. God will give you the wisdom to discern when and where and how long and all that (see James 1:5). All you have to do is ask. Like honey, God is always sweet. Unlike sterile worker bees, however, He has no sting. The church shouldn’t either.

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

The Life

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10b).”

Second best

What does that mean to you? I think maybe a penultimate tier to thinking about that statement—as it necessarily indicates that, obviously, Jesus came to give me “the good life”—says I am entitled to everything under the sun. That is, “life, and breath, and all things;” (Acts 17:25). No big deal. Paul, in that reference from the book of Acts, is talking to a crowd of people to whom the Gospel of Christ appeared to be “foolishness” (Greeks; see 1 Corinthians 1:23). It’s so easy to live in the abundance God provides, take it for granted, and then in turn turn around and think that it’s our right to enjoy the bounty Jesus alludes to in the verse at the top of the page and then here again in the Sermon on the Mount:

“And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:29)

But there’s more to it. Consider this statement from John’s first letter:

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life (1 John 5:12).”

That’s a little narrower, don’t you think? Here we see some of what might look to be the closed-mindedness that comes with a fundamentalist Christianity. I think that if we see Jesus as “just some guy” who came to do magic tricks and leave us feeling full and contented, we’re not seeing him as all he is. As an aside, Jesus talks about “life” and then John goes one further and says “life eternal”. Time is indeed flowing. But if you take a moment (i.e. an indeterminate period of time) and “be still” (see Psalm 46:10), you can separate yourself from time’s undercurrent—and feel the timelessness of eternity. It works. But again, with reference to the whole “glut of stuff” thing, think about what happened after the story of the five loaves and two fishes (from Mark’s Gospel). It says “neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf (Mark 8:14).” And that’s enough. Jesus chides them in the next verse saying “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.” That one loaf sits there in the hold of the ship with the disciples (whose hearts, metaphorically speaking, were harder than day-old bread left sitting out). The twelve disciples who had forgotten all about the miracle of abundance by which they had just been directly influenced and in which they all partook. Jesus warns the disciples against submitting to an attitude—from either the Pharisees or Herod—that would not only negate the blessing of God but also make stale the memories of what he (Jesus) had provided.

Think about it: “And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes (Mark 6:43).”

This, from a mere five loaves of bread and “two small fishes (John 6:9).” And Jesus says “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost (John 6:12).” That single loaf of bread spoken of in Mark’s Gospel serves to remind us of the—in a word—prosperity that God can give. I mean, assuming you see Jesus’s miracles as more than magic tricks, how in the world did those few ingredients not only end up providing repast (dinner to the full) for 5000 people? And then overflow into the abundance of twelve baskets of leftovers? Amazing. But that’s the God we serve: cornucopious, as it were.

“And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace (John 1:16)”

Spoiled

Take that one loaf and hold it in your hand. Can you feel the grittiness of the flour and the rough crust? It’s still warm from the oven and it smells delicious. I’m sure the inside is hot and soft and the pockets the yeast has opened invite you to crawl inside (assuming you were the size of an ant or something) with some butter and eat to your heart’s content. There’s a difference between being spoiled and then being spoiled rotten. God provides so much for us; gratitude is the order of the day. But if we neglect Christ—the Christ that came from God and that God provided for us—in favor of all that he can and has given us, we won’t ever be full.

Here’s the thing: none of the things Jesus provides are to be a substitute for knowing him. He’s the kindest, most approachable and liberating individual I have ever met. It truly takes a lifetime to know him and to get to know him. It’s so worth it. He loves you.

“Because Thy lovingkindess is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee. Thus will I bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in Thy name (Psalm 63:3).”

Head in the Clouds

“And what He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth…” (John 3:32a)

That was John the Baptist speaking of Jesus. He leads into that statement with “he that cometh from Heaven is above all.” (John 3:31b) It isn’t just that we see Jesus as descended from the clouds (i.e. Heaven), but that we understand all He went through in order to be ordained a “high priest” (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

Silver linings

There’s a scene in Luke’s Gospel (12:14) where this guy calls on Jesus to talk to his brother so that he would “divide the inheritance” (verse 13) with him. Jesus answers back and says “who made me a judge or divider over you?” Evidently the guy trusted Jesus enough to be able to settle the dispute but we also see that Christ was more pragmatic than that. Jesus goes one further and warns everyone there about getting caught up in wordliness an an overreaching materialism. The thing that you’ll find as you read through the gospels is that Jesus is always changing the subject, derailing long-established trains of thought and generally disrupting patterns and norms with, as John described up top, “what He hath seen and heard.”

