Gratitude and Jumping Off the Cliff 

So, I keep getting this message about giving thanks no matter what. (Thank you to all my fellow bloggers and online devotionals!) I admit I am having a hard time getting there. Life is hard! Does gritting your teeth and saying it just in obedience count?? Maybe it does take flinging myself off the precipice. 
 

When the storms come, and our trees of delight are bare and leafless, when He strips us of the comforts to which His love has accustomed us — or more painful still, — when He leaves us alone in the world, to mourn the absence of the chief desire of our heart; — to sing to Him then, to bless and praise and laud His dear name then, this is the work of His free grace only. — Susanah Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel, December 1903, 606. From online devotional by Ray Rhodes, The Other Spurgeon https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-other-spurgeon  
 
 

I have realised that irrespective of our circumstances, there is nothing as meaningful as showing gratitude irrespective of our current circumstances. For the apostle Paul states in the book of Philippians that. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.”  

This morning I would like to admonish you, irrespective of your current situation; there is nothing more potent than our great God. If he came through for people in times past, remember, He is still the same. He is unchanged. He expects you to leave the past behind and show gratitude for what He has done for you.  

Being alive is a miracle you should be grateful for. That incurable medical report? That declining academic report? The financial crisis? My friend, just leave it into His hands. He will come through for you.  Blogged by Eliezer https://eliezerontim.wordpress.com/2021/10/15/gratitude/   

The Psalmist wrote, “Our fathers trusted in you; they trusted, and you delivered them. They cried to you, and were delivered; they trusted in you, and were not ashamed” (Psalm 22:4-5, NKJV). The Hebrew root word for ‘trust’ suggests “to fling oneself off a precipice.” That means being like a child who has climbed up into the rafters and cannot get down. He hears his father say, “Jump!” and he obeys, throwing himself into his father’s arms … The trusting heart always says, “All my steps are ordered by the Lord. He is my loving Father, and he permits my sufferings, temptations and trials but never more than I can bear. He always makes a way of escape. He has an eternal plan and purpose for me. He has numbered every hair on my head, and he formed all my parts when I was in my mother’s womb. He knows when I sit, stand or lie down because I am the apple of his eye. He is Lord not just over me but over every event and situation that touches me.” — David Wilkerson, A Perfect Heart is Trusting https://worldchallenge.org/devotion/perfect-heart-trusting?ref=devos  
 

 
How can we live a truly grateful life? When we look back at all that has happened to us, we easily divide our lives into good things to be grateful for and bad things to forget. But with a past thus divided, we cannot move freely into the future. With many things to forget we can only limp toward the future.  

True spiritual gratitude embraces all of our past, the good as well as the bad events, the joyful as well as the sorrowful moments. From the place where we stand, everything that took place brought us to this place, and we want to remember all of it as part of God’s guidance. That does not mean that all that happened in the past was good, but it does mean that even the bad didn’t happen outside the loving presence of God  . . . Once all of our past is remembered in gratitude, we are free to be sent into the world to proclaim good news to others. — Henri Nouwen, The Grateful Life  
 

The adult who has lived life and attained hindsight now fights with the  
ever present child who was born of rejection.  

Logic wrestles with raw emotion.  

Yet what we know, is that in the end, love does indeed win.  

Because we know that anyone who calls  
themself a Christian, is adopted by Grace.  

I am a child of Grace and I am a person who is so ever grateful  
to that of the unconditional…  

Blogged by Julie, https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2021/10/15/an-adopted-path-to-grace/   

Yes! I don’t have to grit my teeth to be grateful for his unconditional love. Thank you so much my ever-present, loving God! 

Image in the Public Domain

Flowing Myrrh

What really got me about the myrrh is how it is harvested.

I slept but my heart was awake. 

    Listen! My beloved is knocking: 

“Open to me, my sister, my darling, 

    my dove, my flawless one. 

My head is drenched with dew, 

    my hair with the dampness of the night.” 

I have taken off my robe— 

    must I put it on again? 

