Seizing Hope

We are urged to hold fast to two things – our confidence and our hope.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. Hebrews 10:35 

Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. Mark 10:50 

The above verses are the only places in the Bible where this word translated “throw away” or “throwing … aside” is used. It means to throw off, cast away, throw overboard. But these two verses are so completely different – one talking about a negative thing, throwing away your confidence in God, and the other such a picture of faith as the blind man throws aside his cloak to go to Jesus for healing – I knew there had to be a message for me in there somewhere. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

The blind man threw off his beggar’s cloak and boldly, confidently approached Jesus. He could have sat there in self-pity, blaming God for his situation, viewing Jesus cynically as just another dead-end pipe dream delusion of the duped masses. He had a good reason to be bitter. 

“The ancient nations regarded blindness as the lowest degradation that could be inflicted upon man … The blind, together with cripples and lepers, were outcasts of society and kept quarantined outside the town limits; they became paupers and a menace to passers-by.” — Jewish Encyclopedia1 

So, what gave this degraded outcast the boldness to cry out from the dust at the side of the road and approach the Rabbi for healing? He had probably heard of the other healings. It was probably all the buzz in the outcast community. There was that something about Jesus that invited, that drew the rejected, the pariahs. And I think the reports of miraculous healings had conceived in this blind man a very foreign thing – hope. Hope had started to grow, and hope, paired with desperation, gave him boldness. 

The other verse, Hebrews 10:35, talks about throwing away your confidence. The word translated “confidence” in these two verses is parrésia and means “freedom of speech.” It means “free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance … the undoubting confidence of Christians relative to their fellowship with God.”2 Ellicott’s Commentary3 notes that “[t]o ‘cast away boldness’ is the opposite of ‘holding fast the boldness of the hope’” talked about in Hebrews 3:6. 

But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. Hebrews 3:6 

We are urged to hold fast to two things – our confidence and our hope. Confidence, not in our outcast selves, but in what Jesus has done on the cross, and the hope that we have because what Jesus endured on the cross has brought us home and made us part of God’s family. No longer outcasts. If we hold down our hope, hold it fast, take possession, retain, seize on it, restrain it from wandering off. Let’s seize the hope and not let it go, but, like the blind man, let’s throw off our beggar’s cloaks of sin and lies received and bitterness and bad attitudes and pride. Let’s exercise our “freedom of speech” because the way into God’s presence has been opened up for us by Jesus. And let us come boldly, confidently before the throne so that we may receive mercy and grace in our time of need. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Mark 10:51 

1Jewish Encyclopedia, Blind, the, in Law and Literature, by Richard Gottheil, Judah David Eisenstein https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3374-blind-the-in-law-and-literature 

2Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon 

3Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers 

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

Creaking and Spinning

Help me not to be afraid of the dance of joy. 

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you [spin around under the influence of violent emotion] with loud singing [creaking, singing, shout of joy, cry of gladness, joy, proclamation, rejoicing, triumph]. Zephaniah 3:17 

When I babysit my granddaughter, one of her all-time favorite things to do is to dance around in my arms singing at the top of our lungs. I have done this since she was an infant, dancing and singing to her. Lately, she has joined in with my creaky singing, a little off-key, but exuberantly and loudly. She especially loves to spin around when we are dancing. Her dad says she is an adrenaline junky. There are certain places in certain songs where we absolutely MUST spin around, and certain lyrics that MUST be sung/shouted with absolute joy. Especially, at least for me, joy in our relationship, gramma and granddaughter, and our love for each other. 

When I read the recent blog by Beholding Ministries, The God Who Sings, I saw how our singing and dancing around is a perfect picture of Zephaniah 3:17. And for the first time I was able to realize God’s joy over me described in this verse. His spinning me around I hope will someday soon produce, not out-of-control fear of being dropped, but belly-laughs-birthed-from-complete-trust-and-joy surrender into his strong hands. Because it does feel like I am spinning around these days. I cannot seem to focus on the horizon and I am tempted to panic. But I will remember that he is the mighty one who will save – who is saving no matter what things look like – who rejoices over me, his child, (singing loudly and NOT creaking, I’m sure!) with gladness, joy and triumph.  

Lord help me not to be afraid of the dance of joy. 