One of the most amazing incidents happens in the Gospel of Mark at which time we see Jesus tell a palsied man that his sins are forgiven. The thing about that statement I find so remarkable is that it looks, for all intents and purposes, to be a simple religious-sounding utterance. Like, “Blessings be upon you!” In other words, something purely platitudinal and that’s great. Those that were there (whose hearts were blinded) thought Jesus was crazy for saying something so outlandish, thinking that only “God” could do something like “forgive sins”. In other words, it was like Jesus was opining on something He wasn’t qualified to talk about. What happens next is pretty cool however: He parries the scribes’ petty complaints and then goes on to prove that He can reach into another realm for wisdom and inspiration. He tells the paralyzed man to “Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.” (Mark 2:1-12) Which the man does, proving that the former statement Jesus made carried weight. One cannot simply say these things and have them take the intended effect unless they really know what they’re talking about. And Jesus definitely knows what He’s talking about. “What He hath seen and heard…”

“And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.” (Matthew 21:27)

Jesus knew stuff, He had been around. His parable about the steward who was audited, so to speak, by the man for whom he was employed (see Luke, chapter 16) not only includes some very practical instruction on dealing with debt (pay it down little by little) but also allusion to a higher kingdom, one that doesn’t revolve around money and capital (see verse 8). Where does He get this stuff? Probably from the same place one gets cloudberries. Just joking, cloudberries are common in the northern hemisphere. But one would necessarily have to go higher in order to be able to talk about stuff of another plane and have it make sense in light of ours.

“Whence then cometh wisdom? And where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air.” (Job 28:20-21)

I haven’t the foggiest

The following paragraph comes to us from Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason:

“We can a priori and prior to all given objects have a knowledge of those conditions on which alone experience of them is possible, but never of the laws to which things may in themselves be subject without reference to possible experience.” (my emphasis)

Suffice it to say, Kant is looking to explain away the idea that there can be knowledge of things without actually having experienced them for ourselves. I think we all encounter that temptation to merely “talk the walk”. The implication behind everything (true) written about Christ is that He actually went through the things He talked about. But He wasn’t alone in doing so: His Father was with Him.

“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself (i.e. from myself): but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works.” (John 14:10, emphasis mine)

God the Father ensured that Jesus went through everything necessary in order to be your advocate, my advocate (see 1 John 2:1). God was not about to allow someone to die on behalf of everyone if that person wasn’t willing to live everyone’s life. See, Jesus has secrets (see Deuteronomy 29:29). Things He’ll share with you if you endeavor to get close to Him. It says in Hebrews that because of what He did, we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (4:15). Paul’s letter to the Colossians (2:3) says “in [Him] are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” I have found Jesus to be the most giving and generous person in this (or any other) world and more than willing to answer what questions I have.

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

Extrabiblical

Extrabiblical—the prefix in this case meaning “outside” from the Latin—refers to or instance or event or happenstant (singular of happenstance) that is tied in some way back to God. I suppose if you wanted to get extra picky with the etymology, you might just see “extra” as I’ve outlined above and then “biblical” as meaning “pertaining to a book”. Any book, albeit one that is the authority on whatever subject it addresses. For the case of argument, let’s assume we’re talking about “The Holy Bible”.

“I will worship toward Thy holy temple, and praise Thy name for Thy lovingkindness and for Thy truth: for Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy name.” (Psalm 138:2, emphasis mine)

Playing outside

Jesus, when teaching about trusting the Father for the things that fathers provide uses the illustration of the “lilies of the field” and the “fowls of the air” (Matthew 6:28, 26 respectively) as proof there’s a God who provides abundantly. The psalmist takes all of Psalm 104 to detail the grandeur and majesty of the Lord, even going so far as to make mention of the “innumerable” things in the sea that “wait all upon Thee” (verses 25 and 27). The Lord truly is good and you don’t have to crack open the Good Book to know this. The beauty of it, though, is that once you do start reading it with an open heart and mind, you will begin to see a true picture of the author form.

“Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: Thou hast the dew of Thy youth.”

Another implication of the word “extrabiblical” could reference a mis-management or misconstruance of something found in the Bible. Peter says “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20) The idea of taking the information contained that very definitely points to a certain thing—even something as-yet unseen or unknown—and then making it mean what we want it to to somehow ensure we’ll get out ahead, is dangerous.

“But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee.” (Psalm 50:16-17)

“Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?” (Proverbs 17:16)

There is power in the Word of God. But even then, if one doesn’t know the “Lord Christ” (see Colossians 3:24), then the sea of lies and misinformation in which we wade around day in and day out will inundate. It’s hard (impossible) to keep one’s head above that tide. And if we think we can get through this life without the “Spirit of Truth” (See 1 John 4:6), we are supremely mistaken.

Even things of the interior, while beautiful and wondrous and remarkable will lead us astray if we don’t take them to the Lord for appraisal. Say you had a dream full of ambiguous and obscure symbolism and action and you awoke with a mixed feeling akin to what John experienced in Revelation (Revelation 10:10): “and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.” What would you do? Would you dismiss the evident message-from-God as heresy, something from the enemy? Wait a minute before you do that and pray. Understand the God that Jesus talks about in the parables referenced up top. There are things that He tells us that maybe aren’t meant for us or about us. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) and He’ll sift through, not just lies and truth, but meaning. The Lord is still speaking to this day and He wants to speak to (and through) you. But it’s not one-sided. He wants to hear your thoughts on the matter.

In closing, look at Peter. He had gone through all he had with Jesus—we know his story—and it would seem that he went back to some of the old ways of thinking that he had, for lack of a better term, waded around in during his time before meeting Christ. But that’s okay. The Holy Spirit is still speaking. In the tenth chapter of Acts (verses 10-17), the Holy Spirit visits him with a vision (He has to show Peter “thrice”; verse 16), the vision that would forever solve Peter’s adherence to the old ways of the Law of Moses in favor of the Grace offered through Christ (see John 1:17). This is serious! The Holy Spirit continues to clean out Peter’s mind and thinking to be more in tune with Heaven and then look what it says in verse 17: “Now Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean…” Peter is still dealing with an old, dusty, cobweb-filled thought process as to what the pure word of God really sounds like. And remember, the Holy Spirit doesn’t speak anything to us that isn’t directly from the throne of God (see John 16:3) and intended to bless and help us as we serve Him. In the eleventh chapter, he recounts the story of this vision and says “the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting (verse 12, emphasis mine). Peter was doubting. The more we live and grow and learn, the more information we process, the, not harder but more important it is to remain in the simplicity of the words of Christ and of His presence in our lives as provided by the Holy Spirit. They will speak to you—they want to, they are—but nothing they say will contradict what He’s already told you in His Word.

Intra Muros

“Do good in Thy good pleasure unto Zion: build Thou the walls of Jerusalem.” (Psalm 51:18, emphasis mine)

It takes time to build walls. One stone upon another all the way down the line. David prays to God to do this thing. It’s something (the building of walls) that must be done by Him alone in order to prevent any unwanted influence from coming in and taking over. When the enemy looks to besiege your heart, you want to rest assured, knowing that God has put up the barriers that will keep him out.

