Scraping the Sky

“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Galatians 3:1)

Evidently set forth…

Drinking the dregs

“But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another. For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and He poureth out of the same: but the dregs (the worst part) thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.” (Psalm 75:7-8)

And as we walk with the Lord, we don’t have to worry about doing that. Jesus tasted it though. He “by the grace of God [tasted] death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9) The idea with the tippy-top verse is that Jesus has been spelled out. He can’t have been made any more plain to those whom Paul addresses. Christians in Galatia. Paul continues by saying (verse 3) “having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” The mountaintop was ascended by Christ, the only way He could have gotten any closer to the Father physically was to have ascended through the stratosphere–and now He comes back down to earth for us. Jesus began in the Spirit, too. Look what the writer to Hebrews (5:8-9, emphasis mine) puts forth: “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by things which He suffered; And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that call upon Him.” See, Jesus wasn’t just a spoiled Prince. He had a role to fulfill and He worked His way up to the top. Yes, “He were a Son” (wrong tense), but He couldn’t parlay that into fulfilling that which His Father spelled out for Him. The whole “faith without works is dead” paradigm. Evidently, it applied to Jesus too. He finishes His sentence declaring that He could still misuse His power and station by calling on angels to just destroy the world and all therein:

“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matthew 26:53-54)

“Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:7-8)

The fortieth psalm is a personal fave. That number holds deep significance as it identifies the number of years in the desert in the case of the Israelites and also the number of days with reference to Jesus. David talks in the beginning about God bringing him “up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay” (verse 2). Things only He’d be able to lift him out of and clean off him. But then David talks about “the volume of the book” and I wonder what he refers to. Well, he prefaces it with “lo, I come”. So he’s on his way, “boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16), as it were. And he finds that God knew he was on the right path all along–like God had been scripting David’s steps. A path that wound through deep swamps, high hills and mountains, and lengthy plateaus. The point is, God is leading us. And if we think we will get there without engaging Him, we may not get there after all. It’s not something that can be thought through.

Yoking the poles

“Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Hebrews 1:3-4)

What is the highest in God you’ve ever felt? What is the mindset that accompanies such a high-octane walk? It’s more than good feelings. Did you know that, in some realms of life, just to feel good requires the spiritual Spring-cleaning of locale and subsequent prayer-for-all-involved? As well as lots and lots of time spent in the gutter. Eking out the barest of existences while you wait for the Lord to come through for you. All of this is hard work. Because if you want to touch the sky, you’ve got to work your way up from the bottom. As did Christ.

“Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness and comfort me on every side.” (Psalm 71:20-21)

Giving Blood

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Galatians 3:22)

Redhanded

Yes, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31) but turn back to Isaiah (49:16) where God says “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands”. Deeper than a tattoo, God literally has your name carved into His palm. That’s gotta hurt. Everything Jesus went through for us was for us. “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Most times, even if we’ve gone through seeing the Father as a strict and loveless rulegiver, we have a hard time taking that extra step and realizing that He’s indeed the nicest person you’d ever meet. He’s your Daddy. Whether or not we had a good earthly father has no bearing on the eternal character of He. It’s just that before we appropriate the “life…more abundantly” (John 10:10) Jesus died to give us, we must realize that, not only is life a gift to be enjoyed. And by not acknowledging Him as the giver it’s the same as theft. But we must also realize that Jesus’ blood is on our hands.

Redshift

“Peter saith unto Him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” (John 13:8-9)

Redshift happens as objects recede from view–galactically. The light from said objects turning back to the red end of the spectrum. Psalms (103:12) says “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” This is true. “Cast into the deep end of the universe”, as it were. This is who you are in Christ. And it is one thing to acknowledge who we are in Him even as we assimilate and appropriate the promises of faith inherent to the station of a son or daughter of God. But we are, in some sense, more. What I mean is, we are individual pieces of God that are walking around on this plane, tethered to Him by the unbreakable bond of the Holy Ghost. And no matter how far we recede or how we feel (provided we don’t break that Holy-Spiritual bond), we can never undo what He has done. But again, it flows back to the sacrifice of the Son. None of the blessings we receive could have happened had not God sent His “only begotten Son”. I used to kid with my dad that without me, he wouldn’t be celebrating Father’s Day. But I guess I have a brother too…