Photo by Reilly Images, LLC

Our Father Revealed in The Word

This is an addendum to the series on the Lord’s Prayer that we have been camping out in. I think it is very revealing and encouraging to see all in one place what the Word says about Our Father. I think I have found all the places where “Our Father” appears. Let me know if not.

Our Father is our Redeemer (Isaiah 63:16) 

Our Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48) 

Our Father sees and hears what is done and prayed in secret (Matthew 6:4-6, 18) 

Our Father knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8) 

Our Father is in heaven (Matthew 6:9) 

Our Father will forgive our sins when we forgive (Matthew 6:14, Mark 11:25) 

Our Father sees us as valuable (Matthew 6:26) 

Our Father knows all our needs (Matthew 6:32, Luke 12:30) 

Our Father gives us good things (Matthew 7:11) 

Our Father is pleased to reveal the hidden things to His children (Matthew 11:25-26, 16:17, Luke 10:21) 

Our Father is Lord of heaven and earth (Matthew 11:25, Luke 10:21) 

Our Father was revealed to us by Jesus (Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22) 

Our Father alone knows the day and hour of Jesus’ return (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32, Acts 1:7) 

Our Father can do anything. All things are possible with Him (Mark 14:36) 

Our Father is merciful (Luke 6:36) 

Our Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Luke 11:13) 

Our Father delights to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32, 22:29) 

Our Father loves the Son and has given Him all things (John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17, 15:9, 16:15) 

Our Father seeks true worshipers (John 4:23) 

Our Father is always working (John 5:17) 

Our Father raises the dead (John 5:21) 

Our Father judges no one, but has given judgement to the Son (John 5:22) 

Our Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself (John 5:26) 

Our Father sent Jesus and commanded Him what to say (John 5:36-37, 6:57, 8:16, 18, 12:49-50, 20:21) 

Our Father has placed His seal of approval on Jesus (John 6:27) 

Our Father gives us Jesus, the True Bread from heaven (John 6:32-33) 

Our Father has given us to Jesus and we will not be rejected (John 6:37) 

Our Father draws us to Jesus, we cannot come on our own (John 6:44) 

Our Father glorifies Jesus (John 8:54) 

Our Father knows the Son and the Son knows Our Father (John 10:15) 

Our Father is greater than all and no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:29) 

Our Father and Jesus are One (John 10:30) 

Our Father set apart Jesus as his very own and sent Him into the world (John 10:36) 

Our Father is in the Son and the Son is in Our Father (John 10:38, 14:10) 

Our Father will honor those who follow and serve Jesus (John 12:26) 

Our Father has put all things under Jesus’ power (John 13:3) 

Our Father is glorified in Jesus (John 14:13) 

Our Father loves those who love and obey Jesus, and Our Father and Jesus will come to them and make their home with them (John 14:23) 

Our Father sends the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, Ephesians 1:17) 

Our Father is greater than Jesus (John 14:28) 

Our Father is the Gardener (John 15:1) 

Our Father is glorified when we bear fruit (John 15:8) 

Our Father loves us (John 16:27) 

Our Father was with Jesus to the end and did not leave Him alone (John 16:32) 

Our Father is holy (John 17:11) 

Our Father is righteous (John 17:25) 

Our Father gave Jesus the cup to drink (John 18:11) 

Our Father is “Abba, Father,” to whom we cry by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6) 

Our Father is the one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live (1 Corinthians 8:6) 

Our Father is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3, 11:31, Ephesians 1:3, 1 Peter 1:3) 

Our Father is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3) 

Our Father is the glorious Father (Ephesians 1:17) 

Our Father is the God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:6) 

Our Father loves us and by his grace gives us eternal encouragement and good hope (2 Thessalonians 2:16) 

Our Father treats us as His children (Hebrews 12:7) 

Our Father has lavished great love on us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1) 

Our Father sent the Son to be Savior of the world (1 John 4:14) 

Our Father willed that Jesus give himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age (Galatians 1:4) 

Our Father gives grace and peace (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:3, Philemon 1:3) 

Our Father loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16) 

Our Father gives grace, mercy, and peace (1 Timothy 1:2) 

Our Father in his great mercy has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3) 

But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. Isaiah 63:16 

Image, Baby’s hand, by Fruity Monkey on flickr https://flic.kr/p/99tqDR

Our Father – Where We Grow Up

Our Father, I know from long experience that I do not do well in the candy aisle.

