Dude, Lady Look Like a Disciple!

Belle reading

Do you love Me? Then…

In the beginning of the animated fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” beauty Belle is seen going through the town contending with ‘same old, same old.’ Then, with her nose in a book, she seeks the adventure inside while fluttering, flowing and twirling through the humdrum streets.

Look there she goes that girl is strange no question. / Dazed and distracted, can’t you tell? / Never part of any crowd. / Cuz her head’s up on some cloud. / No denying she’s a funny girl that Belle

Belle cries, “There must be more than this provincial life!” Still, the onlookers say, “It’s a pity and a sin. She doesn’t quite fit in. She really is a funny girl–that Belle!”

I think Belle and Mary of Bethany–the sister to Martha and Lazarus–would have totally clicked with each other. I’d love to hang with the likes of these two women too, all eyes dancing with revelation and passion. Each one saying, “I knew there had to be more! I just knew it!”

In my experience, Mary of Bethany has traditionally been viewed as a devoted women with the priorities to choose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him while her sister whirred busily around the kitchen. Perhaps we think of her plopping down giddily like, “Ooo, tell me a story, Jesus! Scooch over, Peter! This is so interesting! The falafel can wait.”

But look closer at this peculiar woman. This Mary of Bethany. She was a bold beauty–and an intelligent one.

“Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (Luke 10:39). Okay, lest we stay stuck on our picture of cross-legged, hands-on-her-chin story time for Mary, we need to know in Jewish culture what it meant to sit at the feet of a rabbi. You see, Jesus was not some uneducated drifter that sauntered into town. He was a Jewish, learned rabbi, educated in the scriptures and allowed at age 30, like other rabbis, to begin His ministry. To “sit at the feet” of a rabbinical teacher was to be learning from Him intimately as a disciple. Even Paul used the saying that he “trained at the feet” of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). The disciple’s goal was to gain the rabbi’s understanding, to become like him in character, and to eventually teach in the community.

Mary–a woman–was learning as a disciple when and where she could. I don’t know, but if women “counted” in the disciple roll call back then, she probably would have easily pushed the number up past 12. This was not just a lady who had her priorities straight to do her devotional time. This was a woman who straight up was breaking a societal norm big time to be educated like the boys by this Jewish rabbi. She didn’t DO devotions. She WAS devoted. And Jesus endorsed it! Very peculiar, indeed.

This is a time in history when Jewish wisdom literature says that rabbis were supposed to keep at least six feet away from a woman at all times. Not only that, but here was a little nugget for rabbinical disciples of the day to abide by: “He that talks much with womankind brings evil upon himself and neglects the study of the Law and at the last will inherit Gehenna [hell].” Oh, and…“Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman … Whoever teaches his daughter the Torah is like one who teaches her obscenity.”

Jesus basically said a big “so what” to this accepted idea of what a woman’s place should be. And, this Mary–this young, unmarried woman– was so captivated by Jesus that she risked everything to follow Him, and to study under His teaching. In fact, she wouldn’t stay away from His feet.

After Lazarus had died, John 11:32 says, “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus loved this family, and Mary’s deep hurt made Jesus weep. She had that affect on Him.

First, she sat at His feet. Then she fell at His feet. Finally, she poured her earthly picture of worth out on His feet, and then scandalously let her hair caress His oiled feet. What is wrong with this woman? Is she crazy? Is she naive? Is she too emotional? Has she lost it?

Mary takes a jar of expensive perfume–worth around $40,000 in today’s economy–and pours it out on Jesus’ head and feet. We normally will say, “Wow, she must have been just so thankful for what Jesus did to raise her brother from the dead to so extravagantly thank Jesus.” But, wait, what was she saying with her actions that day? 

In those days, for a woman to personally own an expensive possession usually meant it was her dowry and was reserved for her one-day husband. Her entire worth and future was wrapped up in that offering. Once a woman was of marrying age, her family purchased an alabaster box for her and filled it with expensive ointment. The size and the value paralleled the size of the family’s wealth.  

But Mary didn’t reserve her worth to present to her earthly bridegroom; she gave it to her spiritual bridegroom. This was the gesture of a woman asking for Jesus to empty out her attachment to her wordly treasure so she could receive the highest treasure of the world to come. She abandoned her own security to the Worthy One, for He had won her total affection.

As if that wasn’t shocking enough, Mary took her hair from her covering and wiped Jesus’ feet with it. Did you know that for a Jewish woman in that time to expose her hair in public and to any man who was not her husband was akin to showing her private parts? A woman’s hair unbound in public was the sign of an accused adulteress! You see, this was not just a view of humility for her to use her hair as a towel. What was Mary thinking?!?

