The Decision-less Middle

The message the Lord is giving me this week from the blogs and devotionals I follow is a sobering, but extremely relevant, one. Thank you to all the bloggers I follow. Be set free.

For the time is coming when they will no longer listen and respond to the healing words of truth because they will become selfish and proud. They will seek out teachers with soothing words that line up with their desires, saying just what they want to hear. (2 Tim. 4:2-3 The Passion Translation) 

“The Living Word exposes these self-inflicted boundaries to us—piercing our hearts, interpreting our innermost motives, and even challenging our cherished assumptions. This is why I contend that we should learn to let the Bible study us. 

For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, and it pierces more sharply than a two-edged sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts. (Heb. 4:12 The Passion Translation) 

Here’s the danger. Without this continual ‘piercing,’ without the Spirit’s constant recalibration of our perspective, without letting Holy Spirit speak through other people we’re in community with, who may even irritate us at times, our unexamined life will be just be following our own confirmation bias. 

They will seek out teachers with soothing words that line up with their desires, saying just what they want to hear.  

Like birds of a feather flocking together, we’ll only be open to teachers we already agree with. We will have stopped ‘the eyes of our hearts from being enlightened’ (Eph.1:18), resting in a truth that makes us comfortable instead the Truth that makes us truly free.” — blogged by Mel Wild https://melwild.wordpress.com/2021/02/23/will-we-follow-holy-spirit-or-our-confirmation-bias/  

Matthew 16:26: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (NASB). 

“These words bothered me. They still do. They set up a stark contrast I have never managed to get past. On the one hand: the whole world. On the other hand: my soul. I so want to dwell somewhere in the decision-less middle. I want a life overflowing with monetary wealth and I want a soul filled with God. The text tells me I must decide on one or the other. As a kid, I somehow knew the splinter of this saying would pulsate with nagging pain until I aimed my life in one of these two directions. It was clear to me. These roads led to two completely different destinations, and one of those would look like great gain and yet be complete loss. Little did I know at the time how these words would stick in my soul like a tiny shard of wood even to the present day. As an adult, I now know this is not a one-time transaction. It’s an everyday decision. “– J.D. Walt, How I Got a Splinter in My Soul and How I Got It Out  https://www.seedbed.com/how-i-got-a-splinter-in-my-soul-and-how-i-got-it-out/  

“… Janet Malcolm from her book In the Freud Archives: ‘There are few among us who do not resist self-knowledge. We are all perpetually smoothing and rearranging reality to conform to our wishes; we lie to others and ourselves constantly, unthinkingly. When, occasionally — and not by dint of our own efforts but the under the pressure of external events — we are forced to see things as they are, we are like naked people in a storm.’ 

When naked in the storm of his own sin, King David stared at the unvarnished reality of his bad moves. He confessed his sins and asked for mercy, ‘According to your steadfast love….’ (Psalm 51) We like David can embrace our true selves and confess our sins. Because we know God is forgiving and our time is finite: life will end. And we can lose or win by our actions or simply lose on time … With God’s help, I’ll sweep away self-deception to reveal my true self. And make good use of the time I’ve been given.” — blogged by Carole Duff  https://caroleduff.com/2021/02/22/losing-on-time/  

“Not only will Jesus have to take up his cross – you and I will. There’s no nicer, refined, more reasonable way, even if we carefully surround ourselves solely with nice, refined, reasonable churchy people. 

For true life requires complete surrender to it. And what will be the point of gaining the whole world by thinking as the world thinks, if it means falling short of true life?”  -Suzanne Guthrie, At the Edge of the Enclosure 

“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32 (NKJV) 

Photo copyright by Derek Bair

I Am The Way

We don’t get a map and detailed instructions when we decide to follow Jesus. We get Him.

I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” 

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:2-6 

I love how Thomas speaks up and says and asks the potentially dumb, or embarrassing, things for all of us. He was an all-my-ducks-in-a-row type person that I can relate to. He wanted to see the nail marks and put his hand in Jesus’ side. He wanted to hold the map in his hands.  

“How can we know the way?” This time, when I heard him ask the question, I heard the underlying panic (or maybe it was mine). Wait! How can I follow you when I don’t know the way? It sounds like you are saying that I have to DO something. Perform, be perfect. I’ve got to be RIGHT (read self-righteous). I need a detailed map. Where is this way?! 

But what did Jesus say to him? “I am (I exist, I am present, I was, I am, I will be) the way …” 

Basically, Jesus was saying “I am the map.” The get-it-right-performance junkie in me (and, in my imagination, Thomas) immediately is anxious. What does that mean? How do I DO that?  