OK, here I am at the campfire still. I’m getting stinging smoke in my eyes now, and some mosquito bites. But let’s keep looking at the Lord’s Prayer from the point of view of a child.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13). I read a commentary on this verse that I thought was definitely a child’s point of view of the Lord’s Prayer. It compared God not leading us into temptation to a mother avoiding the candy aisle when shopping with her children. “Praying, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ is like praying, ‘God, don’t take me down the candy aisle today.’ It’s recognizing that we naturally grasp for unprofitable things and that God’s wisdom can avert the unpleasantness of our bellyaching.” 

You know, there are myriad examples of ways we keep children from temptation. There is a whole industry devoted to it – baby gates, toilet seat locks, cupboard and drawer latches. Even with all of that, we sometimes have to chase them down as they run, giggling, toward a busy street. For a toddler, that is temptation – doing something forbidden (actually, for grownups too!). And so, we have to put blocks in their way to keep them safe.  Maybe sometimes when we find blocks in our way it is God answering our prayer to lead us not into temptation. 

God always has a purpose. Remember the commentary from the first blog on this subject: “Through ongoing sanctification, the believer more and more resembles their heavenly Father – i.e. each time they receive faith from Him and obey it, which results in their unique glorification.”2 Through ongoing sanctification, through obedience and yielding we become like Him.  

The word above translated “temptation” also means testing. Ellicott’s Commentary3 notes that “[t]he Greek word includes the two thoughts which are represented in English by ‘trials,’ i.e., sufferings which test or try, and ‘temptations,’ allurements on the side of pleasure which tend to lead us into evil.”  

This is where the child learns that some things are “nos.” This is where she learns to yield to the will of the Father. Learning to choose obedience. To not play in the toilet water. To begin to grow up. 

Receiving a place in the family of God, receiving daily spiritual and physical sustenance, receiving forgiveness: this is like being the little baby child, drinking the spiritual milk. But forgiving others, sharing what we have been given, yielding daily to God’s will for our lives, obeying His commands to love even our enemies, passing the test – the enduring, the waiting, the sanctification part, the becoming like Jesus part – that is where we grow up. 

Perhaps Jesus is saying to me in this part of the prayer: You are a little child of God. He is your loving, strong Father. Pray like a child who knows her weakness and vulnerability. 

“But those who are conscious of their weakness cannot shake off the thought that they might fail in the conflict, and the cry of that conscious weakness is therefore, ‘Lead us not into such trials,’ even as our Lord prayed, ‘If it be possible, let this cup pass away from me’ (Matthew 26:39). And the answer to the prayer may come either directly in actual exemption from the trial, or in ‘the way to escape’ (1Corinthians 10:13), or in strength to bear it.”3 

Our Father, I know from long experience that in myself I am weak. I do not do well in the candy aisle. I do not endure trials patiently. And after very bad days I even sometimes find myself playing in the toilet water again. Oh Father, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me! 

“We beg for forgiveness, protection, and deliverance just as a young child asks for help and safety as she prepares to fall asleep at night.” — Jeremy Linneman, The Lord’s Prayer is Meant to Be Lived4 

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3 

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:13-14 

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)  

Our Father … 

1Lead Us Not into Temptation, but Deliver Us from Evil | The Lord’s Prayer Petition 5 By Stephanie Soderstrom and Terry DeYoung https://www.faithward.org/how-to-pray-like-jesus-the-lords-prayer-petition-5/  

2HELPS Word Studies by Discovery Bible 

3Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers 

4Blogged by Dr. Peter Cockrell https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2022/08/07/the-lords-prayer-is-meant-to-be-lived/  

Photo of candy aisle by Tiia Monto https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Candy_in_store_2.jpg  

Our Father – Total Dependence

The Father wants me to acknowledge my total dependence on Him. Even more, He wants me to realize the implications of this.

Last week I started looking at the “Lord’s Prayer” from the point of view of a child. I’m still camping out there and I’m seeing things I have never understood before. It’s so easy to just repeat it with everybody else at church without paying attention. But that’s the good thing about camping. It gets you out of your usual environment and helps you to “be still and know.” 

