Those Who Knew Him

There was only one thing that could have kept them standing there with him that terrible day.

When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:48-49 

There were two groups of people that day witnessing the death of Jesus on the cross. The Greek word translated “sight” above is theoria, which means spectacle or something to be viewed. It comes from theoreo – to be a spectator. So, there were the spectators. We are very familiar with being a spectator to tragedies these days. We do what they did, mostly, “beat our breasts” at how horrible it is – then walk away and go on with life. 

But those who knew him …  

Then there were the ones who knew him. The word “knew” here does not mean just to know about Jesus, but it means to be well known. They knew him well. They were the ones who had followed him from the beginning. The word comes from a Greek word that is even used for married intimacy. These were the ones who had sat around the campfire with him and told jokes, seen the sparkle in his eyes, heard him call their name, been electrified at the probing questions, felt his touch as he washed their feet. 

But those who knew him … stood. 

At a distance, helpless, in despair, not knowing what was happening. But they stood with him to the end. The women followed his lifeless body to the very end, to the tomb. 

The word translated “stood” is histemi in the Greek. It means “to cause or make to stand … in the presence of others, in the midst, before judges, before members of the Sanhedrin … to make firm, fix establish, to cause a person or a thing to keep his place … [I love this one!] to be kept intact (of family, of a kingdom) … to stand by or near, to stop, stand still, to stand immovable.” 

Soon they would receive the power from on high to go on. But just then, when things were darkest, all they could do, all there was to do, was stand. 

Their leader was being executed. They themselves, therefore, were on a very dangerous blacklist. The fear and the doubt must have been oppressive. There was only one thing that could have kept them standing there with him that terrible day. They knew him – it all comes down to knowing him. 

I can deeply empathize with them. All those wonderful words and promises nailed to a cross and spit upon and dead. All the expectations and dreams bled out, the last breath gasped. Joy suffocated. Hope buried in a tomb. Sometimes the days are very dark. 

Yet (!) I too have heard his voice calling my name. I, too, have looked into his eyes, and felt his touch and the breathtaking power of his unfailing love. I know whom I have believed, and I know that – even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it – he has given me power, not my own, to stand and to endure to the end. 

Family of God, you who are of His Kingdom – you who know him – when you feel lost in the darkness, when fear and doubt overwhelm, when you are tempted to walk away – he will keep you intact, he will cause you to stand, make you firm, fixed, immovable. Fix your eyes and heart on him. Strive to know him and follow him deeper each day. Cling to him. And when there is nothing else you can do, stand. 

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11 

Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 2 Timothy 1:12 

For those who don’t yet know Him, come!   Salvation

Image, detail from Storm by texaus1 https://flic.kr/p/R41Zbp  

This Long Dark Night

We must keep the light burning.

Command the Israelites to bring you clear (pure, clean, righteous) oil of pressed (beaten, pounded) olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. Exodus 27:20-21 

These verses always strike me. The lamps were to be kept burning all night long. There should always be a light in the Temple of God. And we now know that we are that Temple.  

There were, actually, three things that were to be kept burning: 1.) the lamps (here and also Lev. 24:2), 2.) the incense, which was to be kept burning perpetually or continually (Exodus 30:8), and 3.) the fire on the altar (Leviticus 6:12).   

The importance of keeping our lamps burning is exemplified in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins: 

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming … Matthew 25:1-5 

What is the oil for our lamps that we must keep with us at all times? I believe it is the Holy Spirit in us. It is staying in the Presence, listening for his voice, always poised to obey.  

“The light in the sanctuary was to burn continually before the Lord, in the Holy Place, [Leviticus 24] verses 1-4. The “pure oil olive beaten” is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of grace.” The candlestick of “pure beaten gold” is the symbol of Christ “bruised” as an offering for sin, Isa. 53:10. The Spirit was given by reason of His being bruised. Cf. John 14:16-18, 16:7, 7:39. The lamps burned “from the evening till the morning,” perpetually before the Lord. Grace and truth are given unto us and kept by the priesthood of Christ. John 1:17.” — R. Nelson Colyar, Leviticus, The Book of Holiness, p. 47. 

So, the burning lamps symbolize the Light of Christ, the glory of God shining out from our lives.  