But Jesus compassionately went on to say, “No one comes to the Father except through (through, with, in, by the means of) Me.” 

We don’t get a map and detailed instructions when we decide to follow Jesus. We get Him.  

Recently I read a quote from Oswald Chambers that took my breath away. 

“To be so much in contact with God that you never need to ask Him to show you His will, is to be nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you are rightly related to God, it is a life of freedom and liberty and delight, you are God’s will, and all your commonsense decisions are His will for you unless He checks. You decide things in perfect delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will always check; when He checks, stop at once.” — Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest 

“You are God’s will.” At first the idea repelled me. It almost seemed blasphemous. How could I be the will of God? This is how my wise sister answered my question: 

“This confirms in my spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us we have the mind of Christ and do hold His thoughts, feelings and purposes. We grew up “wrong” but we are now God’s masterpieces created anew in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10). In Christ we are new – the old has gone (2 Corinthians 5:17) and we are whole in Christ (Colossians 2:10). 

And really, what’s the worst that could happen if we get it wrong now? God makes all things new. Faith steps out of the boat.” 

Praise God for wise sisters! What is the worst that can happen if I mess up? I get to experience his gentle correction, the rod and the staff of the loving Shepherd.  

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4 

So, what does it take, walking this Way? Complete surrender. Drawing my life from His. Dying to self and letting him live in and through me – this temple of the Holy Spirit. Walking forward, sometimes in the dark, through, with, in, and by the means of Jesus. 

It’s not about my righteousness – about me getting it right – but about his righteousness. His is the righteousness; his is the faith; his is the love; his can be my actions and my words. If I lean on Him. If I abide in Him. 

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 

I get this feeling that we will need to be abiding, hidden in his great heart, more and more as we follow him forward. If you are not already abiding in Christ and he in you, please give your life to him today (see wrestlingwordblog.wordpress.com/salvation/ for help.) 

For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going, anyone groping in the dark, Here’s what: Trust in God. Lean on your God! Isaiah 50:10-11 (Message)  

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  

And He said, “Come!” i 

Image, You Are Here by Mario Klingemann https://flic.kr/p/ddNU5   

iMatthew 14:27-29 (NASB) 

The Lamp

Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin! (Proverbs 21:4)   

This is one of those verses that it’s easy to just skip over thinking, “Well that’s not me.” But then, I would be just fulfilling the verse wouldn’t I? So I decided to take a closer look. And it’s not what I thought.

The Hebrew word for “lamp” in this verse actually means untilled or fallow ground. I think this verse means that the proud have not plowed up, examined, their ways or thinking, therefore they are in the sin of pride. That is one of the things that our lamp is supposed to do – illumine our wrong thinking and doing. Jesus said:   

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good (single, clear, sound, whole, folded together), your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad (diseased, derelict, blind, evil, wicked), your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6:22-23   

What does that mean: single, clear, sound, whole, folded together? That Greek word is haplous and comes from a root word that means “to plait, braid, weave together.” Woven together with what?   

There are two words in Hebrew for hoping or waiting. Qavah, which means “to bind together (perhaps by twisting),” and tiqvah, which means “literally, a cord (as an attachment).” Could Jesus have meant that if we are hoping and waiting on God (woven together into a single cord, attached to God heart to heart) our lamp or eye is good?   

Another thing, in Numbers 8:2 the Lord gives instructions for setting up the Temple (remember we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit now). He says to set up the Lampstand so that it continually shines “in front” or across the room and illumines the table of the Bread of the Presence. Our lamp, our eyes always upon Jesus, the Bread of Life, God With Us, the Word.   

When Jesus talks about the eye as the lamp of the body here in Matthew, and in Luke 11:33-36, it is in the middle of pointing out a lot of wrong thinking – being a hypocrite, caring about what people think, setting your heart on treasure, serving/loving money, worrying, lack of faith in God, being legalistic but not obeying God’s commands.    

Wrong thinking is when you are not woven together with (or abiding in) the Lord, therefore you don’t have the mind of Christ. You have not allowed the Lord to plough up your hard, stony ground. The light within you is darkness. It is no longer shining on the Bread of the Presence, on the Word of Life, but on yourself. That is why haughty eyes and a proud heart is a lamp of the wicked, a dark lamp. A person with haughty and proud thinking would never shine the light of the Word on any wrong ways but would imagine they are right in whatever they think or do. It is revealing that it says five times in Proverbs that the way of a person can seem right to them but be wrong.   