Redline

A double entendre hides within. A red line through a word or a sentence. Something must be edited out or amended (or emended, or appended, or…?) God knows. But it also means in a very broad (mechanical) sense, an upper limit. Now, the sky’s the limit (blueshift happens when objects come closer), yes. But you are called for a purpose and a time and a season. I find that when something happens of inexpressible freedom or joy or beauty, after the fact, there was always a purpose in the feeling of liberty. Yes, we have “all the time in the world”. But there will come a time when we’ll answer for all we’ve done. The idea that we can do anything at all is limited by schedule and resource and reality. We might feel invincible, just try cutting yourself or crossing the street without looking (Actually, don’t.). There are strictures in place that would prevent us from overheating and melting down. Before you launch out on your irrepressible career, let God know you’re grateful for all He’s done–for you. Get into specifics if you feel so inclined. Meet with Him to discuss matters (He’s always there waiting). I find that as seasons come and go, the time spent acknowledging God in whatever way is what stands out amidst the sea of infinite possibility. We won’t get to do all we want while we’re here. But this doesn’t mean you can’t dream and let the Father show you worlds beyond your imagining. His peace though. His peace is what keeps us grounded (in the best sense of the word).

“Wilt Thou be angry with us for ever? Wilt Thou draw out thine anger to all generations? Wilt thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee? Shew us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation. 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 return again to folly. Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him; that glory may dwell in our land.” (Psalm 85:5-9)

Happy Father’s Day.

Best Foot Forward

“Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?” (Psalm 49:5)

Sleep, walk

The days of evil? It would seem that we walk through seasons. Through uptimes and downtimes that coincide with numerous others. Cycles that include “for better” and “for worse”. Days of good and “days of evil”. There’s always something going on in God’s kingdom. And when we put into motion, wheels of circumstances that we then have no control over, the best thing to do is cry out to God that He would allay the results that we are (now) responsible for. The psalmist in this case didn’t worry about what he caused, only that he was moving forward and trusting God for the outcome. God cares about what we do and where we’re going. As He is logistically perfect, He’ll integrate you seamlessly into what He’s doing in your area and your past will effectively be behind you.

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Swathed and swaddled

So keep walking. After the disciples fell asleep “the third time”, Jesus moves on and says “Rise up, let us go” (Mark 14:41-42). There were lessons to be learned from falling asleep at the wheel, so to speak, and those lessons would be learned sooner or later. But Jesus is walking. How many times does He say to “follow me”? Reminder after reminder. Where’s He going? This is where trust comes in. In retrospect to certain seasons of my life, I realize that God was carrying me through. So whether you are following in the footsteps (the Old English root of swathe comes from footprint) or being carried like a baby–awake or asleep–purposely endeavor to keep moving. This doesn’t negate the notion of “waiting on the Lord” or “being still and knowing God is God”. Work it out as you move along.

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. [They] that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing [their] sheaves with [them].” (Psalm 126:5-6)

Nor does it cancel, in closing, the concept of atonement and forgiveness and saying sorry. Those things work wonders. And are essential. It’s ideal, as one “shall doubtless come again” that we ensure others can start out on the path and put their best foot forward.

 

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Causeway

“Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.” (Matthew 22:9)

What drives you? Are you able to back it up with a halfway believable origin story? How did you get to be the person you are today, on the way to where you are? Maybe some elaboration is in order?

“Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.” (Isaiah 41:21, emphasis mine)

Just cause? Just ’cause?

The implication in the Hebrew for “cause” is suit–as in lawsuit. Case has the same etymological source (in English). It all makes sense when we look at our life as lived before God as judge with Jesus as advocate. Though, try and shed the condemning, judgmental aspect of God the Father should that be the first thing that crops up in your mind. Obviously not a license to sin, but Jesus took our punishment.

