Category Archives: 08. Seek

God’s Voice – Psalm 29

God’s Voice—Psalm 29

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; 

The God of glory thunders, 

The Lord, over many waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful; 

The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; 

The Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, 

And Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.

The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; 

The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth 

And strips the forests bare, 

And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” (Psalm 29:3-9)

Martin Scorsese’s most recent film takes its name, indirectly, from our theme this week: The Voice of God. It is called Silence, but to me it was like thunder. In fact it was deafening. The film effectively silences neat western constructs of the Gospel and the Great Commission. In Silence two young priests take off from Portugal with zeal to find their mentor, who has reportedly recanted while reaching out to the Japanese as a Catholic missionary. I will not ruin it by telling you the outcome, but I will warn you that it might be very hard for you to watch depending on your passionometer’s current reading.

Scorsese’s setting is the 17th century, but some things never change. In my hometown, a cadre of young zealots has its own God-construct underway. How did it get there? Its answer: God spoke it.

I notice that the promoters of this event are in their thirties and forties. Yes. I vividly remember those years. It was a season of zeal for sure. Passion was in my bones. (Something else is there now—I’m pretty sure.) I recall attending the late Bill Bright’s Prayer and Fasting Events in Kansas City and Los Angeles. My co-zealot and I even sought out Azusa Street—the birthplace of modern Pentecostal revivalism. I can tell you after my forty day fast (which I presumed was integral to God’s plans), I was truly ready to see Jesus do something big; I was also truly ready—as soon as possible—to devour either a Whopper or a Big Mac.

What’s a boy to do though with all that passion? At the very least we translate it into expectations. After all, if Paul (a guy who had seen Jesus) is on record that God desires that all men be saved and that he wants to do exceedingly above and beyond our grandest expectations, how shall we govern our longings and calibrate our expectations? Given the incalculable height and depth of God’s love, is there really any ceiling? Rescuing an errant priest or spearheading the next great awakening seems quite doable given God’s greatness and our zeal to see God be who we want him to be and do what we want him to do.

The movie Silence was a poignant and brutally painful reminder that God is a mystery, which not only strips the forests bare, but will also strip the soul bare of its neat and tidy religious constructs. That is likely why Job was included in the scriptures, so that we would not speculate from afar about God and his ways.

My 30 and 40-year-old friends and family cannot help but think I’m jaded about the supernatural and their coming revival. They would be right, at least as far as it has to do with my role as a catalyst towards those ends. I pray as fervently today for seismic outcomes as ever. The scope of my prayer is actually as large as it has ever been. The folly, to me, is the expectation that these grand events will prosper in proportion to my contribution or that of the local revival committee.

The thing that we zealots do not hear in the midst of our passion is just how much, due to our own hurts and needs, we confuse our voice and the voice of others with God’s. For me to confront my young friends would be unwelcome and probably unprofitable. Within the mystery of God, passion, zeal, tears, and screams are not wasted. In fact, they are probably essential. They are like the steam coming off the refining pot where the dross is being skimmed away and pure faith, with its enviable award, is being perfected. So, while we are asking, “How long oh Lord”, we shall still:

 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; The Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Father, while I am sobered by the possible depths of my delusions, I am, at the same time, comforted that Jesus is an exact representation of your nature. In Christ, I never saw anything that would make me cower beneath his glory and strength. I never saw anything that would cause me to fear the splendor of his holiness. That I might rest my head upon the chest of my God is my comfort and my glory. Amen.

Seek—Psalm 24

If I were to harvest the spiritual sentiment of the devout during the short span of my life as a follower of Jesus Christ, it might be captured by this notion: “Oh Lord, I want to be near to you. Draw me nearer Oh Lord.” Would they find comfort in King David’s words?

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? 

And who may stand in His holy place? 

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood

And has not sworn deceitfully. 

He shall receive a blessing from the Lord

And righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalm 24:3-5)

So the hungry, devout soul who wants to experience God’s nearness now has some tools in its hands if it can avoid fibs, get its heart pure, and keep its hands out of trouble. David seems to be promising righteousness and blessing to those who follow this script. David was devout in his context—the law-based monarchy of ancient Israel. However, I believe David’s council is unfit for followers of Jesus under a radically different and improved covenant. Even so, David may still assist us in his reference to the ancient gates.

Lift up your heads, O gates, 

And be lifted up, O ancient doors,

That the King of glory may come in! 

Who is the King of glory? 

The Lord strong and mighty,

The Lord mighty in battle. 

Lift up your heads, O gates,

And lift them up, O ancient doors,

That the King of glory may come in! 

Who is this King of glory?  

The Lord of hosts, 

He is the King of glory. (Psalm 24:7-10)

I’m not actually sure which gates David is referring to, but the most ancient one that comes to my mind is the one that exists between unspoiled Eden and Satan-ruled earth.

So He drove the man out; and at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)

Even Joni Mitchell expressed our longing for reentrance in her 1970 cultural anthem Woodstock: “We are stardust / Billion year old carbon / We are golden / Caught in the devil’s bargain / And we’ve got to get ourselves / Back to the garden.”

I don’t believe we can help Joni or the dreamers of any age by suggesting a course of self styled righteousness as a key to this ancient door. I believe that key has already been given to us in Jesus Christ, who is the Tree of Life. For those who have believed in him, Jesus, the King of Glory, has unlocked that ancient portal on our behalf, has come into our hearts, and has astonishingly made them his residence. We are now, individually and collectively, the temple of God on earth.

Sadly, even we believers continue in our dirges, lamenting the absence of God’s presence in our lives and in the affairs of man in our generation. Granted, longing is native to sojourners in a foreign land, but I wonder how much satisfaction and peace yet awaits the Church as she learns to actually rest in that presence of God she has even now as her new-creation inheritance.