This type of devotion to Jesus is shocking and rare, even a scandal to grace. The spiritual intimacy she felt for Jesus was so strong that she didn’t care what society or “normal” or even her fellow disciples had to say about it, as long as it would honor Him. Song of Solomon 1:3 points to a lover saying to her king, “Your name—your person—is like perfume poured out. No wonder the women love you.” Mary exchanged her perfume for the fragrance of His eternal presence.

Do you know what Jesus had to say about this bizarre behavior of this woman who wormed her way in to being taught, trained, and discipled like a man and then came before those men to be as feminine as she could in a way that was only to be reserved for a husband? He said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me… Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Did Mary of Bethany know she was also anointing Him for burial, the sweet scent lingering on Him as He sweat blood in the garden and laid His skin open through His bloody crucifixion? We don’t know. But, I kind of think she had a revelation and that she did know. None of the male disciples would accept or try to understand the clues Jesus gave that He would be dying soon. They were still picturing Him as a great leader there to restore their physical kingdom. But, I think that woman, that Mary of Bethany, listened hard and studied hard and knew what Jesus was saying was going to happen.

While Jesus had to ask Peter several times, “Do you love me?,” only to go on to deny that he was a disciple of Jesus’, surely Mary of Bethany risked not only her reputation but her life to say in no uncertain terms that she was a devoted disciple of Jesus. It’s the women who discerned. It’s the women who anointed. It’s the women who stayed until His last breath. It’s the women He appeared to first after He was risen.

Why has history told women to “do” devotions rather than to be devoted? Jesus invites all to the table to engage both spirit and truth like Mary did. Feel. Listen. Study. Learn. Love. Teach. Do.

Lest you think this is a post just to simply rah rah women, and is not meant for men and women alike, let me say that Jesus calls the Church His Bride. Collectively, Jesus seems to be looking for some female qualities out of His Church to partner with. Perhaps Mary of Bethany is an example of what extraordinary beauty He is looking for. How about stand out from the crowd in carefree humility to not only think on Him, but to also demonstrate love for Him in boundary-pushing ways?

Where religion is “same old, same old,” an intimate, head-over-heels relationship with the lover of our souls is a bit more peculiar looking. There is more than this provincial life.

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How to Catch the Mouse in Your Soul House

(Re-blogged from Eagle Brook Church blog.)

M2230003-750x500Not long after my husband and I became first-time homeowners, we received our first unwelcome guest. I just bopped downstairs to get my clothes for work one morning, and there it was. A mouse! Or a rat? Or a mole? I screamed. It looked at me, collapsed its little contortionist self and ran under a door.

A rodent was loose in our house. Eek! What were we going to do about it? These are the sort of things that moms and dads take care of. We were ill prepared for the responsibility of ousting this vagabond.

My husband was not as supportive as you might think. He threw down a box and said, “Try to trap it with this.” In the meantime, my defender headed to Kmart to buy traps. I stuffed a towel under the door hoping to keep the vermin from escaping, and kept watch.

My rescuing knight returned with $22 worth of traps. A regular snap trap. An inhumane sticky trap. A humane catch-and-release trap. And I’m-so-thirsty-I-could-die Decon. Perhaps it was overkill because the $1.98 old-fashioned snap trap did the trick—and in short order.

The point is, we were not going to let that pest stay in our house! It would not be allowed to live with us while we were wondering if it was multiplying and eating our food in the middle of the night. As long as it was loose, it was destroying our peaceful abode. Acting fast to capture it was a no-brainer.

Now, think about this—what if we responded to the pesky thoughts that sneak into our soul houses with the same sort of urgency? Our soul is the structure for our mind, will and emotions, after all.

Tuning to notice the sounds of strange scratching and rustling in our “renewed” minds should likewise signal that we have to act quickly. When our peace is disturbed, we’re not really letting Christ be in control of our circumstances. And we can’t hear God’s voice very well when we are plagued by that runaway fear, anxiety, insecurity, or violation of our space. Yet, how often do we resign ourselves to living with those intruders, or simply trying to ignore that they are there?

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

You see, one thing we can know about God is that He promises to guard our hearts and minds with peace (Phil. 4:7). Peace sets a standard that is virtually tangible. The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom.” Shalom is not the absence of conflict, rather in the Hebrew, peace’s definition reads like this: “to destroy the authority of chaos.” Christ, Prince of Peace, destroys the authority of chaos so we can be settled and whole. But we have to live like we know that He provides that right for us.

Just like when a mouse gets in your house, uninhibited thoughts and lies will pull focus, and that chaos will try to control you. We can’t let these thoughts bed down alongside the truth of God’s Word. That’s a contradiction of interests. We have to learn to urgently say, “No, God’s peace rules here because Jesus Christ is the law and I’m his sheriff in these parts. Destructive thought, you’re not running loose here.”

