A Kind of Death

Yeshua 

wants me to 

love the brOTHER 

Loving the brOTHER hurts 

it is a kind of death 

Something is dying to truly love 

the bitter things and the fearful 

jealousy 

envy 

resentment 

entitlement 

unforgiveness 

greed 

fear 

bigotry 

prejudice 

suspicion 

arrogance and disdain 

the self-seeking things and the defensive 

For love  

self lies down surrendered 

naked and vulnerable 

In love 

love executes self 

joyfully  

leaves self  

hanging there 

exposed and 

bleeding out  

Only then the brOTHER can be loved 

only then the brOTHER can be 

my brother 

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

Image shared under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0, Stations of the Cross, William Mitchell – Jesus is nailed to the cross

To This You Were Called

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9 

Did you see that? You were called to this! That jumped out at me as I read the verse this time. Repaying or returning blessing is not one – though maybe the best – of many possible reactions. Returning blessing is not a suggestion or a nice bumper-sticker inspiration. Rather, to bless is why we were called in the first place. In this day of the celebration of karma pay-back, does this kind of thinking even compute anymore? Yet, to this you were called

Do not repay (pay back, pay off, discharge as a debt, pay wages, what is due, requite, give back, recompense)  

evil with evil (inner malice, what is worthless, depraved, injurious, bad, evil, harmful, ill, foul, rotten, poisoned)  

or insult with insult (abuse, railing, reviling, reproach).  

On the contrary (but, now),  

repay evil with blessing (speak well of, praise, confer what is beneficial, thank or invoke a benediction upon),  

because to this you were called (selected, roused, summoned, called by name)  

so that you may inherit a blessing (benefit).  

1 Peter 3:9 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28 

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:14 

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:20-23 

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (ESV) 

Photo by Jack Bair

Born for to Die

What if I am not here to live my “best life” but to give it all up?

I wonder as I wander out under the sky that Jesus my Savior did come for to die … 1

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. Hebrews 2:14–15 (NLT) 

Jesus, born for to die. The Son of God becoming flesh and blood, born a human being so He could die for all us human beings. I absolutely believe and am forever grateful for that. 

But recently I have been wrestling with something – maybe the hardest thing of all to wrestle with. What if I was “born for to die” too? What if that is the whole reason I am here – to die – so others might live? What if I am not here to live my “best life” but to give it all up? To live His life, the life He gave up for me? 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

But living His life means me dying. Jesus calls us to be His witnesses. Did you know that the Greek word means “martyr”? 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  

“Not my workers. Not my worshipers. Not my weekend warriors. My witnesses. It means those who will cease to live for themselves and learn to live with me and from me and through me and to me and for me.” — J.D. Walt, I Speak Jesus 

“[T]hose who will cease to live for themselves.” The Greek word is martus (μάρτυς ) – witness, martyr. You will be my martyrs. Rarely the way we usually think of a martyr, being killed for his or her faith gloriously in some foreign country. And, definitely not the modern psychological dysfunction self-glorification, self-pitying definition of the word. But through, what Elisabeth Elliot called, “little ‘deaths’.” 

“So my decision to receive Him, although made only once, I must affirm in thousands of ways, through thousands of choices, for the rest of my life—my will or His, my life (the old one) or His (the new one). It is no to myself and yes to Him. This continual affirmation is usually made in small things, inconveniences, unselfish giving up of preferences, yielding gracefully to the wishes of others without playing the martyr, learning to close doors quietly and turn the volume down on the music we’d love to play loudly—sufferings they may be, but only small-sized ones. We may think of them as little ‘deaths’.” — Elisabeth Elliot, A Path through Suffering  

For the joy set before him he endured the cross … Hebrews 12:2 

If I am to be like Jesus, if I can somehow realize that I was “born for to die,” then maybe I can (someday) “consider it all joy” when faced with all the “little deaths.” With the big deaths too. Some seem so very big. 

“The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

“Beware of only saying, ‘Christ was crucified for me’; say, too, ‘I am crucified with Christ.’” — Andrew Murray, Andrew Murray on the Holy Spirit 

Still wrestling … 

1 Lyrics by John Jacob Niles

Image of dead apple blossoms available under CC0 Public Domain 

He Who Overcomes

It seems to me that overcoming must be a daily effort so that we will be ready in the end. 

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) 

Last time I started looking at the concept of overcoming or conquering (Greek = nikaó) and what it means. This week I decided to take a look at the verses in the Bible where the word is used. I found there are a lot of them in Revelation, and they are all accompanied there with promises. 