I have washed my feet— 

    must I soil them again? 

My beloved thrust his hand through the latch-opening; 

    my heart began to pound for him. 

I arose to open for my beloved, 

    and my hands dripped with myrrh, 

my fingers with flowing myrrh, 

    on the handles of the bolt. 

I opened for my beloved, 

    but my beloved had left; he was gone. 

    My heart sank at his departure. 

I looked for him but did not find him. 

    I called him but he did not answer. (Song of Solomon 5:2-6) 

This passage reminds me of the parable Jesus told of the man in bed who didn’t want to get up to help his friend.  

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?  Luke 11:5-7 

Just like the Shulamite in the above verse, the man was all cozy and settled and didn’t want to get up. But he finally did, as she did, when the knocking continued. Jesus called it “shameless audacity.” And I suppose it is audacious, knocking on someone’s door persistently in the middle of the night – especially the door of a bride. But he does not give up. Though it appears, when she finally gets up, that he has left, he has not abandoned her. But rather he has aroused her to rise up and seek him. For he “works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)  

And he has left behind in his passion, the needed grace, for she says, “I arose to open for my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with flowing myrrh, on the handles of the bolt.”   

He has left behind flowing myrrh. What is the significance of the myrrh? The Illustrated Bible Dictionary says this about myrrh:i 

“First mentioned as a principal ingredient in the holy anointing oil ( Exodus 30:23 ). It formed part of the gifts brought by the wise men from the east, who came to worship the infant Jesus ( Matthew 2:11 ). It was used in embalming (John 19:39 ), also as a perfume ( Esther 2:12 ; Psalms 45:8 ; Proverbs 7:17 ). It was a custom of the Jews to give those who were condemned to death by crucifixion ‘wine mingled with myrrh’ to produce insensibility. This drugged wine was probably partaken of by the two malefactors, but when the Roman soldiers pressed it upon Jesus ‘he received it not’ ( Mark 15:23 ).”  

So, the myrrh looks forward to Jesus, our anointed High Priest, who would die for us on the cross, and to the Bridegroom, perfumed for the wedding to the Bride.  

“He has come perfumed as if for a festival, and the costly ointment which he brought with him has dropped on the handles of the bolts (מנעוּל, keeping locked, after the form מלבּוּשׁ, drawing on), viz., the inner bolt, which he wished to withdraw.” — Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament 

What really got me about the myrrh, though, is how it is harvested. “Myrrh is harvested by repeatedly wounding the trees to bleed the gum, which is waxy and coagulates quickly. After the harvest, the gum becomes hard and glossy.”ii 

This myrrh that is left behind on the handle is still fresh and running. Still new.

His mercies are new every morning. Lamentations 3:23 

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 

The myrrh left behind on the handle is “[s]weet smelling myrrh – Or (as in the margin) ‘running myrrh,’ that which first and spontaneously exudes, i. e., the freshest, finest myrrh. Even in withdrawing he has left this token of his unchanged love.” — Barnes Notes on the Bible (emphasis mine) 

The Bridegroom has left behind the token of his unchanged love for us. But the myrrh also points to the Bride. The running or liquid myrrh was used, as commanded by the Lord to Moses, to anoint, in addition to Aaron, his sons to serve as priests, and to anoint the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 30:22-30). That points to us. We have been anointed as priests to serve our God (Exodus 19:6, Revelation 1:6). We are the Tent of Meeting, or Temple (1 Corinthians 3:16).   

Rise up and seek Him church! It is time. He is knocking. 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 (ESV) 

i M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, 
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. 

ii Caspar Neumann, William Lewis, The chemical works of Caspar Neumann, M.D.,2nd Ed., Vol 3, London, 1773 p.55 (quoted from Wikipedia) 

Image in the Public Domain. Commiphora myrrha tree, one of the primary trees from which myrrh is harvested. Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrrh#/media/File:Commiphora_myrrha_-_K%C3%B6hler%E2%80%93s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-019.jpg  

Layers of Love

I am reblogging a wonderful article by Matt LeRoy this morning. I was especially struck by this observation: “[I]n our way of keeping score, sin covers a multitude of love. But not so with Jesus.”

