Bridging the Gap (Do as I Say and as I Do part 2)

“And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?” (Psalm 50:15-16)

Broken bridges

There is that. What happens when God’s words, the very things (okay Thing: His Word) He uses to reveal Himself to the heart and mind of anyone willing, gets treated as described in the next verse? “Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee.” It would seem, following this line, that the problem is in the heart and mind of those using God’s word for personal gain. Whether it be to appropriate more and other than what God would lavishly provide or else to try and use God’s word against Him. Both of which’s bridges, I should add, are out.

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22)

See!? See right there. It’s dangerous to play around with something so powerful as the Word of God. To treat it lightly and unmeditatively is supreme folly. The Word of God is that which we’ve been given to build our mind around. It really is that simple. And it’s not about a hard-and-fast iron-willed and unassailable unwillingness to budge from believing the world was made in six days. Because I feel that anyone looking in from without sees that as the beginning. And before I go any further, consider the fact that you have been re-created in Christ Jesus. Couldn’t have been re-created unless you were “created” in the first place. Anyways… When Jesus asks us to believe on Him, and we run into things that conflict, not with the world at large (that’s a given), but with our internal construct, i.e. the state of our heart with reference to Him, that’s where the real struggle begins. It’s also where the real daily battle centers.

“Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:8-9, 13, emphasis mine)

Building trusses, building trust

“Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” (Proverbs 1:23)

God’s words–the words spoken through the scribes who penned the letters–are how He has chosen to reveal Himself along with His Son. And because the Holy Spirit is an intangible-by-mere-human-means Individual, respect must be paid to both former auspices before receiving Him. This is the point. We as Christians don’t understand the atmosphere in which we walk around, by and large. No, syntax notwithstanding, it’s we don’t by-and-large understand. When we accept the Lord, the circuit (circumcision?) has been completed. All that God has wanted to do has been done in the heart of everyone who believes. The world. The words. Now this. Something altogether new and exciting and…inaccessible to the person who refuses to take God at His Word and subsequently walk in it. And the same rules apply to believer and non: Do as God says in His word and as He does by His Son. Any middle ground is neither here nor there. Paul speaking to the Galatians and their innate proclivity to turn from a fluid walking-by-faith to a more rule-based and legalistic way of doing things. A way that will end in shutting out the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit. He says:

“I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.” (Galatians 4:13-15)

It takes time and pain to work up from the mere words to the living out of that which the words point to. Know though, that God is carrying you every step of the way.

“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall be my disciples.” (John 15:7-8)

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

Moving Experiences

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our experiences that when we find ourselves out of our element, we succumb to a sort-of disconcerting confusion. Have you ever experienced that? It’s not something I’d recommend. Life’s too complex to create paradigm-shifting moments on our own. But when God comes through like a whirlwind and shifts both your focus and your circumstances and you find yourself in the aftermath, a different person, take heart.

“Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9)

Whether it’s moving out, moving away, going to college or wherever, it’s very important you retain your personhood before the Lord. That might sound like too stark a statement to take seriously, but one of the strongest temptations we encounter when we walk into a new neighborhood, is this idea that we can reinvent ourselves in light of this vacuum we’re stepping into.

“Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his (or her) stature?” (Matthew 6:27)

Freedom in this world is a heady thing. The funny thing about Freedom, is that without focus and drive, its auspices don’t actually mean much. Maintaining our focus on God in whatever way we’ve elected , in love and worship (different for everyone), is the way we keep going when presented with the overwhelming sea of personal freedom. Time can be the enemy when all we have is time and no purposeful activity with which to spend those minutes. “In your patience, possess ye your souls.” (Luke 21:19)

“And Moses was content to dwell with the man (Reuel): and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.” (Exodus 2:21-22)

Moses spent forty years in the wilderness because he thought it best to dispense judgment on an Egyptian who was mistreating a Hebrew slave. The thing is, he was effectively reinvented during that time. Everyone goes through a purging and cleansing desert experience if they’re being led of the Lord. It’ll last as long as God allows—His timing, don’t forget. So whether you’re at the beginning of your desert sojourn or nearing the end, Jesus is right by your side.

“Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me: for Thou art the God of my salvation; on Thee do I wait all the day.” (Psalm 25:4-5)

The Emphatic (Chapter and Verse part 3)

“Bear with me a little in my folly.” (2 Corinthians 11:1)

Some people talk all day and really have nothing to add to the conversation. I don’t know how many books I’ve read where I gleaned one or two things only. Hundreds of pages of text and you’ve got to read and read and read just to discover something, one thing, that makes it all worthwhile. Maybe I should have judged that book by its cover… Take a look at enough book covers and you’ll see a pattern among the pictures. Sci-fi novels that depict fantastic scenes of otherworldly adventure. The same could be said for the Fantasy genre. And we won’t even go to the Romance section. And it isn’t just the cover image either. After an author has “made it” by becoming widely known and read, they’ll be tapped for a blurb for the cover of another book similar to their own. Usually a sentence or two about how said novel was, in their opinion, the best thing since that last one… And it’s all a bunch of hot air, in my opinion. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to judge a book by its cover. But when?