What is rustling in your mind these days to get you all worked up? Don’t ignore it. You have the responsibility to capture it, cage it, oust it. First, secure and order your thought space and when that is done, practice doing what Philippians 4:8 says to: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

And, just for fun: One of my favorite ads–watch to the end to see why!:

Praise Isn’t Just a Tune, It’s a Trial

praise!Yesterday, I wrote about the understanding that our trial is to the truth, not to pain, not to suffering. Truth is the trial, and it is walking out in faith what God says about a matter. This is a companion piece to that post, because there is another part that is married to truth, and it is spirit. So, there is the trial of truth, but there is also the trial of praise. Our devotion is tested based on our demonstration of praise to God, despite of–and even in the presence of–our struggles. 

As I started studying about trials, I was surprised to see this verse: “As the refining pot for silver and the furnace for gold [bring forth all of the impurities of the metal], so let a man be in his TRIAL OF PRAISE [ridding himself of all that is base or insincere; for a man is judged by what he praises and of what he boasts]” (Proverbs 27:21, Amplified Bible).

What is praise, anyway? I’ve been in church all of my life, and I can’t say I have heard many teachings on what it really means to praise the Lord. I’ve heard of praise songs. So, is praise a song? Well, praise is a song, but not only a song. It is, however, a sound. Whether our mouths are moving or not, we put forth a sound into the atmosphere.

It is the true sound of what is in our hearts. Our God in Heaven is jealous for that sound that we were made to release to Him. From the beginning of mankind, and in fact before mankind, Lucifer also desired that sound, for worship is that powerful. How that sound of praise is demonstrated is as varied as creation itself. Songs, art, color, dance, words, demonstrations of love, thoughts of life, declarations of blessing, hearts that burst with passion and justice and righteousness. It is a sound that comes from created beings that was made for the Creator and Master Architect of all of Life. It reaches God’s ears through “passports of praise” (as my son, Josiah, has said), purchased and placed in our hands because of Jesus. This sound of praise is seen in the spirit. And we are judged by what we praise or of what we boast.

On the flip side, complaining is just praise to the wrong god. Praise is the language of the kingdom of light. Grumbling and complaining is the language of the kingdom of darkness. Satan has always wanted to hijack the praise of God’s people. Our trial is to “choose this day whom you will serve.” The Spirit of God urges us to choose life! But, how are we expected to be able to choose the right sound when stuff might be turning to crap all around us in every direction?

The Israelites physically faced the same trial en route to Promised Land that we are now in spiritually en route to our inheriting our promises. God wanted a people whose sound of praise to Him was genuine despite the struggle. It is not based on the circumstances. It is based on the truth that has been revealed, and what we are going to do with that truth. Truth mostly engages our minds and wills, but praise engages our emotions. We are whole people, and God wants all of us. But, I am convicted by this verse: “The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them. Instead, they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the Lord” (Psalm 106:24-25, NLT).

True praise says that we believe God’s promise to care for us. Even if we’re sad. Even if we’re pressed. Even if everything looks broken. Even if it doesn’t look possible. Even if it feels like He brought us out of slavery only to die in the wilderness. Even if obedience means losing security and pleasures that the world offers in order to follow Him. The sweetest praise to God is the one that is a sacrifice. It can come with tears, and pain, and hurt, screaming or joy, delight, or dancing. It doesn’t matter, as long as it is a life song in His direction that says, “I am Yours and You are mine. And it doesn’t matter how I feel, You are always good and You are always worthy. And You care about me.”

Do you know what He does for us with that sacrifice? Isaiah 61:3 informs us of the most magnificent trade ups: Give Him your ashes, and He gives you beauty. Give Him your mourning, and He will give you the oil of joy. Give Him your spirit of despair, and He will give you a garment of praise. But our demonstration of praise understands it is an exchange. I cannot hold on to ruin, mourning, and despair and also receive a total restoration for my life that is to better than it was before. This is the trial of praise.

The process of being purified, of being humble, of belonging to God is not always easy. But the trial is to truth. The trial is of praise. The challenges we face on this earth are so heated sometimes that we feel that we are being destroyed. But the Bible says our mountains will melt like wax before the presence of the Lord. The heat we experience, though, will be to refine us to be loved and cared for by Him. In doing so, He will turn us out into our design and destiny.

In ancient times, this form of refining coins involved a craftsman sitting next to a hot fire with molten gold in a pot being stirred and skimmed to remove the impurities or dross that rose to the top of the molten metal. It was a dangerous occupation. It was a process. The result was beautiful and worth so much. Are you willing to undergo your trial of praise? He is looking for that kind of worshipper–tested and found to be totally true.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

TRUTH Is…Truth is the Trial

I’ve worn glasTheSearchForTruth_3ses since the third grade and contact lenses since I was 13 years old. I am extremely near-sighted. I often wonder what my quality of life might have been if I would have lived in a time before the tools were created to enhance my sight. It certainly would have been a trial to me. What would be even more of a trial, though, is if I now know glasses or contacts are available to correct my sight problem, but I am too afraid, stubborn, or offended to put them on or in so they can help me. It means I will have chosen to not have my vision corrected.

Yet, we make these sort of choices spiritually every day. The short sightedness we struggle with is that we don’t even know it. My son, Josiah, wrote a poem the other day and the concept radically changed my perception. Perhaps you’ve heard that “perception is your reality.” But what if what you perceive to be true is not really the truth? This is the excerpt from the poem that has rocked me: “Truth is the trial…Trials are to truth, not to suffering.” You have to go back and read that again. (I’ll put the whole poem in the comments so you can get the bigger picture.)

Truth is the trial. There are certainly many trials we face in this world. I mean, pick your trial. It will usually be attached to your cares and woes. Usually, then, our prayers go something like this: “God, please help me to get through this ____________. It’s really hard. I need your help.” Okay, nothing wrong with that, but what if you or I went one step further to ask, “God what’s your truth about my situation?” If you listen or just look in His Word, before long you will discover He has an established truth behind how He sees every difficulty, temptation, sickness, lack–TRIAL–we face.

Once we are willing to allow Him to reveal to us what that truth is, we have a different trial on our hands. It is the trial to believe the truth, rather than to simply endure through the situation. We then have a choice to either rise up to jockey to the demands of the situation, or to rise up to meet the demands of the truth about the situation. Have I lost you yet?

The Bible says a lot of things about truth, like:

  • You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
  • Jesus said, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. John 14:6
  • The Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive (welcome, take to its heart), because it does not see Him or know and recognize Him. But you know and recognize Him, for He lives with you [constantly] and will be in you. John 14:17
  • Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…changing the truth of God into a lie. Romans 1:22, 25
  • Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. Hebrews 10:26

Are you beginning to see this picture of the trial to the truth? When the truth is revealed to you about how God sees your situation–and He is never at a loss for solutions–either that truth will be what progressively sets you free, OR if you don’t take the provision Christ made for that truth to become your reality, it will slay you. Truth is the trial.

Paul reinforces this idea in Romans 8:33: “Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion (symbolically, the road to knowing God and being known by God), a stone you can’t get around. But the stone is me (Jesus)! If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.”

I’m looking at everything differently, because perception truly matters. I keep bringing up a mental cue card to prompt this question, “What is the truth?” Be careful not to reduce all of this talk about the truth to the one-time decision to become a Christ-follower. I think evangelicals especially will gloss over these scriptures going, “Yep, I’ve already accepted Christ, so everyone else needs to see the truth.” No, this is talking about truth in every matter and every situation. It’s the daily practice of living under the realities of a different kingdom than this world subscribes to.

Even Pilate himself, a student of Greek philosophy, dismissively asked this question to Christ–“What is truth?” But when THE Truth was staring him in the face, he didn’t allow it to change him or the circumstances. His whole society lived under the Greek viewpoint that said there is no truth but that which individuals deem to be the truth. His assessment was that Jesus was not guilty–true–but that didn’t change anything. Truth was the trial because Jesus confronted that idea of relative truth by saying, “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).

How does this practically work in your life and in mine, Christ follower? For example, it goes a little something like this:

Reality: I don’t have enough money to make the bills.
How God sees it: My God will meet all my needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
My questions: Which is the truth? What choices will I make differently if anchored to God’s truth of provision rather than to lack or fear?

Reality: I am sick and suffering, and stifled because of it.
How God sees it: May I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.
My questions: What is the truth? How will I gain strength for this day in front of me because I choose to believe God’s truth instead of these present chains?

Reality: I keep giving in to temptation, and I just can’t stop getting sucked in to old, destructive patterns.
How God sees it: For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.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.
My questions: What is the truth? Is the sin itself trialing me, or am I just being rebellious by not being obedient to do what God says I should–to humbly go to Him for help to be able to do what His Word instructs?

When the word “trial” comes up, the very first thing that pops into my mind is usually pain, pressure and suffering. But according to the Strong’s concordance, trial means “the proof, the test, the trustworthiness by experience” of your faith. It makes so much more sense when we realize that truth is the trial. When we persevere and endure because we are determined to rise up to truth, we are strengthened instead of broken by how messed up the circumstances are.

