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  

Kind and Good

Paul lists being understanding, patient, and kind along with enduring troubles, hardships and distresses. I think both may need equal amounts of endurance.  

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. Psalm 145:17 (ESV) 

This verse in Psalm 145 caught my attention as it brings righteousness and kindness together. The word translated “kind” is chasid or hasid (חָסִיד ). As an adjective it means kind, pious, godly, holy, merciful. As a noun it means a godly person. The Brown-Driver-Briggs commentary notes that it means both “because kindness, as prominent in the godly, comes to imply other attributes, and to be a designation of the godly character, piety.”  

So, in this Hebrew word, kindness implies godliness. Interestingly, the corresponding Greek word also combines the two attributes. 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 

The Greek word translated “kind” is xrēstós (an adjective, derived from xráomai, “to furnish what is suitable, useful”). It means “properly, useful (serviceable, productive); well-fitted (well-resourced); useful (beneficial, benevolent) … On the spiritual plane, xrēstós (“suitable, usefully kind”) describes what God defines is kind – and therefore also eternally useful!”1  

“Usefully kind” reminds me that “faith apart from works is useless” (James 2:20 ESV). God doesn’t just have kind thoughts toward us, He does kindness. And so must we. Marvin R. Vincent noted that “We have no adjective in English that conveys this blend of being kind and good at the same time.”2   

Kind and good, or kind and godly, at the same time. In his letter to the Corinthians, recounting some hard experiences, Paul also talks about kindness. 

… as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love … 2 Corinthians 6:4-6 

It is enlightening that he includes being understanding, patient, and kind along with enduring troubles, hardships and distresses. I think both may need equal amounts of endurance.  

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13 (ESV) 

Yes, it takes endurance, it takes trusting completely in God, to continue loving, continue being kind and doing kindness, in the face of personal suffering and the lawlessness of this present age. It takes abiding in Jesus too. I know that I can’t do it in my own strength. He said we can do nothing apart from Him. But I cling to the promise implied in that statement: if we abide in him we can do anything. Including be kind and good. 

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (ESV) 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:5-6 (ESV) 

Help us walk with You, in You Lord, and be kind and good to the end. 
 

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35 

1HELPS Word Studies by Discovery Bible 

2Word Studies in the New Testament by Marvin R. Vincent 

Broken Walls Made Whole

If you are with me in that place of impossible burden, feeling guilty and useless, not just hidden but buried, be encouraged.

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14 (ESV) 

When I looked at the original language of this verse, I found something unexpected, what seems like a vivid contrast, or even an oxymoron. 

I have always thought of waiting as a still (maybe frustratingly so, like sitting in a traffic jam) and almost sedentary activity, and patient waiting as almost an impossibility.  

The Hebrew word qavah (קָוָה), translated wait, is used twice in the verse. It means to look for, wait patiently, tarry, wait for, wait on, wait upon. It has this underlying meaning of the “tension of enduring, waiting.”1 But the words translated “be strong” and “take courage” are far from still or sedentary in their meanings. 

The word translated “be strong” is chazaq (חָזַק). It means “to be or grow firm or strong, strengthen.” In its various verb tenses it carries the meanings of prevailing over, the sound of a trumpet growing louder and louder, securing a kingdom. It means to seize, grasp, take hold, retain, and keep, restore to strength, make strong and encourage. In Nehemiah it is used of the repairing of the walls of the city. 

Wow, these biblical images sound familiar and do not sound like passive waiting. They almost don’t seem very patient either.  

The word translated “take courage,” or be courageous is amets (אָמַץ). This word means to confirm, be courageous or of good courage, steadfastly-minded, be strong, make strong, strengthen yourself, fortify, to be alert, physically (on foot) or mentally (in courage), increase, prevail. 

So, the psalmist appears to be saying we have something to do while we wait: 

Wait for the Lord. But while you are waiting for Him, secure the Kingdom. Seize, take hold, restore. Sound the trumpet of the Good News. Strengthen yourself and others in the Lord. Repair the broken walls of the church. Be alert for the attacks of the enemy and resist him.  

It seems like the psalmist is saying while you wait conquer, prevail over the enemy, bring the lost into dwelling place of the Most High, our most loving God. And I absolutely believe that is true.

But to tell you the truth this study has left me feeling guilty and deficient. I am in a place right now as a caregiver where I cannot do much for the Kingdom – or so it seems. I find myself overwhelmed, burdened with necessary responsibilities, unable to do one more thing, even sometimes it seems to take one more breath. Obvious, visible doings like volunteer work and helps ministries are impossible right now. And I feel sad and stymied. 

