Count it All Joy — His eye is on the sparrow

I have had a hard time defining, much less capturing joy. Recently I read from Augustine that Jesus is joy. Then I discovered this wonderful blog …

I do have some difficult times so often with the defining of the word JOY. I have been riding it like a roller coaster up and down, round and round, off and on for many years. I’m coming to almost believe I might just be obsessed with the subject. I simply can’t let it go. […]

Count it All Joy — His eye is on the sparrow

A Pure Intention of Heart

I would like to share a prayer written by Jonathan Coussins (b. 1757), one of John Wesley’s itinerant preachers (or perhaps written by his wife Penelope). I was especially struck by the phrase “a pure intention of heart.” It reminds me of the “naked intent toward God”i of the unknown monk, the “fixing of our eyes on Jesus,” the throwing off all the things that lure away and weigh down and entangle. In my mind I see them discarded along the side of the path, littering the Way. 

This prayer was committed to memory and was a great blessing to another early Methodist, Elizabeth Rhodes. She recorded it in her journalii in hope that “it may prove of equal benefit to others.”  May this prayer bless another generation of journeyers toward God. 

  “Grant me, gracious Lord, a pure intention of heart, and a steadfast regard to your glory in all my actions. Possess my mind continually with your presence, and fill it with your love, that my whole delight may be to repose in the arms of your protection. Be light to my eyes, music to my ears, sweetness to my taste, and full contentment to my heart. Be my sunshine in the day, my food at the table, my repose in the night, my clothing in company, my succor in all necessities. 

  Lord Jesus, I give you my body, my soul, my substance, my fame, my friends, my liberty, and my life. Dispose of me, and all that is mine, as seems best to you, and to the glory of your blessed name. I am not my own, but yours; therefore claim me as your right, keep me as your charge, and love me as your child. Fight for me when I am assailed, heal me when I am wounded, and revive me when I am destroyed. 

  My Lord and my God, I ask you to give me patience in troubles, humility in comforts, constancy in temptations, and victory over all my ghostly enemies. Grant me sorrow for my sins, thankfulness for my benefits, fear of your judgments, love of your mercies, and mindfulness of your presence for evermore. Make me humble to my superiors and friendly to my equals, ready to please all and loathe to offend any; loving to my friends and charitable to my enemies. Give me modesty in my countenance, gravity in my behavior, deliberation in my speech, holiness in my thoughts, and righteousness in all my actions. Let your mercy cleanse me from my sins, and your grace bring forth in me the fruits of everlasting life. 

  Lord, let me be obedient without arguing, humble without feigning, patient without grudging, pure without corruption, mercy without lightness, sad without mistrust, sober without dullness, true without duplicity, fearing you without desperation, and trusting you without presumption. Let me joyful for nothing but that which pleases you, and sorrowful for nothing but what displeases you: that labor be my delight which is for you, and let all weary me that is not in you. Give me a waking spirit, and a diligent soul, that I may seek to know your will, and when I know it may I perform it faithfully to the honor and glory of your ever blessed name. Amen.” 

i The Cloud of Unknowing, Anonymous. 14th century. 

ii Memoir of Mrs. Elizabeth Rhodes. By herself. (Mason, London, 1829).

Image, free download from Pikest

The Blind Man

The one who was blind was the one who saw. 

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Luke 18:37-38 

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Did you catch it? When the blind man asked what was going on, the people in the crowd answered, “Oh, that guy – that celebrity, that new teacher and healer – Jesus from Nazareth is passing by.” But what did the blind man cry out? “Jesus, Son of David!” 

To the Jews, “The Son of David” identified the Messiah. 

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. Matthew 22:42 

“It was part of Jewish Messianic expectation that the Messiah should be a descendant of King David, Israel’s ideal king.“i The Son of David would fulfill the prophecy given to Solomon in 2 Samuel 7:12-13: 

When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 

Many of the people in the crowd were following a popular new megastar who performed miracles, who healed people and gave away free food, and (best of all) put down those holier-than-thou, stuck up priests. But the one who was blind was the one who saw Him for who he was. And it got Jesus’ attention. In all the clamorous crowd, one cried out to the “Son of David” for mercy. And it stopped Jesus in his tracks.  

“What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Luke 18:41 

Just before the incident with the beggar, Jesus had been approached by another kind of “blind” man.  

A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 18:18 

Jesus picked up on the word “good” and challenged the man, saying “you call me ‘good.’ But only God is good.” In effect, Jesus was asking, “Are you saying I am God?” But I don’t think the man caught the implication. To the rich young ruler, Jesus was an excellent and distinguished teacher. A didaskalos in the Greek – an instructor and teacher with a small “t.” 

He was fine with Jesus being an excellent teacher, but when challenged to make Jesus his Lord – “Sell everything you have and … come, follow me” – he balked. Yet, here is this blind beggar sitting in the dust, one whom many considered cursed, identifying Jesus as Messiah and Lord. And while the rich man walked away, the beggar followed. The one who was blind was the one who saw. 

The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. John 12:45-46 

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Luke 9:20 

Lord, I want to see. 

i Oxford Biblical Studies Online http://www.oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/article/opr/t94/e490

Read more about Jesus as the Son of David here at GotQuestions.org What does it mean that Jesus is the son of David?  https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-son-of-David.html  

Image, Blind Beggar 1949 Kenya, by Sydney Oats https://flic.kr/p/68ZJYY  

Mount Ebal

It struck me as kind of weird that God commanded Joshua to build the altar there.

Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. — Joshua 8:30 

After the Israelites had come into the promised land and won a couple of battles, Joshua built an altar to the Lord and offered sacrifices – the burnt offering and the fellowship offering. It struck me as kind of weird that God commanded Joshua to build the altar there on Mount Ebal because it was the mountain of cursing. 

When the LORD your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. Deuteronomy 11:29 

Half of the tribes were to stand on Mount Ebal and call out the curses that would incur to those who failed to obey the commandments (Deuteronomy 27:14-26). And half were to stand on Mount Gerizim and call out the blessings. Wouldn’t God want the altar to be built on the place of blessings? 

But then I saw that this is the whole point.  

God didn’t turn his back on those who committed sin. He didn’t say that he would only receive sacrifices from the ones who perfectly kept the commandments. He knew that the blessing was unattainable without the altar of repentance. But mostly, it was unattainable without the One to whom the sacrifices pointed. God left room for mercy, looking forward to the final sacrifice for sin, to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who would set us free from the curse forever. 

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Galatians 3:13 

Don’t cover over your sins and try with all your might to obtain the blessing through self-righteousness. Go to the mountain of cursing. Admit your failures before God. That is where the altar is. 

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Luke 5:32 

Image, Mount Ebal (Eival) in Samaria, by Bukvoed in Wikimedia Commons 

Always

Continually, continual, daily, regularly, constantly, always …

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71: 3 

From my birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. Psalm 71:6 

But as for me, I shall always have hope; I will praise you more and more. Psalm 71:14 

The Hebrew word tamiyd is used three times in Psalm 71. In the above verses, the word translated “always” and “ever” is tamiyd. It means continually or continuously, constantly, perpetually, evermore. I can continually go to God, praise God, and have hope in God. Yes! And you know why? Because of the other meaning of tamiyd.  

According to the Encyclopaedia Judaic, “Tamid is an abbreviated form for olat tamid (daily burnt-offering), and refers to the daily (morning and evening) sacrifices as set out in Exodus 29:38-42 and Numbers 28:1-8.” i

Tamiyd (or tamid) is the regular, daily sacrifice, the fire of which was never to go out (Leviticus 6:12-13) until the Lamb of God, Jesus, the final sacrifice for sin would come (Hebrews 9:15-27).   

But he [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26b 

The word also refers to the Bread of the Presence, the shewbread or showbread, which was placed weekly on the golden table in the Tabernacle.  

“The word [tamiyd] is used alone to designate the daily burnt offering in Dan 8:11-13; Dan 11:31; Dan 12:11. Num 4:7 refers to the ‘bread of continuity’ meaning the bread that was always there.” — Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.ii  (emphasis added) 

The Bread that is always there. Jesus, always right there with us. As close as our breath and the beating of our hearts. Hallelujah! 