Put new truth goggles on, and you will not cringe so badly when you see this passage: Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

When the trial is the truth, and your faith has to rise up to prove God’s truth, rather than to conform to the weight of that problem, you will become strong and thankful for how God always makes a way IF we walk in His truth. But that’s a trial because we have to be obedient to believe hard things, spiritual things that may defy earthly logic. Truth is supposed to bring revelation that the mind and will can then choose to agree with so it may be put into practice.

Now you know that truth is ten times a better teacher than suffering is. And truth is a teacher, and the Teacher is the Truth. With that, will we choose to take up our cross to follow Him?

Getting to Know Who God Wants to Be–for Me

Image“Life is tremendously simple when you know He is Papa, He is Healer, He is Helper.” My eight-year-old son typed those words to me one day. Could it be that clear? Could the complex, frustrating, seemingly inconsistent mysteries of life really be solved by coming to trust the implications that He is my Papa, He is my Healer, He is my Helper?

Why can we accept His labels more easily when they are paired with a “the” rather that with a “my”? Really, ‘Papa, Healer, Helper’ is nothing more than clarifying what we know of the trinity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Oh mysterious three-in-one God that theologians have hemmed and hawed over for countless generations only to say it is so difficult to explain.

Is it? Could it be that we were not meant to over-intellectualize with our minds what our spirits were born to confirm? Perhaps we were plopped on this earth to go from systematically learning about who He is to journeying toward who He wants to be–for us? Simply, Papa, Healer, Helper–to people. Rinse, lather and repeat.

Every function oozes love that yearns to land on somebody, lots of somebodies. He is not willing than any would perish having not received this Love. But, what about our pain? Our own hurts, disappointments and disillusionment will perhaps allow us to concede that He is the Father, the Healer, the Helper as the scriptures clearly say, but the strikes against Him start piling up when we are asked to believe He is those things for me. That precisely is the place where one is forced to decide, “Do I believe in God, or do I believe God?” The first is an acknowledgment; the second is an invitation to fall down the rabbit hole of rich relationship.

The apostle Paul was a man so learned in the Torah Jewish scriptures that he had them memorized, analyzed, systemized and prioritized. But, it was only after an unmistakable encounter with Jesus that he was able to say this: “I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us” (Romans 8:38-39).

And yet, if we’re being honest, doesn’t that list at some point tangle us up within our realities only to become our own excuse that gets between us and God’s love? And then we say He must have stopped embracing us. What if we didn’t care to be embraced like that?

“Perfect love drives out fear?” (I Jn. 4:18). Really? I’ve never seen people fear anything more than wanting/having to believe that God loves us perfectly. Maybe I speak for myself. We want this love, but few things make us more leery than this “too good to be true” expression toward us. We will look at our circumstances and experiences–past or present–and conclude that God was a good Dad, a dear Healer, and wonderful Helper when life was peachy and bad things didn’t happen to us. When it isn’t peachy and bad things do happen, His character in our eyes is able to be bombed out like an old besieged castle. Maybe it’s just for a day, or even for an hour. Or perhaps something that once was strong and beautiful for us gets ruined beyond repair in our eyes.

In our own eyes, are we perceiving the truth? I’m under the impression that what we as society know about papas, healers, and helpers does not come close to capturing the truth of what He means when He says I AM Papa, I AM Healer, I AM Helper. Let’s look at how a Hebrew might think about each of these, since that’s God’s perspective:

1. He is Papa

I’m not sure there is a better picture of the dear, rich relationship Father God wants to have with us than the one Jesus lays out in John 17. He talks so beautifully with Him. There is a line that might be missed for its richness if you did not understand Jewish culture: “Everything I have is Yours, and everything You have is Mine” (v. 10). This is the language of covenant. When two individuals are one, it is to say they are in covenant. This leads to unity, and each party gives ALL to the other.

In the story of the prodigal son, the father uses the same language with the suspicious older brother: “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours…'” (Luke 15:31). In that story, the Father’s character never changed. He never broke His covenant nor changed his character at all through the story, even when one son walked away, and the other son didn’t appreciate or see what he had.

How interesting that either for the one who leaves or the one who stays, the offer to celebrate the security of that bond is always on the table. The only requirement is to return–or simply turn–to the father. Jesus made the way for us back to the Father, and then He actually asked the Father to love us like He loved Jesus–just like that. In a big ball of oneness. Do we feel loved just as Jesus felt loved by His Father, regardless of all that the world and the enemy threw at him–and us? Each of us will need to ask God for a revelation of His gentle Daddy love for us that is matched with His reverential, strong covenant love for us. A love so radical that He gave, and gave, and gave.