Your Kingdom come, your will be done (Matthew 6:10). What does the Kingdom of God coming to earth have to do with children? It turns out – everything! Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).  This kingdom is the Kingdom of a Father, and a Kingdom of His little children who believe and obey His word, children who do His will and resemble their Father. You know how little children watch every move and mimic everything they see their parents doing? Of such as these consist the Kingdom. Father, let your Kingdom of little children come! 

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV) 

Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). Jeremy Linneman has written about this part of the prayer. 

“There’s no way to honestly live the Lord’s Prayer without seeing that we’re hungry, needy children at the feet of a good and loving Father. Yet the Lord’s Prayer only makes sense within the context of childlike faith and dependence. We acknowledge it’s God’s kingdom we live in, not ours. We ask humbly for daily provision, knowing we can’t ensure our own survival and flourishing apart from him.” 1  

The Father wants me to acknowledge my total dependence on Him. Even more, He wants me to realize the implications of this, consciously, from the beginning of the day and all the day through. This would really change my days if I did this. It would take away all my trust in my own abilities and successes (and any performance burden). It might also pry my clutching, possessive hands off what has been freely given. All that I have comes from the hand of the loving Father. He wants me to mimic His overflowing generosity. He wants me to have confidence in Him, to know that He is worthy of my trust in His love. No matter what happens. 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11 

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35 

Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:8 

I will still be sitting by the campfire next Thursday if you want to join me. 

1Blogged by Dr. Peter Cockrell https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2022/08/07/the-lords-prayer-is-meant-to-be-lived/   

Image, mmm, num, num by Naomi https://flic.kr/p/4cdp1q 

Our Father

I am going to camp out in “Our Father” for a couple of weeks. And I will share what I find with you in case you need to camp out there too.  

I was trying to pray and I felt so inadequate, so un-able. I asked God to teach me how to pray right. I could feel His smile as He said, “I already have.” Oh yeah, I thought. I started to pray the Lord’s Prayer but I couldn’t get past “Our Father.” I broke down crying at that. Our Father. 

Maybe it is because I just lost my dad in May of this year and am feeling bereft. Maybe it’s because I am going through a tough time in my life and I long for a father’s comfort and care. Maybe it is the Spirit wanting me to dig deeper. But I am going to camp out in “Our Father” for a couple of weeks. I am going to look at it from the point of view of a child. His child. And I will share what I find with you in case you need to camp out there too.  

First of all, Jesus called God Our Father (Matthew 6:9). Jesus taught us to pray a prayer which has become known as the Lord’s Prayer, and He started it by addressing God as “Our Father.” The word for father is patḗr in the Greek:  

“the one who imparts life and is committed to it; a progenitor, bringing into being to pass on the potential for likeness … He imparts life, from physical birth to the gift of eternal life through the second birth (regeneration, being born again). Through ongoing sanctification, the believer more and more resembles their heavenly Father – i.e. each time they receive faith from Him and obey it, which results in their unique glorification … [patḗr is] one in ‘intimate connection and relationship.’” 1 

There is so much here to meditate on. He imparts life to us and is committed to us. Stop and think about that for a minute! He passes on the potential for likeness that grows each time we receive faith from Him and obey Him. We, His children, can resemble our heavenly Father. He is in intimate connection and relationship with us. Hallelujah! 

Next, Jesus addressed Our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 6:9). That may make it sound like God is far away, but, for me, it is comforting to think of Him being over me, standing over me, over everything, in charge, in control, yet leaning down to hear my feeble voice. I can imagine standing with my back to Him, leaning back against Him, feeling His strength. When I look up to Him, as a child looks up to her father, His face is near. There is no distance, only glory. He is in heaven but in intimate connection and relationship with me.  

Third, Jesus said that Our Father’s name was to be hallowed. Hallowed be your name (Matthew 6:9). We honor the Name, ha-Shem, of the Father. We recognize and affirm that His name is Holy, His name is the essence of the Father imparted to us. Jesus made the name known to us. “O righteous Father … I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:25-26). Psalm 75:1 says that His Name is near. And Proverbs 18:10 says, The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.  

God told Moses that His name was YHWH and to tell the Israelites that I AM THAT I AM had sent him. I think that this means that His name is more about who He is than a title. And the name Our Father in particular reveals his character and nature. 

