Hope

For a few months now, I’ve been struggling to write, at least anything new that’s been on my heart. This isn’t because I don’t have the inspiration, but more because I’m finding it harder to express this overwhelming relationship with Father, with Abba, in human terms. Attempting to write these things in a coherent, understandable way seems quite the feat. When I’ve attempted to write lately, I quickly realize that I’m only scratching the surface of what I desire to express. To explain one concept would require expounding on a dozen others, and the more straightforward I attempt to write, the higher the risk of misunderstanding. I’ve attempted to write some recently in a way that would leave an opening for further consideration on one’s own terms, but this too seems to fall woefully short of my intent.

As I’ve been discussing this more with Father, he seems to keep asking me a question. As I tend to do, I’ve answered this question in a more prepackaged format, then continued on my way. Yet, every time I’ve fallen short in my pursuits, the question reoccurs and I begin to understand a little more what God is asking me.

The question – Why are you trying to explain these thoughts that may not be possible to put into words?

My answers have ranged from “others should know these things,” to “if they don’t understand, they may lose faith,” and even “isn’t it my responsibility to communicate these things?”

After allowing me to ponder my conclusions for awhile, it seems God expressed something along the lines of – Why are you trying to express spiritual things in written, or even spoken, words? Like always, I didn’t quite get this on first pass; it was only through much trial and error that I began to understand little by little.

So what does this have to do with hope, and am I making the same mistake by trying to explain it again? Hopefully not ;). This isn’t so much trying to explain the semantics as just discussing how I’ve come to know it through much difficulty and fumbling.

I’ve always been a fairly logical person, even before I understood that I was. Because of this, I’ve always felt out of place in most settings, especially religious ones. I struggled with doubt. I never understood the concept of hope because it always seemed more like wishful thinking to me. I struggled endlessly with questions that, even when I asked, I got more prepackaged, if not backhanded, responses. Questions became dangerous for me and often got me into more trouble than they seemed to be worth. That being, I never got answers and I was chastised for being doubtful, unfaithful, deceived, etc….even if it was in a “nice” way.

In other words, I never had any hope of becoming a real Christian, but this was more because I was instructed to place hope into faulty or fallible ideals. Standards of belief were mandated to me, and if I couldn’t uphold them, I was at fault. Part of the reason I state these things in such a manner here is that others I’ve come across have given up on God altogether because of being presented with this type of dichotomy. My hope is that some of these expressions will resonate with those that may have given up long ago, and they can begin to discover God who loves them more than they were ever taught was possible. No box that we construct by our human means can contain God’s love—including my own box of logic.

However, logic hasn’t been a completely bad thing for me, but it could only take me so far. After that, I had to rely more heavily on faith, hope, and love. For the most part, I got love, though God continues to expand on that concept daily. I even understood faith to an extent, at least as it pertains to confidence in things unseen. Until recently though, hope had still been a less solidified concept for me.

I’d placed hope, as wishful thinking, into many things in my life. I hoped that I would be successful, find a job, get married, have kids, etc…. Most of these were well within my control though, and it seemed most “successful” people didn’t rely on this type of wishful thinking to obtain their objectives—they did what was necessary to accomplish their goals.

I hoped also that I would get into Heaven, that I’d checked off enough boxes, that I’d confessed all my sins, that I was good enough, that God would understand my heart….that God was really good. These were more of a wishful thinking type of hope though—“hope” that I wasn’t caught at a bad moment and then lost for eternity.

So for a long time, I journeyed without real hope, at least as I’ve come to know it now. As stated before, logic took me to a certain point, but it seems where logic ended, hope began for me. As the Holy Spirit continued to widen the walls of the box I’d constructed, my concept of hope expanded. Hope in God was the assurance of his plan, his love, his promises—all this exceeded the limits of logic and knowledge though.

But how do I explain these things? I think the current answer for me is—I don’t. I live with the hope Father has shown me, and try to reach others where they’re at—not to convince them of my ways or that I’m right, but to show them through this hope how much Father also loves them.

I know this may fall woefully short of an explanation, but that is also the point. Where logic, knowledge, and understanding reach their limits, hope continues on to new depths. Now I would say, instead of hoping that Jesus doesn’t catch me at my worse moment, my hope is that Jesus always catches me at my worst. He understands my heart, he always lovingly picks me back up when I fall, and he never gives up on me. For me, that is hope worth holding on to!

