I have no idea where I am going …

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you 
does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

–Thomas Merton

 

Missing Him

So much of life is waiting, looking forward, to the thing that we hope will finally satisfy. Finally fill the emptiness.

When I awake, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see you face to face. Psalm 17:15b (NLT)

To see him face to face! To look into his eyes of pure love, like unending pools of liquid gold. Purer than anything here on earth. How I long for that. The Hebrew word translated satisfied in the above verse is saba or sabea. It means to be satisfied, sated, fulfilled, surfeited. When I awake, open my eyes and look into his, I will be satisfied, sated, fulfilled, surfeited. David wrote:

For He satisfies (saba) the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. Psalms 107:9 (NKJV)

We all have longing souls, whether we know it consciously or not. We long to see him face to face. C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”[i] Frederick Buechner also wrote about this longing for, or missing, God.

“Each of us … carries around inside himself, I believe, a certain emptiness—a sense that something is missing, a restlessness, the deep feeling that somehow all is not right inside his skin.  Psychologists sometimes call it anxiety, theologians sometimes call it estrangement, but whatever you call it, I doubt that there are many who do not recognize the experience itself, especially no one of our age … Part of the inner world of everyone is this sense of emptiness, unease, incompleteness, and I believe that this in itself is a word from God, that this is the sound that God’s voice makes in a world that has explained him away.  In such a world, I suspect that maybe God speaks to us most clearly through his silence, his absence, so that we know him best through our missing him.” [ii]

Missing him. Yes, we are all missing him. So much of life is waiting, looking forward, to the thing that we hope will finally satisfy. Finally fill the emptiness. The Christian knows we are waiting for, looking forward to, his return. Missing him. Like the bride we are supposed to be getting ready, preparing for that day. In traditional Jewish wedding customs, the couple was betrothed for one year.[iii] The groom would go back to his home to prepare a place for his bride (John 14:2-3). And they would be apart and missing each other. But he would leave a gift as a pledge of his love (John 14:16, 27). The bride would use the time to prepare for the wedding day, to prepare herself and her wedding garments (Revelation 19:7).

But they missed each other. They were longing for the wedding day when they would see each other again face to face. And so are we longing for his return. And nothing else can fully satisfy. And do you know that the passionate heart of the Bridegroom is missing and longing for you too?

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God (see the Face of God)? Psalm 42:1-2 (NIV)

There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. — Oswald Chambers, The Discipline Of Disillusionment

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17 (NIV)

[i] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

[ii] Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark

[iii] Read more about Jewish wedding customs here http://www.messianicfellowship.50webs.com/wedding.html

Image, picture of my daughter in her wedding dress, by Nathan Dillon 2019. All rights reserved.

Deliberately

She fell to her knees in terror thinking she was going to be punished. But instead, she was healed, she was loved. She was exactly what Jesus was looking for.

As Jesus went with him, he was surrounded by the crowds. A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” Luke 8:42-48 (NLT)

The Greek word translated “touched” in these verses is haptomai. It is not an accidental brushing up against or jostling in a pressing crowd. It means to attach one’s self to, to fasten one’s self to, adhere to, cling to. I like how Jesus puts it in the New Living Testament, “Someone deliberately touched me.”

In all that jostling crowd, there was someone who was deliberately out to touch Him, cling to, fasten themselves onto Him. Not just be part of the crowd, part of the movement, part of a cool thing – Jesus has been summoned by the synagogue leader; maybe we’ll get to see a miracle-show!

No, this woman wasn’t focused on the show. She wasn’t after goosebumps; she was focused on Jesus. She was deliberate. She was pushing past, not only the pressing crowds, but also what people might think. The fact is, that in that culture and time, she was “unclean.” She was not supposed to be touching anyone, least of all this rabbi, this prophet. When Jesus turned and asked who had touched him, she fell to her knees in terror thinking she was going to be punished. But instead, she was healed, she was loved. She was exactly what Jesus was looking for.

Over and over in the life of Jesus we see him offending people, seemingly on purpose. Just when he gets this big crowd of followers, he goes and intentionally scandalizes most of them, and they turn away. Just a day or two before this, after his very first recorded reading of the word and sermon in a synagogue, he offended those attending so severely they tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:23-30)! Later, another encounter is recorded:

Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-26 (NIV)

These are hard words, but Jesus has a purpose in mind. As J.D. Walt has written, “… Jesus is working to separate the wheat from the chaff, the crowds from the converts.”¹

John 6 records Jesus weeding out another crowd following him because he miraculously fed them bread and fish. He tells them that if they want to follow him, they will also have to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Well, that did it. John 6:66 (NIV) records, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” But when he asked those who were left if they were going to leave too, the answer was:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. John 6:68-69

They were clinging to Jesus. They were fastening themselves onto him, adhering to him with the glue of faith. They weren’t there for the miracles and the bread; they might not understand everything yet, but they knew Him, the Holy One of God, and they were staying for Him. They were deliberate.

