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).

The Full Complement

“For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance.” (Hebrews 10:34, emphasis mine)

Not required to sell

There’s this attitude that creeps up on me every once in a while. While I didn’t have everything I wanted growing up, my needs were met and I was consistently surprised with the big Christmas and birthday presents I received. The major things that inspired a slack-jawed and drooling fervor did I find wrapped under the tree or hidden at the end of a brief scavenger hunt or beneath the small hill of lesser presents that shared the space on the dining room table with my birthday cake. My parents did well in keying what I wanted to what I actually received. But I still want stuff even today—fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years removed from my childish materialism.

“A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.” (Proverbs 17:8)

The one thing, however, that I’ve found growing up and growing older is that I have the authority and the ability to surprise myself (not really, it’s God who surprises us) with things I didn’t know I needed or wanted. This being said, as I continually look for that better thing I think complements my person, the paradigm of atrophy and apathy and complacency (in a word: depredation) continues to gnaw at me. This is why God continues to show mercy and love and grow in me His contentment. It’s in Him that we are able to stop reaching out for more to the neglect of what we already possess. And we possess Him in full if you didn’t already know that (See 1 Corinthians 3:21).

Required to tell

Keep your eye on your stuff, but not in that way; and not in that way either. What I should have said was “keep your eyes on God”. Because if you get your eyes off Him and begin to show too much interest in what He’s given you without seeing that He is the greatest gift, the natural course of the aforementioned cycle of the wearing-down of things will show with more poignancy. The writer of Hebrews says “knowing in yourselves that ye have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance.” Our treasure truly is in Heaven (See Luke 12:33-34). But God is so generous! What do we do when once we cross that threshold of having enough and then enter into having “more than enough”? Here’s a good watchword (Psalm 116:12-14):

“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people.”

You’ll reach a point where the harvest in your life is more than you can handle (See Luke 6:38). Don’t let that dissuade from giving thanks and enjoying what the Lord gives. Give out what you feel led to give out to whom you feel led. But don’t let it eclipse His face. Continue to “take the cup of salvation” and talk to the Lord. Maintain that childlike relationship that got you where you are today. And when it says “I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people”, understand that there are things you agreed to do for the Lord when once He brought you out “into a wealthy place.” (Psalm 66:12) Do those things for Him and don’t be afraid of what other people think. That second part of the passage reminds me of the injunctions of the Lord against being ashamed of Him before those who don’t know Him (See Matthew 10:32-33). This is serious stuff.

 

Doing the Work

Drawing out the sword

“Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (John 6:29, emphasis mine)

I find that when an individual—in this case myself—has a far-reaching goal, something that I’ve striven for and bled, sweat, and cried for, action must be taken. Jesus, above in the sixth chapter of John talks about the simplest, least-common denominator for doing the work of God. It’s so easy to go through this life doing things, accomplishing tasks and even tearing down long-held paradigms of wrongness, replacing such with the right standard, the correct way of doing and/or looking at a concern—whatever it may be. But! And I don’t mean to set myself up as some holier-than-thou individual with a vantage point granted only to Christ Himself, but if the person doing all of this busywork (for lack of a better term) doesn’t start with belief—that thing to which Christ points in the heading verse—then that’s all the aforementioned activity ends up amounting to: busywork. Jesus seems to bookend the statement about belief-as-work with this, uh, averment (thank you, Thesaurus) in John 17 (verse 4):

“I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.”

Later on in the nineteenth chapter (verse 30), Jesus drives the point home while on the cross with “It is finished”. It’s almost as if in the former chapter, chapter 17 (One of my favorite in all of the Bible), He declares to His father the finality to (and truth of) what He had been doing and then in chapter nineteen He gets to announce it to the world as He’s dying. I love how we as humans, citizens, denizens, get this window on what Jesus was doing while He was here in this world. A window, colored, of course, by Pastors and parents and participants in this grand story of God as we grow up and move through life. But we have to figure it out for ourselves (“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12b), so to speak. It starts with belief.