Questions, Answers and Context

I read John’s post entitled Bow and Confess earlier today with great interest and since he ended it with a series of questions, I thought it might helpful if I answer them. (If you haven’t yet read the original post, I suggest you do so now for best results) Before I do, I’d like to make it clear that John’s view is entirely his own and he is certainly entitled to it. Similarly, my view s are entirely mine, and neither of us is speaking for anyone other than ourselves, and I know that John would join me in saying that you, our readers and contributors are free to agree, disagree and freely express your own thoughts.

With that said, here are John’s questions and my answers to them. They are posed immediately after John stated this conclusion:

Here it seems Paul is giving clarification as to how anyone is ever able or confess Jesus is Lord—it is only by the Holy Spirit! It seems God’s plan is that at some point, every single person will willingly, honorably bow and confess Jesus is Lord, to the glory of Father, by the Holy Spirit!

Q: Do we really dare to hope in such a loving God?

A: The short answer would have to be “NO”.  A more complete response would be to point out the fact that this conclusion is based upon a passage that was taken out of its context; that passage is Phil. 2:10-11. When we look at the entire passage, we see something quite different; here it is:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Phil. 5:5-11

When these verses are seen in context, a different picture emerges, a picture that involves Paul’s instruction to the Church in Philippi comprised of those who are followers of Jesus Christ. Paul is telling them that their attitude should be like that of the Lord Himself, who set aside the glories of Heaven to take on the form of a servant and serve His Father’s will, even to death, to redeem humanity from its sin. As a result He has been raised to the highest place, and given all authority, and every knee will bow before Him, for the day is coming when all doubt as to who He is will be gone. It’s interesting to remember that demons, as they were being driven out by Jesus knew exactly who He was, and were terrified of Him, for they were in open and deliberate rebellion against Him. Oh yes, they will all bow down on the last day, and nobody will need to force them, but many on that day will have a serious problem on their hands.

Q: Is God’s plan really to save everyone?

A: God’s desire is to save everyone, as John 3:16 so clearly tells us, and God is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to do so in sending His Son to die. Yet He created us with the free will to choose whether or not to follow Him; if we do, He welcomes us with open arms, if we don’t, we have made the choice, and since God is loving and exercises restraint, He respects our choice to reject Him, even though it grieves Him greatly.

 

Q: Is he really that powerful?

A: God is all powerful, but His most amazing attribute is His restraint; He does not force us to love Him.

 

Q: Would God allow someone the indwelling of the Holy Spirit just to bow and confess, then rip it away so they are lost for all eternity?

A: Certainly not! Sadly there is a logical problem in this question, for it is based upon the quotation of 1 Corinthians 12:3:

Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

Can you see the problem? It begins with the word “therefore”. When you see the word “therefore” the author is drawing a conclusion, thus the quotation is necessarily taken out of context. In this case, the verse falls within the larger context of 1 Corinthians 11-13 that deals with spiritual gifts, the immediate context looks like this:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

1 Cor. 12:1-3

Again, Paul is addressing Christians who are already followers of Christ, reminding them of their former status as Gentiles in a larger discussion of spiritual gifts that are given to Christians when they begin to follow Jesus, not to pagans who refuse to follow Him. We know from Acts 2:38 within its larger context of Acts 2:14 ff. that we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we believe the message of salvation acknowledge our faith in Christ and enter into relationship with Him.

If there is a connection between the Philippians 2 passage and the 1 Corinthians 12 passage, it is this: On the great Day of the Lord, every knee will indeed bow voluntarily, and every tongue will voluntarily have to admit that Jesus Christ is Lord! Those who have already done so in faith will be filled with joy and jubilation, and those who refused will be having a very bad day.

Bow and Confess, in my view, proves us with a wonderful opportunity to explore, to toss out ideas, to ask and to answer, and I want to thank John for posting it, for sharing a point of view and giving us a chance to examine the Scriptures together and come to the realization that our God is simply awesome in His love, and to see and recognize that His love is so great, that He allows us the freedom even to reject His grace.

The Great Questions — The Littlest Question

©1982KatherineBrown
©1982KatherineBrown

“How do I LIVE in Christ, right here, right now, day to day?”

THAT, I call “the littlest question”. That is a question of “how?”, not of “Who?” or of “What?”. That is a question of “little me”, not “All Mighty God”, or “The Mighty Counselor”, or “The Messiah”, or “The Savior”. That is a question of right here, right now, not “In Eternity”, “In the Cosmos”, or “From the Beginning of Time”.