The one who conquers (nikaó) and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. Revelation 2:26-27 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó) will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Revelation 3:5 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó), I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Revelation 3:12 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó), I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:21 (ESV) 

To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers (nikaó) will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. Revelation 21:16-17 (ESV) 

What struck me about these verses in Revelation was the similarity in outcome and promise to the parables that Jesus told in Matthew 25: 

The Parable of the Ten Virgins: But while they were on their way to buy it, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. Later the other virgins arrived and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:10-13 

The Parable of the Talents: His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:21 

The Final Judgement: Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Matthew 25:34-36 

Two things stand out to me in all this. First, the readiness and the faithfulness and the true serving of Jesus by loving others must be related to this overcoming thing. For they both have the same reward: to be admitted into the Kingdom and to the family, to sit on the throne and have authority. The second thing is that it seems to me that overcoming must be a daily effort so that we will be ready in the end. 

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21 

And how does that happen? John says it is by faith, by believing. But, how does that work in everyday life? In Proverbs there is a verse about a disciplined servant that helped me to see it. 

By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond. Proverbs 29:19 

If the Bible is “mere words” to me, by it I cannot/will not be disciplined – chastened, admonished, corrected. It must be more than words, more even than mere understanding of the words. Mere words won’t change the servant. He must be in love with the Master. 

Isn’t that what happened with the virgins who ran out of oil, and the servant who buried his talent, and the “goats” on the Lord’s left hand who did many things, but never out of love, never for the love of the Master. They only heard mere words, they only did just enough to get by, to technically obey. They never let the Master correct their wrong thinking. They never had that close relationship that is requisite, walking along side, carried in the Everlasting Arms. 

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven … But I tell you: love … Matthew 5:20, 44

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:22-23 

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) 

To overcome there must be faith and trust in, and love for, the Author of the word, not just head knowledge. Love of the discipliner, love of the Father. And we can’t love Him unless we know Him. We can’t truly respond except through love. And all of this must be a work of the Spirit of God in us. 

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world … Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:4, 7 (ESV) 

Next week, the glorious key.

Image of oil lamp by Bee Collins https://flic.kr/p/bSdftM 

New Year, Ancient Path

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

… for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. Ephesians 5:8 (ESV)

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

And he [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (ESV)

Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. — C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Photo by Jack Bair

Overcoming

Jesus showed us what overcoming means, what success and failure in this world mean.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) 

The word translated “overcomes” in the above verse is nikaó (from nike = victory) and means to conquer, be victorious, to prevail, overcome, subdue. According to Kenneth S. Wuest, “The verb implies a battle.” i 

Yes, to overcome in this world is a continual battle, but one primarily with my “self.” There is an enemy of my soul who wants to destroy me, but the battle to overcome is for holiness, for sanctification, for putting down the flesh and fighting off “human reasoning and to destroy false arguments” and “every proud obstacle that keeps [me] from knowing God” and to capture my “rebellious thoughts” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT).

We must overcome the world in us. The way the world has influenced us to think and respond, the world branded on our broken hearts, the world mangling our souls and deforming our hearts. For, before we can truly help anybody else, before we can begin to overcome the evil in the world outwardly, we must first do battle within our own hearts. The Apostle John talks a lot about this battle. 

No New Testament writer makes such frequent use of the metaphors of combat and victory as this gentle Apostle John. None of them seem to have conceived so habitually of the Christian life as being a conflict, and in none of their writings does the clear note of victory in the use of that word ‘overcometh‘ ring out so constantly as it does in those of the very Apostle of Love. Equally characteristic of John’s writings is the prominence which he gives to the still contemplation of, and abiding in, Christ. These two conceptions of the Christian life appear to be discordant, but are really harmonious.MacLaren’s Expositions 

Can the contemplation of our Lord, the fixing of our eyes on Jesus, the abiding in Jesus, be the key to victory in this battle, to overcoming the world? And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 

“Remember, that this is much more important than I can express: fix your eyes on your crucified Lord, and everything will seem easy to you.” — Saint Teresa of Avila ii 

Well, I don’t know about being easy – at least not yet, not for me – yet. But Teresa echoes God’s word and the promise throughout the Bible: 

Be still and know that I am God. The battle is not yours, but God’s. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. iii  

I have overcome the world. 