The way of a fool is right in his own opinion, but the one who listens to advice is wise. (Proverbs 12:15)   

There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)   

All a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion, but the Lord evaluates the motives. (Proverbs 16:2)   

There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death. (Proverbs 16:25)   

All of a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion, but the Lord evaluates the motives. (Proverbs 21:2)   

I know I am mixing a lot of metaphors here, but we need to humbly surrender to being woven together with Him, heart and soul and mind and strength. We need to let the Light of God shine on our wrong thinking and plough up our hard hearts. That we might know him. That we might be like him – a light in a dark world. 

The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being. Proverbs 20:27

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. Psalm 18:28  

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. Psalm 25:9  

God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. 

Examine me through and through; 

find out everything that may be hidden within me. 

Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. 

 See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, 

and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways— 

the path that brings me back to you.  

Psalm 139:23-24 (The Passion Translation) 

Taking Refuge

Taking refuge is crucial in these times we are in, but it must be beyond mere head knowledge. It must become part of my very being, like breathing.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8 (NASB) 

When God highlights something to me that I have been blithely skipping over for 48 years I know he wants me to dig deeper. In this case it was the phrase “takes refuge” that stopped me. To “take refuge” implies action, something I do. I am beginning to see that I have been standing outside the refuge in the malevolent, pummeling storm holding my flimsy umbrella, recognizing correctly that there is a refuge, understanding and believing in the refuge, even memorizing all the verses about the refuge. But, most of the time, not actually doing the effort to “take refuge” – get under His wings, crawl up on His lap. So, my head knowledge, or even my faith in the refuge, does me no good.  

The Hebrew word translated “takes refuge” above is chacah. It means to seek refuge, flee for protection, to put trust in God, confide or hope in God. A related word is batah – to trust in, rely on, take refuge in. A commentator notes that chacah “is probably to be distinguished from batah ‘rely on,’ ‘take refuge in’ as denoting more precipitate action.” [emphasis mine]i

To do something precipitately is to do it in a way that is “sudden and done without thinking” (Cambridge Dictionary). This definition reminds me of kids jumping into the parents’ bed at a house-shaking crack of thunder. It is done without thinking because in their subconscious level that is where safety and security is; where their trust is.

Is trusting in the Lord something we do “without thinking” almost by instinct? Do we jump into his arms when the earth shakes and the storm roars? God is showing me that this only happens when we have made putting our trust in him a long discipline, so that it has become a habit. We have tasted and seen his goodness many times, over and over without fail. The struggle between God and us is over. We have surrendered to Him and experienced his love. Deep down below the level of thinking and logic and reasons we know – we know Him.

Since God showed me this, I have started practicing this taking refuge action against my almost constant fear and regret and self-condemnation and complaining against God. It takes determined effort and is hard, like stopping a train and reversing the direction. But it is making a huge difference. What does that look like? 

When I find myself floundering, when a condemning thought comes into my mind, I remember the Cross of Jesus Christ and make the decision and effort to take refuge in his Word.  

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1 

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:11 

When fear oppresses me, I cling to the promise.  

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

When, in my rebellious self-life, I start with the complaints, even resentment, against God, I look around for something to be grateful for. I offer up a sacrifice of praise. 

I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. Psalm 116:17 

Taking refuge, trusting in God, is crucial in these times we are in, when philosophers and politicians and journalists and marketers clamor for my trust. But it must come from beyond mere head knowledge – I must get out from under my leaky umbrella. My trust in Him must become part of my very being, like breathing. Like the pumping of my heart. I must “do” taking refuge, until I abide there, always leaning against his chest, feeling his sweet breath on the top of my head, listening to the eternal, unstoppable, vehement, passionate, fierce, zealous beating of his mighty heart. 

Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah. Psalm 61:5 (NASB) 

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. Psalm 57:1

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9

Photo by lars_o_matic on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/e9V5ZM  

Inside the Heart

Again, this week, God had a message for me through the blogs and devotionals that I receive. I pray this blesses you too. And thank you to all you wonderful bloggers out there!