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 

The continually burning incense symbolizes the prayers of the saints according to Revelation 8:4. We are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17, Eph. 6:18).  

The continual fire on the altar was the burnt offering that was entirely consumed symbolizing the complete and perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We are also to “offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is [our] spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).   

The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out. Lev. 6:12-13 

The fat symbolizes God’s portion, the best part, the “cream of the crop.” “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). That best love, that first love, must be kept burning. It all goes together this continual praying, self-sacrifice, and light.  

The passion of self-sacrifice – offering ourselves on the altar, daily taking up our cross for love of the One who took up the cross for us, the light of God’s Spirit shining out – because if He is in us and we are surrendering to crucifixion of self, the light can’t help but shine, and the incense of unceasing prayer – a continual looking up, offering thanks and praise, the worship of hope and faith and expectation of His goodness, but also just that “naked intent toward God,” the “practice of the presence of God.” 

We who are the Temple must keep the light burning through this long dark night. 

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14 

When night settles down on a church the Lord has his watchers and holy ones still guarding his truth, and these must not be discouraged, but must bless the Lord even when the darkest hours draw on. — Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David 

The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8 (NASB) 

The bridegroom was a long time in coming …  

Photo, detail of free download from Pixabay 

All there is

When despair has obliterated ordinary prayer, when the psalms fail and all words are stupid and meaningless, the mantle of loneliness surrounding me becomes a mantle of dark and wordless love. This darkness reveals the paradox of prayer: in the absence of God, all there is, is God. 

Suzanne Guthrie 
Grace’s Window 

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) 

Wineskin in the Smoke

Like David, I must choose hope.

Kaph 

 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, 

    but I have put my hope in your word. 

My eyes fail, looking for your promise; 

    I say, “When will you comfort me?” 

Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, 

    I do not forget your decrees. 

How long must your servant wait? 

    Psalm 119:81-84a 

For years I have been reading that phrase “though I am like a wineskin in the smoke” and wondering what it means. It has been an enigma to me. But now I am starting to get an idea. Maybe, sometimes you have to be there in the dark smoke to finally understand.  

Each of the sections of Psalm 119 start with one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This section starts with kaph. 

“Jewish writers state that kaph means ‘bent.’ It has a dual symbolism, standing for the palm of the hand serving as a container and, at the same time, as a measure for what it holds. Ibn Ezra states that kaph means ‘result through mental and physical effort.’ While yod stands for the hand indicating power and possession, kaph denotes productivity and accomplishment.” — Mick Mills, David Michael, Messiah and his Hebrew Alphabet. [emphasis mine] 

David used kaph as a word in Psalm 139:5: You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand (kaph) upon me. “You have laid your kaph on me” – You are doing, producing, accomplishing something in me! 

The first word of this section of Psalm 119, kalah, starts with the letter kaph. Kalah means to be spent, be used up, to waste away, be exhausted, fail. My soul faints. My eyes fail. But it also means to come or bring to an end, to complete, finish, to accomplish, fulfill, bring to pass. On our side we are exhausted, spent, we have failed and are failing. On God’s side, he is bringing us to the end of our own strength, he is finishing, accomplishing, fulfilling his purpose and promise in us, bringing his Word to pass. 

What does that have to do with wineskins in the smoke? 

There are two things that I have found. Nomadic peoples would hang their skin-bottles in their tents which were full of smoke and they would become, over time, black and dried out, shriveled, and useless. Many commentators conclude that David is lamenting that he feels like such a skin in the hot, blinding smoke – suffering, helpless, waiting. (See, for instance, Spurgeon in The Treasury of David https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=spur&b=19&c=119&v=45

But there is another beautiful meaning here. Hanging skin-bottles over a fire, or in a smoky place, was an ancient method of refining the wine inside of them.i 

  “A bottle in the smoke. One object amongst the ancients of such exposure was to mellow the wine by the gradual ascent of the heat and smoke from the fire over which the skin was suspended; and thus the words teach us the uses of affliction in ripening and improving the soul.” — Ernst Friedrich Karl Rosenmüller, quoted in John Mason Neale, Richard Frederick Littledale, A Commentary on the Psalms 

“And in that custom the psalmist finds an illustration of the meaning, and of the mercy, of the afflictions to which he has been exposed. They have been sent to act on him like the warm smoke on the wine – to refine, mellow, and ripen his character; and because, under them all, he has refused to part with his faith in God and duty; because he has been true to God and God’s statutes, they have had their intended and proper effect upon him.” — Rev. Robert Tuckii  

How long must your servant wait?  