Where did John learn the expression? Who was it that first used it? It comes from that never-to-be-forgotten night in that upper room; where, with His life’s purpose apparently crushed into nothing, and the world just ready to exercise its last power over Him by killing Him, Jesus Christ breaks out into such a strange strain of triumph, and in the midst of apparent defeat lifts up that clarion note of victory:- ‘I have overcome the world.’ He had not made much of it, according to usual standards, had He? His life had been the life of a poor man. Neither fame nor influence, nor what people call success, had He won, judged from the ordinary points of view, and at three-and-thirty is about to be murdered; and yet He says, ’I have beaten it all, and here I stand a conqueror!’ That threw a flood of light for John, and for all that had listened to Christ, on the whole conditions of human life, and on what victory and defeat, success and failure in this world mean.” — MacLaren’s Expositions 

Jesus showed us what overcoming means, what success and failure in this world mean. Not the outer accumulations and renown, but the inner triumph, the doing of God’s will, the being faithful to the end. Jesus has overcome, and – Praise God! – he accomplishes the overcoming in us. It’s only when you think of things this way, that all of a sudden, scriptures like this one in James make sense. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 

This sort of success, this overcoming, is an invisible victory as far as the world is concerned. What J.D. Walt calls this “learning the way of ‘yetting,’ the mystery of joy, and the practice of ‘rejoicing in the Lord,’ and yes all of this before anything changes.” It happens deep down. 

“As we learn to rejoice in the Lord at the bottom, we find a strange shifting of the center of our gravity. We go from all manner of striving after any form of strength we can find (including endlessly asking God to help us) to realizing ‘The Sovereign Lord is my strength.’” — J.D. Walt iv 

“Discipleship does not mean to use God when we can no longer function ourselves. On the contrary, it means to recognize that we can do nothing at all, but that God can do everything through us.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen 

Each self-thing as God puts his finger on it, every lingering Eden-sin, he will give me the grace to overcome, to subdue. God will work his overcoming in me. But I have to cooperate with this working, I have to renounce the sin, hate the sin, be brutal with the sin. I have to cut off the hand and gouge out the offending eye (Matthew 5:29-30). As Charles Spurgeon said, “grace saves no man to make him like a log of wood.” We have something to do; we need to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).  

There is so much more to overcoming I am finding. So, I would like to continue this wonderful discovery of hidden treasure next time. 

“He conquered once for all, and His victory will pass, with electric power, into my life if I trust Him.” — Alexander MacLaren 

i Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans. 

ii Saint Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, or, The Mansions https://archive.org/details/St.TeresaOfAvilaTheInteriorCastleOrTheMansionsIncludingSomeOfHerMoreInterestingLetters 

iii Psalm 46:10; 2 Chronicles 20:15; Matthew 11:30 

iv J.D. Walt, Why the Glass Is Not Half Empty, Nor Half Full—There Is No Glass https://www.seedbed.com/why-the-glass-is-not-half-empty-or-half-full-there-is-no-glass/ 

Image of lightning by Duane Schoon https://flic.kr/p/8nTDnP

Emptied

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV) 

Jesus “emptied himself.” The word means to make empty, to abase (humble, lower oneself), make of no reputation. Isaiah says it even more starkly: 

He [Messiah] was despised (held in contempt, disdained) and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed (valued) him not. Isaiah 53:3 

Did you ever think that, out of his deep love for us, Jesus emptied and abased himself to become of no reputation, a weak human, taking on our sin, enduring the shame of being crucified on a cross – in order that we might be crucified with him, cleansed of our shame, emptied out of our sin, made pure and holy in him, so that we could truly love others? 

Loving others is what it is all about. Loving others is what I wish I could do. Loving others is pretty much what I fail to do continually. But to do that I have to start at the cross. I have to start with being crucified with him. I have to die, be emptied of self, of all the self-stuff, and let him live in me every day – and that is hard.   

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

Philippians 2:5 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” And, in fact, 1 Corinthians 2:16 declares that we do have the mind of Christ. We just have to be willing to yield. I want to be willing – will you make me willing Lord? – to forsake reputation and honor and pride and self-reliance and my own thinking and to have this mind that was in Christ Jesus. Work in me, Lord, to be willing to be emptied and abased, a “fool for Christ,” “the scum of the world, the refuse of all things,” to be crucified with Christ, in order that you can love people through me. That they may know “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).  

We are fools for Christ’s sake …When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. 1 Corinthians 4:10, 12-13 (ESV) 

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  Ephesians 2:4-5 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him … We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:9, 19 (ESV) 

He was a man of no reputation  

And by the wise, considered a fool  

When He spoke about faith and forgiveness  

In a time when the strongest arms ruled  

But this man of no reputation  

Loves us all with relentless affection  

And He loves all those poor in spirit, come as you are  

To the man of no reputation — Rich Mullins 

Come as you are Salvation  

Image: Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet [1852-6], Tate Archive, image  released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

Something Missing

I don’t hear the echo of Joshua or Ruth or Esther or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

“Now LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father the promises you made to him when you said, ‘You shall never fail to have a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons are careful in all they do to walk before me as you have done.’” 1 Kings 8:25 

The above verse is part of the long prayer that Solomon gave at the dedication of the new Temple. It is the prayer that God responded to with the famous “if my people who are called by my Name” promise. 