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35 

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20 

Continually, continual, daily, regularly, constantly, always, at all times, all day and all night, constant, perpetual, endless, forever, ever, evermore.iii 

Because of the Lamb of God who was the final sacrifice for sin, the Lamb slain before the beginning of the world, whose passionate, fiery love for us never goes out, I can always go into the Presence of God. 

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 

Because of the Bread of Life who is always there with us, I can ever praise him 

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. Hebrews 13:15 

Because of Jesus who daily bears our burdens and ever lives to make intercession for us, I can always have hope 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23 

My Rock of refuge to whom I can always go, may your fire never go out in me. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually (tamiyd). 1 Chronicles 16:11 

i Encyclopaedia Judaic, Jerusalem, 1971 Keter Publ. House Ltd. 

ii Hebrew word studies in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vols. 1- 2, edited by Laird Harris, Gleason Archer and Bruce Waltke, Chicago: Moody Press, 1981. 

iii Some of the ways that tamiyd is translated in NetBible. 

Mending Our Nets

How can we be fishers of men if our nets are full of the holes of prejudice, self-righteousness, unforgiveness, judgment, and pride?

A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. Luke 6:40 

I realized as I read this verse recently that I have been taking it out of context for a very long time. Actually, kind of skipping over it because of the more dramatic content that is around it. But I realized that it is like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle that completes the picture. So, what comes before and after this verse? 

Before the verse Jesus asks, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” 

And then right afterward there is another saying that I have taken out of context: 

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? Luke 6:41-42 

I have been taking all of these verses as stand-alone and out of context. But what Jesus has given here are two verses about being blind sandwiching a verse about being fully trained to be like the teacher. What does this mean?  

The Greek word translated “fully trained” above is katartizo. It means to render, sound, complete, to mend (what has been broken or rent), to repair, to complete, to fit out, equip, put in order, arrange, adjust, prepare, restore, make perfect. 

According to W.E. Vinei, the Greek word katarizo “is used of mending nets, Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19.” Wow, did you get that? Jesus is talking to his disciples here. “Looking at his disciples, he said:” (Luke 6:20). He was talking to learners, pupils, some may have thought “rabbis-in-training.” The underlying assumption seems to be that these disciples would go out and be leading – “can a blind man lead a blind man?” They would also become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17, Luke 5:10) – and they needed their nets mended. Jesus had just finished some hard sayings: 

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you ... Luke 6:27-35 

Be merciful … Luke 6:36 

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37 

I’m pretty sure that, like me, their thinking needed to be adjusted. Their nets needed mending. (Isn’t it amazing and symbolic that when Jesus called James and John, they were mending their nets?) When Jesus asked, “Can a blind man lead?” he was using the word tuphlos, which can mean physical or mental blindness. Significantly, it comes from tuphoo, which means to be enveloped with smoke (so as to render blind), to be puffed up with haughtiness or pride, inflated with self-conceit. 

How can we be fishers of men if our nets are full of the holes of prejudice, self-righteousness, unforgiveness, judgment, and pride? But what did Jesus say?  

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36 

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46 

There’s a whole lot of judgment and condemnation going on out there. Let’s allow our Lord to adjust us, to repair and restore us, to mend our nets, so that we can be like Him in mercy and love and light. 

“The Lord is very ready to forgive; it is the church that is unmerciful sometimes, but not the Master. He is always willing to receive us when we come to Him, and to blot out our transgression.” — Charles Spurgeon, God’s Fatherly Pity

Read more about God’s net of everlasting love here (I will throw my net over them

Photo used with gratitude: Fish nets by John Levanen https://flic.kr/p/8yYErh  

Wait, What Just Happened?

When Jesus died on the cross something chain busting, history crashing and astounding happened. A transaction took place, what Derek Prince called a “divinely ordained exchange.” Let’s not let Easter fly by without camping out for a while in the revelation of what took place that glorious day. Below are some aspects of the exchange. I have also posted a Bible study written by R. Nelson Colyar in Hidden Treasure Bible Studies here The Transaction at the Cross