People are like books. I’m sure I’m not the only person to have drawn the analogy. When you think about it, our lives are our story, lived out day by day. Page by page. Bear with me here. Look what Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) Did you catch that? Judge nothing before the time… Paul opens the chapter with a plea and a defense over what looks like a volley from his detractors. He essentially expresses his nonchalance at someone’s hating on his message. And while I may not have the details, I know that his attitude alone makes me more inclined to believe in what he’s saying than someone who would emphatically defend himself based, not on God’s overarching hand on their life, but on some ill-stated, foolish pride.

The root word of the word emphasis is “phasis”. Greek for appearance—to show. Emphasis, as you well know, is a word that’s used to pinpoint a particular aspect of a larger whole, for observation in part. The whole point of Paul’s message, while deep, detailed, wide-reaching and far-ranging, was the preaching of Jesus as the fulfillment of the law and indeed, the elucidation of His message to those who weren’t Jews (i.e. Gentiles). Whereas John the Baptist was the forerunner, Paul was the one, himself following Jesus into the forest, scattering a wide trail of bread crumbs (and stones) for those who came after.

“Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.” (2 Corinthians 10:7) This verse is from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. It would appear that they hadn’t learned their lesson from the first letter. Paul had said after he told them to “judge nothing before the time”, in the very next verse, “not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.” (1 Corinthians 4:6, emphasis mine) By the way, emphysema comes from the same root as emphasis. Puffed up. Hot air. It’s all the same.

“But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.” (1 Corinthians 4:19)

Where the rubber meets the road for these issues is in dealing with Christians who might believe just a little bit differently than you. If you deal with someone whose doctrines are backward and they don’t see it, then do it “in love and the spirit of meekness.” (1 Corinthians 4:21) That’s power. Anything more than that, any other reason you might have to disagree with them, be it social status, outward appearance, even some artificial patina of confidence (false power) or the lack thereof, is spiritually detracting and will end up dividing further the mindset of the body of Christ.

And if you don’t think this is an issue, great. Please help others to see the way you do. Not based on appearance, but with “the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16)

“Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” (Philippians 3:15-16)

“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philippians 2:2-3) When we make the effort to love others with the love of Christ, seeing, not the outward appearance, but the heart within, our church and our world will change.

Why I Love the King James Version part 4 (Psalm 102:7)

“I watch and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.” (Psalm 102:7)

Anyone who’s ever felt lonely, isolated, wandering or wondering should find solace and comfort in this verse. The preceding verse says: “I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.” I don’t know for a certainty that it was David who penned this psalm. And while I do know that David spent time in the desert (as did many biblical figures), I also know that the psalmist in question, whomever it may be, knows what they’re talking about. Whenever you go through the particular struggle, something happens to the credibility of your words when, afterwards (afterwords?) you talk about it.

“And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” (Psalm 55:6)

The same sentiment expressed in the above verse is the same as the one with the sparrow. I think there’s a reason the writer used the image of the sparrow in that one. Whereas many other translations simply word it “small bird” or some such synonym, the sparrow connotes a sort of nervous, if anxious, energy. Granted, many birds are like that and the smaller they get, the more erratic they seem to act. To where you have the hummingbird who must feed every five minutes to maintain its metabolic rate. With the sparrow, however, we often see them hopping around in groups, socializing, talking, generally acting like an ornithological “social butterfly”. The Hebrew word translated “sparrow” is tsippor. As an aside, Moses’ wife Zipporah‘s name is the feminine version of that word. It might give some insight into her temperament. I suppose you’d have to be full of energy to keep up with him. So the sparrow is “alone upon the housetop”. Notice when Jesus speaks in Matthew’s Gospel of the same. He says “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” (10:29) The psalmist certainly thought that they were alone. But Jesus seems to sow up this little loose thread from the Psalms by stating that we’re not alone. And indeed “of more value” to God “than many sparrows.” (10:31)

The entirety of Psalm 102 is a plea for help, understanding and restoration. It’s punctuated throughout with such keywords as consumed, withered, bones, dust, wrath, destitute and death. There is however, quiet, meditative beauty in these words. But it’s understandable why the psalmist would want to fly away.