Jesus Christ in now our life. We have been grafted back into The Tree of Life. This is a present-tense kingdom reality. However, the Tree’s sap does not flow well when we live as if that Tree is still guarded by cherubim and flaming sword, attempting to secure our righteousness with mere discipline. It is true:

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains,

The world, and those who dwell in it. 

For He has founded it upon the seas

And established it upon the rivers. 

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? (Psalm 24:1-3)

It is not those who simply master a circumspect life. I am not immune from longing nor above exercising discipline (it is a fruit of the Spirit), but I elect to transfer as much of my angst as I can into prayer: that the Church would in fact demonstrate God’s glory to all who recognize they were initially golden—created in God’s image, yet disfigured in the Adamic devil bargain. Oh that the Church might demonstrate to the world what life lived out of The Tree of Life actually looks like. Thy will be done, oh Lord, on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus has in fact gotten us back into the garden. Paul knew this.

To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. (Ephesians 3:8-12)

Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:25-27)

Christ lives in us. The King has reentered through the ancient gate into the temple. His glory is now present in us. In Christ, the new exodus is underway; the new creation has begun and his long awaited glory will one day be manifested in a people living out of the reality that Christ is their life. As I have said before, the kingdom has come and is coming.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)

Amen.

Seek (Sunday)—Psalm 63

 

God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; 

My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, 

In a dry and weary land where there is no water. 

Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, 

To see Your power and Your glory. 

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, 

My lips will praise You. 

So I will bless You as long as I live;

I will lift up my hands in Your name.

My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,

And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. 

When I remember You on my bed, 

I meditate on You in the night watches,

 For You have been my help, 

and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. 

My soul clings to You; 

Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:1-8 NAS

We are asking you King David, “Are our lives with God to resemble a war or a romance? If this really is a war, are we to wait for the rapture so we can be taken up, equipped in heaven to return one day, armed with our long awaited new bodies? Or, in Christ, do we have all we need in this life to defeat the enemy? And, David, if you know, could you tell us whether the kingdom is more of a sole proprietorship in which God reigns supreme in spite of us; or, is it more like a partnership in which its success involves our participation?”

In our western culture with its fixation on black and white, we have little tolerance for things in the grey zones of uncertainty, those arenas of mystery that do not bow the knee nor yield simple answers to reason alone. No, we want those facts that will get us promoted, elected or produce things more efficiently. Our titles and accomplishments are the undisputed measures of worth in our culture. But what about God’s kingdom? Where do these values fit in with that culture?

Locked inside this western wineskin, we dare not as Christians acknowledge how little we really know. Can you imagine what it would do to Christianity as we know it if we were to abandon our certainties regarding the black and the white, those things we believe we know beyond a doubt about God? In light of our lean experience with this Being of limitless dimension, perhaps we should exchange our certainty and bold assertions for simple questions. How much of what we know, for instance, consists of our opinions, which have evolved into convictions and rigid creeds, incompatible with the richer, more mysterious wine that God aspires to serve?

Just for the record, the mystery I am referring to all happens within these bounds…

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

This being said, do we really know enough about God’s ways to divide our selves into Calvinist and Armenian camps? I know people who will die on these fields of battle. There are cessationists mentally locked into battle with continuationists. Are we really that certain about these things? Before a rightfully skeptical world we stand divided–a city set upon a hill for sure, but casting a strange and not so convincing light upon our surroundings. We are a highly visible spectacle, but of the wrong sort. Instead of the unity God desires, we portray division. In this condition we are not conveying an accurate picture of God and His love. While we are at odds with each other, we don’t appear to be anything more than another dysfunctional earthly community. From the world that Jesus is reaching out to, we don’t hear an “amen.”  We here, if we are listening a, “No way.” (There are currently 33,000 denominations.)

What can we learn from David then, whose heart seems to so often be schizophrenic and undecided? A great deal, I believe. We can hear David’s ‘yes’ to our questions: ‘Yes’, life with God is a trek through the desert where hunger and thirst feel as though they will overcome us. And, ‘Yes’, life with God is like a joyous dance in fields ripe for harvest. ‘Yes’, life with God is a ferocious, high-stakes battle. And, ‘Yes’, it is a partnership and, ‘Yes’, while it is making no earthly sense to us now, God is the proprietor who is solely and absolutely in control. And, ‘Yes’ his children are mission critical. The sum of these yes’s = mystery, at least to me.

What I learn from David, the man after God’s own heart, is that God’s ways are exceedingly higher than mine—that God, in Christ, has set out a banquet for the hungry, right in the very presence of their enemies. Christ’s Spirit is the Living Water and Jesus is the Bread of Life. This is true whether we perceive our circumstance as a drought, a flood, a dance or a duel.

I believe the value of mystery (appreciation of the vast arena of uncertainty) is something David passed down to his son. Solomon, in his wisdom, tells us how we should posture our hearts in the presence of so much glorious unknown:

             Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

            And do not lean on your own understanding. 

            In all your ways acknowledge Him, 

            And He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NAS

God becomes our God in the same way he became David’s. He becomes ours as we learn to trust him in the midst of the mystery of life. It may feel like a battle or a desert when God knocks the props out from under us. If we are dependent on our understanding, He knows it will ultimately be very costly to us. God becomes ours in the midst of our deserts when we, as partners, place our trust in that which we cannot see or understand.

God becomes ours when we ascend to places with panoramic views where we can look back with thanksgiving on his faithfulness in our driest and hungriest moments. Those who persevere with God, taste of something from another world. They learn, experientially that nothing in this world slakes their thirst or satisfies their hunger other than God alone. In the desert God becomes our Living Water, and on the mountain we see and give thanks. Both the battles and the feasts are natural and critical.