The cause of Christ can take many shapes and forms and paths, but they all lead to one place. Jesus Christ Himself. Really, it doesn’t matter what it is you’re doing, as long as it’s imbued with the Spirit of Jesus and the attitude that He has for the world at large (two qualifiers that aren’t easily dismissible). I will say this, that the more we rally behind the banner which Jesus carries for us (“his banner over me was love” Song of Solomon 2:4), the more likely it is that we’ll end up interacting with people. People of all types. The “true riches” (see Luke 16:11). And interacting with people from every walk of life gives us the opportunity to wrap them in the love of Jesus.

And that’s the whole point here. What is it that we are doing to get in touch with other people? This isn’t about approaching and accosting random individuals to share the Gospel with them–on our own and merely because we want to. As an aside, I find it interesting to run across those who want to share the Gospel with me. I respect their devotion and all, but maybe some tact is needed? Their heart’s right, but instead of finding out what I do believe first, they assume I don’t. It’s not upsetting, more annoying. You get the idea. Nevermind.

“Shew me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

The word “ways”, there in the King James is derek in Hebrew. The word means “ways”, of course with the connotation of a “road”. Maybe a “causeway”? I think I can draw that inference. A causeway is a road that is paved and runs along a body of water or other naturally unnavigable surface. Kinda like the “high road” at ground level. I like that

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.” (Isaiah 55:9)

All roads do not lead to God, but when we follow Jesus, whatever road you’re on, will give you the opportunity to encounter those who you’d never consider meeting on your own. The cause of Christ applies to everyone, so stay the course.

“And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men (and women), though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isaiah 35:8)

In closing, there’s a mass of rock formation on the north tip of Ireland called the Giant’s Causeway. It’s a series of hundreds of hexagonal steps ascending from ground level in a mound that continues down under the water line. The Irish folktale of Finn Mac Cool tells of his near altercation with the giant Benandonner. When the giant made his way to meet and fight Finn, Finn’s wife decided to disguise him as a baby–his own. Upon seeing him, the giant had no desire to encounter his father and so ran away pell-mell. Thus, the Giant’s Causeway was formed. Good to know. Because I was under the impression it was formed from volcanic activity millions of years ago. Either way…

Facile Princeps

Don’t worry about pronouncing it. Both ‘c’s are either hard or soft depending on which side of the pond you’re from. What it means, however, is far more important given the context in which Jesus taught about the concept.

“So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:16)

It means “easily first” and as Jesus says in the above verse there will end up being people who–presumably because of “status” and pride–think they have a certain exemplary standing in line with God only to find that they had their priorities wrong.

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in John 13, Peter was flabbergasted that the Lord of Creation would stoop to that level. When you think about it, they must’ve had some pretty filthy feet. Walking around in sandals through the dust and grime of pre-industrial era civilization (no paved roads; whether the Romans had gotten around to paving that locale is neither here, nor there).
So Jesus tells them to take his example and do as he did. Peter, ever the opportunist, asked Jesus to wash “not my feet only, but also my hands and head” (13:9).

Our reputation is a hard thing to pin down, that is if we’re searching without for it’s validation. I’ll explain: I can aspire to become the “absolute superlative epitome” of myself while I live out the number of days allotted to me by God. Moses prayed, “teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90:12). But! I will never be greater than who God originally envisioned me to be when He first thought of me (when was that?). So who am I racing? Jockeying for position among my peers is a waste of time. Paul said it was “not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). So where do we go from here? Jesus said “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11). And if we always strive to be humble in our outlook and worldview and reputation, then we’ll be pleasing to God. “Though the Lord be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly” (Psalm 138:6; That whole psalm is amazing, check it out if you have a minute. It’s not long). Beautiful. Imagine God, stooping down from Heaven to lift the chin and look into the eyes of those who’ve been stepped on and shunned by the world. And to wash their feet.

As my dad says, “In God’s Kingdom, the way up is the way down”.

Paul said to “condescend to men of low estate” (Romans 12:16). In the King James the connotation for “condescend” is a lot different than our modern definition. Far from being arrogant and…condescending, it means to humble oneself and acknowledge those who are the wallflowers, the catatonically shy, the ones who aren’t “cool”. The bullied. The homeless. Make time for these people. Look them in the eye and give them something to keep striving. Be like God. If you have it and you feel led by the Holy Spirit, give it. Encouragement is free yet priceless. And as you give, God will make sure to keep you well stocked. Overflowing, even. Jesus said as much (see Luke 6:38).