2. He is Healer

Jesus has been called a lot of things: Teacher, Master, Prophet, Savior, Messiah, but perhaps nothing encompasses the fullness of who He wants to be for us like “Healer” does. The very name “Jesus” or “Yeshua” as it would have been said, means “Jehovah saves.” That word “save” in the Hebrew means “deliverance, rescue, salvation, safety, healing, liberty, prosperity, and welfare.” He is not just a “fixer” of our messes. Is that all we want? He is Healer.

Look what I just found, and I’m overwhelmed: “To the Torah-observant early Hebrews, to be saved was to begin with an action or deed, a rescue followed by a destroying of the thing you were rescued from, ultimately concluded by a devotion, or casting your eyes upon, that which delivered you... I pray that you will see that in Hebrew thinking (Old Testament revelation), salvation always involved the whole person. The foundation of our trust never divided up the person into three parts.” We don’t just “get saved” once as an event. Jesus is Healer of all of our spirit, soul (mind, will and emotions), and physical body.

We are not seeing Him in the fullness of who He is for us. He is total in His offer of freedom for us, lest we think we are being presumptuous or greedy to bring ALL our brokenness before Him. Galatians 5:1 says, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” You will know when His healing is starting to invade your person when you are losing slavery status, living like you know that He destroyed that thing that you were rescued from. We will spend most of our Christian lives learning to live free under His rule as we allow Jesus to repair us.

3. He is Helper

Of course, Helper is the role of Holy Spirit. How intriguing that the personhood of Holy Spirit Helper is who Jesus sent to take up residence in us, and to be closer than our breath, yet of this Godhead, we seem to know Him the least. Isn’t it just like us to have a knee-jerk reaction to not want to accept help, feel like you can’t get good help these days, and think that if you need something done right you’re gonna have to do it yourself? Could these all be ploys to pull us away from the Helper, leaving Him twiddling His thumbs?

This Helper is so dramatic, so powerful, so energized, so creative, so effective, so wise, so knowing, so efficient that for most of us, He freaks us plumb out. So, we’d rather leave him benched. We interrupt Him, we shut Him down, we shut Him up, because like a bratty toddler exerting his independence, “I wanna do it myself!” Is it possible that Helper means that He is there to help in all aspects of work, school, relationships, study, ministry, worship, revelation–LIFE? He’s not just dude we’re afraid will cause people to speak in tongues. He brings fruit to our lives.

Jesus promised, “The Helper will come – the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father. I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me” (John 15:26). We cannot have revelation about things of the spirit without help from Holy Spirit. That word “helper” in the Hebrew always refers to “vitally important and powerful assistance.” We toss out terms like being “spirit led.” Well, that means as a Helper, He is much more effective as our engine than our caboose.

I don’t know if this has helped you, mystery reader, or if it was just meant to help me. I just know that when I started seeing Papa, Healer, Helper as altogether lovely, altogether worthy, altogether holy, this God became altogether wonderful to me. I was able to start trusting that He really could work it all together for my good.

 

 

 

Unbelievable, But True… and Why We Don’t Like That

un·be·liev·a·ble:

1. not able to be believed; unlikely to be true; informalhard to swallow

2. so great or extreme as to be difficult to believe; extraordinary

OMG_smallerI’ve experienced some things as of late that if they weren’t happening to me I would say they were “unbelievable.” They cannot be passed off as coincidence, or under the influence of any drugs, or temporary insanity, or wishful thinking, or an overactive imagination, or the “Universe” being drawn to do its thang. The thing about something being unbelievable is that we think it is unlikely to be true. But when you stand in the presence of Truth, you just know it. We were designed to know it. We can try to deny it with our minds or intellect or reasoning, but it would be lacking what is known as integrity to do so. Yet, each person holds such a right.

I stood singing in church one day. The words we were singing were vivid and were so full of power that it occurred to me that most of us in the room moving our mouths did not realize what we were really singing. If we did, we would not be so zombie-like or matter-of-fact in the singing. What do these lyrics imply, for instance?:

The mountains shake before You the demons run and flee
At the mention of the name King of Majesty
There is no power in hell
Or any who can stand
Before the power and the presence of the great I AM

Have you ever not been able to stand in the power and presence of God? Have we absolutely lost the understanding of the greatness and fear and awe of God and reduced our salvation to religion? Replaced our rightful encounters with God with dry theology? How tragic, and without excuse. We pray. We say we are devout. We say we believe. We read our Bibles. We go to church. We read books that we nod at and give a fist pump to. We try to behave. What would actually happen if those who say they believe in God very simply, well, believed Him? Could we handle it?