Thanks you, King David, for your transparency. Thank you for modeling gut level emotional and intellectual honesty. Thank you for showing us how your God becomes our God.

 God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;

My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, 

In a dry and weary land where there is no water. 

Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, 

To see Your power and Your glory. 

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,

My lips will praise You.

So I will bless You as long as I live;

I will lift up my hands in Your name. 

My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,

And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.

When I remember You on my bed,

I meditate on You in the night watches, 

For You have been my help, 

And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. 

My soul clings to You; 

Your right hand upholds me.

Father, whatever it takes, knock the props out from underneath us so that when we stand before you, it will be Christ alone in whom we have trusted and not someone else’s god or their convictions. May we stand before you, not as strangers on that day who followed other’s journeys, but as those who came to know you personally in the journey we travelled together through all the varied terrain of your kingdom. Amen.

Seek (Friday)—Isaiah 55:6-13

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 

Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways,

And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

While men, in pridethink they are riding along the main highway, without God’s Spirit, they are in reality on the low way, traveling without a map along a very dangerous path. However when man responds in humility, acknowledging his low ways, and turns to God, he meets God’s abundant readiness to pardon and to set him upon a higher path. On this path, navigation occurs by faith in God instead of by man’s own wits.

Do you know that we can live the Christian life by our own wits and in our own strength? I should be more accurate. Do you know that we can try to live the Christian life by our own wits and in our own strength? I am awaiting a prophetic voice to issue forth, “My children, how’s that working for you?” Thus asketh the Lord.

Much of what I write about is my answer to the question, “My son, how did that work out for you?” Today however, I need to provide a backdrop.

A principle that was built into the gospel which I responded to in 1976 was that of ownership: if God paid the high price of His Son for me, it followed that I was no longer my own. Yes, God was mine, but, more importantly, I was His. To say the least this had implications on my thoughts and ways. The mental math seemed straightforward. If I could be totally clueless for 23 years about the risen Christ and his loving designs for me, then cluelessness is a part of my make-up. In other words low-way living was my bent. Clueless depravity was my deepest nature. Honestly, that scared me. In response, I vowed that I would work hard so that I could retain my “His” status. In retrospect this was the offramp from the main highway onto a number of low ways.

I prayerfully calculated (in a bit of a lather), “Lord, this new life is the sweetest deal I’ve ever known. I cannot bear the thought of loosing my grip on you.” You see, God had revealed to me privately with crystal clarity (in a way that explains why I am not a cessationist), “You will fall many times, but I will always be there, ready to lift you out of whatever trouble you are caught up in.” This was tremendously good news to a lifelong stumbler, who had just stumbled again—who, in his well-established low-ways, did not yet know his heavenly Father’s readiness to abundantly pardon and rescue.  (Following the prayer today I have an additional note related to this same word of promise—which explains why I am not a Baptist either—or a member of any other franchise, for that matter.)

 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, 

And do not return there without watering the earth 

And making it bear and sprout,

And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; 

It will not return to Me empty,

Without accomplishing what I desire,

And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” 

sortie—(noun) the sudden issuing of a body of troops, usually small, to attack or harass the besiegers; a sally. Also: an offensive air force mission.

My salvation experience was a clear demonstration of God’s willingness to launch a sortie, to send out his word and knock a sinner right of his horse, blinding (at least dazzling) him with light. It seemed obvious to me from that encounter that God reserves the right to preemptive offensive strikes, our hearts being his targets. Being the target of a God-sortie displaced any assumptions I might have had about the randomness of life; it only made sense to go ahead and give God my advance permission for these sorties as He saw fit. Thus, the prayer of my life to the God, with whom I have to dobecame:

 Search me, O God, and know my heart; 

Try me and know my anxious thoughts;

And see if there be any hurtful way in me, 

And lead me in the everlasting way.  Psalm 139: 23 & 24

Psalm 139 is one of God’s cruise missiles aimed directly at the well-established lie (a stronghold) that life is an arbitrary, random affair. It obliterated my defenses at 23. I surrendered, as best I knew how, to a way so high that David said it was intellectually unattainable. In other words–God’s thoughts and ways are mysteries, which are not hidden from us; they are rather hidden for us. And yet, they are reserved for revelation in the appropriate moment.

 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 

It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Psalm 139:6 NAS

I have come to believe that the hope within us is nothing more than a byproduct of God’s sorties. Much of my life story consists of the bombing runs God has made on my own heart where I had been held captive by cruel religion-tainted lies. His most recent heart attack produced surprising and welcomed results—not the least of which has been joy, precious, eternal and indestructible joy.

It is important that I identify the specific lie God was attacking. The stronghold was this, the Christian life can be accomplished through hard work and discipline. In my low-way of religious thinking, I was deceived in believing that I could perform well enough to insure and sustain my status as “His.” This is a monstrous satanic lie that can thrive like thistle in a religious atmosphere.

 For you will go out with joy

And be led forth with peace;

The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,

And all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 

Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up,

And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up,

And it will be a memorial to the Lord, 

For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.  Isaiah 55:12-13 NAS

This joy has become a strength so pronounced in the past few years that it has even changed the reception the world gives me each day. After having the religion in my heart carpet-bombed for several years, God sent some words into my heart that I believe are even now returning to him. They’ve accomplished (and are accomplishing) the kingdom objectives for which they were sent. I believe that when God sees my smile and the joy in my heart, He looked to his mission team and said, “Our mission objectives are being accomplished. My kingdom is growing as planned. Nice sortie!”