Squaring the circle

“That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:37-38)

I love that. What did Jesus do with His life? He “went about doing good”. As we endeavor to follow Christ for ourselves (to “walk, even as He walked.” 1 John 2:6b) what does that look like for us? A person doesn’t have to be an outgoing, type-A personality. One doesn’t need to nurse a Messiah complex (don’t worry about that) and they don’t have to put their hand to the forehead of random strangers, casting out demons in the name Jesus drawing all sorts of weird attention to themselves in the process (unless you’re directed by and moved upon at the leading of the Holy Spirit—you’ll know it though). Those character traits and personality types and incidents don’t necessarily point to the reality of Revival or of “Thy Kingdom come.” (Matthew 6:10). Believe. Pray. Take your perceptions to God and do your best to love others in whatever way is comfortable for you. And I don’t meant the whole (step out of your) “comfort zone” thing. Walk in your body and tear down the old models of apathy and alienation and indifference at work in the world. This is hard work.

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.

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)

Revel In the Details

“In all thy ways acknowledge Him…” (Proverbs 3:6a)

Did you know that’s the antidote to any fear based on circumstances that seek to inundate you? It surely is. Think about what Solomon is saying when he says “in all thy ways”. When I was a kid and my dad would admonish me to live according to this verse, I would get supremely discouraged as I felt it was a literal thing—to be actively engaged in sharing every single sensation I felt with my Heavenly Father. The thing about my dad was that he sought to live it out in that very way though. He would tell me this story of having gone back to school after Winter break. It was during that two weeks off that he met the Lord and so everything going forward had been wiped clean of the past and all was fresh and new. He tells me he has this jacket of indigo blue with red, yellow and green lines running the length of the sleeve (and, I assume the body of the jacket). He remembers looking down at his sleeve seeing individual snowflakes light on the fabric and stand out like intricate diamonds against the dark, multicolored backdrop. And now I have this story. There’s obviously something there because the story fires in my mind when I really screw down my attention to this verse and ponder its truth in light of my avalanche of circumstances. But then there’s the rest of the verse:

“…and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:6b)

The thing about the details of life is that life is made up of millions of tiny details. Details are the stuff of life. Thoughts are about the smallest thing I know, only because they would seem to be symbolic of something else: that synapse firing in your brain (another intangible) that gives rise to whatever thought is in your mind while you read this. I’m reminded of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians wherein he tells us to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) And it would seem any and every physical detail we elect to focus on to the neglect of the greater whole (seriously, letting go of the big picture at times is a sign, an act of trust) has its own thought. Like a snowflake or a piece of glitter you notice in the carpet. A mote of dust floating through the air. Any pattern on any surface you encounter has exquisite detail if you know how to look. It isn’t even a matter of knowing where. Revel. All around you is this rich, beautiful loam of perception that you (and I) get the gift of experiencing.
 

Lehem Panim*

I love this idea, of staring God full in the face and knowing somehow that everything happening behind His countenance, His visage, is only good. Machinations ad infinitum that are “work[ing] all things together for good” (Romans 8:28). Thoughts that “tend only to plenteousness” (Proverbs 21:5—I mean wouldn’t He be the most “diligent” person of ever?). Thoughts that He thinks “toward [us]…thoughts of peace” (Jeremiah 29:11), etc. To know that every time you look at your Heavenly Father, He’s not only returning your gaze, cheek resting on His palm (the palm that bears your name—see Isaiah 49:16), looking wistfully back into your eyes, but that to the very depth of His being is love—just for you. I love this idea.

“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father.” (John 14:9)

Jesus gently chides Philip for not realizing what was there all along. And don’t worry, just because you’re not a part of Jesus’s entourage doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the same closeness and fellowship as did those who were walking around with Him while He did ministry. And yet referring to the last sentence of the first paragraph (also the first), it’s not merely an idea. God is always looking at you (see Psalm 11:7; 17:15) and He likes what He sees. I understand that He sees Jesus and His righteousness when He looks at us. But He also sees us. Get this: we have been recreated. We are, after believing on Jesus, that version of ourself we would have been had sin never happened. The “absolute superlative epitome” (I’m quoting myself) of ourselves, as it were.

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

So, in case you weren’t already aware, the above references Jesus, “the high priest”. One of the things about the Old versus New Testaments is that in order for Jesus to be who He was and is (and said He was and is), He needed to fulfill the office of High Priest. There are something like 613 little rules for something something in Judaic culture, I forget. And that’s just “the Law”. So not only did He have to do everything right, He had to fulfill all those 613 things to the letter—and then die. And beyond a certain point in Mosaic Law, I’m way out of my league and depth (same thing, honestly). This was to appease the Father. When I say that God is always looking at you with love, we have no idea what it means to transgress true holiness. God could have simply wiped out the whole earth with a flood simply because sin had gotten so rampant. Wait… But seriously, without Christ, you don’t get to see firsthand the loving side of God. God is holy (it’s why He sent Jesus to live as a sinless human, to win us back) and as we are fallen, we don’t get to see the machinations behind His face. We don’t get to “come…to the throne of grace”. We get a one-way ticket to an eternal separation from God after living a mere fourscore years (or thereabouts) on an earth that’s burning up (see Psalm 90:10-11, quoting Moses “the man of God”).

