Category Archives: 28. Between

Between (Sunday) – Jeremiah 6:16

Between – Jeremiah 6:16

Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

                           Cease striving (find rest) and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Both of these verses are spoken in the context of God’s right and willingness to use His power and authority to bring desolation to nations (even His chosen one!) for their rebellious and unholy lives. I mentioned earlier this week that there has always seemed to be, at least for me, a tension between the God of the Old Testament and that of the New. The OT God was a Holy King and a Righteous Omnipotent Judge wielding discipline aplenty. The NT God was still Holy yet reluctant to judge and was far more approachable, to the extent that he was our Father.

It seems that in the Old Testament God was revealing the holiness of His nature and highlighting the impossible gulf between Himself and fallen humanity. The Old Testament was an incomplete yet essential part of what we had to know about God. It also exposed the human heart as incapable and unwilling to live in compliance to His ways.

The reason Jesus’ coming was good news is because He was the complete revelation of God to mankind. “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” This NT God is approachable; He says, “Let the little children come to me“. It is worthy of continual heart celebration that Jesus came as a mediator (1 Tim 2:5-6) bridging the impossible gulf between His holiness and our disqualifying lack of it.

In my meditation regarding “Becoming” and looking into the concepts of ancient paths I am drawn back to the original thought that launched the Blue Book experiment which was the idea that much could be regained for our weary and busy souls in learning how to “wait on God” in our personal experience.

So, I am not drawn by today’s reflections back to the Old Covenant as the ancient path. However I am drawing upon an older, more established pathway of “rest” which I believe is the natural byproduct of obeying our straightforward command to “wait on God.” Waiting and resting are keynote themes of the Blue Book. I have been encouraged to learn the BB has served many to this end. So, even if our “waiting” is still (at this moment)  just a “pause”, take courage; we can start there and begin moving along a pathway of increasing rest. Try “pressing on to know the Lord” by taking even more steps of “waiting”. Our approachable God who invites us to draw near by simply recognizing the heart-to-heart reconnection He has established, is always saying,

Come to me little ones, no one is prohibiting you.

So, how do I know if I am fully availing myself of the costly gift that Christ is offering? My suggestion is that we ask ourselves if we are enjoying a continual heart-celebration in our union with Christ. Can we say with Jude (24) that…..

we are standing blamelessly in the presence of His glory with great joy?

Father, in your great patience and kindness, open our hearts to the marvelous opportunity you have given us to know You. Let us discover the “rest” you have provided. Let us each discover how inviting, how forgiving, how joyful and passionate You are. Let us become those who convey to the world just how secure Your children are as we rest in Your care and love. May our grace-filled hearts serve as a living appeal to this world of Your goodness. Without disregard to Your holiness, may our lives, in their joy and freedom, convey how approachable You are, dispelling any residual, incomplete, Old Testament impressions we have of You. Amen.

 

Between (Saturday) – Psalm 84:1-12

Between – Psalm 84:1-12

How lovely are Your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LordMy heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You. 

How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion! Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before God in Zion. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! 

Behold our shield, O God, and look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!

Longings and song are overflowing from the heart of the psalmist. This is exclamation point – worship; How lovely! How blessed! Oh Lord hear! Is this the tone of our worship? Do we believe scripture is the historically inerrant account of other’s experience or as a reference point for our own? Are the outpourings of this God-lover an exception or a benchmark?

This worshipper is consumed with the beauty of God’s dwelling place – the Temple, a place with courts which merely abut the dwelling place of God, the inner sanctuary, where only priests who had undergone purification might enter. This worshipper offered their exclamations while lingering near the entrance to God’s holy dwelling place….

A day in Thy courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of my God...

Recently, a friend commented that I seemed to have a preference to the New Testament over the Old. The comment took me off guard. But, after some thought, I had to be honest, I do. This psalm reminds me why. This Old Covenant worshipper could only come to the threshold. As a partaker of the new covenant I am invited over the threshold and into the Holy of Holies. We are even invited to do it with boldness!

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Scripture tells us that saints of old, their prophets and even angels were longing to understand the covenant which would some day come. The idea of going into the most holy dwelling place of God was unthinkable to our psalmist; mortal man would have perished immediately in God’s Holy presence. And yet here we are, partakers! If the Old Covenant produced exclamation points, what type of worship should the New Covenant produce?

Verse 24 of Jude says it perfectly….