Father, deliver us from our low-ways. Renew our minds such that we understand clearly and fully that with no assistance from us, you are ours and we are yours. Help us to see what sorties you have launched on our behalf. Help us to see that your redeeming love guarantees that there are always sorties underway in our hearts. Update our stories that we might have fresh ammunition. In our new freedom and joy, arm us with heart-piercing ammunition. Help us to train our weapons on our true enemy. Let us see satanic-religious strongholds explode in the presence of your irresistible love. Amen.

Additional note regarding my word of promise:

I will also say that on that same occasion in 1976 where God had spoken to me so clearly about his intent to faithfully rescue me, He also conveyed an unforgettable impression of a few other things: His place in my life as my Father; His love (which cannot be described in mere words); and, the majesty of Jesus’ name.

To my dismay, this encounter of mine was not good news to my denominational partners in Evangelism Explosion. I am pretty sure my Baptist teammates wished that something to this effect had been said at my public confession: “And I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and hereby attach this muzzle to your mouth until you can see the higher road we are traveling where we are dead certain that encounters with God’s presence and his voice passed away 2000 years ago.”

A further note: although I count many of Baptist persuasion as close friends, I was pretty much given the left foot of fellowship. “Unfriended” is a recently coined word that might apply.

Here is the good news! When we are foolishly looking for some pleasure in the gutter, God is not way up there somewhere in heaven, shielding his holy eyes from our sin. He is with us, ready, in a moment’s notice to lift us up. My lifelong prayer is that I will be infectious with the reality of God’s nearness. I’m convinced, He’s closer than our skin.

 

Seek (Thursday)—II Chronicles 7:12-22

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 NAS 

We need to ask, “Father, what are you saying to us through this spectacle from II Chronicles? How could this blood bath set to music possibly be intended for our instruction?

For a start, it’s helpful to see the contrast between the old and the new covenants. It doesn’t take much math to calculate that our new covenant is vastly superior to the old. And, even though ours is better, it is important to note that, with God, things still center around the place of sacrifice–that place God has chosen for his house. In this grand moment in Jewish history, the place of God’s choosing was the newly built temple, which Solomon had just dedicated, saying: “I have built You a lofty house, and a place for Your dwelling forever.” After these words

The Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice…For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. (from 2 Chronicles 7:12-22 NAS)

Let’s allow the apostle Paul to speak to us regarding the contrast in covenants. He believed that the new covenant revelation that should grip our hearts with awe and wonder was under-appreciated by the Corinthian church as well, so he asks,

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  I Corinthians 6:19 NAS

Has it really dawned on us yet what we have become—what we have been caught up into—the vast superiority of our circumstance in Christ? How are our heart’s effected, knowing that the high and holy God, who once accepted freight train loads of animal sacrifice, now dwells in our hearts? Instead of attending a worship service where the fire of God consumes the animals offered up by priests, we host in our hearts the very presence of God. We have become the house of God! But, if our hearts are now the house of his choosing and the place of sacrifice, what is the sacrifice? Hold that question in mind.

Jesus is our great high priest, who offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, accomplishing what the blood of bulls could never do. The Lamb who was slain has become the resurrected King of Life, who, astonishingly and scandalously, lives in our hearts!

Scandal— (noun) a circumstance or action that offends propriety or established moral            conceptions or disgraces those associated with it: a person whose conduct offends propriety or morality.

Perhaps this is why Solomon instructed us in Proverbs to watch over our hearts with all diligence. Perhaps he knew that we, being entrusted with our own powers of choice, would inherit co-priesthood responsibility with God, tending the altar of our hearts, that place where both our deepest desires and motives (some still very earthly) exist alongside God, most high and most holy. It is our holy God’s choice to dwell in flawed beings as opposed to some lofty house, to intimately relate to such radically broken beings. That’s the scandal. This also reveals God’s great wager: that the Spirit (in cooperation with human will) will one day prevail over the flesh (and its cohorts, the world and the devil).

Most, if not all, of the fire in our temples, comes (always graciously, but not without pain) to confront and to consume our idols. A heart that does not live out of the awareness that it is no longer its own must experience fire to ultimately live. God is not cruel; He just doesn’t want us to invest in and hold onto things that we cannot ultimately keep, things that will hurt us along the way and ultimately break our hearts.

Back to the missing sacrifice I referred to earlier. It turns out that the missing sacrifice is our flesh. While it is true that it was crucified and buried with Christ, the death of our flesh (which is an established reality in Christ) plays out through our lives. The Spirit dwells in our hearts, intertwined with us, with his eyes and heart perpetually searching for the things that are secretly crouching at the door, preparing to ambush and waylay us. There, too, Christ invites us to lay down all of ourselves. When we do, we can experience more of the “all” of Jesus. (If I have theologically misspoke; my intention here is to simply say that – in my perception and experience – the reality of being dead-in-Christ is worked out in the actuality of my life.)

It is here, in our daily walk around lives, that Jesus Christ becomes Lord in truth – in actual practice. In the depths of our hearts, his story is being etched as we take up our cross daily and follow him. It is from a well of new life within that we draw from, giving account of the hope that is within us. If we can grasp this, new chapters of Jesus’ conquest of this earth (through us) will be published in increasing volumes such that one day His word in and through us shall cover the earth as the oceans.

Being the temples of God must be what prompted John to say:

 My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world. 1 John 4:4 MSG

We know it was never the blood of animals that God was after. He was always in the process of restoring things to his original design which was mankind relating freely to him and reigning over creation out of a fountain of life from within. It is through the ever-expanding kingdom of God this will happen. When we finally grasp our responsibilities and opportunities within Jesus’ eternal kingdom, the tide of battle will undergo a radical shift.