As Christian bloggers, as ministers of the gospel, as church people, as teachers/preachers, we spend much of our time dealing with “The Great Questions!” “Who/What is God and His Nature?”, “What is Truth?”, “What is Forgiveness and how Often?”, “How Should the Bride of Christ, The Church, Run?“, and so on. Those are decidedly GOOD questions. They explore our relationship with God as we seek to know Him intimately and thus experience eternal life. Nothing wrong with such questions. I spend much time in them, as do others.

But, once in a while I am reminded of the fundamental simplicity of Christ. Recently I was reminded, by someone INSISTING that I address a single, very simple question. It shames me to confess, their question was so fundamental and so simple, and I spend so much time “in my head” with the great and mighty questions, that for far too long… I couldn’t even HEAR their question properly.

What was the question?

“HOW… in practical terms… How am I supposed to LIVE, as a Christian?”

Every time I answered, the person shook their head and said, “I HEAR that, but I don’t know how to DO that! I hear that from you, I see that in Scripture, I hear that in Church… but when it comes right down to it, I don’t know what that all MEANS outside of church, prayer and religion. HOW do I DO that?”

I realized that THEY were not the one “not getting it”. THEY weren’t “dense”. *I* was. *I* wasn’t getting it, *I* was being slow on the uptake. I didn’t know why communication wasn’t happening, so I backed up a moment to take my confusion to Jesus, and He showed me the problem. It made me blush then, and it makes me blush now.

I kept giving them “Great Question” answers. You know… “Love God with all your…”, “Love as Jesus loves…”, “Forgive always…” so on and so on. I kept answering the “What?”‘s of Christian living. They weren’t ASKING me about “What?” or “Why?” or “Who?”… they got all that. They knew all that. They were asking “HOW?”, and I was utterly failing to respond. What’s more, truthfully, I didn’t KNOW. I hadn’t “thought about it”. It all seems so complicated… “How do you live a perfect (as Jesus commanded at the end of Sermon on the Mount) Christian life?” So many rules. So many opinions. So many interpretations. So many traditions. What was I to say?

So, as I stopped my speaking, closed my eyes, backed up… and “punted”… I prayed, then shut up and listened. “Lord? What’s wrong here? Why are we not connecting? I’m missing something critical here.”

And, at first, all I could hear was Jesus’ laughter. Rather like we laugh when watching a kitten tie themselves up in a big ball of yarn. Not “making fun” so much as “recognizing the absurdity of the moment”. His laughter calmed me in the sense that I knew I wasn’t “misleading” or “speaking less than Truth” here, but I remained confused for the moment.

“You’re just making things all too complicated,” He said. “HOW do you live out love? If you want to focus on one, single, behavior that will have the greatest impact on letting Me be Me in you… ‘be KIND’! The closest human label and emotion to ‘agape’ in behavior, is ‘kindness’. Tell him to go out tomorrow, and every day, in every encounter, making every decision, in the kindest way and being kind to everyone. He will know, as do you and everyone else, when he is being ‘unkind’ and ‘selfish’. Tell him, simply to ‘be kind’, and then follow up from there with him later.”

And so I did.

That has affected me since. I’ve looked at that aspect of my Crystal Rose now from many angles. It’s true. “Kindness” in the way we mean that, is central to all of the Old Law. Central to the Gospels. If we were to line up all the encounters of Jesus, and ask what central characteristic they hold in common, His kindness would be atop the list.

Kindness… to be consistently Kind… is very very simple.

It is also very very hard!

Want the Scriptural take on all this?

Read over the entirety of 1 Corinthians 13 for a moment. (It’s a comparatively short chapter. Go ahead and look at it… I’ll wait here.)

<<     Hums the Final Jeopardy theme music tune here, waiting patiently….  >>

Finished? Good. Now watch this…

In all that chapter, Paul deals with “love”, and simple behaviors, after opening with matters of Great Questions. After all, Paul’s epistles constantly deal with Great Questions and Weighty Matters… the nature of God, the nature of the Church, the nature of Salvation, discipline in the church, the nature of ministry, the qualifications of ministers… and on… and on… and on. We base much of our Great Question dialogue grounded in the writings of Paul. As I said, nothing wrong with that.