Facile Princeps. Those who remain humble are “easily first” with God. Those who think they’re “easily first” are in for a rude awakening. Jesus, who was first became last, so we who were last could be first.

David’s Bildungsroman part 4

So David makes an interesting statement in the sixteenth Psalm. He says in the first half of the eighth verse that he had “set God always before [his] face”. This, I think, is the ultimate lesson of life. Seeing God at the forefront of everything: all our actions, all our interactions, all our motions, all our emotions. Everything under the sun. I’d venture to say it’s a conscious decision that David made to see God “before his face”. And because we can’t see God with our eyeballs, he’s speaking metaphorically about, not only an ideological understanding of God’s thoughts as model for his own, but choosing to be like God after knowing Him. Paul says in Ephesians (5:1) to be “followers of God as dear children”. The connotation of “followers” from Greek is “imitators”. And this kind of imitation is not flattery. In order to be like God, you have to start by thinking like God. God saw this about David. Sure, He made David and gave him his unique gifts and talents, but if David had not responded to God, then God couldn’t have used him like He wanted.

The story of David, with all its ups and downs, plays out brilliantly and beautifully. One person among millions–rising to the pinnacle. I especially like that he was both warrior and poet. Musician and soldier. Sojourner and ruler. A life of seeming contradictions where grace and strength, art and power, were alloyed into one man’s temperament, and ultimately shaped the national identity of Israel. A little country among giants at the crossroads of civilization. I’d have to say that David was the first of the Philosopher-Kings. His son Solomon fits the description as well. Let’s back up to the seeds of such revolutionary realizations.

If you think that power and prestige were the ultimate goal of his life and psyche, consider this declaration of his (Psalm 27:4): “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.”

Take it or leave it. David had an intense thirst for God. An insatiable appetite for His love and grace and understanding. And so he was willing to wait. Unless God somehow told David–prior to Samuel showing up to anoint him king–that He was going to coronate him and call him to rule Israel, there was absolutely no way David could have known. Imagine the shock and surprise of being told that, in spite of your humble beginnings, you were called to make some outrageous Nobel-prizewinning discovery? Or make a work of art that would change national and international perception of art as a concept? Or in some way become an iconoclast who’s far more than merely a cult of personality? What would you do if you found out you were headed for the top? Would you “set God always before your face” as David did? Here’s the deal: this is what God wants for you, for me, for everyone. And the world is big enough for you to be the best there is at who you are. That’s one step above being the best there is at what you do. Being the absolute, superlative epitome of yourself is where God is aiming. We can’t be Jesus. But we can be as like Him as humanly possible. One thing I reflect on occasionally is the realization that, were I the only person God ever made, He would’ve asked Jesus to die for me to redeem me (as would inevitably be required) and Jesus would’ve joyfully complied. He would have obeyed His Father to reunite us–even if it were just us. Just you and God. This is one of the great secrets of life: God loves you. And His love is all-encompassing to the point that you can feel (Without pride, is that possible? Yes.) that God did all this for you.

David’s life is a perfect template for us. And also a roadmap for getting there. Jesus is walking with us and as we “set Him always before [our] face” He will show us that He is “at our right hand that we should not be moved” (That’s the second half of Psalm 16:8.). He’ll see to it that we get there.

David’s Bildungsroman part 3

The Psalms aren’t presented in chronological order. It makes me wonder how the canonizers determined the order in which we find them. The entire Bible (sixty-six books) for that matter is not presented in historical, chronological order either. I’ve heard that Psalm 118, being the center chapter in the Bible is sandwiched between the shortest (117) and the longest (119). Interesting. I haven’t measured it out myself but I have read elsewhere that that’s not even true. Psalm 131, they say is the central chapter. Anyways. As I haven’t measured it out for myself, I suppose it doesn’t matter.

I am going to touch on some of the high points of David’s Psalms. Whereas Bob Dylan has written over 600 songs, David only wrote about a hundred (that we have, recorded). You gotta know that, with the spiritual and symbolic nature of much of Dylan’s music, he had to have been inspired by David.