“He (and she) that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28)

Load bearing

Walls aren’t all bad. If we have grown out of childhood but don’t understand at our core that this world will do its level best to snuff out the light of God, we need to repeat a grade or two. Jesus says that “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) This means, among other things, that God wants to fill you with the good things of Heaven. He wants to see Heaven blossom and take shape in your life and then branch out. But unless those ramparts are there, staving off the inevitable attacks of the devil, God’s holiness cannot keep the gifts for/in our lives operable. For instance, say you have the gift of joy. Now, “joy” is one of the fruits of God’s Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). And we all know that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) But if you don’t understand that “in [God’s] presence is fulness of joy” (Psalm 16:11), and that by worshiping and praising Him, His presence is ensured (He “inhabitest the praises of [His people]” Psalm 22:3), the joy will sluice and drain out of your life, leaving you powerless and at the mercy of the enemy. Just joking, the enemy has no mercy. Mercy comes from God alone (see Psalm 130:3). God’s joy is ours for the asking, and the way to appropriate it after asking and then receiving it by faith is to worship and praise Him. But again, the walls. There are people and influences and atmospheres all around us that we must keep out, however politely. Because God’s joy is like an heirloom seed. It is given and it’s meant to produce fruit in your life. Ask Him to build the necessary walls in your life so that He can give you more than what you had before.

“And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.” (Nehemiah 2:12-13)

If, for whatever reason, you have walls that are destroyed and that you can’t seem to rebuild to save your life, pray. Ask God to reveal whatever it is keeping them unbuilt and for Him to begin building them one brick at a time. While this may be the 21st century and the idea of self-contained cities unconnected by thoroughfares or shared counties is certainly anachronistic, the heart-interior of individuals is different. We need these partitions that would screen our influences and ensure God can get done in our life (and in this world) what He wants. Of course, we can help Him along:

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Putting Salt in the Wound

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” (Matthew 5:13a)

Salient saline

Salt is amazing. Don’t wanna use too much, obviously, but if you’re keyed in to the taste of what you’re eating and then add a dash of salt, a few crystals, it’s glorious. It’s like something in your brain awakens and you can’t go back to eating the way you used to. And Jesus above just compared Christians, i.e. those who follow and believe in and love Him—to salt. But why? I would first like to make mention of the fact that salt serves one purpose: to be salty. Yes, we can pour it on our food or enjoy some health benefits provided it’s done correctly. But salt is salty, how else can I say it? It’s good for one thing. And with reference to God, if the Lord wants to use us to heal or to enliven the human experience for those around us, what can He do if we’re not walking with Him, allowing Him to enable us to do those things?

“It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13b)

Ooh. That’s pretty serious. I would like to say real quick that it would seem one of the onrunning themes in the Word of God is that of Him using any and everyone to teach His kids a lesson. Or lessons. Correlate this to Jesus’s warning that those who neglect the main purpose of their life will essentially be walked all over and you see Him continue to reference this paradigm of suffering. Suffering at the hands of those who don’t know the Lord (the Children of Israel in Egypt, et. al.). God wants to keep His children safe from the ravages of those who would enslave and subjugate and otherwise neglect and disavow them. Now, don’t confuse this with the suffering that those Christians, white-hot though they may be, encounter and live (and sometimes die) through. The suffering Jesus references in His salt analogy is essentially wasted suffering. Nothing in this world worse than wasted suffering, I might add. And the Lord can certainly turn around any wasted suffering and use it to His advantage and His glory (see Joel 2:25). But if you don’t need to go down that path, don’t. By all means, please.

Silt and solution

“And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.” (2 Kings 2:19-22)

Amazing. There you have it: God using Elisha to spill into the headwaters of a polluted river a highly unconventional solution. Pouring a “cruse” (anything from a bowl to a high-necked vessel, not sure) full of salt into that which gives life to all it flows into. I find that it’s a similar way with us as believers. Granted, the pouring of salt into a wound not only hurts but it’s also metaphor for “making things worse”. And when we live in and among those who may not be walking the best way that God would have them, it tends to, how can I say this, rub them the wrong way. But this is a good thing. That salt, that irritant, brings to the surface something God wants to deal with and see healed. So pour it in. Notice the “situation” of the city. In other words, it was geographically ideal, Placed in a good spot. Location, location, location, and all that. Perhaps the climate was nice or it was founded on fertile soil. But then again, the soil was corrupt as well. Drought will do that, I suppose. And all Elisha had to do was pour the cruse of salt in to the “spring of the waters”. That’s it. But if you want to know how something so groundbreaking and momentous could come from so simple an act, look back over his life. He went through a lot to see the anointing of his master Elijah passed on to him. Even going so far as to receive a “double portion” (2 Kings 2:9) of the same spirit that rested upon Elijah. All it took was that he maintain the closeness to his liege that his special anointing required. And so he got more. God promised (through Elijah) more for Elisha if he kept his eyes fixed on his master as he ascended. Contrast that with the instruction of Jesus to keep our eyes trained on Him so that we continue to hold in front of us what’s important.