1 Peter 4:8–11 (NIV)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Reflect

Ask the average person, loosely familiar with the story and Jesus’ life, and he or she will likely remember Peter most for one thing above all else. He denied Jesus. Yes, he was among the inner circle of disciples. He was the disciple who first articulated that foundational confession that Jesus is more than a prophet or teacher, but he is, in fact, the Christ, the very Son of the living God. Peter was the one who stepped out of the boat and onto the waves, who preached the inaugural sermon of the church at its birth, and who became a pioneer in the rising kingdom tide.

And yet we remember his denial above the rest. Why? Because in our way of keeping score, sin covers a multitude of love. But not so with Jesus.

After his resurrection, Jesus directly confronted this defining sin of Peter’s life. With what? With love. “Peter, do you love me?” he asked. Not once, but three times. Jesus covered the one moment Peter would have died to have back with the moment he would never forget. “I love you,” Peter affirmed, once for every time he had denied. And then, in the strength of this love and the power of the Holy Spirit, three thousand people joined the movement of Jesus as Peter preached at Pentecost. Three thousand. One thousand transformed lives for each of his denials.

“Love covers a multitude of sins,” Peter wrote. This isn’t poetry. It’s experience. And once you’ve experienced it, you can’t go on seeing others according to their defining sin. You will see them covered in thick layers of holy love, as Jesus beacons you to join him in piling it on.

Pray

Jesus, thank you for your love. It has not only covered our sins but transformed our hearts. Please keep moving us into deeper awakening until we are defined by our devoted love for God and others.

Conference

Why do we remember Peter most for his defining failure? Name one defining trait for which you want to be remembered. Who do you see according to their defining sin? Name a different defining trait by which you can identify them instead.

For the Awakening,
Matt LeRoy

Reblogged with permission from Seedbed https://www.seedbed.com/layers-of-love-devoted-part-4/

Photo by Jack Bair

Atmosphere of Heaven

This morning I read this sentence from a fellow blogger: 

Beloved, I don’t think we fully realize the atmosphere of heaven we carry wherever we go.i – Mel Wild 

How that struck me to tears! That is my heart’s wish – that wherever I go the atmosphere of heaven would cling to me and emanate from me. 

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (ESV) 

Who is sufficient indeed? The word used here means sufficient in ability, i. e. meet, fit, worthy, able. Certainly not me. I feel my lack every day. But what does he promise? 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV) 

The word Jesus uses here means to be possessed of unfailing strength; to be strong, to suffice, to be enough. 

“To be enough!” His grace. And that is the only way that this atmosphere of heaven will accompany me – if I let myself be weak in Him. If I lean into him, surrender, yield, allow his unfailing strength to replace my puny, never-enough efforts. May the fragrance of his love and life cling to us and change the atmosphere wherever we go. 

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God … 2 Corinthians 12:9 

See also Uncommon Fragrance of Jesus

i The dance for Paul by Mel Wild https://melwild.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/the-dance-for-paul/  

Same Mind

The mind of Christ is the narrow way. It is the way we would rather not deal with.

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Philippians 4:2 

Usually, I just slide over this passage, but this time I felt like God wanted me to look closer. It seems Paul had to encourage the churches to agree with each other a lot. Earlier in this same letter to the church in Philippi Paul had written: 

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:2  

To the Corinthians he wrote: 

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10 

So here, at the end of the letter to Philippi, he singles out these two women who are having a disagreement. Looking at just the meaning of their names is enlightening. At first glance, Euodia means “fine traveling” and Syntyche means “accident.” That made me smile. Already they appear to be opposites.  

Euodia, according to Thayer’s, means “a prosperous journey.” Strong’s notes it could possibly mean “success.” It comes from a word that means “to have a prosperous journey,” or “(figuratively) to be on the right (profitable) path.” In any case, I get this feeling of confidence, even care-lessness. 