  1. Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven and have peace with God (Is. 53:4–5) 
  2. Jesus was wounded that we might be healed (Matt. 8:16–17, Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24) 
  3. Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might be made the righteousness of God (Is. 53:10; 2 Cor. 5:21) 
  4. Jesus tasted death for us that we might share his life (Heb. 2:9) 
  5. Jesus was made a curse that we might receive the blessing given to Abraham (Gal. 3:13–14) 
  6. Jesus became poor that through his poverty we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9) 
  7. Jesus suffered our shame that we might share in his glory (Matt. 27:35–36, Heb. 2:10) 
  8. Jesus suffered our rejection that we might become accepted by the Father as his beloved children (Matt. 27:45–51, Eph. 1:3–7)

You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. Colossians 1:21-22 (NLT)

Image in the Public Domain

If You Are

Did you ever realize that when the devil tempted Jesus with the question, “If you are?” – Jesus already was? Everything the devil tempted Jesus with in the wilderness, Jesus already was, already had been from the beginning before time and would be forever.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Luke 4:3 

For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ Acts 4:11 

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35 

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world … “if you worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5-6  

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15 

On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:16 

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.” Luke 4:9 

Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John 2:18-19 

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen. Matthew 28:5-6 

Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” John 8:58

Image, free photo from pixy.org

The Why of Suffering

There will always be peace and joy in there somewhere.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12 

I started looking at this verse here Strange House Guest.  In that post I wrote about how we most often view suffering as a strange house guest. But here I would like to talk about the why. Why does there have to be suffering at all? 

The answer must lie in that middle part of the verse – the painful trial you are suffering. “Painful trial” is the Greek word purosis (πύρωσις), which means burning or smelting, “a figure drawn from a refiner’s fire.” It comes from the word that means “melted by fire and purged of dross,” refined. 

The word translated “suffering” is peirasmos (πειρασμός), which means adversity, affliction, and trouble, but also testing, trial, and proving. It is a suffering “sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness.”  

Peirasmos is the word used “of the temptation by which the devil sought to divert Jesus the Messiah from his divine errand” (Luke 4:13). It comes from a word that means – I love this! – “to try whether a thing can be done.”  

Although he was a son, he learned obedience (attentive hearkening, compliance, or submission) from what he suffered Hebrews 5:8 

Jesus did not need refining as the perfect Son of God. He did not need to learn obedience or learn to hearken to God’s voice. He did it for us, to show us that it can be done, and how.  

One [Messiah] who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out. Their king will pass through before them, the LORD at their head. Micah 2:13 

“Learning and suffering and death are part of the life experience for all people, and God ensured that His own Son would be no exception. As God, Jesus did not need to learn anything, especially obedience; yet, at His incarnation, Jesus limited Himself to the human experience. He chose the weak position of having to learn and grow (Luke 2:52). Jesus “learned obedience” not in the sense that He was prone to disobedience and had to bring rebelliousness under control, but in the sense that He fully entered the human experience.” — gotquestions.orgi 

Paul called it a “fellowship of suffering.” Elisabeth Elliot called this fellowship a privilege: 

“We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.”   

This is not our usual way of thinking, but it is God’s way, part of that one-track focus of his to save the world. It seems to me that if we are surprised by suffering it is because we are expecting everything to go our way. It is a kind of rebellion really. Looking to make our will be done, our little kingdom come. Rejecting the promise of trouble and suffering. Rejecting the Potter’s forming hands.  

But if we expect suffering and refining as his children – because that is what he promised – we begin to be surprised by joy. We begin looking for the blessings. Looking for the answer to prayer. Looking for the fragile life to poke up through our plowed hearts. Looking for the light shining through the broken places. Looking for the other part of the promise of suffering, because there will always be something beautiful included. There will always be peace and joy in there somewhere. 

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NASB) 

“Learn the discipline of being surprised not by suffering but by joy. As we grow old . . . there is suffering ahead of us, immense suffering, a suffering that will continue to tempt us to think that we have chosen the wrong road . . . But don’t be surprised by pain. Be surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert, and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting forth like springs of fresh water from the depth of our pain.” — Henri Nouwen, Daily Meditation, “Be Surprised by Joy” 

Let us strive to be surprised, not by the suffering, but by joy. Let us pray that we may be the barren desert from which His life can spring up. Let us pour out the life that has been poured out into us. Jesus has gone before us; he has shown us the way. 

“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 

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering … 2 Timothy 4:6 

Photo copyright 2018 Derek Bair