Unwound

“Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3, emphasis mine)

Yes, God is love. And yes, He loves you and He wants to meet your needs and introduce you to Jesus and see you in Heaven for eternity. But He’s also holy. There are statements you come across in His Word that are stark, they’re black and white. He gives us these, what are essentially ultimatums, to show us that He’s serious. When Jesus says if we’re not going to remain salty, that we’ll be cast out, it’s best to heed. Think about the barrenness in this world and the world around you. You. You can be the solution to that. Don’t be afraid to be salty.

Concatenating Correctly part two Something or Other

O Lord, Thou knowest

I awoke one morning in July and as is my daily routine (most days), I sought the Holy Spirit for what He would want me reading in the Word as I began my day. I felt led to the book of John, chapter five, specifically, and when I hit this verse it’s like I bit down on a rock and broke a tooth:

“Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:14, emphasis mine)

And it’s the last part that got me. I had just finished a particularly long and taxing season from which I figured there would never be an easy escape. And while I was excited to be able to step out into something new, the effort I knew it’d take in order to be fully released from where I’d been, would be considerable. Couple this with the fact that I didn’t really know where I was headed from there and you can maybe see how this idea of “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” might sound like a little too harsh an injunction based on the rawness I was feeling. Again, it was almost as if I bit down on something hard I didn’t know was in my mouth. I wasn’t expecting it. I mean, why would God wake me up and then draw me down into the middle of this chapter only to give me a heartless ultimatum bereft of the sweetness and beauty I know Him to be—and that He had indeed showed me He was, and is—throughout the aforementioned hard season? I knew something wasn’t right. This is the God I know (see also Psalm 138:6)

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)

I knew a man in Christ

If you must know the specifics of what I was referring to in the previous paragraph, it’s this. Growing up, I was extraordinarily headstrong and also scatterbrained. As I’ve grown and aged, I realize now that there is also a gift in me in need of responsible shepherding (it’s the same for every person). And it was this very realization that my late father, who passed away in July—ending the season mentioned above—knew, looking on. All the discipline he put in my way growing up was an effective roadblock seeing the gift in me be either snuffed out or used incorrectly (i.e. for something other than the glory of God). To where a weed would take root and then seeing said weed turn into a jungle—a “tangled forest of bad decisions”, as it were. So when I read the fourteenth verse from the chapter of John and feel in my heart and mind that it’s God speaking to me in such a way as to inform me that were I to go back to living the way I had been as a kid—even though, get this, even though I had thoroughly grown up from that childish way of thinking and living—then something worse would befall me. Something worse than watching my parents’ marriage dissolve and then my father’s will to go on do the same and then watching as his body slowly follows suit up until his death—while I am left in many ways a child, picking up pieces that shouldn’t be carried by anyone, let alone someone whose mother isn’t around to salve the wound(s). All this cascade came crashing down on me as I read the verse and then stopped reading. It “stuck in my craw” but, like, times ten. Again, this isn’t the God I know. I am concatenating incorrectly. I am drawing conclusions and making connections where I shouldn’t.

“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 turn again to folly.” (Psalm 85:8)

There’s the same idea expressed in the Psalms. Though I like the way The Message words it:

“I can’t wait to hear what He’ll say. God’s about to pronounce His people well, The holy people He loves so much, so they’ll never again live like fools.”