But! We can lose sight of the simple fact that over and over and over, Paul is ALSO “making new believers”! He is evangelizing. He is sharing the SIMPLE Good News of the arrival of Jesus, His Kingdom, and the freedom in our lives of our redemption. Paul doesn’t plunge new believers into heady debate about “to meat or not to meat”, or lots of other things. He speaks of Christ, of His love, of Christ come, and crucified, and risen.

The KEY verse, in all of 1 Corinthians 13, I believe to be Verse Four:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant…”

As I’ve looked and pondered these things, the opening verses deal with the Great Questions! You can have all the “Great Answers”, and do all the “Great Things”… but without this bedrock, this “love” thing… that’s all meaningless. Everything before verse four, seems to lead up to verse four. Everything after verse four, seems only to expand on and refine it.

“Patient, kind, no jealousy or ego…”

To brag and be arrogant are based in pride, and pride (wounded) is part and parcel of jealousy.

So… right here, in front of man and God and everybody, I say openly… “If you want to live out the perfect Christian life, and have the love of Christ flow through you to others, focus behaviors on ‘patient, kind, not ego-bound'”.

There’s HOW!

One last note. Think about, in your own life, those persons… those (usually) handful of persons… who have really “shone Christ” in your own life to you. You know who I mean, the one’s who, when you spend time with them, leave you sensing the nearness and presence of Christ more strongly than you did before. Those ones that just ‘cover you up in’ the Father’s love, the Son’s Forgiveness, the Holy Spirit’s presence. The ones you reach towards when you feel that need for the tangible presence of Jesus.

Now, ask yourself,  “is that person patient? kind? and humble (ego-free)” in their dealings with me?

Let us, then, go and do likewise.

Grace to you, Gentle Reader — The Little Monk

 

It Is Well With My Soul

This is a reworking of a post I have done before on a couple of other blogs.

It Is Well With My Soul

Isaiah 66:12 For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Horatio Spafford certainly knew a few things about peace like a river, as well as sorrow attending his way. In the mid 19th century, he was a prominent lawyer and real estate investor in the city of Chicago. He was also a good friend with Evangelist D.L Moody and devout man of God. Despite his wealth and prominence, things would not always be a peaceful river for Horatio Spafford; soon things would take a very bad turn for this fellow. First came a serious financial setback. Spafford, having invested heavily in the city of Chicago which was expanding northward, lost most of his substantial investment in the Chicago fire of 1871.

It was two years later when Horatio Spafford’s faith really became tested, it was then that the sorrows began to roll like sea billows in his life. He, his wife Anna, and their four daughters had decided to sail across the Atlantic to be with their friend D. L. Moody as he preached in Europe. Horatio himself was delayed by business, so we sent his wife and daughters on ahead, planning to meet them later. As they traveled across the Atlantic on the steamship  Ville du Havre , it collided with another ship and was sunk. All four daughters died, and only Horatio’s wife Anna survived.

Upon receiving word of his great loss, Horatio Spafford immediately got on a ship of his own and headed across the Atlantic. It is thought that the inspiration for this song was given to him as he was notified that his own ship was passing the very spot where his four daughters had perished.

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,It is well, it is well with my soul. Whatever my lot, through the good times and the bad times. God is with us during all of these. James talked about this when he said, Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. There is a man we are all familiar with who’s story sounds so like the one told above. That man is Job, of course. Faced with the loss of everything: his children, his possessions, and ultimately the loss of his own health. Yet through it all, Job had one thing to say: Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. Job did not know why God was allowing these trials; however, Job knew God. Job knew he had the promise of eternal life with his creator; it was well with his soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,. Time and time again in God’s Word we are told of the simple fact that trial WILL come our way. The words if are never used; trials are a promise and a guarantee. As he began his great writing on living the Christian life, James pointed this out to us when he wrote, My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;. He was letting us know that, first of all, trials in this life are simply a part of life. He also instructed us that sometimes trials have a purpose in this life, in that they worketh patience and make us perfect and entire.

Sometimes they are even simply to show us the grace God provides to get us through the tough spots. We all remember Paul and the thorn in his flesh, and how he besought the Lord thrice that he be granted relief; but, the Lord didn’t remove that thorn, instead telling the Apostle, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

 Let this blest assurance control,That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,And hath shed His own blood for my soul. Another great song is Blessed Assurance, where we see the following, Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine, and how true that is. We are his also, as He did shed His blood for our very soul, and we are bought with a price

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—My sin, not in part but the whole, My sin, your sin, and the sin and sins of the entire world. All of us have sinned and transgressed God’s moral law; God Himself inspired Paul to tell us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and there is none righteous, no not one. We can say to our ourselves, “Oh, I’m not THAT bad” or, “Hey, I’m not as bad as THAT guy!” The problem is, we are not evaluated against our own standard of good and bad, or by comparison with any other person; we are evaluated against God’s standard of Holy perfection. Sin, literally means “To miss the mark.” If and archer misses the mark, or the bulls eye, it does not matter if he misses by a tenth of an inch, or by 10 feet, the mark was still missed. That is our problem with God’s standard, we can missed by one “tiny” little sin, or we can be the most heinous criminal who ever lived; we miss the mark either way. Read what James taught us: For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

Now, however, comes our problem. God is perfect, and God sets the standard. Holy means perfect and without sin, and it also means God is incapable of abiding  with or tolerating sin. But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. It started way back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve only had one small thing they could not do, and that is eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for God told them on that day you will surely die. Not only would they die physically, but spiritually, as their disobedience separated them from God. That is our problem as well, for the wages of sin is death.

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! The writer of this song had joy in the face of all of his tribulation, because he know all was well with his soul. He knew despite what he faced during his life here, that his eternity and his future were secure and that his eternity would be with Jesus in Heaven. Because even though the wages of sin is death, we also see the following promise come right after, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What was paid for on that cross? Every sin past, present, and future. My sin, not in part, but the whole.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Some day, no matter what happens in this world, and to us, we can always remember this one thing: The Lord is coming back, and things will be made right. If it is well with our soul, then we are Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,Even so, it is well with my soul. Remember that right after Jesus ascended into Heaven, that the angels promised the staring disciples this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. This world is not our home, and what we may face and endure here is merely temporary, as  our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: If it IS well with our souls, then we can have the hope of all of these things, and always know that the trials of this life are only passing as we prepare for an eternity where no sin, and no death exist anymore.

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Is it well with YOUR soul?


When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

By: Horatio G. Spafford

Sung by: The Gaithers featuring David Phelps and Guy Penrod

Are you following Jesus?

“Therefore choose life, so that both you and your offspring may live, and so that you may love the Lord your God, and obey his voice, and cling to him (for he is your life and the length of your days)…”

Deuteronomy 30:19(b)-20(a) CPDV

“It is good to hope in silence for the Lord’s deliverance.” Lamentations 3:26 (NAB Revised Edition)

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…

It is painful to find your life apart from the world. To be torn from the only life you know, the only way you know. We spend our lives searching for the truth and our purpose in this world. And for those of us that have found our way to Jesus, that truth is often times harsh. For in Him we find life. But He tells us as we make our way to him, “You’ve found me, now deny yourself and don’t look back. Come follow me and leave it all behind.”

And life as a Christian if you’re living it the Jesus way (not the world’s way or your church’s way) is not easy. At times you may find yourself asking, “Why am I doing this? Why am I walking this way?”  But the further you walk the more you come to realize that the world is simply desolate. The more you hear what Jesus has to say, the less the world satisfies you. The more you retreat inward, the more you see your neighbor through the eyes of a loving God. The more they hate you, the more you love them. The more despair around you, the more you frequent prayer. Your life, to most, does not make any sense, even to other Christians. And the more I’ve walked with Jesus, the more people do not understand me. But I don’t need them to understand me, I just need them to see that I am living in the way Jesus has taught me.

As we retreat inward in prayer, oftentimes it is our silence that makes for the greatest witness. Why has she gotten quiet? Why is she so deeply devout? What is it that’s different about her? I realize that at all times, it is my life that serves as a witness. I am the candle, and Jesus, He is the flame.

I choose not to post or write about my political affiliations or stances on the issues of the day. I give my opinion when asked, but do not offer it at will. I choose not to alienate people from the love of God. And although yes the gospel is offensive, I am the one who should be offended, I am the Christian, I am the one who should be living in this way. This is about me, my faith, my life, my witness, my love. I know now that turning inward makes for an outward Christian.

And I am not worrying anymore about other Christians, what they say or what they do. I know who I am, and I know where God has called me. I am learning to stay in my space and stop interfering with the work that God is doing in others. I am learning not to be offended. I am learning to shut my mouth. I am learning the gift of silence.

As I change and grow in Him, I pray that you may learn something too. Your words or posts may be alienating people from God. You may be turning outward, rather than inward. You may be pointing someone to darkness rather than light, even other Christians.

I pray that today you will meditate on the scriptures God has given us that I’ve listed above. The themes of being “in” Him, choosing life “in” Him and this idea of prayerful silence. I imagine you may find what I did, a long conversation with God, a refining of the flesh and a fresh perspective on your Christian life. There is so much to just being “in” Him. Let us choose Him this day and let Him lead, and let us reflect on which way we shall walk.

You can learn more about me and my journey as a Jewish follower of Christ and Catholic at There’s Something about Mary.

Kitchen Table Conversation: Justice Here and Now

And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Justice is one of God’s key attributes; as such, there are so many aspects of it, so many different direction we can go in discussion it, and I suppose that’s why it is a great topic for our Kitchen Table Conversation.

For me, the more pressing aspects of Justice are those that concern the here and now, those aspects of Justice that the prophet Micah wrote about so very long ago in 6:8. For each of us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God is, for me, the priority in this life.

Jesus took this to a higher level when He travelled around Galilee proclaiming the Kingdom of heaven, for when He did so, there was healing, wholeness, sight and… Justice.

Justice isn’t usually in this list, is it? Yet Jesus demonstrated what Micah was talking about as He preached and healed, for He took His message of the Kingdom of heaven to both Jew and Gentile. He healed both Jew and Gentile. He gave sight to Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, saint and sinner, breaking all of the cultural boundaries that had kept God from the masses of humanity for far too long. He respected the disrespected, He valued the humble, and He loved the unlovable, and that is Justice in the here and now.

There are times in this life when acting as Jesus acted isn’t the easiest thing to do; I sometimes fall short in my efforts and for this reason, I have little time to worry about the eschatological implications of Justice. I say this because I earnestly desire to serve Him as He called me to serve, and I desire to do so because I love God and I love humanity You see, I am a work in progress and I have not yet attained the goal that is set before me in Christ Jesus.

So I content myself with doing my best in Christ to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God, for it seems to me that if I do so, then if nothing else I can walk along with Jesus, secure in the knowledge that I have followed God’s ways, and done harm to no one along the way.

 

by Rebecca Ann

To all of my beautiful friends and family- I am asking your prayers for my dear blogging friend Martin whose sweet Rebecca Ann passed away on November 4, 2015. I hadn’t caught up with Martin for awhile until Rebecca Ann’s post showed up again on my feed. My heart is that we will come together as a community for Martin. You can comment on other posts from Rebecca Ann’s blog as I believe comments are already disabled on this post. Martin, we love you and are all here to pray for you and encourage you.

Humility and Relationship with God

Moses was an amazing man, a great leader of God’s people and certainly one of the greatest men of faith in all of Scripture. He is known both as a great leader, and the giver of Law, but his greatest attribute was neither of these things, for it was found in his humility. In fact, we can go further than that and say that his humility was entirely the source of his greatness; that it was the genesis of his great accomplishments. This point really comes to the fore in chapter 12 of the book of Numbers, when two other great figures of the time speak against him…

Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this. (12:1-2)

Miriam was the older sister of both Aaron and Moses, a prophet and major figure in her own right, of course Aaron, the older brother of Moses was the first High Priest, and the companion of Moses throughout this period; the two were heavyweights to say the least. It seems surprising that they should be found grumbling like this about their brother, since both of them were earnest, devout and passionate followers of God, and yet with time, it would appear that they have grown resentful of Moses’ higher position in the Israelite universe. Yes, they had known relationship with God, they had both spoken His Word to the people; why was Moses so important?

So there they were talking… or were they gossiping? Whatever they were doing in private, they seem to have forgotten that they weren’t entirely alone; God heard them.

(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

Verse 3 is interesting here, inserted almost as an aside into the text, providing a clear contrast to Miriam and Aaron, as if to scream at us that they were not acting in humility in this unpleasant conversation. Then, God takes action:

At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, he said, “Listen to my words: (12:4-6a)

I don’t know about you, but had I been Miriam or Aaron, I would be a little concerned right about now; God said:

“When there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
I speak to them in dreams.
But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
to speak against my servant Moses?”

The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them. (12:6b-9)

This is an amazing text on so many levels beginning with the fact that Miriam and Aaron, who were speaking privately, stepped out of bounds, and God heard them do it, because we cannot hide anything whatsoever from God. Secondly, it is utterly fascinating to see the nature of the relationships that are described in this text; “when there is a prophet among you” is a clear statement that God is speaking of Miriam and Aaron, both prophets to whom God has spoken in this way. I would imagine that most of us would consider ourselves very fortunate to have such a relationship with God as this, yet there is a much deeper relationship than that, and Moses had it.

God’s relationship with Moses is not one in dreams, visions and riddles, but direct, personal and face to face; Moses gets to see God’s form, and he is faithful in all God’s house. What is it that Moses has, that Miriam and Aaron lack? God asks an essentially rhetorical question about their conversation; He was angry, and then He was gone.

When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.” (12:10-12)

When God was gone, Miriam had leprosy, and we now see her appearance reflecting the spiritual decay that had only been inside her before. This might remind us of Jesus speaking to the Pharisees and calling them “whitewashed tombs” all pretty and perfect on the outside, but rotten on the inside. Aaron, repenting of his part of the tale, cries out to Moses to intervene, and Moses does so:

So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!” (12:13)

Moses, who is the injured party, cries out to God for her healing, because Moses loves his sister, the very sister who has been punished by God for her offense against Moses. While it is clear that Moses loves his sister, it isn’t all that clear that Miriam and Aaron loved their brother in this incident, is it? What was the difference between Moses, and Miriam and Aaron?

The answer is back in that strange little sidebar that we saw in verse 3:

(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

Moses was unusually humble, and his humility had enabled him to love God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself. His humility and his love for God enabled him to enjoy a level of relationship with God that even the prophets Aaron and Miriam did not come close to, and it enabled him to cry out for healing in a situation in which many others would say, “Well Miriam, you got what you deserved”.

Humility, both in thought and in deed, was the ingredient that Moses had and that the other two were lacking, and if I might be so bold, I would like to suggest that it is the ingredient that many today lack.

Unlike in previous centuries, in our time and culture, humility isn’t even considered a good thing, rather, we tend to see it as a weakness much of the time. Yet as we can clearly see in this incident, humility is the strength of character that makes love and relationship, both with people and with God possible.

Jesus demonstrated this same idea, and in doing so, He saved Mankind from sin and death:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-10

We might do well to take a closer look at humility in our own lives.

Oh right  Miriam? God graciously granted Moses’ request, but Miriam had to be put outside the camp for a week first. I wonder what she thought about during that week…

Who is your King?

“that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

1 Samuel 8:20 (NKJV)

Behold him, the name of whose empire is eternal- Mass entrance

We are all looking for our King, I am convinced of that. Our desire is to be free and do what we want, when we want, but soon thereafter we find ourselves craving structure, and form. It’s why we make New Year’s Resolutions, go on diets, make amends and go to confession. And some way, somehow, we are all connected by the sense that we need something more. It is what that “something” is that we make our ultimate King.

Prophets among men have always been extremely unpopular. So unpopular, their message has preceded their untimely death. The message and the mission of prophets is to bring God’s warning and wisdom to those who will listen. But ultimately, they are rejected by the very people who they were sent to preach to.

And so to it was with the prophet Samuel, that his people did not care to listen. Demanding a fleshly King rather than God, the King of the Universe. “We want to be like everyone else,” they said, “We don’t trust in a God that we cannot see.”

The people did not want to fight their battles with God or listen to what the prophet Samuel had to say. But no matter, Samuel had done his job. He had given his warning, he had spoken. But nobody wanted to listen.

And so it is in our own lives.  We may have found God, but He’s so last year. We’ve moved on to the next thing. Now it’s about the wisdom of the wind, or whatever is trending. We don’t trust and cannot follow a God we cannot see. We say that we can do whatever we please, but are the first in line to hang onto every word of the next quote coming from the next best thing. Even if you believe in nothing, that is something, and that my friends is your King.

Our views on God are small, minute actually. They are good enough for now. And when God is just not good enough, we cast Him off to the side like an old and worn out pair of shoes. Until of course we need Him again.

I had an old friend come to visit me today. He was seeking answers. What I am supposed to do? He himself had left the throne empty. He wanted God, craved God, but not enough to want to hear my answer. When we do it our way, it just doesn’t seem to work out, and that message is not religious, its universal. 

So who or what is the King in your life? What rules your day or even your life? Are you depending on a fleshly King, or could it be that there is something more?