Syntyche, on the other hand, means “a happy event.” It comes from a word that means “accident,” like happenstance, or chance meeting. In ancient Greece the word syntyche meant “fortunate” or “with fate.” The words fate, happenstance, and accidental do not promote a lot of security. So that, whereas with Euodia there is a feeling of solid confidence, with Syntyche a little bit of anxiety and even insecurity creeps in.  

It makes me think of the tension between optimism and pessimism. It reminds me of some of the disagreements Christians have had over the centuries: pre-tribulation rapture (we don’t have to worry about a thing because we will be out of here) or post-tribulation rapture (we will have to endure, dig in and fight), eternal security and conditional securityi, and arguments about salvation through faith and/or works.  

If you go too far in either of these directions you get the familiar errors of either “you don’t have to worry about (or do) anything, just trust God and proclaim the promises,” or “everything is up to us, God has given us gifts and his commands, but we have to do it.” Worse, the insecurity of Syntyche can lead to suspicion and judgement of other Christians, while the careless trust of Euodia can lead to disappointment and even anger at God when things go wrong. 

It seems to me that both of these extremes are an attempt to control life, to avoid having to trust God when bad things happen and life doesn’t make sense. Everything will always be happy and wonderful (God promises it!) vs. we must work hard to make everything happy and wonderful (God commands it!). 

The first one leads to moving target prophesies and gleeful assurances of prosperity. It leads to disillusionment with the church and God. The second one leads to anxiety, burnout, or a “fort and fight” mentality, responding to current events in fear and even hostility. 

But, what does Paul urge here? “… be of the same mind in the Lord.”  

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. Philippians 2:5-7 

We are to have the mind of Christ, which Paul assured the Corinthians we already do have. 

But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16  

When Paul urges Euodia and Synthyche to be of the same mind, the Greek word is phronéō, which means “the midriff or diaphragm; the parts around the heart … [it] essentially equates to personal opinion fleshing itself out in action.”ii Being of the same mind with each other is a heart thing. It is what we believe in our heart coming out in action. And that action is supposed to reveal Christ to the world. How important it is that we let God deal with our hearts! 

The mind of Christ is the narrow way. It is the way we would rather not deal with when we are entrenched, off on the mucky shoulders of the path, in our own thinking, our own wants and needs and demands. And please know that I am not sharing this in a judging or critical way. I have flailed around on both sides at different times in my Christian walk. But I think that God is nudging us back onto the narrow way – the mind of Christ.  

What is the mind of Christ? It is complete trust in God. It is to let ourselves become nothing. It is to be the servant. It is to have our “one thing” focus be on the will of God. It is to pour ourselves out for the salvation of the world. 

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. Luke 22:42 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 

This is Jesus’ final word to us: the meaning of the Greek word translated “peace” in John 16:33 above is eirḗnē which means one, peace, quietness, rest. It comes from eirō to join, tie together into a whole – and so means “properly, wholeness, i.e. when all essential parts are joined together; peace.” 

Take heart Church! 

iFor a good explanation of conditional security see https://www.gotquestions.org/conditional-security.html 

iiThayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Joseph Henry Thayer. 

Image: Fort La Latte, Côtes d’Armor, France, by Semnoz https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:200707_Fort_La_Latte_38.JPG   

Not Abandoned

We were on vacation not long ago “up north.” One night I was up alone for hours trying to be quiet in the tiny camper while my husband slept. Couldn’t sleep and very depressed. Thinking about all that was going wrong. Sickness, financial troubles, family members leaving the faith. That is when I told God I felt abandoned. In the morning more devastating family news on Facebook. By the time we were eating breakfast I was bawling. Not a fun time.  

Packing up to go “enjoy” the day, my husband stepped in some doggie doodoo and it got tracked all over the camper. At least an hour was spent cleaning rugs and mats and shoes at the camp water pump. Then he banged his head real hard trying to wrangle things back in. Finally, on our way to the beach, a big heavy, wet floor mat that we thought could ride on the hood a few miles flew up and smacked the windshield while we were driving, covering it and scaring us and making us, shaken and blinded, pull over quickly to the side of the road.  