Have no motivation other than to know your Father in heaven … Prayer is not simply getting things from God— that is only the most elementary kind of prayer. Prayer is coming into perfect fellowship and oneness with God. If the Son of God has been formed in us through regeneration (see Galatians 4:19), then He will continue to press on beyond our common sense and will change our attitude about the things for which we pray. — Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, updated edition 

Fixing our eyes on Christ is the first step and the entire path of the Christian life. We don’t look to Christ in faith to be saved and then look to ourselves to persevere. We trust Christ alone as our Savior and look to Christ alone and follow Him as our Lord. In order to look to Christ as our Savior and Lord, we need new eyes and a new heart … As we grow in the grace and holiness of our Lord, being enabled by God’s free grace to die more and more unto sin and live unto righteousness, we’re called neither to fix our eyes on ourselves nor to fix our eyes on our own sins that entangle themselves around our ankles. We’re called to run with endurance by looking to Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith. We are united to Christ and are made able and willing to turn our eyes upon Jesus — away from ourselves — so that by looking to Him, we are motivated to joyful, cross-bearing obedience as we “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him . . . for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Col. 1:10–11). — Burk Parsons via Dr. Peter Cockrell, Already Not Yet   https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/fixing-our-eyes-on-jesus/  

The praise of peace 

The peace in praise 

Inside the heart is Jesus raised 

The ransom paid in love the cost 

So that my soul may not be lost 

I praise the peace in Him alone 

Forgiven sins He did atone 

In peace He holds me close to thee 

In praise I pray to constant be 

 — Sisylala  https://sisylala.wordpress.com/2020/09/15/the-praise-of-peace-the-peace-in-praise/  

Foxes have their holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head ~ Matthew 8:20 

Jesus, being all-knowing knew that the teacher of the law meant that he wanted to follow Jesus from place to place physically, yet Jesus wanted a place to abide- in the spiritual sense of the word. Jesus wanted the teacher of the law to ‘realise that I am in the Father, and you are in me and I am in you’ (John 14:20). In other words, Jesus was beckoning for the man to, ‘Remain in me, and I will remain in you’ (15:v4) … Once we accept Jesus and His Holy Spirit lives in us, then we become God-carriers. Paul writes, ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price’ (Galatians 6: 19-20) … we are like an empty shell without God in us. — Mulyale Mutisya   https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/foxes-have-their-holes/   

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 

[All added emphasis mine.]

Image, “Empty Shell Close Up” Pixabay2018 

You Will Not Fear

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

Psalm 91:1-6

 

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

The Pressing of Grapes

The amazing story of Redemption is hidden in these verses.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

This is a well-known saying of Jesus and I have read it many times. But, this time I decided to take a look at the Greek meanings and roots of the important concepts – narrow, wide, broad. I would like to share with you what I discovered and some related verses that help reveal the amazing story of Redemption hidden in these verses.

Enter through the narrow (stenos) gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small (stenos) is the gate …

The word translated “narrow” in verse 13 and the word translated “small” in verse 14 are the same Greek word, which is stenos. Stenos means narrow or strait, and it comes from the root word histemi, which means to stand, abide, continue, covenant, to be of a steadfast mind which does not hesitate or waiver.

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NASB)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 (NASB)

But small is the gate and narrow (thlibo) the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

The other word in verse 14 also translated “narrow” (or hard, difficult) is thlibo, which means to press like grapes, press hard upon, be crowded, afflicted, suffer tribulation and trouble. There are two breathtaking roots to this word: tragos = a male goat; and trauma = a wound or wounds.

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 15:33 (NIV)

Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins … The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. Leviticus 16:21-22 (NASB)

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:12 (NIV)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

For wide (platus) is the gate and broad (euruchoros) is the road that leads to destruction

The word translated “wide” is platus. Its origin is the root word plasso, which means to form, mold, fabricate, or shape.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Finally, the word translated “broad”, or spacious, is euruchoros. It comes from chora which means and empty expanse or the space lying between two places or limits. Interestingly, the root of both these words is chasma, from which our English word chasm comes.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2 (NIV)

For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:10 (NIV)

Enter through the narrow gate, where you can abide in me, holding fast your confession without wavering. For wide is the gate where you are formed by the molding of the world, and broad is the road that leads to destruction and separation from God, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road, where you are pressed hard upon like grapes, afflicted, suffer tribulation and trouble for my sake, but that leads to life, and only a few find it.

I [Jesus] am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. John 10:9 (NIV)

The Subversive Act of Worship

Even before his death on the cross Jesus had chosen to be an outsider; he had already chosen disgrace.

So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Hebrews 13:13-14 (NLT)

For some reason I always read this verse, “let us go out with him,” as in “let us go with him carrying our cross.” And we are supposed to take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). But this verse says, “let us go out to him.” And with that little change there is a different message, a different focus. Let us go out to where he is – outside the camp. He has always been outside the camp.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. Exodus 33:7 (NASB)

“Our permanent home,” mentioned in the above verse, is the place we meno. The Greek word meno means to stay, abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand. It is not this temporary world-camp where we are to abide. Meno is the word used in John 15.