And that’s what the Psalms are. Hymns to God of praise and worship and thanksgiving and lamentation and distress. David covers the whole spectrum of human emotion through his music. The fact that we have it to draw upon for our own life is a miracle. A lifeline to the same God that David knew. One good thing about the placement of the book itself is that it’s right in the center of the Bible. It’s easy to find, just open up to the middle.

Here are a few Psalms as touchstones for the stages of life.

Psalm 23: David had to have written this while he was young and tending sheep. He sees God as his own shepherd, caring for him as he did his own sheep (or his father’s, whichever). This simple prayer–much like the Lord’s Prayer from the NT–expresses a life thoroughly steeped in God’s presence. From beginning to end. And beyond.

Psalm 19: I can see this one having come from the pasture (pasture-ized?) as well. David expresses the awe and wonder of God as Creator. I imagine a young boy, sitting back in the grass, the wind rustling his hair. Gazing up at the stars in the sky. Who knows how old he was when he wrote this. He’s at least aware of life’s inner workings enough to know of the importance of God’s word and the benefit of keeping it and trusting in Him through it. He also understands the fine points of analogy and allusion. What a kid!

See also Psalm 104–Pure poetry.

Psalm 25: One of my all-time favorites (along with Psalm 40). Many of his psalms were written in the caves and wilderness areas of Israel while he was on the run from a demented–and deposed–King Saul. God may have anointed David King of Israel as a child, but he didn’t end up taking the throne until later in life. Saul pursued David and his men through the desert and much of David’s adult character was forged through that time of trial. The harsh backdrop of sand and heat providing a fitting metaphor for the spiritual dryseason David went through on the inside. I’m reminded of a verse from Hebrews (5:8): “Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” That’s talking about Jesus but it could certainly refer to David as well. God called David and made him king though it wasn’t realized until many years and sorrows later. The joy of such a blessing was tempered, and in many ways substantiated, by the troubles he experienced. This cycle of wilderness exploration–to put it politely–is holy. This cycle is sacrosanct before God. If it’s good enough for Jesus and good enough for David–two men who know God far better than do I–then it’s good enough for me.

Psalm 37: David is getting older. He expresses as much in verse 25. He’s now old enough to know–with a certainty that only comes with age–that God will never “leave him or forsake him”, as he expressed in Psalm 27 (verse 9) and was answered in Hebrews (13:5-6).

God blessed David throughout his life–in spite of his mistakes–because he practiced what he preached and was willing to admit and atone for his mistakes. This is human perfection.

On another note, I suppose the reason we have both mistakes and successes recorded in the Bible is to learn from them. This is an obvious statement and fully in accord with the understanding that God “forgets” our sin. “Their sin and iniquity will I remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). “As far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12) is how far God has removed our sin from us through Jesus. But in remembering sin, we’d do well to remember this fact too: unless the lessons are learned, history will repeat itself. The feeling of guilt and condemnation never comes from God–conviction, yes. But not shame or guilt devoid of hope.

Jesus made it possible for us to see our sins and shortcomings in light of His love and as such, complete amnesty is offered to anyone willing to come to Him. He’ll teach us. He says He will.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29).

David’s Bildungsroman part 2

Psalm 78:70 says that God chose David from the sheepfolds.

David was the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons. With red hair and apparently a handsome kid (see 1 Samuel 16:12), he tended the sheep on his dad’s pasture. The strength and courage needed to kill Goliath had been developed through the years protecting them from lions and tigers and bears. Oh my. Okay, not really tigers, but he does say he killed the other two in protecting his flock (see 1 Samuel 16:35; the story of David and Goliath takes place in chapter 17). Jesus does that. He says He’ll leave the “ninety and nine”  to go after the one stray, lost sheep (Luke 15:4).