To top the morning off, when we got to the beach my husband cracked his elbow badly getting things out of the truck. At that we both just started laughing, and I felt God say, now THAT is what it would be like if I had abandoned you. 

Lord, thank you that we aren’t even aware of all that you do for us. Thank you that you watch over us continually, though we cannot see you. That, though bad things happen, you are there with us. That you carry us through it all. But, thank you most of all that Jesus endured abandonment for us on the cross that we might never – ever – be abandoned. 

At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Matthew 27:46 (NLT) 

The LORD will guard you from all evil; He will preserve your soul. The LORD will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:7-8 

… and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place. Deuteronomy 1:31 

For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NLT) 

Image by DVIDSHUB, from flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/dvids/13938506188

Holiness – Purity

… to be a conduit of God’s love. 

Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:3  

According to James V. Brownson there are three aspects to holiness:  

  • Differentiation, or being set apart from the world 
  • Openness to God, an availability to God’s presence, or being set apart to God 
  • Purity  

We looked at the first two aspects in Holiness – Set Apart. Being separated out, or chosen, and setting our hearts and minds on obeying God leads to a passion for purity. Holiness, in the purity sense it seems to me, is becoming “like Jesus,” conformed to his image. It is “the restoration of the image of God,” as Wilberforce described it. Brownson defined purity as finding our true identity in Christ: 

“In the broadest sense, purity consists in actions that are in accordance with our God-given identity. The life of faith is the life that lives out our identity given to us Christ. ‘Seek first God’s kingdom,’ says Jesus, ‘And everything else will be yours as well.’ Or as Kierkegaardi paraphrases the same notion, purity of heart is to will one thing, to consistently set one’s will toward being the child of God that God has called you to be … To allude to the words of Jesus: the soul preoccupied with many things can miss the one thing that is necessary. To live by the one thing that is necessary is what purity is all about.”ii 

The purity of holiness means to be “set apart” to God. It means God is our focus, our pursuit, our “one thing.” And it is not primarily for ourselves, but for others. It is not so we can pat ourselves on the back, but because when Jesus is lifted up, all men are drawn to him. When we are truly like him, people see what God is really like; they know his love for them; they experience all that God yearns for them: the healing and restoration and being set free, loosing of bonds, breaking of chains. Jesus wants to become “the firstborn of many brothers.” Holiness is submitting ourselves to that passion, dying to ourselves to help make that happen. 

“As reflected in the life of Jesus, spiritual formation, or sanctification, is the growth we are to experience as people who believe in Jesus—growth that moves us toward the image of God.” — J.D. Walt iii 

Holiness means obedience to the will of God which is all about love; it’s about doing the good works that we were created to do, which are all about helping to bring his lost children home. 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8 

Jesus’ command was not you will witness – not you will knock on doors, or hand out tracts, or however people witness in our day – or not even that you will write blogs. But that you will be witnesses. That word translated “be” – eimi – means to be, to exist. In other words, you will exist as a witness to God’s glory, it will have become part of your being. When people look at you, they will see Jesus in you. 

“It is through Christian people that the Lord Jesus is glorified; that is why he is concerned about these people. Let us remember that the world knows nothing about him apart from us; it gets to know him through us, and judges him by what it sees in us. Indeed, he put it still more specifically by saying that even as God had sent him into the world to manifest the glory of God, now he sends his people into the world in exactly the same way, so that he may thus be magnified and glorified through them.” — Martyn Lloyd-Jones iv  

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you– from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (Message)  

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29 (ESV) 

So, there are two reasons to pursue holiness which correspond to the two consuming passions of God. First, that we might see and know and love him as our Father, and second, to love our fellow humans with God’s love so that they might be brought into his family too. 

Holiness as purity is not so we can be “holier than thou.” It means to be holier and holier toward God, holier and holier because of God’s work in us, holier and holier for others, holier and holier for love – to be a conduit of God’s love.  