Now, referring again to the passage with Philip. Apparently, as Jesus says, if we see Him, we see the Father. Okay. If you want to look at God (“Why won’t God show himself?”), then look at Jesus—this is beginning to sound like a tautology, like circular reasoning. But let’s move forward: How do we see Jesus? It’s simple. Start treating people like they were the Son of God, like they were the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6). Start looking (and smiling) at and interacting with others as if they were the One who loves you most. You can realize this for yourself. And then God will reveal Himself to you. And He’ll come in a way you least expect. That thought is already turning in His mind even now.

“When Thou saidst, Seek my face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:8)

Hebrew for “bread of the face (or presence) of God”.

Noised Abroad

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

Bruit

It means to “spread the word”. I suppose gossip and calumny and slander would be the dark end of that spectrum. One of the most deplorable situations in which one could find themselves. But how do you know this is happening? As a matter of fact, how do you know it’s not? God knows.

“Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence from the pride of man: Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.” (Psalm 31:20)

I suppose our social senses are attuned to our circle. And we move in and out like physical venn diagrams. It takes a miracle to intersect and remain friends with those from other circles. But even as these miracles happen, there are those of other realms–while somewhat in concert with the representative now acquainted with you–who will never be a part of your circle. I don’t know how else to say it. Jesus’ disciples didn’t hang around with John’s. Even though they preached the same message. In Matthew’s gospel (9:14-17), John’s disciples take it up with Jesus, asking Him why His disciples aren’t held to the same strictures as they. Jesus answers very plainly by saying how Jesus’ disciples have Him. And while this certainly sounds like the better thing (would you choose to be John’s or Jesus’ disciple?), I can imagine the responsibility would be higher.

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” (Philippians 2:13-14, emphasis mine)

There’s a lot to be said for following God for oneself and endeavoring to remain true in spite of a near-incessant call to submit to a way of life–I’m talking about an inter-church atmosphere–that is ultimately going to blunt the way you walk with God. It very well may arouse misunderstanding and hopefully not gossip or any malicious perceptions. There’s a lot to this for either side, but the point is, “we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25b) And while it can be hard to feel isolated in spite of a “Christian population density”, know that Jesus is with you just as much as with they. There could be something you (or I) are blind to. Ways we may have rubbed someone the wrong way and not even know it. It’s a fine line between walking before the Lord and stepping on people’s toes. I find that it boils down, most times, to what Paul said about “travail[ing] in birth again until Christ be formed in [them].” (Galatians 4:19b)

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)

Claiming a Little Sanctuary

“Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord God; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come.” (Ezekiel 11:16, emphasis mine)

While the Lord doesn’t take sides between His children, He does give you His full and undivided attention in any matter you choose to bring to Him. Even if He won’t tell you what’s going on in the heart and mind of a brother or sister with whom you’re struggling to see eye to eye, He will give you His peace. “In [God’s] presence is fulness of joy…” (Psalm 16:11), you know.

This is why it’s so important to take time, whether in spirit or in person, to meet with Jesus and commune with Him. He is that “friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24b). I know that there’s a powerful blessing to be shared when you take communion. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup…” (1 Corinthians 11:26) The utmost gravity settles upon me and I want to see every constituent part of “The Lord’s table” as leading directly back to Him. He took the time to lay down His life. I desire to do the same.

And this is where the “little sanctuary” comes into play. I came across that passage earlier just opening the Bible. Not sure if I’d read it before but it certainly spoke to me. I identify it with the bright glimmer that stands out in my mind when I actually slow down throughout my day to acknowledge Jesus. And without doing this, without His peace, life is most definitely not a sanctuary. Whereas God specifically says that he “cast them far off among the heathen”, without Jesus, we are the heathen. And an unrenewed mind will only settle upon “things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2) In other words, the world is a cold place. Seeking the presence and therefore sanctuary of the Lord is so important. It is vital to our Christian walk.

“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son:” (Colossians 1:10-13)

Jesus’ presence and His character is so warm and inviting and gentle. When once you taste it, you know you always have a place to go in light of any difficult situation or circumstance that arises in your life.