Yes, it’s the waiting that makes it so hard. I’m not good at waiting even for good things, let alone waiting in the suffocating smoke of misery, not knowing what is going to happen, how long it will last, helpless, not able to change or affect anything. Like David, I must choose hope. 

“To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, Radical Waiting 

“What seems to be in mind is a long waiting-time, which was also a time of suffering and strain. The watching for God was prolonged; no response seemed to come; much had to be borne while he was waiting; he seemed to get dry, shriveled, and blackened, like the wine-skin in the chimney that had waited so long (and seemed to get tired of waiting, even as he did) for the moisture and refreshing of being used, and filled again with wine. But the question of supreme importance was this – What was he doing during this hard waiting-time?” – Rev. Robert Tuckiii  

What was David doing in the waiting? I have put my hope in your word … looking for your promise … I do not forget your decrees. He believed, because he knew God, he knew that all the time he was hanging there in the dark, hot, choking smoke – God was working, God was accomplishing his purpose, God was fulfilling his promise.

Lord help me do that too. When I’m hanging there, when despair and hopelessness swirl around me like the strangling, blinding smoke – give me that grace. 

Even when I don’t see it, You’re working 
Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working 
You never stop, You never stop working 
You never stop, You never stop working 

— from Way Maker by Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu 

Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” John 5:17 

Photo, free download from Pixabay 

The Treasures of Darkness

God’s love is always facing out.

I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. Isaiah 45:3 (NASB) 

I blogged about this verse back in July1, but I see now that it was just a beginning. God has been leading me deeper into Isaiah 45:3. He is showing me, and hopefully, all of us, something amazing for this dark time. 

I will give you the treasures (storehouse, treasury, magazine of weapons in the armory of God)  

of darkness (misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, obscurity, night)  

and hidden wealth (hidden treasure)  

of secret places (the hiding place),  

So that you may know (perceive, recognize, comprehend, understand)  

that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel,  

who calls (summons, invites, calls for, calls and commissions, calls and endows, appoints) you by your name. Isaiah 45:3 (NASB) 

There is a treasure to be found in our darkness. A treasure that can only be discovered there in the dark night. Encouragement and comfort and beauty, a light on the path through. Comfort and encouragement for us in our struggle and fear and pain, but also for others. Maybe mostly for others for God’s love is always facing out. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4  

There are weapons to be forged in the darkness. It’s interesting that God’s treasure house or storehouse is also a magazine of his weapons. Weapons of the faith that shields, the love that overcomes, the joy that imparts strength, the song that crumbles walls and disperses enemies. Yes, we have these weapons from the first, but we don’t really fight well with them until they are tested – mostly in adversity. Like David, who tested his sling and stones against the lion and the bear.  

There is a commission to receive in the dark times. For in the dark times he calls, he invites, he appoints and commissions us to go out and share our testimony. A testimony birthed in the darkness. It is an awesome thing to be summoned, appointed, and commissioned by God. Isaiah 43:1 says: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”  

It’s like that letter you get when you are drafted into the service, and you are no longer your own for a few years, but this summons is infinitely more. Unlike the draft letter, God gives you a choice in the darkness – you can give up in despair and anger at God, or you can pick up your weapons and step forward and sign on the line with that new name He has called you: Mine. 

“Be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Paul instructs, “Arm yourself with faith build up your belief now, before the day comes. Learn your song, and you’ll be able to sing it in your fire. 

This is the hope of our most holy faith: our Lord causes a song to come out of the darkest of times. Start now to build up your holy faith in him and learn to praise his majesty quietly in your heart. When you sing your song, it will strengthen and encourage your brothers and sisters. And it will testify to the world: ‘Our Lord reigns over the flood!’” — David Wilkerson 

Photo by Jack Bair, 2020

1 see When You Are in Darkness https://wrestlingwordblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/11/when-you-are-in-darkness

Faith Looks

A theme again emerged this week from the blogs and devotionals I follow. May these encourage you!