The people of God will see themselves in an entirely different light. Our identities will not just be that of sinners saved by grace (with our vision consisting of little more than the hope of not being left behind). Instead of having a tread-water-till-Jesus-comes destiny, we will rise up and intentionally receive the kingdom that Christ has been offering us since He was last seen on earth. With an indignant militancy, we will, out of our rest in Christ, wage a violent war against the powers of darkness, reclaiming all that was stolen during our season of mistaken identity. We will live with a new confidence in the reality that all things really are possible with God, and that as children of light we are vastly superior to our enemies. Truth will topple the strongholds in and around us, and the rule of Jesus will expand one heart at a time until indeed His kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.

So be it, Lord.

 

 

Seek (Wednesday) – 1 Chronicles 28:8-10

…Observe and seek after all the commandments of the Lord your God so that you may possess the good land and bequeath it to your sons after you forever…Know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. For the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever. Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be courageous and act. 1 Chronicles 28:8-10 NAS

The spiritual / national rule at the time these words were penned was the Law of Moses. That Law, with its priest system and sacrifices was the essence of the covenant through which Israel related to God. We who have been born anew are partakers of a newer and better covenant that is administered by the Spirit of grace (not law).  As attractive as many of the old covenant promises may have been, they are conditional and pale in comparison to the ones we have in Christ as partakers of the New Covenant. The differences in these covenants are worth understanding. A primary one has to do with identity.

The old covenant established a national identity; “We are the children of Israel.” They were a nation established and sustained (at least in their thinking) through very particular rituals and the blood of animal sacrifice. Theirs was a corporate identity dependent on a priest class that served as mediator between God and his people. Contrastingly, the New Covenant establishes an individual’s identity as an offspring of God! Though they could not see it clearly, having personal communion with God, is what the ancients longed for. The New Covenant is not dependent on mediators and rituals. It is established and sustained by the very life of Christ. This a definite covenant upgrade! Solomon’s experience highlights it.

While the Lord told Solomon he had chosen him to build a house as his sanctuary and for him to be courageous and do it. God has told the partakers of the New Covenant they are His sanctuary. He is saying, in essence; “In Christ, courageously be my address on earth.” What a scandal that He chose willful man with his dismal track record instead of the more dependable compliance of bricks and mortar! Such is the risk and wager of God.

What is God thinking? Based on what new variable could man possibly succeed in knowing and serving God with a whole heart and a willing mind? The crux of this answer is that, with the New Covenant, came a new nature. As the Spirit has entered our lives, our natures have been altered. We no longer are governed by hearts of stone. We have been given softened hearts that thrive in grace and shrink in law.

We can live unburdened by the weight of compliance. Sin is still sin but it doesn’t affirm the saint as a sinner. Remember; We are new creations in Christ! The old things passed away! New things have come! Saints can still sin and we do, but we have a new provision, a once-and-for -all sacrifice, in Christ. The saint who sins does not overcome because they doubled down on their assumed depravity with holy resolve. The saint who overcomes recalls the reality of his new birth and his new nature. He orients himself to his place in a new creation which is underway. God never scrapped his original intentions. He has pursued them through various covenants. Do you recall the original one? To Adam and Eve he said;

I bless you; Go and be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

The common denominator of both testaments is God’s heart and his original intentions. These things have not changed. The old testament is simply the story of one of the covenants God implemented to re-establish communion with man, and in doing so, fulfill his original human-administrated kingdom of God. The New Covenant reveals God’s secret weapon in this battle – Jesus Christ, and Himself living in and through the interconnected community His children. I don’t believe I will ever tire of saying this; It is Christ in us, the hope of God’s original and ultimate glory. Given that so much is riding on our new hearts, he…

searches them, and understands every intent of the thoughts. For the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. 1 Chronicles 28:9 NAS

What he hopes to find in our hearts is not our doubled-down, dead-serious resolve. He is not applauding our holy convictions and compliance. He wants to establish us in simple rest and keen awareness of our altered identities and natures. One day the resurrected Christ will establish his government through the collective hearts of his chosen people. Our hearts, the temples of God, play heavily into the administration of God’s Kingdom. This is immeasurably more than just being save from hell isn’t it?

The foundation God is endeavoring to build his kingdom on is under repair just now. Some of that repair has to do with our identities. Only sons and friends can build in the kingdom. Fear-motivated slaves, laboring under the burden of performance religion, motivated by fear, working for God in the strength of their flesh will receive whatever rewards they have coming in this life – not in eternity. Things we do in our own strength are wood hay and stubble.

Since our hearts are God’s base of operations in the establishment of his kingdom, he endeavors to incinerate mere human motivation before we must stand before him and give account. The refining process of our fiery trials on earth, when they are necessary, are useful in exposing where our flesh is ruling instead of His Spirit.

The baton has been passed from the Old Testament saint to the New. It will also be passed from old wineskins to new wineskins. The new ones are not bound by conviction, rules and rituals. Through brokenness they are being weaned from the strength of human resolve and are becoming pliable and responsive to the Holy Spirit – God’s primary agent on earth and the Occupant of our hearts. He has hedged His bet with Himself.

If we can grasp this, we will be free to unbuckle our religious seat belts and move about the kingdom. We will possess this good kingdom real estate and we will bequeath it to all in our spiritual linage, all to the glory of Jesus Christ.

Father, in full view of our great cloud of witnesses and a skeptical and unbelieving world establish your throne in our hearts in wisdom and rest. May we go out and courageously be the kingdom agents who establish your reign in this earth. So be it.