“What is that name of God which the revealing Son declares? Not the mere syllables by which we call Him, but the manifested character of the Father. That one name, in the narrower sense of the word, carries the whole revelation that Jesus Christ has to make; for it speaks of tenderness, of kindred, of paternal care, of the transmission of a nature, of the embrace of a divine love. And it delivers men from all their creeping dreads, from all their dark peradventures, from all their stinging fears, from all the paralysing uncertainties which, like clouds, always misty and often thunder-bearing, have shut out the sight of the divine face. If this Christ, in His weakness and humanity, with pity welling from His eyes, and making music of His voice, with the swift help streaming from His fingers-tips to every pain and weariness, and the gracious righteousness that drew little children and did not repel publicans and harlots, is our best image of God, then love is the centre of divinity, and all the rest that we call God is but circumference and fringe of that central brightness.” — Alexander MacLaren2 

Creeping dreads, stinging fears, paralyzing uncertainties surround me every day. I always have wondered how a name could be near, how one could run into a name. But I can say with the psalmist that His name is near and is a strong tower, because when he says that he means that God, in His tender love, is near, that Our Father God is the strong tower.  He is right here near me. I can run into my Father’s strong arms and feel safe.  

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. Psalm 103:13 

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 1 John 4:16-17 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 

Until next time rest in the embrace of His divine love. 

1HELPS Word Studies by Discovery Bible 

2MacLaren Expositions of Holy Scripture 

Image by Andrés Nieto Porras https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nuevas_aficiones_%287984692236%29.jpg

I See

I cast my mind to Calvary 
Where Jesus bled and died for me 
I see His wounds, His hands, His feet 
My Saviour on that cursed tree i 

I cast my mind to Calvary  

my eyes fixed on that cursed tree  

And suddenly I see 

and know with 

mind-heart lightning light

that if Jesus could do this thing  

If he could dynamite history asunder, if he could blow up every mountain  

disintegrate the rubble and blast away even the dust  

making the way to God completely, compassionately, blazingly open  

If he could give me the right

by faith in justice meted by bleeding hands

to be a child of God walking hand-in-hand  

If he could fling all my sins into the depths of the sea, as far as eternity  

And lock my enemy fiercely onto the very short leash of time  

If he is always  

all of my life  

the whole, in each and every part  

with me  

and will NEVER  

no, not, ruled out as a fact or even a possibility 

leave me 

Then  

He is with me now in this breaking, this shaking, this pain  

and he can deal with it, and is dealing with it  

He’s got this

He knows, he hears, he sees

And underneath me 

and my loved ones and my situation  

and this great big horrible mess that is my life right now 

are His Everlasting Arms  

forever and ever and ever 

and ever 

world without end 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1 

ifrom O Praise the Name (Anástasis) Song by Hillsong Worship 

A Hardhat Kind of Love

This kind of love is a “hard hat, lunch pail, pick axe” kind of love.

Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up … Acts 3:6-8 

Usually, I focus on the first part of this verse, the silver and gold part. Peter and John didn’t have a lot of money but they had a real treasure – the power of the Name of Jesus. A power that heals and renews and repairs and restores. As Peter explained to the astonished crowd: 

And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. Acts 3:16 (ESV) 

And as Paul encouraged the Corinthians, we have this treasure of the knowledge of God and what Jesus has done for us on the cross. 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) 

Silver and gold most of us do not have, but we can have the most precious power in the universe. But this time as I read the passage above in Acts, I was drawn to look at the second part of the verse. The part where Peter reaches down and takes the man by the hand. And I saw that faith in the Name is the treasure, but love, or “works” as James put it, is its expression. 

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-18 

This kind of love is, as my pastor Troy Gentz put it in a recent messagei, “a hard hat, lunch pail, pick axe” kind of love.  It is a reaching down, taking by the hand, helping up kind of love. It is not philosophical. It is not just reading about faith and mentally, or even from the heart, assenting to what is written. It is not even just giving of our resources. It is giving ourselves. 

As I was searching for a way to express the love God requires, I came on this list of synonyms: “hands on, personally involved, front line, in the trenches, in amongst it.”ii  Yes, “in amongst it”! Just like Jesus is in amongst us – our Emmanuel (see Jesus in the Middle). 

Love cannot stay just in our minds or even in our hearts. It can’t remain as words on a page, no matter how adored. It was made to be – it exists to be – expressed in works of love that reach out and grasp people by the hand and pull them up and out. As Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17). 