Jesus found that deliberate woman in the crowd and said, “Your faith has saved (saved, made whole, healed, delivered, preserved) you.” That word for faith is pistis, and means conviction of the truth, “belief with the predominate idea of trust or confidence … a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah.” Jesus is still searching through the crowd for the converts.

Lord, I want to be a convert, not just part of the crowd. I am deliberately setting out to touch you, to know you, to cling to you, the Holy One of God, the Messiah. Miracles or not; bread or not. Even healing or not. You.

 

¹J.D. Walt, Conjunction Junction: And or Or? https://www.seedbed.com/step-25-conjunction-junction/ 

Beat a Path

Both of these seek-words are two-way streets. We and the Lord are seeking each other.

Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually. Psalm 105:4 (NASB)

There are two different Hebrew words translated “seek” in this verse. The first one is darash– דָּרַשׁ, and means to resort to, frequent or tread a place, seek, seek with care, seek diligently, enquire, require.

“To frequent or tread a place” makes me imagine seeking out the Lord so often as to make a path. My husband likes to take a machete and create paths through our woods. He puts little benches along the way to sit and meditate and enjoy the beauty. As soon as the paths are established, they are followed by our woodland friends. We often walk along the trails with the footprints of deer, coyote, fox, raccoons, squirrels and possums. Hopefully, the paths we tread to God might show the way for others.

But the paths must be maintained. If you don’t walk on them for a while they return to their natural state. Sometimes my husband has to use a chainsaw to remove fallen trees and limbs. He blows the leaves in the fall and mows tall grass. Making and maintaining a path to the Lord requires similar diligence and effort — frequenting it daily, keeping it clear of debris, tripping roots and thorny vines.

The second word translated “seek” is baqash– בָּקַשׁ. It means to seek to find, to seek to secure, to seek the face or Presence of God, to desire, demand, require, exact, ask, request. Note that both words include the meaning “require.” At the end of the path we tread we find the place of His presence and there we ask, present to him our desires, requirements, requests, and sometimes foolish demands. And we listen and he opens our ears and hearts to also hear his demands, desires and requirements of us.

Both of these seek-words are two-way streets. We and the Lord are seeking each other.

Jesus said he came to “seek and save” the lost. He comes daily seeking us out, knocking on the door of our hearts. And we are commanded to “seek the Lord … seek His face” continually and diligently. We are instructed how to do this in another verse using both seek-words.

But from there [from a place of captivity and idol worship] you will seek (baqash) the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for (darash or tread frequently the path to, seek diligently for) Him with all your heart and all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29 (NASB)

The other two-way street is the “require” part. We and God both have requirements of each other. But Jesus assures us that the burden of his requirements is light (Matthew 11:30).

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require (darash) of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (NASB)

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

Our requirements of God are also simple: Everything.

Life, food, water, the air we breathe, shelter, grace, mercy, the strength to keep going, the ability to love and forgive. For all that God requires of us he gives the grace, even the very desire to seek him in the first place. A.W. Tozer wrote that, “We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. ‘No man can come to me,’ said our Lord ‘except the Father which hath sent me draw him.’”[i]

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:1-2 (NIV)

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8 (NLT)

Come! Let’s beat a path into His Presence, and there find the strength from the Lord to go on.

[i] Tozer, A.W. The Pursuit of God. Wing Spread Publishers, 2006.

 

Image copyright 2019 Jack Bair

Dig and Dig Deep

It takes digging deep to get down to the Rock and build on His strength, in order to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Trying to love in our own strength is like building on the wave and tide-eroded sands, ever-changing with our emotions, moods, and circumstances.

I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When the flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. Luke 6:48 (NIV) 

 Two Greek words are used in the verse to describe how this person dug. The first word is skapto (σκάπτω), which simply means to dig. The second word is bathuno (βαθύνω), which means to dig deep, or deepen. Therefore, the Greek actually reads that he dug and dug deep, or deepened [the hole] until he got down to the rock. I think Jesus is saying that in order to put the Word into practice we have go farther than a few inches below the surface, the easy, softer stuff, and down into the hard, undisturbed, unplowed, full-of-gravel part. Anyone who has ever tried to hand-dig a new garden bed knows what I mean. Sod and rocks and tree roots need to be removed. You would have to dig through all of that and then dig very deep to get down to the bedrock. 