Remain (meno) in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains (meno) in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 (NIV)

This world is not our meno-home. Jesus is our meno-home, and where he is, there we are to be – plugged into the Vine. And Jesus is outside the camp because He chose the cross.

Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. So let’s go out to him … Hebrews 13:11-13 (NLT)

To the people of Jesus’ day death on a cross was worse than a disgrace. Cicero said that it should not even be in the thoughts of a Roman citizen; it should not even be mentioned in connection with a citizen.[i] Yet, this is where Jesus willingly chose to go. Outside the city gates. Outside the temporary camp. Outside the culture of the day. Outside the religious systems. Outside the politics and governments of the day. Outside the traditions and popular beliefs. Outside of all the hopes and dreams for this life. James V. Brownson says it better than I can:

The cross collides with the values and assumptions that shape the world around us. It shocks us out of the status quo, out of the norms and assumptions that surround us, and calls us to an alternative vision … “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The “foolishness” Paul is writing of here is not a certain theological axiom about the cross of Jesus; it is the blatant offensiveness of the cross, both to Jews and to Gentiles. The point of the divine foolishness is simply this: If God has raised from the dead someone who was crucified, if we worship someone who was crucified, we can no longer hold on to the common values of respectability that are characteristic of normal human society. All our assumptions about what constitutes right and wrong, about what is worthwhile, about what really matters – all that has to be revised and reversed, if you engage in the subversive act of worshiping someone who was crucified. In other words, if you are going to worship someone who was crucified, you have to undergo radical conversion.[ii]

Even before his death on the cross Jesus had chosen to be an outsider; he had already chosen disgrace. He had already chosen to be identified with the lowly and meek, the poor and unclean and diseased and despised. If we engage in the subversive act of worshiping our crucified Lord, we need to identify there too. Let us go out to him. Let us meno there.

 

For more on “meno” see The Art of Remaining Present

Image: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the Cross, by Darren Barefoot https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=jesus%20cross

[i] Hengel, Martin Hengel. Crucifixion. 1977

[ii] Brownson, James V. Holiness and Hermeneutics. 1999.

Put in and Drop the Anchor

For this reason we must pay much closer (earnest, exceeding, more abundant, more frequent) attention to what we have heard (hold it in our minds, bring our ship to land, put in at safe harbor), so that we do not drift away from it (glide by, carelessly pass, let it slip our minds). Hebrews 2:1 (NASB)

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)

Only hold on (seize and hold fast, don’t let go, keep carefully and faithfully) to what you have until I come.  Revelation 2:25 (NIV)

 

 

Image: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Kathleen Gorby [Public domain]

Keeping in Step

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NIV)

Keep in step with the Spirit. How do I do that? It reminds me of a little kid trying to keep up with the Dad. And sometimes it does feel like that. He is relentless, focused, always moving, always working, alive, creating. If I stop a minute to dig in my heels, he’s down the path. And then I’m running to catch up.

But “keeping up” is different from “keeping in step.” I have always been deeply impressed by the heavenly creatures that Ezekiel saw in his vision that were so completely responsive to the Spirit of God.

Each one went straight ahead (with their faces straight forward). Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning (not turning around or aside) as they went. Ezekiel 1:12 (NIV)

The word translated “went” is the Hebrew word halak (הֲלַךְ) which means “to walk.” Wherever the Spirit walked, they would walk, straight ahead, without turning. I have always been captivated by that vision – the instant response, without resistance, to the prompting of the Spirit.

“Keep in step” I think means to remain in his Presence, trying to be continually sensitive to his promptings – and to respond immediately, or more and more immediately. To walk the way he walked when he was physically on Earth, and to walk with him the way and where he’s walking now, today. To be so in tune with his great heart that, finally, there is no hesitation. Walk along beside him with my hand in his. Walk in love. Walk where he has always walked – where there is need and pain and the crying heart. Walk with him in the Way that his footsteps made for us to walk

Righteousness will go before Him and will make His footsteps into a way. Psalm 85:13 (NASB)

Jesus answered, “I am the way …” John 14:6 (NIV)

Lord help me keep my eyes on you. Help me keep in step with you on (and in) the Way.

 

Photograph by Jason Jones, Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=Camping_FairOaks%20Farm_Sussex27