As I was reading Solomon’s prayer this time, I realized that something was missing. God promised David that He would be with his descendants IF they were careful to walk before God as David had done. I was expecting a response to that. But the heartfelt response to God didn’t come. You know what was missing? Something like this: 

“… choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15 

What I see instead is Solomon basically saying to God, “We are going to sin. But if we turn back and repent when that happens, please forgive us and bless us.” Yes, absolutely, we sin and we will sin and we need God’s mercy and strength to be victorious, and only the blood of the Lamb can save us. But what I don’t see here, in this prayer, is the I-will-follow-no-matter-what determination, the even-if-he-slay-me trust, the tenacious “nevertheless” decision to obey, the our-eyes-are-on-you commitment. I don’t hear the “yet.” I don’t hear the echo of Joshua or Ruth or Esther or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16 

“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16 

“If we [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego] are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18 

How did God reply to Solomon’s prayer? “You must serve me as your father David did” (1 Kings 9:4). And David certainly messed up many times. But David served God wholeheartedly. He did not leave room in his heart for idols, presuming that God would forgive him in the end.  

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous (idolatrous) way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV) 

It seems to me that Solomon said the words, “May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers” (1 Kings 8:58), but didn’t follow through. He talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. He actually broke a lot of God’s decrees and regulations (see Deuteronomy 17:14-20). And he never fully committed to walk with God. 

Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. 1 Kings 3:3 

I know that everyone admires Solomon’s prayer and often repeats God’s answer to “hear from heaven,” but without the wholehearted part, without the complete commitment, the no-matter-what part, it seems presumptuous to me. “If I keep saying I’m sorry, surely you will keep forgiving, right? Even though I don’t submit, even though I don’t change, even though I don’t obey, even though I don’t follow.” 

And without that commitment to be careful in what he did and to walk before God as David had walked, what happened to Solomon? He kept his religious obligations to the Temple, sacrificing three times a year (1 Kings 9:25), but he ended up worshiping horrible idols associated with human sacrifice.i 

For when Solomon was old … his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.etestable god of the Ammonites. 1 Kings 11:7 (ESV)

What a fall from grace! Lord, help me to pray David’s prayer. Show me the things in my heart that grieve you and give me grace to turn away from them. Give me grace and strength to follow after you wholeheartedly. Nothing missing. 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Luke 9:51 

i New World Encyclopedia https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/chemosh 

Image in the Public Domain 

Left Vacant

I know that for the right practice of [the Presence of God] the heart must be empty of all other things, because God will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone without emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there, and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him. — Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, Fifth Letter.

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:33

 

Image, Open Window by Keith Ellwood https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=open%20window%20keith%20ellwood

God’s Proposal

Paul is saying here that all things work for the good of those who have been called according to God’s proposal, God’s intention. But what, I wondered, is God’s proposal or intention?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (prothesis). For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29 (NIV)

I have always read this verse and stopped at the comfort of its promise: that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. This time I thought I would go through it carefully, word by word, and study it. When I got to the word translated “purpose” I was stopped in my tracks at the amazing depth and fullness and loving message hidden there.

The Greek word is prothesis. It means “a setting forth of a thing,” figuratively, a proposal or intention. Paul is saying here that all things work for the good of those who have been called according to God’s proposal, God’s intention. But what, I wondered, is God’s proposal or intention? The word prothesis also contains the answer to that question.

Prothesis also means a setting forth of the shewbread in the Temple, as exposed before God. The shewbread, or showbread, was the Bread of the Presence, which God commanded to be always before him.

Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times. Exodus 25:30 (NIV)

Prothesis is the same word that Jesus used in Matthew:

He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread (shewbread, loaves of presentation)—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Matthew 12:3-4 (NIV)

The noun prothesis comes from the verb protithemai, which means to place before, to set forth to be looked at, expose to public view. It was used of the bodies of the dead that were let lie in state. In ancient Greek it referred to the laying out of a dead body during the funeral (exposing the body for viewing), also called lying in repose. The laying out, or exposing of, the shewbread in the temple was like the lying in repose of the body of Christ. It was the exposing of God’s intention, his Grand Proposal to save the world.

God’s purpose, his proposal, his intention, that, Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Bread of the Presence, Immanuel, God with us, would die for us.

“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:48-51 (NIV)

This was always God’s intent, but there is more in Romans 8:28-29: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. He wants us to be like Jesus. To lay our lives down too. To help bring this life, this Bread, to the world. To share the good news of God’s grand proposal: that Jesus died and rose again from the dead to save us from our sins.

Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:7-11 (NIV)

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body. Matthew 26:26 (NIV)

 

Rise up and help us; redeem us because of (for the sake of, for the purpose of, to the intent of, on account of) your unfailing love. Psalm 44:26 (NIV)

 

Image by Heartlight https://www.heartlight.org/articles/201703/20170304_worthy.html

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