In the same sermon Troy Gentz said, “The love of God is an ocean and it shouldn’t trickle down to a dirty little puddle that we share with people.”iii  What keeps the treasure we have from gushing out all over the place in refreshing, life-giving, good works of love? Fear, prejudice, self-preservation, selfishness, apathy – all things that Jesus addressed in his time here on earth (ex.: Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 10:30-37; Luke 12:15-21).  

“We should resemble God … look like God’s kids. It’s [love is] a family trait.”iv 

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you. Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13 

By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16 

i Troy Gentz, Greatest Sermon series, Sunday June 6, 2021 https://youtu.be/D-6fr9HWDnw?t=1636  

ii Word Hippo https://www.wordhippo.com/what-is/another-word-for/down_and_dirty.html  

iii ibid, Troy Gentz 

iv ibid, Troy Gentz 

Image in the Public Domain from Wikimedia https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hard_Hats_Required.jpg

Living Stones

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptised by him … “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” Luke 3:7-8 

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5 

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:39-40 

This morning I smiled as I read these verses, because I realized that the words of John by the river, and the words of Jesus to the Pharisees, were prophetic. Jesus did raise up children from the stones – not for Abraham, but for the Father. The hard stone of our hearts he replaced with flesh (Ezekiel 11:19) and made them living. He did this by giving us the grace of repentance and the gift of justification by faith in his atoning death on the cross.  

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26  

By his blood shed on the cross he enabled us to become children of God and living stones that are being built into his house and into his priesthood.  

But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. Hebrews 3:6 

… and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:6 

Cry out his praise all you stones!  

Photo of stones by Sheila Bair

Human Coins

You have the image of God stamped on you. You are a human “coin” who belongs to God. Give that which is stamped with His image – yourself – completely to God.

“Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But He detected their trickery and said to them, “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Luke 20:22-25 (NASB)

In the New Testament we read this famous account of the Pharisees trying to trick Jesus with the question about whether they should pay taxes to Caesar or not. They knew that either way he answered, yes or no, he would be in trouble.

The Roman coins were considered idolatrous by the Jews because they had the image of Caesar on them and, also, because Caesar proclaimed himself god. So, if Jesus said yes, he would be breaking the Mosaic Law. If Jesus said no, he would be breaking Roman law and could be arrested. He answered by saying, look, this coin has the image stamped on it of the one who owns it – so give it back to its owner. But, he said, give to God what is his. What did he mean by that?

In Jesus’ time there was something called the Mishnah, an oral tradition of the wisdom of the rabbis. It was later written down. But these sayings would have been known to Jesus’ learned challengers who were trying to ensnare him. One teaching, comparing stamped coins with people, is pretty amazing when applied to Jesus’ answer:

The mishna teaches: And this serves to tell of the greatness of the Holy One, Blessed be He, as when a person stamps several coins with one seal, they are all similar to each other. But the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, stamped all people with the seal of Adam the first man, as all are his offspring, and not one of them is similar to another. — Sanhedrin 38a:10

Applying this teaching you could say that we human beings are stamped with the image of God. Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ (Genesis 1:26). But unlike the Roman coins which were all stamped with the same image of Caesar, the stamps God puts on his human “coins” are all unique, revealing God’s inexhaustible power and creativity.

For we are God’s masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

And when Jesus, pointing to the image, said, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s,” the teachers of the Law would have understood what he has saying to them. You have the image of God stamped on you. You are a human “coin” who belongs to God. Give that which is stamped with His image – yourself – completely to God. Give to Caesar what is stamped with his image.

This idea of human coins made me think of the parable that Jesus told of the woman who lost a coin and swept the house carefully, searching for it, until she found it. The insight of the rabbis gives this parable a totally different meaning for me, or a deeper meaning. Jesus told this story along with the parable of the lost sheep. Each human “coin” or “sheep” is precious to God, and he will tear the house apart, search high and low to recover one that is lost.

When an expert in the law asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:34-37).” That is giving to God what is God’s. But Jesus went further. He added, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He was commanding us to acknowledge the preciousness, the inestimable value, the unending diversity, and creativity revealed in the unique stamp of God’s image on each one of our brothers and sisters, each human coin, and love them – as God loves us.

 

Photo of Roman denarius by DrusMAX – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24408884

 

 

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