But then the Lord showed me something. Could it be that by waiting patiently – yielding to Him and the place He has me in right now, serving Him though “the least of these” – focused on Him and together with Him, I conquer my self-life, prevail over oppression in the unseen spiritual realm, I witness to my faith, and encourage others by my perseverance. Maybe in this waiting-yielding time I become better, as Chris Hendrix recently blogged Becoming Better.  

Maybe this is a refining time for me. I have always wanted to do big things for God, maybe for the wrong reasons. Maybe I have wanted to be wonderful and seen, when He wants me to be hidden in the One called Wonderful. And who is to say whether our patient waiting and enduring and persisting in love is not as powerful an encouragement and witness to others as physically sounding trumpets and repairing broken walls? Aren’t the faithful prayers of one person powerful and effective according to scripture (James 5:16), even though only heard by God?

So, if you are with me in that place of impossible burden, feeling guilty and useless, not just hidden but buried, be encouraged. Put on your armor, grow strong, stand your ground, hold on, keep loving the hard to love, keep lifting up your prayers. Maybe be still and let God repair some broken walls in your soul. Cultivate the fruits of the Spirit. Let them beautify walls made whole. And you and I will come out of this with a witness of God’s faithfulness. We will come out better. 

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying 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 

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 1 Timothy 1:18-19 

For our struggle (fight, conflict, wrestling bout) is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground (take a complete stand against, withstand, resist, oppose, refusing to be moved, to keep one’s possession; ardently withstand, without giving up), and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13 

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40

Occupy (do business, make legitimate gain, bear much fruit, the opposite of being fruitless) until I come. Luke 19:13 (KJV)  

… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

1All definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Discovery Bible, NAS Concordance of the Bible, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. 

Image, Pomegranates hanging over wall on our climb to the castle, by ralmonline alm, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pomegranates_hanging_over_wall.jpg  

When You Pass Through the Waters

Choosing love, choosing possible, most-likely, suffering, means choosing over and over.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 (ESV) 

I noticed it says “when” you pass through the waters and the rivers and “when” you walk through fire. Not if. Right now, is a “when” time for me. Both parents in Hospice. Exhausting caregiving. And I am sure that there are others of you reading that are up to your neck or smelling the smoke too. I would like to share with you some writings that have encouraged me. 

“I’m no sage. I don’t pretend to have this all figured out, but I know this: some live well, some die well, but few love well. Why? I don’t know if I can answer that. We all live, we all die – there is no get-out-of-jail-free card, but it’s the part in between that matters. To love well … that’s something else. It’s a choosing—something done again and again and again. No matter what. And in my experience, if you so choose, you better be willing to suffer hell.” — Charles Martin, Where the River Ends 

Yes, when you choose this Way. When you walk through the fire. When you follow in his steps. 

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 

Besides descending into hell after his death on the cross, Jesus suffered a great deal of hell while on earth. We are commanded to follow in His footsteps, but we need to do it with His mindset. Becoming nothing. Being a servant. Pure love. 

Against my own best intentions, I find myself continually striving to acquire power. When I give advice, I want to know whether it is being followed; when I offer help, I want to be thanked; when I give money, I want it to be used my way; when I do something good, I want to be remembered. I might not get a statue, or even a memorial plaque, but I am constantly concerned that I not be forgotten, that somehow I will live on in the thoughts and deeds of others. 

But the father of the prodigal son is not concerned about himself. His long-suffering life has emptied him of his desires to keep in control of things. His children are his only concern; to them he wants to give himself completely, and for them he wants to pour out all of himself. 

Can I give without wanting anything in return, love without putting any conditions on my love? Considering my immense need for human recognition and affection, I realize that it will be a lifelong struggle. But I am also convinced that each time I step over this need and act free of my concern for return, I can trust that my life can truly bear the fruits of God’s Spirit.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son  

So, choosing love, choosing possible, most-likely, suffering, means choosing over and over. A “lifelong struggle.” And as Marshall Segal writes, it must be tenacious. 

“In other words, the deepest patience comes from a humble and hopeful joy in God above all else. That means that real patience is not only inconvenient, difficult, and wearying, but, humanly speaking, impossible. The kind of patience that honors God is so hard that we cannot practice it without help from God. It grows only where the Spirit lives (Galatians 5:22–23) … Paul does not charge the church to admonish the weak, but to help them, and the word for help here can also mean to hold firm or be devoted. There’s a tenaciousness in this help, a clinging to the weak, even after months or years of inconvenience and sacrifice. