I Will Behave Wisely in a Perfect Way

Daily Office Meditations: 7th Week of Easter – Tuesday

(2) I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. (3) I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; (6) My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land, That they may dwell with me;

Psalm 101:2, 3, 6

(4) In return for my love they are my accusers, But I give myself to prayer.

Psalm 109:4

(19) “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, (20) “that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. (21) “But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord GOD.

Ezekiel 11:19-21

(21) “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. (23) “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; (24) “for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.”

Luke 10:21, 23, 24

All of life is about your heart. We know this instinctively. If a man is said to be unintelligent, but he has a good heart, then he is considered “good” in our minds. If he is considered intelligent, but cruel and pitiless, then we have no problem judging him. Looking at the Scriptures today, we can talk about two aspects of the heart. First, we can talk about the prophecy in Ezekiel that God would replace our hearts of stone with hearts of the flesh. This is accomplished through baptism as we are “buried with Christ in baptism and raised to a new life in Him.” We are said to be “born again.” This is the most fundamental reality of our Christian identity: God has given us a new heart, we have been transformed completely as a part of our salvation.

Second, we have a responsibility to cultivate and tend our hearts. When Jesus tells the parable of the sower, He talks of the different soils (or hearts) that the seed (which is the word of God) falls on. In order to avoid the rocky soil, we must walk through the healing and redemptive work in our hearts to address past woundings and sin. To avoid the weed infested soil we must keep temptation and sin from our hearts. To avoid the path-soil, we must meditate on the word of Scripture and walk out the word of God in our lives daily. This hard work will till the soil and cause a deeper and enriched heart capable of resisting the lies of the enemy, represented by crows (“did God really say…”).

We see some hints of how to cultivate good soil in the Scriptures today. In the Psalm, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.” So we must be wise about what we are taking in with our eyes. More than ever, this needs to be a huge emphasis for a Christian. There are more evil and disturbing and tempting images in this world than there has ever been, and they are more easily accessed. This means we need a revelation of the goodness of God and those things that our eyes can look on without reproach.

“My eyes shall be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me.” This is a concept easily forgotten, “bad company corrupts good morals.” There is a disturbing trend in our culture that seeks to destroy anyone who would potentially be put on a pedestal in our culture. While there have definitely been terrible role models posing as leaders deserving of respect, the level of cynicism has risen to absurd levels. If someone asks who your hero is, there is definitely a piece of “journalism” somewhere on the internet seeking to tear them down. Most people just ditch the idea of admiring anyone or choose to admire terrible people (vacuous celebrities, violent rappers, Jesus-complex politicians). There’s a satanic glee on twitter when someone is torn down from admiration or their career is destroyed. I mean “satanic” technically. The spirit of the Enemy is one of accusation, the Holy Spirit is one of advocacy. We need to find faithful men and women to admire, look up to, and surround ourselves with in order to guard and improve our hearts.

In the second Psalm, we pray instead of reacting our unfair accusers. This would save us a lot of misery. Don’t respond in anger, stop and pray. Ask God for deliverance, guidance, and favor. We are even challenged to pray for those who persecute us.

In Hebrews, we get the New Testament affirmation of the tithe. A tithe is 10% of your income given to the church to support the minister, pastor or priest. Without diving into one of the cooler theological insights in the Bible (Jesus is the high priest of the order of Melchizedek), I want to merely say that the tithe is for our hearts and not because God needed a way to provide for His priests. The tithe helps us keep our money in perspective. Our money is, first and foremost, a gift from God. When we give Him back 10%, it shapes our hearts to trust His provision instead of our own.

All of these things are for training our heart to “love what God has commanded”. We are blessed beyond belief to see the kingdom of God expanding in the earth. As Jesus was saying, the Hebrew people lived and died for thousands of years hoping for the coming of the Messiah. We live in the world of the resurrected Christ every day. Keep your eyes on this fact and your heart will transform by the power of the Holy Spirit. As I remember the little song from a Christian kid’s show called “The Donut Man” (really weird show/premise):

Be careful little eyes what you see
Be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above
Is looking down with love
O, be careful little eyes what you see

What’s in a Name?

From the naming of the animals, to the Name above all names, the Bible emphasizes the importance of names. When God calls someone into their purpose, he often gives them a new name: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul. What is important about these transitions? Why does a name matter? “A rose would be a rose by any other name…” 

Let’s remember the creation of the universe: God spoke and the heavens and the earth came into existence out of nothing. So when God is naming these people, he is creating in them an identity that was not there before. Abram was childless until the moment God named him “Abraham,” which means “father of a multitude.” He did not see the multitude at that time, but it was his identity nevertheless. Jacob (meaning liar) had had to struggle and fight and lie to get everything in life until God named him “Israel,” which means “may God prevail.” From that moment, his identity was a symbol of God’s faithfulness to him and his people. It was a promise that Israel would not be saved by their own holiness and strength but by the salvation of God. Perhaps most relevant, Saul became “Paul,” which means “little, or humble.” This was the pharisee of pharisees, the master of the Law, the wielder of the righteous sword to cut down the enemies of God. Now, God named him “Paul” and we get such words as:

 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Here is a man who has been humbled by the power of God and the realization of his own weakness. The name caused the reality. 

So what does this matter? God hasn’t renamed me like that? Well, maybe he has. What does God call you? Righteous, beloved, sons and daughters, etc. There are hundreds of proclamations in the New Testament about  Christians. More specifically, what has he called you in your life? He has called me a speaker of truth that sets people free. That is a promise he has made me. That is a reality he has called forth. It’s not because I am so smart or eloquent or amazing (ask my wife she’ll let you know it can’t be that), it’s because God has called that part of my identity. So now, I have the opportunity to claim that identity and live from that place. Sometimes I still speak lies, sometimes I say the thing that is hurtful and not  helpful, but my identity lies in what God has called me.

God has called each one of us into our identity. Now, we have to listen and believe, which will lead to acting out of our identity in Christ instead of the hyper-flawed identity we create for ourselves through pride and iinsecurity.

Musings on Baptism and Foreshadowing

Baptism IconReading in Joshua today I noticed a trend that is repeated throughout the Old Testament: the crossing of the Jordan as symbolism of God’s salvation and His presence with the crosser. It’s been taught throughout Church history that the crossing of the Red Sea as the people fled Egypt foreshadowed our salvation through the waters of baptism. We also see Elijah fleeing King Ahab after calling down a drought on the land by crossing the Jordan. When David is warned of Absalom’s betrayal, he and his people cross the Jordan which becomes a barrier of protection for them. So we see the salvation symbolism in the crossing of the Jordan and, by extension, in the waters of baptism. We also have the story of Naaman, the commander of the army of Syria, who comes to Elisha for healing from his leprosy. He is told to wash in the Jordan. When his servant convinces him to humble himself and follow Elisha’s instruction, he is cleansed through the waters of the Jordan. It’s amazing to me how all these stories are weaved together to provide the backdrop for the institution of Christian baptism. The final way we see the crossing of the Jordan as a symbol of baptism is in the confirmation of God’s anointing.

When Moses has died and Joshua is taking command of the children of Israel, God commands Joshua to have the bearers of the Ark of the Covenant stand in the center of the Jordan river. Joshua tells the people that God will confirm his anointing and presence with Joshua by parting the waters for the Israelites. We see distinct foreshadowing as Moses brings the people through the Jordan the first time but does not bring them into the Promise Land. Joshua confirms his anointing by the parting of the waters and takes the people into the promise land. Later in Scripture we have a similar occurrence as Elijah is on his way to be taken up into heaven. The path to this taking up into heaven lies through the Jordan and he parts the water with his cloak rolled up on his staff. Elisha asks him for a double anointing and Elijah promises it to him if he sees him taken into heaven and takes up his mantle and staff. This happens. The confirmation for the elders of Israel who are waiting back on the other side of the Jordan is Elisha’s return and parting of the waters with Elijah’s mantle and staff.

Joshua, the one who leads into the Promise Land, and Elisha, the inheritor of the double anointing, both have their ministries confirmed and began in the power of God shown through the crossing of the Jordan. John is the second Elijah, preparing the people of Israel through the waters of the Jordan for Jesus. Then we see Jesus come and His ministry is confirmed and began through a display of God’s power in the Jordan! God is a masterful story-teller.

The completion of this thematic arc is found in our own baptism. The symbolism is depended as we are told in the New Testament that we are “buried with Christ in Baptism, and raised again to newness of life.” We participate in the heritage of God’s anointing, presence, resurrection, cleansing, and salvation as we are baptized ourselves. We are embodying a mystery thousands of years in the making. Praise God!

Do you find yourself not meeting with God?

If yes then I have two questions: What is your idol? and What are you afraid of?

Now this may come off as harsh at first but I want you to know that this post was inspired by my own struggles to meet with God daily. The ideas I am exploring come from my own experience, the experiences of others I have talked to, and Scripture. Also, this post should be seen as an encouragement to lay both of those down and enjoy the abundance of God’s presence.

The first and second question are undeniably intertwined and it may be that you find some parts of this redundant, but I believe there are significant distinctions. To address the first question: What is your idol? Now, you may have more than one, but the most common ones seem to be approval/acceptance, success, money, relationships, and autonomy. It should be noted that all of these idols seem to come from a fear and misunderstanding of God’s character. We worship approval from others because we are afraid that we cannot receive it (or enough of it) from God. We worship success because we think that God cannot endow us with significance or identity and because we are afraid that without success we will not be accepted or loved by God. These idols can bleed into each other and it will be seen that their are common threads in each. We worship money because we do not feel secure in God’s provision and because we do not trust that the Father in heaven has good gifts for us. We worship earthly relationships because we believe that they contain our identity, fulfillment, joy, and security. The funny thing about this idol is that it is so close to the truth, and yet completely misses the mark. All of these things are found in our relationship with the Father. With God at the top, all these things shall be added unto you in earthly relationships as well. Lastly, we worship autonomy because it gives us the illusion that we can have security, power, authenticity, and freedom. Truly our autonomy (and all of these things) only come from God: it is for freedom that we are set free. So our idols, whatever they are, really stem from a misunderstanding or lack of trust (resulting in fear) of who God is.
This leads directly to the second question: What are you afraid of? There are several fears that I will explore but ultimately we are afraid that meeting with God will not result in the filling of our emptiness. Now the fears are all totally mixed up in each other and affect each other and there is no doubt that we often hold one fear because of another or hold multiple fears at once. We might be afraid that we are not good enough for God. This fear can lead to being afraid that He won’t show up, that He will show up and be angry with us, or that we won’t be able to really experience Him (or at least not the way others do or we think we should). We might be afraid that our quiet times won’t be as amazing as other people’s quiet times. We might even be afraid that others will make fun of us, think we are crazy, or call us hypocrites. We might be afraid that we will have to give up our idols. Ultimately, we might be afraid that somehow in our quiet times we will fail. These fears can be and often are crippling. I find myself not meeting with God the day after I feel like I let Him down. I find myself not meeting with God when I can find something “better to do.” I find myself saying things like: I am too busy to meet with God.
Now what is the response to all these fears? God is. Perfect love cast out all fear. If only we understood God better, all these fears would be put right out of our heads. Are we not good enough? Absolutely not! We are dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not because of our works, that no man may boast, but by the lavish love and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is written in Scripture that just one glance from our eyes makes God’s heart beat faster (admittedly this is from an allegory). Can we even fathom the deep love of God towards us broken idolaters, adulterers, thieves, murderers, sinners, arrogant self-pitying wretches. But instead he has made us holy, set apart for and with Christ. We are seated with Him in heavenly places as princes and princesses, and sons and daughters of the Most High God. And He wants to meet with us. Over and over again the message of Scriptures is that God wants to meet with us! Deuteronomy 4:20 “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This is written to Israel and the “from there” line is referring to a place of utter disobedience and breaking of the covenant. Over and over God says that if you seek Him you will find Him. He will show up. It won’t be like you expect Him to, but it will be so good. God’s promise is life and life abundantly. It is ultimate fulfillment. It is “all these things added unto you.” Seek His kingdom first. His kingdom comes in the heart of men and women as they seek Him daily. Ok ok ok let me break it down one more time and be done.
The God of the universe wants to meet with YOU, wherever you are at, and transform you into a true human being. His primary mode of transformation is through the experience of His presence, affirmation, and truth. The daily practice of meeting with God (keep remembering that it is not just a discipline but a meeting with the Living and Active God) will lead to this transformation. This will not be because of anything special that you did, but because you experience and submit to God. Oh and it will be infinitely better than any of your idols and it will banish your fears. Go for it. Jump in. The grace is warm.