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 

Father, may joyful exclamation points accumulate in our hearts as we learn to abide in You and in the glories of the new covenant which permit us as children to presume continually upon Your steadfast love, enjoying your presence continually. O Lord, let us be a people who have crossed over the threshold with hearts filled with boldness and joy. And, as Moses’ face was alight with Your life, may You, our inner light, consume the shadows of our darkness. May we ever be praising you! Amen.

In today’s MwM post, I will share with you the brief prelude to this prayer by way of our beautiful passage – Psalm 84.

Between (Friday) – 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Between  – 2 Timothy 4:1-8

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Few things are more precious than words born of love. They are usually the distillation of much thought and consideration, saved up to be spoken at just the right time and place. The conveyor yearns to impart their heart in order to bring as much blessing as they can into the lives of their beloved. That is the flavor of this ultra-personal letter from Paul to Timothy – his beloved and cherished spiritual son.

The yearning in this letter is accentuated by the fact its author is awaiting execution. Paul’s circumstances no doubt brought all his considerable intellect and heart into razor sharp focus for this time and place;

I solemnly charge you (by everything Paul deemed holy) to preach the word.

I believe for Paul the idea of preaching included all those occasions where truth was employed to intentionally confront darkness. Our text is much more than a well prepared message designed to flow from pulpit to pew. Preaching included; reproofs, rebukes, exhortations and instruction, all to be done with great patience. I envision it happening in scheduled events but even more so in the impromptu situations naturally arising in the daily flow of life and relationship.

Spiritual father’s have been further down the trail than their sons. Paul has seen diabolical, Satanic efforts to dilute the words and teachings of Jesus through things as innocent looking as myths and traditions – those aberrations of the fallen imagination which become lodged in individuals and cultures, influencing the discernment of truth and reality. These imaginations, which we are told must be cast down, lure people off the narrow trail on which Christ would lead them. All of these offshoots from the main path lead people to bad endings. Paul has seen this and has set his heart on finishing well and helping others do the same. And, as a spiritual father, he is especially jealous that Timothy cross his finish line in full-stride. Do you have a Paul in your life? A Timothy?

In the race, what separates winners and losers, runners and plodders, the passionate from the indifferent? I believe Paul’s words allow us to peek into his heart for our answer. Paul was focused on the prize: a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to him on that day. Paul was motivated to endure hardship and await his finish line because he was focused on a reward he felt far outweighed the modest costs he had incurred. Is this crown which is to be awarded by God Himself, serving as motivation to us? Are we running with this motive toward our finish line? I am proposing that it is our motives which steer our course, the secret things in our hearts we treasure. My reasoning is that; in a kingdom of light where the secrets of men will become known, motives matter. Again….

Watch over your hearts (your motivational engine) with all diligence because everything in your lives is a direct byproduct. (My paraphrase of Proverbs 4:23)

Search me oh 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

It strikes me that the scriptures themselves are much like Paul’s letter to Timothy. They are God’s letter to us – His beloved. They represent his distillation of thoughts which He has stored up for us, voiced at just the right time and place. God’s great heart and wisdom were brought into razor sharp focus in His Word so that we too will stay in the race and cross our finish lines.

Father, we invite your Spirit to awaken us to see where we are in our race. We ask that You alert us to any myths we have bought into, effecting the we we run. And may You also awaken us to your solemn charge to share Your words in living, loving and natural ways to those around us, to those we are being charged to love and encourage. Help us to find our stride. Amen.

 

 

 

Between (Thursday) – Lamentations 3:19-33

Between – Lamentations 3:19-33

The following are thoughts provoked by Lamentations 3:19-33. If you will take the time to read the beautiful yet mysterious chapter 3, you will have a better appreciation for this post. Jeremiah’s words brought Psalm 139 to mind which, after meeting Christ, contained the first bursts of light for me, revealing what God was like and who I was to Him. A few of the major themes of this Psalm are; His vast knowledge verses my very limited knowledge, and; His intimate awareness of me throughout all my days. Verses 5 and 6 capture the spirit of the psalmist’s revelation.

Thou hast enclosed me behind and before, and laid Thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

This passage in Lamentations highlights just how thin the air is at the altitude where God resides. I recall my attempt to climb a 14,000 ft mountain. The elevation change from Oklahoma to this Colorado summit was approximately two miles! As I approached the peak I was so dizzy I could not maintain my balance. It was too much for me. I had to abandon my ascent. To regain my equilibrium I had to descend to lower altitude. It was both humbling and sad.