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength … Love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:30-31 

 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (ESV)  

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. John 12:32 (ESV) 

i Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing. Sören Kierkegaard. 1938.  https://www.religion-online.org/book/purity-of-heart-is-to-will-one-thing/  

ii Holiness and Hermeneutics. James V. Brownson. Western Theological Seminary. 1999. 

iii The Image of God and the Quest for Holiness. J.D. Walt.  https://www.seedbed.com/the-image-of-god-and-the-quest-for-holiness/  

iv Sanctified Through the Truth. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Crossway Books, 1989. 

Image from FreeBibleimages.org

In the Midnight Season

In the path (way) of your judgments (justice, plan, standard, divine law),  

O Lord, we wait (we are collected, bound together with you, remain, endure, expect, look) for you;  

your name (revealed character) and remembrance (renown, memory, scent)  

are the desire (longing, satisfaction) of our soul (heart, being, life, passion, hunger and thirst, breath). 

My soul (my living being, life, self, person, desire, passion)  

yearns (covets, greatly desires, craves, longs) for you in the night (in adversity, in the midnight season); 

[Indeed! Yes! Yet!] 

my spirit (my very breath of life) within me (in my inward parts, my center)  

earnestly seeks (diligently, early in the morning, searches for) you. 

Isaiah 26:8-9 (ESV) 

In the dark path
in the midnight season
I am looking for you
seeking seeking
I breathe your lingering scent
where are you?
my soul my heart my very center
desires longs craves
in the night
in the midnight season
I search for you

Image, Dune Trees at Night by Jack Bair. All rights reserved.

Holiness – Set Apart

We are called by name.

Be holy, because I am holy. 1 Peter 1:16 

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:5 

What exactly does it mean to be holy? According to James V. Brownsoni there are three aspects to holiness:  

  • Differentiation, or being set apart from the world 
  • Openness to God, an availability to God’s presence, or being set apart to God 
  • Purity  

Being Set Apart from the World 

Brownson writes that “[i]t is important to note that this setting apart is never a withdrawal from the world, but rather a differentiation for a particular kind of service to the world.” Being set apart from the world, or chosen, is mentioned a lot in the Bible. 

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  

The Greek word translated “chosen” in the above verse is eklegomai, which means to be chosen and set apart from the rest of the world. It comes from two words that literally mean to call out. To speak, to call by name, to name out of, away from. You are chosen, set apart, called by name out of, away from, the world and into God’s glorious Kingdom. God called my name fifty years ago (He Knows My Name).  

The Greek word translated “called” in 1 Peter 2:9 is kaleo. It also means to invite, as in “Go therefore to the main roads and invite (kaleo) to the wedding feast as many as you find (Matthew 22:9),” and to name, as in “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call (kaleo) his name Jesus (Luke 1:31).” 

So, the first part of holiness is answering God’s call to “come out” of the world. We are called by name. We are invited to the eternal banquet. This is the first step to holiness. 

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3 

He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Song of Songs 2:4 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Psalm 23:5 

Set Apart to God 

If the first part is turning from the world, the second part of holiness is turning toward and focusing on God, knowing him more and more deeply. As Brownson writes, “We are not only set apart from the world; we are set apart to God. There is an openness to God, an availability to God’s presence, which is also central to holiness.” Brother Lawrence called this The Practice of the Presence of God. Being in his presence makes possible the “unrelenting, uncompromising obedience to God” that Pastor Troy spoke of (see the first blog in this series, Holiness). 

“His [God’s] greater purpose in bringing them [Israel] out of Egypt was to take them into Canaan, his land of fullness. In short, he brought them out of slavery in order to bring them into his heart and into his love. He wanted a people who were totally dependent on his mercy, grace and love. The same is still true for his people today.” — David Wilkerson  

A.W. Tozer wrote that “we are saved [or brought out] to know God, to enter His wonder-filled Presence through the new and living way [Jesus] and remain in that Presence forever.” So, to me, this is the first reason to pursue holiness, to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Holiness is required to see God and He desires passionately to be seen and known, to be with us. The second reason for pursuing holiness has to do with becoming like him. 