 

 

 

Seek (Tuesday) – Matthew 7:7-12

Seek –  Matthew 7:7-12

There is a type of seeking which is very intentional and energetic. It is rooted in the idea that God is way up in heaven and that intimacy with him is hard for us, who are way down here on earthWe tell our selves our seeking bridges the gap, our zealous seeking more so. This type of wrong-heartedness evidences our entanglement in religion. It spills over into everything we do in relationship with Him and what we perceive we are doing in ministry for him. This error becomes embedded in the foundations of our identity and our perception of God. We might ask, “Then how are we to know if we have gone toxic in our seeking? How would we know we are entangled in-religion?” That is a good question.

I have been this type of super seeker, bridging the distance between God and myself with all the zeal I could muster, or so I told myself. I discovered my entanglement with religion painfully. It was like this: If you can imagine a car (fairly shiny) running down the highway and the dash board lights start issuing warnings. First, the power steering goes out and the car lurches hard to the left. Next the hood snaps up and crashes the windshield. Smoke starts billowing from the engine which is making some horrendous noise. The tires all pop and the thing flies off the road into the ditch where it sits, smoldering. It doesn’t preach well, but I call this the kindness of God which leads to repentance. If you know my story, there is less exaggeration here than you might imagine. MwM often supples the actual details related to this auto metaphor.

MwM started flowing from post-roadside-incident Rob in 2012. It serves as a good contrast between one type of seeking and another. I began writing because the idea of telling my story came to me in a fashion I have learned to understand as God speaking. First Clue; The idea came, for the most part, out of nowhere, yet it sounded familiar. It didn’t come from behind me as a goad to perform. It came from in front of me as an invitation. It had a Father/son – let’s-do-this-together kind of feel. In tone and content, it resonated within me.

Second Clue: The familiarity may have been due to my awareness of New Testament commands such as; “Give an account of the hope that is within you.” “Comfort others with the comfort with which you have been comforted.” “Hold fast to your confession.” “Pass these things (I have taught you) onto other faithful men who will do the same.”

Third Clue: A prophetic word Daneille and I received at the beginning of 2013 indicated that our family was going to undergo a major change. When I originally heard God’s invitation to write, it was accompanied by this thought; “When you do (write) you will you will find your family.” This was the third witness to my word from God. I can report that a community has come into view although it does not have the geographic features I had anticipated. I have discovered my family is scattered all over the earth.

Today, when I discover I have drifted back and am operating out of that spirit, that pushes from behind, I feel a bit ill. It is as though I have betrayed him. When I think my doing of anything effects his love for me or the fruit I bear in him, I have violated something very fundamental in our relationship. I cannot reconcile seeking, in this spirit, with Jesus’ words…

Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:11 NAS

God is a generous Father but we treat him like a reluctant slot-machine that only pays out when we adhere to a creed or heed the proscriptions of a our religious sub-cultures. While we are storming heaven with our zealous seeking, he is saying,

“Kids, I am down here already. Recall – my address on earth is your heart. Keep this in mind when you are knocking and seeking.” Paul understood this…

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Romans 8:32 NAS

When Father tells us He loves us and He invites us to love Him and seek Him with all our hearts, we must not let our feelings, which have been conditioned in religion-birthed estrangement, flavor our seeking. When Father tells us He would never leave nor forsake us, that means He is right here, right now in our hearts and in the midst of our lives in all their varied expressions. We are inseparable. Trouble in no way indicates His absence. Our hearts becomes whole-hearted only when they are at rest in the reality of His presence, which is totally independent of our feelings and actions. God doesn’t descend on demand when we utter Jesus’ name. He is saying, “Kids, I’m here already! Simply ask.”

The lyrics to an old Jackson Browne song come to mind …

Father, my eyes have seen the years / And the slow parade of fears / Without crying
now I want to understand  / I have done all that I could  / To see the evil and the good without hiding / You must help me if you can.

Father, my eyes tell me what is wrong  / Was I unwise to leave them open for so long ? /
Cause I have wandered through this world  / And as each moment has unfurled
I’ve been waiting to awaken from these dreams

People go just where they will / I never noticed them until I got this feeling  / That it’s later than it seems  / Father, my eyes  / Tell me what you see / I hear their cries / Just say if it’s too late for me  / Father, my eyes  cannot see the sky  / Is this the prize for having learned how not to cry?

I suppose its the seeking I hear in Brown’s poetic-honesty that strikes me. I wonder if there is not more hope in discovering God through a broken hearted minstrel’s search than through the seeking that tries to bring God down from way up there with zeal and methodology. This secular psalmist has captured the ache without any religious pretense. Way to go JB! I trust he will forgive me for having substituted “Father for “Doctor” in his lyrics.

Father, if we need to cry a bit now over how we have thought of you and related to you, so be it. Apply your salve to our eyes. Tell us what you see. Fill our hearts with pure and simple devotion that trusts in You alone. Ween us of all the religious supplements we take in vain to nourish our spiritual lives, when You Yourself are our Life. Help us to rethink our thinking in light of this truth-and-grace ruled-kingdom. We do aspire to love you rightly. Amen.

Seek (Monday) – Matthew 6:25-34

Seek – Matthew 6:25-34

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34 NAS

We might ask, “For what reason, Lord?” and He replies, “For this reason;

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24 NAS

The two-edged sword is sharper and may be nearer to our hearts here than any place in Scripture. I don’t know how the sacred texts of other religions read but I could imagine them placing demands on their adherents without explanation and levying heavy consequences on them for non-compliance. Instead, ever so gently and ever so directly, Jesus appeals to us with story after story, inviting us to come higher up, further in. When I add up all the things Jesus has said about our hearts and idolatry, it sounds like this to me;

“Children, I made your hearts such that they only function when they are dependent on me. Your heart’s task is simply to learn to listen and heed the voice of the right master. Birds, with nothing more than my gift, soar. They never exchange worry for bread yet, even with your superior worth, you manage to worry. This is my point. Worry is a malfunction of your heart and is evidence you are listening to the wrong master. You have embraced the appeals from an alien kingdom and are unable to soar as I intended you to.”