This experience caused me to ask: How many of us retreat to lower elevations when we encounter the knowledge and the ways of God?  In order to maintain our rational equilibrium when we face off with scriptural mysteries or trials in life, do we retreat to lower elevations where we can nurse our illusion that God is a reasonable being, like us – but more so?

Lamentations 3 does highlight an aspect of God that can make us dizzy which is: He causes grief and is simultaneously compassionate. Our minds spin as we wrestle with this apparent contradiction. To restore our equilibrium we simply set aside half of the paradox and form our low-altitude convictions, embracing what is to us, the more intellectually agreeable aspects of His nature. Probably none of us are exempt in this error, particularly in western culture where knowledge is king and logic and reason are our servants.

I mentioned recently the value of having a Father-filtered heart. This has helped me so much in dealing with the mysteries of God. For example, as I read this passage, I acknowledge the apparent inconsistency that God is to my human intellect. That He causes both grief and offers compassion can be troubling at the lower elevations of my human thinking. I could easily back down the mountain which this idea poses. But today, as I run the complexities and contradictions of this through my Father-filter, I do not hear an emphasis on causing grief. I hear….

I do not afflict or grieve willingly but even if I do, I will offer abundant lovingkindness. Out of My faithfulness, I will have a fresh supply for you each day when you awake.

As the Father has renewed my heart and my mind, I have had to open a new file which I have labeled “Mysteries”. This is where I store my questions and entrust matters to Him where my revelation is incomplete. This file makes perfect sense since it is not at all rational that I, being in Adam’s linage, should have systematic and exhaustive knowledge of an eternal and holy Being. My Mystery-file helps me let God be God. Since in Christ, we have….

the depths of the riches both of His wisdom and His knowledge we must acknowledge that His judgements and His ways are unfathomable.

So now when I encounter a miracle (or see the possibility of one) which defies the odds or offends my reasoning, I can gratefully return to my Psalm 139 foundation and say, “OK, Father, I don’t get it. I’m not sure I even like it.  But, I am enclosed (even in my ignorance) in your loving, capable, Fatherly hands.”

Father, I don’t have all the answers but I am inclined to dream and to pray we will abandon our insistence on fitting You into our many rational boxes. And rather than remaining at these lower altitudes where we are so divided in our understanding, I pray we might ascend together to that place where we are unified, not in our knowledge, but simply in Christ, by faith. Let us not descend when it first appears Your Word and Your ways are impossible. Help us to be steady of heart, remembering, “You are good to those who wait for You and seek You. Amen.

 

Between (Wednesday) – Psalm 71:1-24

Between – Psalm 71:1-24

Today’s post is actually born in Matthew 14:22-33 – Peter’s walk on water. Peter has provoked me to think about being “between” from the vantage point of a “Father-filtered” heart.

It’s tempting to think Peter’s brief experience of walking on water was just a fluky thing born of a brash and compulsive nature. I don’t think so. I believe for a brief period of time Peter’s life was defying natural laws because in that space between the boat and the Lord, he was exercising a childlike take-Jesus-at-His- word kind of faith which innocently presumed all things were truly possible with Him. I want that. Don’t you?

Wouldn’t it it be a shock to discover some day, that from heaven’s perspective, there for a brief moment on that lake, we were being given a glimpse of “normal” faith in action. Instead we wrote it off as an isolated, one-off miracle which really has no bearing on us today. I don’t want that shock. I would guess you don’t either.

After having found some lies hiding in it, I have come to think of my heart as a filter – a “Father filter”. To care for my heart as I must, keeping it clear for the Spirit to move in, it is essential that God remains in clear focus as my Father. I am not talking about a firm religious conviction that God is like a Father. I am talking about relating continually and presumptuously toward Him as my Father. I have discovered if I can live from this place, where His tone of voice is encouraging, not condemning, where I see His smile as opposed to a frown, I am more likely to hear His invitation to get out of the boat. And…. I will be more inclined to respond positively.

Our perception of God is the most important thing about us. It determines, more than anything, how the issues of our lives play out. (Prov 4:23). It also determines what we see ourselves between. If we see Him as harsh, frustrated or angry we will likely see ourselves sinking down and overwhelmed by our circumstances – always between a rock and a hard place. If we see Him smiling, saying; “Come now little one, you can do this.”, we will see ourselves between opportunities to know Him more intimately and we will find ourselves being transformed from glory to glory.