Whether in the body or out of the body

Notice how with a simple conjunction (“so”) it connects the forthcoming blessings and beauty that God promises to those who walk in His ways with what looks to be a closing of the door to the former ways of foolishness and wrongheadedness. I like that. And whether it’s the same exact idea as expressed by the Sons of Korah, or not, I couldn’t tell you; I didn’t rewind it back to the original Hebrew for myself. But moving forward, it flows with the ways of God: ever encouraging and without a hint of fearmongering. This is the God I know. Now read with me in the fifth chapter of John. Jesus comes to the pool of Bethesda and offers to heal a man who for thirty-eight years could never make it down to the water in order to receive the healing the angel had been providing on a regular basis. Jesus asks him, “Wilt thou be made whole?” The man answers with an excuse, essentially, to which Jesus simply tells him to get up and go. What’s amazing, going forward, is that when the Pharisees later interrogate the man as to who would have healed him on the Sabbath day (*gasp*) the man couldn’t even say who did it. This is remarkable to me because it shows an individual receiving a miracle from the hand of the Lord who doesn’t know Him. Perhaps this is why Jesus gave him the ultimatum he did? Who knows. The rest of the chapter turns into a diatribe on the part of Jesus against the hypocrisy and evil of the Pharisees and their complete lack of understanding of the scriptures from Moses till then. Jesus makes some incredibly powerful declarations as to how He and the Father work in conjunction (see 5:19-23). He then sews up the latter part of chapter five with what could be distilled and expressed as a pithy lesson in fielding other people’s attention. Jesus tells them in verse 41: “I receive not honour from men.”

I cannot tell, God knoweth

It’s funny how God brings things around in His time and in His way. The reason I bring up Concatenatius in part one is because he struggled through a lot of the same issues that I face on a regular basis. In spite of being a fictional character from my imagination (yes, sorry), I would have to say that neither he nor I are the only people who hear from God and then take what He said and run with it to God-knows-where. And if you read the first part of this post, you know that it was the Lord who led me to the fifth chapter of John. Because this was something that I struggled with as I always endeavor to have purity of mind, not just from sin and what-have-you. But from lies and false assumptions and confusion. With the way I’m made up, I cannot function in a sea of confusion.

It’s interesting—and more than just a little bit of a broad allusion—but when chapter five ends, we find this statement (John 6:1-2a):

“After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed Him…”

That’s the thing about the forthcoming season. It looks to be busy, that’s all I can say.

Concatenating Correctly

Concatenatius was a 12th century Montenegrin philosopher. Born Andro Mihajilo, he showed an intense innate curiosity and it’s the one thing that drove him to draw connections and inferences in the most radical and unconventional ways. Growing up, he was rumored to see the pale pink blossoms of the wild pea plant and work out the Genetics. While his thesis on that subject is lost to time (and Mendel is credited with with the discovery of the science of genetics) he never seemed bothered with his lack of notoriety in whatever subject revealed itself through his “science of connection and inference”. One cold, clear Winter night, he laid under the stars and saw how each burned brightly and stood out “like diamonds on velvet” and intuited the molecules (assuming there were any) in the exosphere would be heated with the sun while the air around would be freezing. His hypothesis would prove true as science eventually caught up. But it was his training in philosophy coupled with the aforementioned drive that he felt was his greatest strength. He was known for answering statements that pointed to the incredulity of his reasonings with “Don’t you know anything?” So often did he utter this pointed expression of disdain at his fellow philosophers that he became somewhat of a recluse in middle age as a result.

The year after his watershed conclusion on molecules he had what he thereafter referred to as “The Rainbow Connection”. It came at a time when he felt he had exhausted what details in his surroundings (he was bedridden in his early forties for the greater part of six months with an acute case of malapropia) showed him what was and is and was to come. On August 15th, 1117, Mihajilo saw “through the membrane”. It could be argued that he was in a state of delirium but he knew. Again, the fact that he had exhausted what his senses revealed to him coupled with the temporary failure of his body and the closing of his mind led him to seek the Lord. The same Lord, he said, that he had been feeling—and drawing him—throughout his life. It was after this event that all the words made sense (“they gelled”) and the colors, he said, held a deeper hue—hence the reference to the rainbow. One thing, however, that he continued to struggle with was the inherent truth to some of the associations he continued to draw. Montaigne is said to have taken his “Que sais-je? (lit. “What do I know?”) catchphrase from the works and life of Mihajilo.