The flowers are preaching the same message. Take some time and look at them. They say more than Solomon. Equipped with nothing more than their being, they exhort. They never exchange worry for rain. They do not sweat to gain sunshine or labor to be planted.

Let’s test ourselves. How heavily is the uncertainty of tomorrow weighing on our hearts?  The answer, if we will hear it, can lead us into the skies where we were intended to fly. God’s remedy, if we can swallow it, will adorn us as the radiant citizens of another kingdom, which in fact we are. God’s council; “Seek first My kingdom and My righteousness.” If we do we will discover Life within us that, in the joy and satisfaction it provides, displaces the false and fragile external things our hearts are tempted to trust in. As alien as it might seem in this worrisome moment, the abundant life Jesus is describing is not a life to be had after death. It is the Life of My Son, who was and is, in us, and is to come.”

The false and familiar gods of this temporal world will ultimately break all their promises and enslave us before they do. They will all make themselves wings and fly away. Choose the kingdom of God and we shall indeed soar far above the clamor of this world which is fading away. If we say that we do not know how to stop worrying, here is Jesus’ council;

Go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:6 NAS

Father, disentangle us from this world. Show us the bad temporal investments we have made. Help us to be honest about our anxiety and recognize what it is saying about our portfolio. May we soar on the wings of eagles. May the enslaved and downtrodden captives of this world look up and see us, provoking their own hunger for flight. Amen.

 

 

 

Seek (Sunday) – Psalm 63

Psalm 63

God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.

We are asking you King David, “Are our lives with God to resemble a war or a romance? If this really is a war, are we to await a rapture so that we can be taken up, equipped in heaven to return one day as those armed with our long awaited and superior new bodies? Or, in Christ, do we have all that we need in this life to defeat the enemy? And David, if you know, could you tell us whether the kingdom is more of a sole proprietorship where God reigns supreme in spite of us -or- is it more like a partnership where its success will come about because our participation?

In our western culture with its fixation on black and white we have little tolerance for things in the grey zones of uncertainty, those arenas of mystery that do not bow the knee, nor yield simple answers, to reason alone. No, we want those facts that will get us elected and efficiently producing things. Our titles and how much we have gotten done are undisputed measures of worth in our culture. But what about God’s kingdom. Where do these values fit in with the culture of that kingdom?

Locked inside this western wineskin, we dare not, as Christians acknowledge how little we really know. Can you imagine what it would do to Christianity as we know it if we were to abandon our certainties regarding the black and the white, those things we believe we know for sure about God? In light of what we know for certain about the the ways about this Being of limitless dimension perhaps we should exchange our bold assertions for simple questions? How much of what we know, for instance, is just our opinions which have evolved into convictions and become, over time, our rigid wineskins, incompatible with the richer, more mysterious flavored wine that God aspires to pour out?

Do we really know enough about God’s ways to divide our selves into Calvinist and Armenian camps? I know people who will die on these fields of battle. There are secessionists mentally locked into battle with continuationists. Are we really that certain about these things? Before a rightfully skeptical world we stand divided – a city set upon a hill for sure, but casting a strange and not so convincing light upon our surroundings. We are a highly visible spectacle but of the wrong sort. Instead of the unity God desires, we portray division. In this condition we are not conveying an accurate picture of God and his love. While we are at odds with each other, we don’t appear to be anything more than another dysfunctional earthly community – hardly the long awaited light of the world.

What can we learn from David then, whose heart seems to so often be schizophrenic and undecided? A great deal I believe. We can hear David’s “Yes.” to our questions; “Yes, life with God is a trek through the desert where hunger and thirst feel as though they will overcome us. ‘Yes’, life with God is like a joyous dance in fields ripe for harvest. ‘Yes’, life with God is a ferocious high-stakes battle. ‘Yes’, This is a partnership and, ‘Yes’, while it is making no earthly sense to us now, God is the proprietor who is solely and absolutely in control.

What I learn from David, the man after God’s own heart is that God’s ways are exceedingly higher than mine, that God, in Christ, has set out a banquet for the hungry, right in the very presence of our enemies.  Christ’s Spirit is the Living water and Jesus is the Bread of Life. This is true whether we perceive our circumstance as a drought or as a flood; as a dance or as a duel.

I believe the value of mystery, this appreciation of the vast arena of uncertainty, is something David passed down to his son. Solomon, in his wisdom he tells us how we should posture our hearts in the presence of so much glorious unknown…..

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

God becomes our God in the same way he became David’s. He becomes ours as we learn to trust him in the midst of the mystery of life. It may feel like a battle or a desert when God knocks the props out from things other than himself that are falsely shoring us up. If we are dependent on our understanding, he knows it will ultimately be very costly to us. God becomes ours in the midst of our deserts when we, as partners, place our trust in that which we cannot see or understand.

God becomes ours when we ascend to places with panoramic views where we can look back with thanksgiving on his faithfulness in our driest and hungriest moments. Those who persevere with God, taste of something from another world. They learn, experientially that nothing in this world slakes their thirst or satisfies their hunger other than God alone.  In the desert God becomes our living water and on the mountain we see and give thanks. Both the battles and the feasts are natural and critical in our journey.

Thanks you King David for your transparency. Thank you for modeling gut level emotional and intellectual honesty. Thank you for showing us how your God becomes our God.

God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.