Father, may you clean out the filters of our hearts so that nothing would prohibit Your Spirit from accurately conveying to us your kind expression and tone of voice. May we, like Peter, join you in whatever the new “normal” might look like. When You bid us, “Come”, sustain us with that innocent childlike faith which Peter knew as He walked on water. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between (Tuesday) – Psalm 73:1-28

Between – Psalm 73:1-28

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.

This psalm is a meditation on the indulgence in and the deliverance from envy. Asaph, the writer, gives us a first-hand account of his battle with this formidable foe. Prior to his liberation, he claims that his wits had devolved to the level of a beast. He made a wise move though; he carried his troubles to God. There, as he worshipped in the sanctuary he found his footing; everything came into focus. In the place of worship he learned the objects of his coveting were illusory. Most importantly though, God himself was enlarged in his perception, becoming more than sufficient compensation for grievous circumstances.

Are battles with envy a familiar battleground to you? They have been to me. However, in the midst of the battle, I was not at all honest about them. In my first major skirmish with this enemy I think I too had devolved to the level of bestial perception.

When I was 37, I was on the outside of my family circle, watching my (now-x) brother-in-law take his place as the son my father never had. Adding to the drama: While my personal vision of a simple life, working with my hands within a Christian community was imploding, my brother-in-law was about to realize his dream of becoming a somebody in this world as the heir-apparent to the business enterprises owned by my Dad. My father needed a succession plan and my brother-in-law was it-by-default since I had vowed to never work for my Dad. I was descending; my brother in law was ascending, I was jealous.

But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Like an ignorant beast, I had not appreciated how this vowof-avoidance had been driving my life. This vow (of self preservation) had even infiltrated and found a home inside my spiritual vision. I did not perceive my true motives until, like Asaph, in my bitterness, I was pierced (as he has put it).

When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant;I was like a beast before You.

Those who have glimpsed my heart wonder why I seem to camp around the theme of suffering. It is because, without the pressure which God permitted (or created, I don’t know) through suffering, I would still be living in deception as to why I had charted the course I had for my life. Without the pressure arising from; the financial vacuum created by my vocational path, the strain of immediate and extended family relationships, a failing business, body, and vision, I do not believe I would have experienced the goodness of God to the degree I have.

Most painful to me was the notion that my Father in heaven was somehow underwriting my demise. God’s passive (yet intimate) -involvement in my debacle tortured me; “Why God? Oh why?!” I know that God, as the agent-of-cause (where suffering is concerned) is theologically-incorrect in many circles. This is uncomfortable since many of my friends live within these circles. Yet, I cannot side-step the fact that I was in a very dark place which my Fathet-in-heaven had either orchestrated or permitted. Neither can I sidestep the fact that pressure, in its various forms, appears regularly in the stories of those who have known God intimately. My conclusion, though out of step with many, is that suffering is integral to child rearing. Even Jesus learned obedience through the things which he suffered. (see Hebrews 5:8)

In that season my sanity was stretched, attempting to envision my package of troubles evolving into any kind of Romans 8:28-good outcome. Sadly, envy and bitterness were having a heyday in my heart. In my body, soul and spirit, I was hanging by a thread while my brother-in-law was feasting off of the fatted calf. Regarding this and a litany of other matters, my soul was screaming, “WHY GOD?!” The silence was deafening. I was actually developing a morbid curiosity, thinking; “Ok this is going to hurt but I will at least have a front row seat for the spectacular crash that is surely forthcoming.”

Shame too was dog piling. I had had enough dealings with God by this time to know Him as incredibly loving and faithful. My thinking was disastrous and I knew it. I was deeply ashamed. With this backdrop, given my stinking attitude, my simple prayer was; “Please, PLEASE, do not let this season pass without showing me what it is you are after.” My confession was; “Surely Lord I am a dumb beast.” My request was, “Please lead me out of this valley. And…..if possible, please soften the landing of my impending crash.”

God’s word of deliverence to me was not at all what I expected. While I was chafing at the injustice of my circumstances, wanting relief, wanting vindication from those whom (I perceived) had marginalized and abused me, a scripture passage just stuck in my perception. It was Romans 12:18…..