On accepting adversity in our lives: Always it is initiated by an act of will on our part; we set ourselves to believe in the overruling goodness, providence, and sovereignty of God and refuse to turn aside no matter what may come, no matter how we may feel. I mistakenly thought I could not trust God unless I felt like trusting Him. Now I am learning that trusting God is first of all a matter of the will. I choose to trust in God, and my feelings eventually follow. ― Margaret Clarkson, Grace Grows Best in Winter 

(Blogged by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2020/11/04/wisdom-wednesday-the-sovereign-god-110420/

Faith looks not at what happens to him but at Him Whom he believes. — Watchman Nee 

(Blogged by Cookiecrumbstoliveby https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2020/11/03/calm-cool-and-collected/

You are good, you are kind 

 You are more than these 

 I’m lost for words trying to describe You 

 Elohim, Elyon, Alese lewi [He who does what He has said] 

 Your greatness is all I see 

 There is nothing You cannot do 

 There’s no mountain You cannot move 

If You have said it, then You will do it 

 ’cause You have a track record of keeping Your word 

 And You’re not about to stop doing it now 

— Olorun Agbaye – You Are Mighty, Nathaniel Bassey, lyrics 

(Blogged by Precious John-Adeyemi https://goodandloved.wordpress.com/2020/11/01/my-top-5-songs-of-the-week-2/

“In this world you will have trouble.” — Jesus 

Friends in the Lord. We need to get over it. In this world we will have trouble. We will get cancer. Tragedy will strike our families. Untimely deaths will occur. Our children will endure trauma. At the other end of the spectrum, people will be beheaded simply for their faith in Jesus. Trouble is the unfortunate feature and bitter fruit of the insanely complex, compounded brokenness of the whole fallen creation. It is neither an indictment on the goodness of God nor the faith of his followers. 

The big difference on this point is not between people who follow Jesus and people who don’t. Trouble is our common lot. The big difference is the people who follow Jesus get to add this tiny little hand grenade of a footnote to our bumper sticker: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — J.D. Walt 

The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in. – RC Sproul 

Photo copyright Derek Bair 2006

The Good Fight

Yes, the fight is agonizing, a struggle, a grueling conflict. But good? What does that mean “good fight?”

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 

“Fight the good fight.” That phrase stopped me in my tracks as I read it this time. I think we all feel like we are in a fight, actually lots of fights. It seems like everywhere you go, everything you hear and see there is a fight going on. More like a war. The Greek word translated “fight” in the above verse is agon. It means anxiety, conflict, contention, fight, race. Sounds all too familiar. BibleHub.com commentary adds this to the definition of agon: 

agṓn (a masculine noun, and the root of the English words, “agony,” “agonize”) – properly, a contest (struggle), a grueling conflict (fight); (figuratively) positive struggle that goes with “fighting the good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:12) – which literally states, “Struggle (agōnízomai) the good struggle (agṓn) of the (life of) faith.” — BibleHub.com 

Yes, agonizing, a struggle, a grueling conflict. But a good fight? What does that mean “good fight?” Spurgeon said this about it: 

“‘Lay hold on eternal life.’ Observe that this precept is preceded by another—’Fight the good fight of faith.’ Those who lay hold on eternal life will have to fight for it. The way of the spiritual life is no easy one—we shall have to contest every step of the way along which it leads us. ‘Contest the good contest of the faith’ would be an accurate rendering of the passage and a contest it is against the world, the flesh and the devil! If we live unto God, we shall need to war a daily warfare and tread down the powers of death and Hell.” — C.H. Spurgeoni  

“A daily warfare.” Wow, that makes me tired and is hard to see as good. So, it was a shock when I saw what the Greek word translated “good” in English means.  

The word is kalos and it means beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable. We are in a beautiful fight (!!) A precious struggle. I may have a hard time seeing it this way when I am in the midst of the battle, but to God my fight is precious. Think about that for a minute – your fight is precious to God. To me, my battle for faith and hope feels like failure. (Shouldn’t the battle be easier by now?) I’m sure the battle will never end until the Lord takes me home, and it probably won’t get easier. But, knowing it is precious to God helps me keep going. 