Now take a deep breath and brush all that aside. Look again at the word for sparrow. “Tsippor”. It’s translated as sparrow, as I mentioned earlier, because of the hopping connotation. There are other reasons to be “alone upon the housetop”. Spiritual persecution happens at times because you might be the only person who sees something. The only person to whom God has entrusted a secret. Who knows? “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will shew them His covenant.” (Psalm 25:14) God has secrets. Secrets that He wants to share. And if it so happens that He lets you in on a corner of wisdom that the rest of the world has yet to see and appropriate, it’s understandable how you’d be hopping around, alone, with excitement. Keep it to yourself until God gives the word. Then, as it says again in Matthew (10:27; Matthew 10:27/Psalm 102:7, interesting) “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye…” Where? “…upon the housetops.”

“Every word of God is pure…” (Proverbs 30:5) One reason I like the King James above all others is that it stands up to deep, detailed biblical exegesis, and shines with a beauty that other translations have yet to reveal–in my opinion. That being said, the Bible is the Bible. Whatever version you feel most blessed to read is most certainly the version you’re meant to ingest. Oh, every five minutes or so.

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.

Whose Understanding? (Proverbs 3:5-6 pt. 2)

The second part of Proverbs 3:5 says:

“and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

The New King James version calls it “insight”.

I suppose the way to follow this second part of the passage (Proverbs 3:5-6) is to follow the first, first. Another word for “lean” is “trust”. And if we’re trusting in God (with all of our heart/life), then we’ll inevitably run up against a clash where the Christ-like response that we know we should have, either from having read the Bible, or having received an intimation of His character directly, seems to contradict the situation at hand and the “correct” response it calls for.

“Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)

I’ll give you an example: say you have a friend who is clueless to something that you see, and in your opinion “everyone sees”. First of all, God sees everything. And if you really are seeing one layer deeper about a subject, then it’s God who has allowed you to see it in the first place (this is His insight). But put this into practicality. You, in and of yourself, are unable to open their eyes—to remove the scales, as it were—on your own. This would be an example of your own insight clashing with God’s. When I think that I can, just by informing my friend of this deficiency in his outlook, open his eyes and make him see what I think he needs to see, I’m relying on my own insight. And if I continue on, I could block the hand of the Lord from revealing to my friend what he needs to see and I could even end up hindering the Lord from healing the breach in his heart that caused the blindness in the first place. The danger in revealing things to people that they themselves are blind to is that they could end up trusting you and not turning to God for themselves. The correct response in any situation and especially those involving people—friends, family—is to trust God and not rely on your own insight. Hold them up in prayer. “Bear the burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)

Love builds up, it “edifies” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Forgiveness and compassion are aspects of love that, when lived out towards God, ourselves and others, circumnavigate the harsh, ineffective and ultimately detrimental insight that (I believe) Solomon is referring to in this verse. The same idea is expressed by Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians (8:2) when he says “and if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” He continues in the next verse: “but if any man love God, the same (that person who loves God) is known of Him.” and again, same book (10:12), “let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall”.

One of the best ways to see our own insight in action is to observe people, faults and all (knowing we ourselves are the same—again, Galatians 6:1), and consciously make a decision to see past our old, own insight and see them as God does. Forgive them. Love them. Believe the best of them. “Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person.” (1 Corinthians 13:7 AMP)

God bless you!

The Center of Gravity (Proverbs 3:5-6 part 1)

Our world revolves around Jesus. He’s the one that we’re living towards—the one “with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 5:14)—and He’s really the only one who cares about the minutest detail of our life. Moreso than do we.

How does this look when lived out? Surely you’ve heard of the way the sunflower lives? They track the sun with their heads, following its course as it crosses the sky. Consequently, they hang their heads at night. This is cool, sure. But I’m a human being. A living spirit in a body with thoughts, perceptions and impulses. And each one is a gift to experience. Any one of these, when not brought into subjection—dealt with God’s way—will lead me astray. That might sound blunt but it’s true. A little more complex than a sunflower.

Isn’t it strange that when you look at the stars in the night sky, there are galaxies that seem brighter in your peripheral vision than when you look at them directly? Whole galaxies vying for your attention. Don’t let yourself get distracted. Keep your face to the sun.

One of my favorite passages—a hand-me-down from my dad—is the fifth and sixth verse of the third Proverb. Let’s look at the first part of verse 5 today:

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.”

What is trust? Who is God? What is my heart and how do I bring it in its entirety to God? The answer: one moment, one thought at a time.

Relax. Each moment we live is a gift from God. If you need to slow down to realize this, by all means do so. God’s not going anywhere (at least nowhere that He’s not taking you), so ask Him to help you slow down and realize this. Any instance of interaction with God creates trust. You talk to God—and you trust that He’ll respond. You pray—and trust that He’ll answer. This is mountain shattering, world changing faith—lived out moment by moment, ladies and gentlemen. The more we do this from a motive of love and gratitude, the more of our heart (read: life) will be brought to trust God.