                               If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Immediately, the Spirit highlighted the fact I had serious ought in my heart toward a few people. I was indignant at the abuse I believed I had suffered at the hand of these vermin. I perceived reconciliation happening if and when these scoundrels returned to me with adequate sorrow for their crimes. My hurdles were; a) I also knew reconciliation was priority #1 with the Lord, b) that it was possible and, c) that it did depend on me (not them). I knew exactly what I was being asked to do and it was the most unfair – unjust – impossible directive conceivable! What I had feared had befallen me; I was to take up my cross and follow him.

This is an example of just how unlike my ways are compared to God’s. The Lord made it very clear: Restitution for any crimes (real or imagined) against me by them was between God and them – not me. That situation (if it even existed) was off-limits to me! I was to deal with one thing and one thing only – my own deceived heart, which was ensnared in unforgiveness, envy and bitterness. Note; Sadly, like a Pharisee, my heart was totally convinced of its righteousness and innocence. Foolishly, I wanted a trial where justice would be served; I knew a jury of my peers would exonerate me on all counts.

Again, like a beast who had forgotten that it was God with whom I had to do, I was either unwilling or unable to see these things until I obeyed the mandate to make peace with all men (well… two to start with anyway). It is not the time to tell the account of those reconciliations but suffice it to say they happened within weeks of receiving the Romans 12:18 mandate.

It was an astonishing watershed affair to experience God pouring his grace and mercy into one circumstance after another, especially into my parched soul. So, what launched this turn about?I believe it was because the Lord had never taken his hand off of my life (even in my extreme mess) and that as I reached up for his help, He was waiting and ready to deal with the root issues which were driving so many of the hurtful ways in my life. When I determined to obey, something alive immediately began growing in my heart. I could then acknowledge, with Asaph (with great confidence)….

Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me into glory.

Though I despise the misery brought on by testings and trials, I cannot edit them from my story nor from my theology. Without suffering’s assistance in coming to the end of my rope (body, soul and spirit), I would never have known God’s presence in my decent or at the crash site. Really, what could I possibly exchange for the value of coming to personally know God’s love and faithfulness, even when it was expressed by way of the severe mercies which He permitted to touch me? Without these chapters in my story, how would I even have a story – to ever come to proclaim with Asaph….

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Was my suffering just the reaping of what I had sowed? Was it a customized cross designed to crucify certain aspects of my personality which were, in their own way, killing me? I confess, I do not know the precise answers to these questions. I strongly suspect, in a mysterious way, both are true. I believe at all times and in all ways, (especially in the darkest messiest times) the Lord is faithful to His Word and that truly all things can work toward our good if we are willing to obey.  My claim is: the messy chapters of my spirituality have culminated in an ability and willingness to say (often in the presence of contrary perceptions and feelings)….

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all His works.

Obedience in this circumstance required that I let go (die to) my right to justice on my terms. It also required I let go (die to) my vision for my life. Whether my interpretations mesh theologically with others or not, I cannot control (therefore also becoming something I must relinquish). Regardless of its popularity, this type of dying (or relinquishing) is what I perceive Jesus calls us to do when He commands that we take up our crosses, deny ourselves and follow Him.

Lessons learned? As far as it concerns us, God wants us to take responsibility for our own hearts. We are to watch over our own motives, dreams and ambitions with all diligence.  We aren’t called to do this for others. God will make far more headway with them anyway when we let Him be Lord by letting go of our judgements against them. This will do, both their hearts and ours, worlds of good.

By the evening of the day when I made restitution with the second party, God met my wife and I in a supernatural way which involved prophecy – something I had seen sorely abused. Imperfect as prophecy is, I heard the Lord say some things through people that could have only come from the One who searches men’s hearts.

That evening I was given a prophetic word that God was going to return to me the borrowed axe head which had been dropped into the river, which when recovered would be mine exclusively. (from 2 Kings 6:1-7). The person offering this word reported that this passage had just dropped into his mind (much like the Romans passage had in mine), that he had no earthly clue what it meant, that he was just the messenger. Like Mary, I held that word in my heart, wondering what it might mean.

Although I had no ambition to reclaim my rightful place of inheritance as a first born son, it was accomplished in spite of me. Allow me to explain. The extreme pressure of this season revealed my so-called righteous motives were co-mingled with motives of self-preservation which protected me from feelings of rejection, which my Dad provoked. My vow to never work for him, when honestly restated was; “Over my dead body, will I ever, by God, let my Dad (or any other person) hurt me with their rejection. No way! No how!”