As an aside, the verb bathuno comes from bathus, an adjective that means “profound,” “deep,” and, interestingly, “very early.” Bathus is the word used in Luke 24:1, “On the first day of the week, very early (bathus) in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” As in the digging deep picture, two words are used here to emphasize how early it was. It reads that they came at early dawn – very early. John says it was still dark (John 20:1). Mark 16:2 uses a word that means it was greatly or exceedingly, exceedingly beyond measure, sore early (maybe Mark was not a morning person?). The women didn’t just come at dawn, they came very early, they went deep, and, consequently, they received the message from the angel, and saw Jesus (Matthew 28:9, Mark 16:9). 

Back to digging. The root word of both bathuno and bathus is baino, the Greek word that means “to walk.” What does digging have to do with walking? In Luke 6:48 Jesus says the man “laid (tithemi) the foundation (themelios) on rock.” Tithemi and themelios are the same words that are used in 1 John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 3:11. 

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid (tithemi) down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16 (NIV) 

 For no-one can lay (tithemi) any foundation (themelios) other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11 (NIV) 

Jesus Christ, and his life laid down in love for the salvation of the world, is the foundation, and no other can be laid. He is also the Rock upon which this foundation is laid. We have to dig deep to lay this foundation in our lives, but if we do, the promise is that we will not be shaken. We will not fall when the storms come. It takes digging deep to get down to the Rock and build on His strength, in order to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Trying to love in our own strength is like building on the wave and tide-eroded sands, ever-changing with our emotions, moods, and circumstances. Doubt creeps in, and rightly so, when we are standing on our own shifting, sinking strength. 

 What does it mean to “dig deep?” For me, it means not just to surface-read the Bible and check off a box that I did it. Rather, it means to study it and then ask the Author what it means for my life, how he wants me to put it into practice and walk it. 

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:23-25 (NIV) 

 Digging deep is hard. Hard ground, rocks and (bitter) roots make it even harder. Hardness of heart, unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, wrong-thinking, self-centeredness, pride, idolatries, unthankfulness, anger at God must be dug and pulled out. Maybe some structures will need to be demolished (see Sawdust). But the more you do that, the more you walk out what you are learning, the softer the ground gets, the easier to dig, and, along the way, the more the good seed from the Word can put down roots and produce fruit. Persevere, keep digging deep, get down to the Rock. He is the firm foundation. You will not be disappointed.  

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2 (NASB)

 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:18-19 (NIV) 

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” Isaiah 28:16 (NIV

 

Image is in the Public Domain

Parched Place

My doctor complains that I don’t drink enough, that I am dehydrated. She tells me that it is a serious condition that can cause damage to my body, can even be deadly. I just don’t feel thirsty most of the time.

“Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the LORD. (Zechariah 2:10 NIV)

Recently, reading my Bible I saw in the notes that the word Zion means “parched place.” That startled me. What? Parched place? Zion which is called the “joy of the whole earth,” “the city of the great King” (Ps. 48:2), the place where God dwells, a parched place? In the New Testament it stands for the Church triumphant. It is the place where God lays the “chosen and precious cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:6). Why would God name it a word that means “parched place,” extremely thirsty, dry, even gasping?

At first, I thought about how God desires a relationship with us, how He wants to be desired and to be wanted in return. God yearns for Zion to be a thirsty place, a place of longing, a place of “acute desire” as A.W. Tozer put it, “Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted.”[i] Jesus said he wished us to be either hot or cold, not lukewarm. He wants us to desire him as much as he desires us. Like so much else in our relationship with God he wants it to be mutual (see The Mutual Gaze)

But then I realized that I was thinking about it all backwards. Yes, God passionately desires us. But he mostly calls us a parched place because we are. Without him we are a dry and arid place.

I reach out for you. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Psalm 143:6 (NLT)

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 (NLT)

We are the Israelites in the desert, dying of thirst (Exodus 17:1-6). Our Rock has been struck for us and the Water of Life pours out, but sometimes we still don’t drink.

My doctor complains that I don’t drink enough, that I am dehydrated. She tells me that it is a serious condition that can cause damage to my body, can even be deadly. I just don’t feel thirsty most of the time. I feel a need, it is just not the need to drink. My Dad tells me that sometimes when we are thirsty, we mistake the feeling for hunger and try to eat to satisfaction. That’s what I do. I stuff in more food, that actually causes worse dehydration, when all I really want and need is a drink of water. I need to put up a sign to remind myself: Drink More Water. Pretty pitiful. In the same way, we want and need him, we are dying of thirst for him. But many times we just don’t connect the thirst of our souls with the Water we crave. We try to fill our lives with other stuff, but it doesn’t work.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (NIV)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6 (NASB) (see Jeremiah 23:6)

Lord, I am an arid desert. I thirst. I crave. I reach out. Help me know and remember that it is you I’m reaching for, you I desire. Dwell in me. Only you will satisfy my need. When I’m stuffing myself with thorns and briars – anything to fill the need – lead me to the water. Remind me to drink more water.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:1-2 (NIV)

[i] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

 

Image in the Public Domain