So, I will hold this in my heart. When I stand in the darkness with naked faith, when I proclaim the truth of the cross of Jesus, when I cling to the promises though right now there is no evidence, when I fall over and over, but keep getting back up, when I cry out in despair, when I wrestle with him, when I lift up my eyes once again to fix them on Jesus. That is beautiful and precious in his eyes. And he is right there with me. And he gives grace for this good fight. 

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalms 116:15 

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7 

Naked Intent

Back then I would sneak out of choir practice and go sit in the dark sanctuary.

“This is what you are to do: lift your heart up to the Lord, with a gentle stirring of love desiring him for his own sake and not for his gifts. Center all your attention and desire on him and let this be the sole concern of your mind and heart … And so diligently persevere until you feel the joy in it. For in the beginning it is usual to feel nothing but a kind of darkness about your mind, or as it were, a cloud of unknowing. You will seem to know nothing and to feel nothing except a naked intent toward God in the depths of your being … But if you strive to fix your love on him forgetting all else, which is the work of contemplation I have urged you to begin, I am confident that God in his goodness will bring you to a deep experience of himself.” — The Cloud of Unknowing, chapter 3  

“… a state of naked faith, sustained by God alone in our absolute abandonment to Him …” — Jeanne Guyon, Union with God 

Sunday at church we sang the doxology.  

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!i 

I have been singing it since I was a child in the children’s choir at the Methodist Church. Suddenly, as I sang, I was in that place beyond time singing it again as that child who didn’t really know what she was singing. The child who wasn’t sure what or who was a “Holy Ghost,” the child who looked up at the stained-glass window depicting Elijah, Jesus, and Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration and was sure, as she sang those lyrics, that she was looking at a picture of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I didn’t know much, but I had a “naked intent toward God” as the unknown monk wrote, the “naked faith” described by Guyon. It was a faith beyond reasoning or logic, a faith that totally bypassed intellect because there was no real knowledge of the scriptures at that time.   
 

Back then I would sneak out of choir practice and go sit in the dark sanctuary – literally and intellectually in the darkness, in the cloud of unknowing – and wait on God. I didn’t know I was doing that; I didn’t even have any words for a prayer. Almost holding my breath, I would just be there. There was just that naked intent, that yearning and thirsting after God. And he gently met me there, though I could not fully comprehend him.  
 

I have come a long way since then. I have studied the Bible for many years and have a lot of head knowledge now. But still I know that what God wants, what he looks for, what delights his great heart is that naked intent toward God, that hunger and thirsting after Him from the depths of my being. My essence seeking after His essence. Let me just be there. 

My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Psalm 143:6 

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” Matthew 11:25-26 

And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (NASB) 

For more on the “naked intent” toward God see a previous post https://wrestlingwordblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/a-naked-intent-toward-god/

Photo, detail from Coloured Reflection by Ben Keating, https://flic.kr/p/GHzQ3T  

To Him Who is Able

Quite frequently the daily devotionals and blogs that I receive all have the same message. God is amazing and faithful! When that happens, I make sure to pay attention. That happened again this week and I thought, in this challenging time, that the message they convey might be of comfort to you too. 

You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Psalm 139:5 (NASB) 

Sometimes, especially when we are facing intense challenges in life, it feels as if God is distant from us. We might even think He has deliberately withdrawn from us. Nothing could be farther from the truth … In fact, at all times, His hand is upon you. — Derek Prince Ministries 

When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8 

Will He find the kind of faith that counts on Him in spite of the confusion? Stand firm in faith, believing that what Jesus said is true, although in the meantime you do not understand what God is doing. — Oswald Chambers 

Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. John 7:17  

Translation: Trust in me, and you will discover the truth of my words. It’s not trust me because you already fully grasp the truth. No, it’s trust me and you will discover the truth and the truth will set you free. Jesus offers the test of active trust. He is looking for people who will choose to belong to him even before they fully believe in him. How does one belong to Jesus? Start following him. — J.D. Walt 

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord. Hosea 6:3  

Not all at once, but by degrees shall we attain to holy knowledge, and our business is to persevere and learn by little and little. We need not despair, though our progress may be slow, for we shall yet know. The Lord, who has become our Teacher, will not give us up, however slow of understanding we may be; for it is not for His honor that any degree of human folly should baffle His skill. — Charles Spurgeon 

To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 1:24-25 

Image by Jack Bair