I was in relationship with God but if I was going to go on with Him as a disciple, I had to break this vow, return to my earthly father and see how life would play out in a place and in relationships I had been fleeing from, in fear, my whole life. If Jesus was to be Lord, things beneath the surface, like inner vows and roots of bitterness could not be allowed to drive my life as the father of lies would have preferred.

Without it being at the forefront of my ambition, God arranged it such that I would take my place as a first born son in the family business and in our extended family. I have served as its president for the better part of the last two decades. God prospered the business and our family in this interval. Favor has relentlessly followed me in this unlikely, unanticipated chapter of my life. More importantly, love prevailed.

In that same space of time an estranged son and his father reconciled much of their turbulent (really non-existent) relationship. My father accepted Christ just before he died of cancer in 2002. The borrowed axe head indeed became mine. Even greater applications of this prophecy are accruing to my heart as I am living in greater harmony with my own identity-in-Christ. Indeed, He has done (and is dong) exceedingly abundantly and beyond my wildest expectations.

This is why I reject doctrines which excuse believers from suffering, trials, tests and discipline. While they admittedly provoke some fear and trembling, none of these words, understandably, have negative connotation to me.

Father, indeed you would have us to hear Your counterintuitive words of deliverance. Oh Lord permit our trials to break our darkened hearts such that Your redemptive power and light pour in, setting us free from all the things which would blunt our understanding of your loving ways.  Liberate us from the delusions of our own righteousness. Break us down such that our only foundation is You. Proceed ahead Lord, creating in us clean hearts which give You Your rightful place as Lord in every facet of our lives. All for the sake of Your beautiful and glorious name and Your unending kingdom. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between (Sunday) – Jeremiah 6:16

Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

Cease striving (find rest) and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Both of these verses are spoken in the context of God’s right and willingness to use His power and authority to bring desolation to nations (even His chosen one) for their rebellious and unholy lives. I mentioned earlier this week that there has always seemed to be, at least for me, a tension between the God of the Old Testament and that of the New. The OT God was a Holy King and a Righteous Judge wielding discipline aplenty. The NT God was Holy but reluctant to judge and was far more approachable and would even become our Father.

It seems that in the Old Testament God was revealing the holiness of His nature and the impossible gulf between that aspect of Himself and fallen humanity. The Old Testament was an incomplete yet essential part of what we had to know about God. It also exposed the human heart as incapable (and/or unwilling) to live in compliance to His ways.

The reason Jesus’ coming was good news is because He was the full and complete revelation of God to mankind. “He (Jesus) is the radiance of His (God’s) glory and the exact representation of His nature” This NT God is approachable. He says, “Let the little children come to me“. I also asked earlier this week if God had changed between Malachi and Matthew. My answer is “no”.  However, how much of Himself He was permitting man to to see did change between the Old and the New Testaments. It is worthy of a continual heart celebration that Jesus came as a mediator (1 Tim 2:5-6) bridging the impossible gulf between His holiness and our disqualifying lack of it.

In my meditation regarding “becoming” and looking into the concepts of ancient paths I am drawn back to the original thought that launched the Blue Book experiment which was the idea that much could be regained for our weary and busy souls in learning how to “wait on God” in our personal experience.

So, I am not drawn by today’s reflections back to the Old Covenant as the ancient path. However I am drawing upon an the older, more established pathway to “rest“; that being our straightforward command to “wait on God.” Waiting and resting are keynote themes of the Blue Book. Hearing back from many of you, I have been encouraged to learn that the BB is serving you to this end. So, even if our “waiting” is still (at this moment)  just a “pause”, take courage; we can start there and begin moving along a pathway of increasing rest. Try “pressing on to know the Lord” by taking even more steps of “waiting” on Him. This very approachable God who is inviting us to draw near by simply recognizing the heart-to-heart reconnection He has established, is always saying, “Come to me little ones, no one is prohibiting you”.

So, how do I know if I am fully availing myself of the costly gift that Christ is offering me? My suggestion is that we should ask ourselves if there is a continual heart celebration within us over the good news of our reestablished union with God through Jesus. Can we say with Jude (24) that we are standing blamelessly in the presence of His glory with great joy?

Father, in your great patience and kindness, open our hearts to the marvelous opportunity you have given us to know You. Let us discover the “rest” you have provided. Let us each discover how inviting, how forgiving, how joyful and passionate You are. Let us become those who convey to the world just how secure Your children are as we rest in Your care and love. May our grace-filled hearts serve as a living appeal to this world of Your goodness. Without disregard to Your holiness, may our lives, in their joy and freedom, convey how approachable You are – dispelling any residual, incomplete, Old Testament impressions we have of You. Amen.