William Wilberforce wrote that “the nature of the holiness, to which the desires of the true Christian are directed, is no other than the restoration of the image of God.”ii 

I love that – “the restoration of the image of God.” This happens as we behold him, as he is our focus, our one thing, as we begin to dwell in the Presence. 

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) 

And this leads us into Brownson’s third part of holiness – purity – which we will look at in the next blog. 

J.D. Walt has a wonderful series called The Second Half of the Gospel which I highly recommend. You can read it here: https://www.seedbed.com/?s=second+half+of+the+gospel  

Until next time, let us not stop at being separated from the world, at “being saved,” but “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD!” (Hosea 6:3a) 

“The truest way of delighting in the Lord is to obey him in our coming and going, at home and on the road, in our lying down and rising up, by impressing it on our hearts and heads and hands and expressing it through every word and deed. The only way to love the Lord our God is with our whole hearts, minds, and strength. Holiness is full surrender to the unrivaled reign of Jesus over every part of who we are. It is all of you delighting in all of him.” — Matt LeRoy (The Only Way to Love)

i Holiness and Hermeneutics. James V. Brownson. Western Theological Seminary. 1999. 

ii A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System. William Wilberforce. 1820. 

Image of sheep in pasture by Sheila Bair

Unarmed Hungers 

Naming our hungers helps. But they must be disarmed too.

This is the place 
where unnamed hungers 
are fed, the place 
of clear water, 
refreshment. 

A fellow blogger, Deep calls to deep, recently posted a poem, a redux of, or leading back to, the 23rd Psalm (full poem below). As I read the portion above, instead of “unnamed hungers,” at first I saw “unarmed hungers.” I started to laugh at myself, but then I thought, no, our hungers often are armed and need to be disarmed.  

Even unnamed hungers can be armed. They may be unnamed because they are unconscious or subconscious. Pushed down, walled off. We may not know what is fully going on down there, sometimes screaming for relief, sometimes huddled in a ball. Only God knows our hearts. But there is sure to be included unnamed hungers for love, acceptance, respect, recognition, approval, belonging, family. A hunger to be known. To be heard. 

Naming our hungers helps. But they must be disarmed too. What arms our hungers? Anger, rage, unforgiveness, bitterness, rebellion, blame, resentment, insistent claims for defrauded rights, vengeance, suspicions and assumptions, hopeless expectations. Could they even be armed with self-righteousness, pride, prejudice, denial? How can we receive his hope, strength and solace when we have armed ourselves against needing it? Against trust? 

Let us surrender to the One who fills every hunger, for Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger” (John 6:35). Let’s lay down our arms, give ourselves up, yield to his love and care, trust, rest in Him. 

You lift my head; my vision clears. 
The blessing cup overflows. 

Psalm 23 redux by Carla A. Grosch-Milleri (Blogged by Deep calls to deep https://deepcallstpdeep.wordpress.com/2021/08/30/psalm-23-redux/

This I know: 
My life is in your hands. 
I have nothing to fear. 

I stop, 
breathe, 
listen. 

Beneath the whirl of what is 
is a deep down quiet place. 
You beckon me to tarry there. 

This is the place 
where unnamed hungers 
are fed, the place 
of clear water, 
refreshment. 

My senses stilled, 
I drink deeply, 
at home in timeless territory. 

In peril, I remember: 
Death’s dark vale holds no menace. 
I lean into You; 
Your eternal presence comforts me. 
I am held tenderly. 

In the midst of all that troubles, 
that threatens and diminishes, 
You set abundance before me. 
You lift my head; my vision clears. 
The blessing cup overflows. 

This I know: 
You are my home and my hope, 
my strength and my solace, 
and so shall You ever be. 

i Psalms Redux: Poems and Prayers. Carla A. Grosch-Miller. Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd. 2014. 

Image, photograph copyright by Jack Bair