Logically, traditionally, culturally, historically, the God that the Bible presents is UNBELIEVABLE to us. To venture past the “motions” of Christianity is to allow yourself to become uncomfortable. It is not “normal” what God offers to us when He invades our world and our hearts with His. When we pray, surely we have no idea what a prayer in faith can do, or we would be praying way more and gathering together way more to ask God to do something beyond what we could do with our own intellect and hands.

If we believe in the God of Bible, why do we not really think that He is the same God as He was in the Bible? We read this stuff like the “heroes of the faith” are mystical superheroes. They are not. They were all just normal people like US that simply chose to believe and obey God. That’s it. And He showed them things. He cared for them. He talked with them. He gave them detailed instructions. He said what He wanted to have happen. He released to them the power to do it. He was present with those who wanted Him. I mean, do we really want Him–all of Him? Or just the parts that aren’t freaky or that don’t look different than the rest of life around us? Are we just content to wear out the pages in our Bibles that only tell us things that make us feel fuzzy and better–the stuff that’s acceptable within the societal genre of fuzzy and better?

I went to see the movie “Heaven is For Real” a few weeks ago. I had started the wildly popular book a while ago, but never made it through, so the movie plot detail was new to me. There was this running line with the dad who was a pastor wrestling with what his four-year-old son had told him about glimpses of Heaven that he had while in surgery (though not a near-death experience), things he hadn’t known, couldn’t know. It messed with the pastor so much because he preached this God, but the reality of this God–rather than the idea of this God–confronted him and it frustrated him. Man, I understand what he was going through. Playing it safe was just out of the question after this thing happened. When he started grappling with this at his church, it made them uncomfortable. They threatened to let him go if he didn’t stop talking about this whole Heaven deal. Preach the self-help while standing underneath the cross, and that is what will be digestible.

But the thing is, even when something is “unbelievable” it doesn’t mean that it is untrue. That disturbs us, and it should. Denial is futile if you’ve experienced something that you cannot explain away. This has happened with my son, Josiah. The things this boy who cannot speak types to me cannot be brushed off as the poetry of Hallmark cards or the words of some genius with a photographic memory or something. Psychologists I’m sure would love to ascribe a reasonable explanation. Well, let them. You KNOW when you are standing in the presence of Truth. We were designed to know it. “Oh, isn’t that nice” is not the reaction I have when I see some of the stuff my son writes. Let’s just say, I know what it means to have the fear of God. He is too much, too wonderful, too REAL.

You lose friends over saying such things. You lose the respect of some over saying such things. You raise the suspicion of others over saying such things. Why? Because deep down we don’t really want to believe in something so unbelievable. It’s painful to believe that much. The response back is too wrought with sacrifice of yourself and your life as you knew it. We say we want it–His kingdom come, His will be done–really? Can we handle what that looks like? Dare I say much of the Church today would not recognize Christ if they saw Him.

I was reading in John one day, and this phrase kept showing up regarding Jesus: “but they would not believe Me.” Curious, I wondered how often just in John a phrase like that occurred. I counted 33 times. How are the Jews much different than us today? They were God’s own set-apart people, and they believed in HIm, but yet, wanting Him held much different implications. Signs, wonders, miracles could not even convince so many that Jesus was Messiah, God in the flesh. It just wasn’t what they wanted, for it was not what they had in mind. And if even if they couldn’t deny what He was doing, losing what they had set up as their “way” of life and worship was not worth it to them to embrace what was in front of them. They would rather kill it altogether. Pulse check, Church???

I have to wrestle with these Scriptures, don’t you?:

  • “But if you won’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?” (John 3:12).
  • “He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them! Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true. For he is sent by God, He speaks God’s words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit” (John 3:32-33).
  • “Jesus responded, ‘Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” (John 11:40).
  • “Many believed him but wouldn’t admit it…for they loved human praise more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43).
  • “And a deep sense of awe come over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders” (Acts 2:43).
  • They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools” (Rom. 1:19-22).

Why is a powerful God who wants to show His glory again in His way and not in our ways so unbelievable to us who are even “believers”? He has not hidden the truth from us. Will we recognize it when we see it, perhaps moving us from “unbelievable” to maybe conceding that it is “incomprehensible”–yet, strangely, not surprising. He pretty much has laid out there how He works. Could it be that history is turning to see something many of us haven’t seen in our lifetimes?

We have to be asking these questions as individuals: Do I believe it? Do I want it? Do I believe Him? Do I want Him? He will make Himself known to those who answer yes, but it’s a strong invitation to answer yes. And a good one!