Between (Saturday) – Psalm 84: 9-12

Psalm 84:1-12

Longing, yearning and singing are overflowing from the heart of this psalmist. This is “exclamation-point” worship; How lovely! How blessed! Oh Lord hear! Is this the tone of our worship? Do you believe this passage of scriptures was intended to convey the historical account of an exceptional worshipper or rather to convey the contemporary opportunity to personally be an exceptional worshipper?

This psalmist is consumed with the beauty of God’s dwelling place – the Temple; a place with courts that abut the dwelling place of God – the inner sanctuary – the Holy of Holies, where only specially appointed priests entered after having undergone prescribed rites of purification. “A day in Thy courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of my God...” This worshipper offered their exclamation point worship while just lingering near the entrance to God’s holy dwelling place.

Recently, a friend commented that I seemed to have a preference to the New Testament over the Old. The comment put me on my heals a bit. But, after some thought, I had to be honest; I do. And..this psalm reminds me why. This Old Covenant worshipper was only permitted to come as far as the threshold. We are now permitted to cross that threshold and  enter into the Holy of Holies. And we are invited to do it with boldness!  (Check out Hebrews 4:16, 7:1-9:28)  Scripture tells us that saints of old, their prophets and even angels were longing to understand this covenant that would some day come. This idea of going into the most holy dwelling place of God was unthinkable in this psalmist’s day; unregenerate man would have perished immediately in God’s Holy presence. And yet here we are, partakers. If the Old Covenant produced exclamation points, what type of worship should the New Covenant produce in us?

Verse 24 of Jude says it well. ” 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, …”

Father, may there be a growing abundance of joyful exclamations points in our hearts as we learn to abide in You; and in the glories of this newer covenant that permits us as children to presume continually upon Your steadfast love and enjoy Your Presence. O Lord, let us be a people who have crossed over the threshold with hearts filled with boldness and joy. And, as Moses face was alight with Your life, may we too live brightly, consuming the shadows of our dark surroundings. Amen.

Between (Friday) – 2 Timothy 4:1-8

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Few things are more precious than words born of love. They are usually the distillation of much thought and consideration. They are often saved up to be spoken at just the right time and place. The conveyor yearns to impart whatever they might have stored up in their heart in order to bring as much blessing as they can into the life of their beloved. That is the flavor of this ultra-personal letter from Paul to Timothy, his beloved and cherished spiritual son.

The yearning in this letter is accentuated by the fact that its author is awaiting execution. Paul’s circumstances no doubt brought all his considerable intellect and heart into razor sharp focus for this time and place; “I solemnly charge you (by practically everything that Paul deemed holy) to preach the word.” Note; I believe for Paul the idea of preaching included all those occasions where truth was employed to intentionally confront darkness. This is much more than a well prepared message designed to flow from pulpit to pew. Preaching included; reproofs, rebukes, exhortations and instruction, all to be done with great patience. I envision it happening in scheduled events but even more so in the impromptu situations that naturally arose in the daily flow of life and relationship.

Spiritual father’s have been further down the trail than their sons. Paul has seen diabolical, Satanic efforts to dilute the words and teachings of Jesus through things as innocent looking as myths and traditions; those aberrations of the fallen imagination that become lodged in individuals and cultures, influencing the discernment of truth and reality. These “imaginations”, which we are told must be “cast down”, lure people off the narrow trail on which Christ would lead them. All of these offshoots from the main path lead people to bad endings in their lives. Paul has seen this and has set his heart on finishing well and helping others do the same. And, as a spiritual father, he is especially jealous that Timothy cross his finish line in full-stride. Do you have a Paul or two in your life? Do you have any Timothy’s?

In this race that we are running, what is it that separates winners and losers; runners and plodders; passionate ones from indifferent ones? I believe Paul’s words allow us to peek into his heart for our answer. Paul was focused on the prize; a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to him on that day. Paul was motivated to endure hardship and await his death (crossing the finish line) because he was focused on a reward he felt far outweighed the modest costs he had incurred. Is this crown which is to be awarded by God Himself, serving as motivation to us? Are we running with this motive toward our finish line? I am proposing that it is our motives that keep our engines running and that steer our course; those secret things in our hearts which are our treasures, our hidden agendas. My reasoning then is that; in a kingdom of light where the secrets of men will become known I believe motives matter. Again….