Life doesn’t necessarily contain many life or death moments–that is unless you’re a soldier (or a Marine) or police officer or firefighter. At least not in our “civilized” western world. Making these hard decisions is far less frequent than, say, in feudal Japan under a shogunate (where slight mistakes are atoned for by ritual and assisted suicide) or among the Yanomamo tribe of South America. The Yanomamo are excruciatingly violent toward, not just neighboring tribes, but also their own members. Point is, violent force is not necessary in today’s world to get our point across. In defending our loved ones however, I believe it can be necessary. With Goliath however, diplomacy was already out of the question. The other Israelites were content to lie down and let the Philistines encroach. But I believe the real reason David decided to go and fight Goliath was because he “def[ied] the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:26). I’m reminded of “Beat It” by Michael Jackson. David’s the exception to that song. The rest is history. And now we have the perfect metaphor for dealing with the problems of our own lives that not only seem, seem huge and insurmountable, steadily creeping and seeping into our life, but that no one else wants to face. Goliath stood on the other side of the battlefield and taunted the Israelites. Empty threats as far as David was concerned.

Before I go any further, if you’re having an issue with this story, as far as its solution (i.e. the slaying and decapitation of Goliath, 17:51) may I plead the rule of cultural relativism? One corollary of cultural relativism says that it’s wrong to judge other cultures with the morality of our own. That may have pulled the story from the sea of subjectivity only to have it cast again into the deep end, but it was indeed a different time and place.

Consider this verse from Isaiah: (40:11) “He (God) shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”

The pastoral vocation was common in the Middle East during that time. Still is. David tended sheep because he was the youngest. Probably because no one else wanted to do it, too. This verse in Isaiah describes the character of God as kind, gentle, caring, concerned. God is like this all the time. Even when we don’t feel it. Even when we think that He’s just the opposite or not even real at all. One question I have for you is, with the unique spiritual problems you’re facing, do you think that God might choose you to be the one to deal with them, once-and-for-all? If so, have at it! If we have the courage to believe that God is as this verse describes–even when the devil shouts at us and fear and shame and discouragement begin to press in–then we are believing what is true. And God will prove Himself to be the best that we believe. Conversely, if we choose not to believe, God isn’t necessarily obligated to reveal Himself to you. If you know anyone like that, pray for ’em.

So, what are the huge crises that are worrying you? (financial, physical, familial…?) This takes real effort, but choose, will to believe that God is bigger and that He has a way out of this suffering. Paul said as much. “God will also make a way of escape so that you’ll be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). He was referring to temptation but don’t you think that David was tempted to run from Goliath? Maybe not. Maybe through the years of his shepherding routine, he developed the resolve that stood up and in the face of the audacity of Goliath. Resolve to remain faithful through the slow downtimes of your life and you’ll be slaying giants before you know it.

Jesus says to “say unto this mountain…” (Mark 11:23). See what happens in verse 24.

God bless you!

David’s Bildungsroman part 1

Psalm 27 is a wonderful expression by David of complete confidence in God. He sees God as parent (verse 10), as provider (4), as strength (1) and refuge (5).

The life of David is somewhat of an enigma to me. I’ll explain. David lived before Jesus in a time when anyone who was Jewish was expected—commanded—to live under the law of Moses. A strict regiment of outward proofs of inward allegiance. Yet David exhibited something deeper and more profound. Namely, the grace of God. And he communicated through the Psalms an understanding of Him that was light years ahead of his peers. That’s not to say that he was without his flaws but in my opinion that’s neither here nor there. To a degree, it doesn’t make sense to me why the positive lessons inherent in the character of the biblical characters need always be tempered with the negative. Yes we need lessons in what to do and what not to do, but a person’s sin and shortcomings are never mentioned in their eulogy. If one feels the need to tack on mention of David’s sins to every lesson from his life, why don’t they deal with their own instead? Some Christians naively dismiss their own while condemning him. And the cycle will repeat itself in others with whom they come into contact with. I have a whole book entitled THE SINS OF KING DAVID. Okay, the title’s not in all caps but it may as well be. The cover sports a renaissance painting of David lecherously luring Bathsheba into adultery. How hypocritical. As an aside, this is why anyone who dies who we think may not have been Christian should still be treated with respect and honor as creations of God. The best of someone should still be believed.

I suppose the reason David experienced God in this way throughout his life is because he did just that. He believed the best of God through all of the times in which circumstances might dictate God’s character as something other than what David encountered as a child while tending sheep and composing hymns in the pasture.