Canonized when he was only forty-nine years of age (a singular event in the history of the Catholic church), he sought to explain the link in everything back to God. A main theme of his later writings was, after the Connection, not the unraveling of his former philosophical concerns and postulations, but a fuller understanding of what his innate gift showed him prior to meeting God. He held as a banner the scripture from the psalms (Psalm 119:96): “I have seen an end of all perfection: but Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” He continued asking and seeking and connecting up till his early death at age 65.

Next to Godliness

“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty…” (Revelation 4:8)

It says around that little proof-texted line that the beasts encircling the throne of God “rest not day and night” in their acknowledgment of His holiness. Evidently they see something—where they’ve been perched around the throne since God-knows-when—that keeps them effusing this most-effective line of praise. Try it sometime. Tell Him the same, He more than warrants it.

“Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.” (Hebrews 12:9-10, emphasis mine)

Anti-alias

I don’t know how your father was. As you are an extant being, I feel I can safely assume you had or have one though I don’t know how close you are or were. Perhaps he wasn’t even present at all! I’m sorry to hear that. My dad passed away last month and while I can attest to him being there for me as I grew up, I am slowly beginning to feel the void. But I’m an adult. We need this closeness, this presence, as we’re making our way through childhood. This being said, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says in effect that our dads disciplined us not so much because of what we might gain as we grew, but more due to the fact that it was their best attempt at dealing with a wayward child even as they continued to grow up themselves. Something for “their own pleasure”, their own reasonings. This is a broad and blanket statement, admittedly, but I think some aspect of its truth applies to many-if-not-most father/child relationships. It certainly doesn’t sound like love nor does it sound like our dad always had our best interests at heart, all the time. I am childless but I can tell you firsthand that you don’t want to be living vicariously through your children. They are not here to relive your life. My dad did the best he could, I’m sure yours did the same. I digress.

“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)

That Jesus would come to earth as a man! As we are human, we will ever wonder at the profound mystery that is God would choosing to be born of a woman. And then live among us for a time. And remember: Jesus remained holy throughout His life on earth—it’s one of the reasons we can—how is it worded?—“partake of his holiness”.

“Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55a)

A perfect circle

“Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8)

As it’s capitalized, you know the scripture above refers to being “God’s Son”. Not just Joseph’s (that’s how you know). As an aside, there is no such thing as a naturally occurring perfect circle. Though with the cold math of computing, a perfect circle is easily drawn up and implemented on screen. In order to determine whether or not a circle is perfect, all points on the aforementioned “natural perfect circle” (i.e. in nature—not possible, humor me) must be measured out simultaneously into infinity. But this doesn’t do us any good, does it? This is why Jesus came. All of the numbers, letters, symbols in the law of Moses didn’t bring one any closer to the perfect holiness of God. And because of original sin, any evidence of His holiness was obliterated from this earth. But as it says above, Jesus had things to learn too. He wasn’t just born in a manger and then fast-forwarded to eternity. He had to suffer in order for God’s holiness to be found in Him, and for it to grow.

“So after He had washed their feet, and had taken His garments, and was set down again, He said unto them, Know ye what I have done unto you?” (John 13:12, emphasis mine)

Here’s the thing about holiness. It is exclusive to God. It is wrapped up in His very nature. It is unutterable perfection, it is ineffable light. It is peace beyond compare and it is joy that reaches up, far past the third heaven. It is Absolute; something only He possesses. It is something we cannot touch (see 2 Samuel 6:7, Hebrews 12:20-21), that is, if our heart is not right with Him. And, very simply, the way to have a heart right with God is to know Jesus and to walk with Him. In the above verse, Jesus had just finished washing the disciples feet. They had been following Him, we know that much (except Judas, of course) and—Oh no!—their feet had gotten dirty (He gets around, what can I say?). What are you going to do? Because any worry we expend as to the state of our rightness with God is also sin—i.e. it isn’t about simply making no mistakes. Thing is though, the disciples were still following Him. That’s the way. His holiness will grow in you as you follow Him, as you commune and fellowship with and worship Him, but remember: His holiness is never divorced from His person.

“For the Kingdom of God is…righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17)

He’ll ensure you see His holiness through the correct lens. And He’ll redirect any perceptions we may have, however incorrect they may be, regarding it.

“Because it is written, be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)