Watch over your hearts (your motivational engine) with all diligence because everything in your lives is a direct byproduct. (My paraphrase of Proverbs 4:23)

(My prayer from Psalm 139: 23-24) Search me oh 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.

It strikes me that the scriptures themselves are much like Paul’s letter to Timothy. They are God’s letter to us, His beloved. They represent the distillation of thoughts that He had stored up and voiced at just the right time and place for us. God’s great heart and considerable intellect were brought into razor sharp focus in His Word so that we too will stay in the race and cross our finish lines.

Father, we invite your Spirit to awaken us to see where we are in our race. We ask that You would alert us to any myths we have bought into effecting the choices we are making as we run. And may You also awaken us to your solemn charge to share Your words in living, loving and natural ways to those around us; to those we are being charged to love and encourage. Help us to find our stride. Amen.

Between (Thursday) – Lamentations 3:19-33

The following are thoughts provoked by Lamentations 3:19-33. If you will take the time to read this beautiful yet mysterious passage, you will have a better appreciation for this post. Jeremiah’s words brought Psalm 139 to mind which, after meeting Christ, contained the first renewing realities that penetrated my heart about who God was. Some of the major themes are His vast knowledge verses my very limited knowledge and His intimate awareness of me throughout all my days. Verse 5 and 6 capture much of the psalmist’s revelation.

Thou hast enclosed me behind and before, and laid Thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

This passage in Lamentations highlights just how thin the air is at the altitude where God resides. Not too long ago I attempted to climb my first 14,000 ft mountain. The elevation change from Oklahoma to this Colorado summit was approximately two miles. As I approached this peak I was so dizzy I could not maintain my balance. It was too much for me. I had to abandon my ascent. To regain my equilibrium I had to descend to lower altitude. It was humbling and sad.

The experience caused me to think; I wonder how many of us head back down to lower elevations when we encounter the knowledge of God in the scriptures (or the ways of God in life) that are beyond our comfort zones in an attempt to maintain our rational equilibrium. The idea that God  says and does things that do not make sense is unacceptable to us, so we retreat back to lower elevations where we can nurse our illusions that God is a reasonable being (much like us but more so) where our ideas about Him are more logical and useful to us in sustaining the manageable lives we have worked out for ourselves.

This passage highlights an aspect of God that can make us dizzy; that God causes grief and He offers compassion.  Our minds spin as we wrestle with this apparent inconsistency. To restore our equilibrium we can simply set aside half of the paradox and form our beliefs, embracing what is to us, the more intellectually agreeable aspects of His nature. Probably none of us are exempt in this error, particularly in western culture where knowledge is our king and logic and reason are our servants.

I mentioned recently the value of having a Father-filtered heart. This has helped me so much in dealing with the paradoxes about God. For example, as I read this passage, I acknowledge the apparent inconsistency of God; that He causes both grief and offers compassion. But today, as I refer ideas to God, my Father, I do not hear an emphasis on causing grief. I hear, “I do not afflict or grieve willingly but even if I do, I will offer abundant lovingkindness. Out of My faithfulness, I will have a fresh supply for you each day when you awake.”

As the Father has cleansed my heart, I have had to open a new file that I have labeled “Mysteries”. This is where I can store away my questions and entrust matters to Him where my revelation is not exhaustive; only sufficient. This file is essential and it is growing since it is not really rational that fallen men should have systematic and exhaustive knowledge of an eternal and holy Being. My “Mystery” file is helping me to let God be God. Do to …..

….the depths of the riches both of His wisdom and His knowledge I must acknowledge that His judgements and His ways are unfathomable.

So now when I encounter a miracle (or the prospect of one) which defies the odds or offends my reasoning, I can gratefully return to my Psalm 139 foundation and say, “OK, Father, I don’t get it.”  I may not even like it.  But…I am enclosed (even in my ignorance) in my loving, capable Father’s trustworthy hands.

Father, I don’t have all the answers but I am inclined to dream and to pray that we will abandon our insistence on fitting You into our many rational boxes. And, rather than remaining at this altitude where we are so divided in our understanding, I pray that we might ascend together to that place where we are unified, not in our knowledge, but rather in our faith. Let us not descend when it first appears that Your Word and Your ways seem too impossible. Help us to be steady of heart remembering that “You are good to those who wait for You and seek You. Amen.