When I consciously met God at 17, life became beautiful and wondrous and full of exciting encounters with Him in unexpected places. But it also lacked the stability and temperance and wisdom of a life that had stuck with God when things were hard. We can’t live on the mountaintop all the time. Yet there are pastures on mountains and in the valleys. Anywhere we are–high or low–we can sing to God.

A bildungsroman is a story (usually fiction, in this case non) detailing the spiritual development of its main character. Asaph wrote of David in Psalm 78 (verses 70-72):

“He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. So He fed them according to the integrity of His heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.”

Over the next few days, I’m going to flesh out this passage and see how it applies to the ups and downs that we all face in some way shape or form—for today.

Walking In the Spirit (Proverbs 3:5-6 part 4)

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

And we’re off!

Psalms (37:23) says that “the steps of a good man (or woman) are ordered by the Lord”

I used to wonder (worry) about this. Knowing that God was real and wanting to walk in His plan for my life, I fretted over the minutiae of my life, because I knew that “he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” and vice-versa (Luke 16:10). But divorced from love and grace—the two things that God uses to enable us to live as Jesus did—life can be a drag. Boring and dry and loveless. We think that, in order to get God to give us stuff (material or immaterial), there needs to be a transaction (an economic arrangement, as it were). Tit for tat. I do this, You do that. This thinking, because of what Jesus already did and does for us (life, death, resurrection, intercession), is now obsolete. But this doesn’t mean that the Old Testament is outmoded. Jesus came and “fulfilled” the law (Matthew 5:17-18). Everything is now in Him. Going back to the verse from Psalm 37, the definition for “good”-ness is now defined as commitment to a person: Jesus . And not just a set of beliefs or ideals. As in actively knowing Him in the here and now.

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

As Christians, our walk, “our conversation” (Philippians 3:20), is still defined by the principles laid out by Solomon in Proverbs 3:5-6—as followed in love. The difference is that we now have the indwelling Holy Spirit who performs the promise of Proverbs 3:6: “He shall direct thy paths”. This promise, of being “led of His Spirit” (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:16-18), silences any worry and wonder (the negative kind) and frees us to live in the liberty, grace and love that Jesus paid for with His life.

Looking back, I guess it does cost something after all: our attention. Our inward sight and adoration fixed on God. There is a sacrifice but it’s so worth it.

As we live out Proverbs 3:5-6, in the long run, we fulfill God’s call for our life—all while our attention’s on Him. One moment, one acknowledgement at a time.

In closing, a story.

My dad accepted the Lord in the Winter of 1968. He was home from college on Christmas break–miserable. One of the last things that happened in his dorm prior to leaving for home was a conversation with a couple guys about Jesus. The only reason, he says, that he even deigned talk to them was because he didn’t feel like working on an overdue biology assignment. The door to his dorm was open and while there was still work to be done, he couldn’t help but hear in the halls the carousing and commotion brought about by the impending vacation. He heard a knock on the open door and let in the two men (they had purposed only to speak to those whose doors were open) and talked with them for a few minutes. They even used his Bible (from his Methodist ubringing, which he had on a bookshelf but never read) to point out truths regarding God and Jesus. He thanked them and they left him with a pamphlet and a phone number. At home (he lived in Virginia), he wrestled with the issues that were presented to him a few days before. After a brief chat with a next-door neighbor (who happened to be a pastor) that still didn’t silence the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he made his way back to his old room on the second floor of his house. The Bible from which the men introduced the promise of something new lay at the foot of his bed. He knelt down by the side of the bed and prayed the prayer of salvation as found at the end of the pamphlet. He made it halfway and then made a mistake in the recitation. So he started over—and again failed to get it right. The third time he prayed to God, thinking that he had to say things just so, God answered him with a flood of peace and the knowledge that he’d been born again. After he got up off his knees, with newfound confidence (and also something as-yet undefinable), he asked quite the pointed question of His (now, new) Heavenly Father. “You got anything in this book I can use?” He walked around to the end of his bed, picked up the Bible and opened it up to the book of Proverbs, third chapter. He put his finger, very inconspicuously, on verses five and six.

And the rest is history.