Look! I’m doing a new thing;
    now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? (Isaiah 43:19)

 

“Who’s There?”… and Other Questions to Ask When You Hear a Spiritual Knock

door-knocking“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Dwayne.” “Dwayne who?” “Dwayne the tub, I’m dwowning.” There it is, my favorite childhood knock-knock joke. I had to just get that out of the way so I can get to what I really want to talk about, and it has to do with who is at the door. When I study the Bible these days, I find myself falling down some profitable rabbit holes. Yesterday, I was reading in Romans, and in chapter 6, a little line jumped off the page and wrapped itself around my head. One simple question came to mind, “What does that really mean?” Let me tell you about my treasure hunt.

“Do you not know that you are slaves to whom YOU SUBMIT? You are in submission to whom you PRESENT YOURSELVES as servants…” (Romans 6:16). Now, where we Christ-followers can run into trouble is when we gloss over these verses as if they don’t apply to us any more after we “get saved.” When we receive Christ, we have been set free, and who the Son has set free is free indeed! But, we have to choose freedom over bondage–and keep choosing it–like in all things and every single day.

Most of us have areas that we don’t even know we are completely bound up in. We have been deceived and we do not realize that we are little yes men to tyrant taskmasters. For instance, has Worry been giving you the runaround? Is Fear dictating your next move? Are Inferiority or Insecurity making you go sideways to demand you be heard? That’s what I’m talking about.

The Responsibility of Being Free

I believe the whole of the Christian life is pretty much a series of classes and experiences to help us learn how to live free. If we don’t learn this, we could instead get crushed in the freedom like the old guy in Shawshank Redemption who was a prisoner for so long that he hung himself when he was released because freedom was too much responsibility for him to steward. In not just the big things of life, but also in the seemingly small choices, thoughts and behaviors of every day life, we will be slaves to whom we submit to.

I looked up that word “submit.” I’m a sucker for word studies in the Strong’s Concordance so I can see what something actually meant in original Hebrew or Greek. Hidden truths are unearthed everywhere in this Word of God that is alive and active! So, the word “submit” there means “to listen, to harken, to obey.” Okay, I had gathered that already, but then there was this: “to be a porter–of one who on the knock at the door comes to listen who it is.” Whaaattt? All sorts of connections started firing in my mind. I had to see more. “A porter is a person stationed at a door or a gate to admit or assist those entering; one who waits at the door to receive messages.”

There is a huge spiritual truth here! In the Old Testament, a porter was a sacred officer of the temple or tabernacle. A porter was stationed at the gates. If thou shalt kick it old school with the King James Version, you will see Jesus talking about a porter: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out” (John 10:1-3).

Jesus does a similar thing in Revelation 3:20, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” This is an amazing picture to me. A porter is stationed to discern if the person on the other side of the door or gate should be let in. If it is friend, let him in, but if it is foe, sound an alarm to scoot this enemy, thief, invader, deceiver out. In biblical times, cities were fortified with walls and gates. The tabernacle itself had one gate, and it was the only way to enter in to worship God. Those who stood at the gates, those who guarded the doors, were essential.

Watching the Door, Guarding the Gate

The wild thing is that 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself…” Here’s the deal, we have a vital role to play when we decide to serve Christ, and as we continue to serve Him. A lot of riff-raff will knock on the door of our souls. We are the porters who are charged with pausing to say, “Who is it?” when we hear a “spiritual” knock. Yes, there are spirits from the kingdom of God to be aware of that show up even after we have let Christ in to stay–messengers, helpers, warriors, deliverers of the “Fruit of the Spirit of the Month Club” that we definitely want to let in. But, there are also spirits that are from Satan’s kingdom that would love have us slip up and invite them in to bring with them worry, fear, oppression, troubles, cares of every kind and heavy, heavy burdens. The reality is that we obey and submit to whatever we let in. Train your ears to hear the knocking.

Our own lives experience enough invasion from thieves that we have to catch and throw out of our temple. As we go to work repairing cracks and allowing God to caulk the crevices, we gain more control over the actual gates. We realize we actually stand at a post of power where we identify who or what we say yes or no to. There is a place in God where we are not victims anymore to what comes to us. We choose to either open the door to God and what He wants to bring into our lives, or we start carelessly opening the door to what our devourer, the devil and his kingdom–or the ways of this world–would like to make us servants to. They will try to wear you down like the old salesmen that came a knocking with vacuums or encyclopedias or whatever, using slick talk to get them in your house. Once they’ve been allowed in, before you know it you’ve written a check for over $1,000 for something that sucks.

At the end of the day, we choose whom we will serve. We will be slaves to who we attend to after we have opened the door and presented ourselves to it. I want to live as Paul said, “For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor. 7:22-23).

Don’t be deceived, porters, it is the little decisions each day–not just the big ones–that will determine our status of participation in the “life to the full” Christ came to give us while navigating through the circumstances of life on this earth. You didn’t realize how important it was to answer back with “Who’s there” once you hear a knock, knock, did you? I didn’t.