Father, whatever it takes, knock the props out so that when we stand before you, it will be in Christ alone in whom we have trusted and not someone else’s god or their convictions. May we stand before you not as strangers on that day who followed other’s journeys but those who came to know you personally in the journey we travelled together through all the varied terrain of your kingdom. Amen.

 

Seek (Friday) – Isaiah 55:6-13

Isaiah 55:6-13

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.

While men, in pride, think they are riding the main highway, without God’s Spirit, they are, in reality, on the low- way, traveling without a map along a very dangerous path. However when man responds, in humility, acknowledging his low-ways and turns to God, he is met by God’s abundant readiness to pardon and to set him upon a higher path where navigation occurs by faith in God instead of by his own wits.

Did you know we can live the christian life by our own wits and in our own strength? I should be more accurate. Did you know that we can try to live the christian life by our own wits and in our own strength? I am waiting for the prophetic voice to issue forth saying, “My children, how’s that working for you?” Thus asketh the Lord.

Much of what I write about is my answer to that question, “My son, how did that work out for you?” Today however, I need to provide a backdrop.  A principle that was built into the gospel which I responded to in 1976 was that of ownership; if God paid the high price of His Son for me, it followed that I was no longer my own. Yes, God was mine, but, more importantly I was His. To say the least this had implications on my thoughts and my ways. The mental math seemed straightforward. If I could be totally clueless for 23 years about the risen Christ and his loving designs for me, then cluelessness is a part of my make-up. In other words low way living was instinctively my bent. Clueless depravity was my deepest nature. Honestly, that scared me. In response, I vowed that I would work hard so that I could retain my “His” status.  In retrospect this was the off-ramp from the main high-way to a number of low ways. 

I further and prayerfully calculated (In a bit of a lather), “Lord, this new life is the sweetest deal I’ve ever known. I cannot bear the thought of loosing my grip on you.” You see, God had revealed to me privately with crystal clarity (in a way that explains why I am not a secessionist), “You will fall many times but I will always be there, ready to lift you out of whatever trouble you are caught up in.” This was tremendously good news to a lifelong stumbler who had just stumbled again who, in his well established low-ways, did not yet know my heavenly Father’s readiness to abundantly pardon and rescue.  (Following the prayer today I have an additional note related to this same word of promise; which explains why I am not a Baptist either or a member of any other franchise for that matter.)

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. 

Sortie: The sudden issuing of a body of troops, usually small, from a besieged place to attack or harass the besiegers; a sally. Also ; an offensive air force mission.

My salvation experience was a clear demonstration of God’s willingness to launch a sortie, to send out his word and knock a sinner right of his horse, blinding (at least dazzling) him with light. It seemed obvious to me from that encounter that God reserves the right to preemptive offensive strikes with our hearts as his target. Being the target of a God-sortie displaced any assumptions I might have had about the randomness of life; it only made sense to go ahead and give God my advance permission to launch these sorties as he saw fit. Thus, the prayer of my life to the God with whom I have to do; (from Psalm 139) became….

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. (verses 23 & 24)

Psalm 139 is one of God’s cruise missiles aimed directly at the well-established lie (a stronghold)  that life is an arbitrary or random affair.  It obliterated my defenses at 23. I surrendered, as best I knew how, to a way so high that David said it was intellectually unattainable; in other words – God’s thoughts and ways are a mystery which are not hidden from us rather hidden for us, yet reserved for revelation in the appropriate moment.

      Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it. (Psalm 139:6)

I have come to believe that the hope that is within us which we are to give an account of is nothing more than a retelling of God’s sorties. Much of my life story consists of the bombing runs God has made on my own heart where I had been held captive by cruel religiously-tainted lies. His most recent heart-attack produced some surprising and welcome results, not least of which has been joy – precious, eternal and indestructible joy.

It is important that I identify the specific lie God was attacking. This stronghold was that the christian life is accomplished through my hard work and discipline which, in my low-way of religious thought, would insure and sustain my status as “His”.

For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. “Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up, and it will be a memorial to the Lord, For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.

This joy has become a strength so pronounced in the past few years that it has changed the reception the world gives me each day. After having the religion in my heart carpet-bombed for several years, God sent some words into my heart that I believe are even now returning to him, having accomplished the kingdom objectives for which they were sent – relief for the downtrodden and freedom for the captive. I believe that when God saw my smile and the joy in my heart he looked to his mission team and said, “Our mission objectives have been accomplished. My kingdom just grew. Nice sortie!”

Father, deliver us from our low-ways. Renew our minds such that we understand clearly and fully that with no assistance from us, you are ours and we are yours. Help us to see what sorties you have launched in our behalf. Help us to see that your redeeming love guarantees that there is always sorties underway in our hearts. Help us to update our stories that we might have fresh hope to give account for. In our new freedom and joy, arm us with heart- piercing ammunition. Help us to train our weapons on our true enemy. Let us see satanic-religious strongholds breakdown in the presence of your overwhelming force. Amen.

Note; Just for fun, I will also say that on that same occasion in 1976 where God had spoken to me so clearly about his intent to faithfully rescue me. He also conveyed an unforgettable impression of; 1) His place in my life as my Father 2) His love (which is way beyond describing with mere words) and, just for good measure, he revealed; 3) the majesty of Jesus’ name. 

To my dismay, this encounter with God of mine was not good news to my denominational partners in Evangelism Explosion. I am pretty sure my baptist team mates wished that something to this effect had been said at my public confession: “And I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit and hereby attach this muzzle to your mouth until you can see the higher road we are traveling where we are dead certain that encounters with God’s presence and his voice passed away 2000 years ago.” Note; Although I count many of Baptist persuasion as close friends, I was pretty much given the left foot of fellowship. “Unfriended” is a recently coined word that might apply here. So perhaps low-ways has a shot after all.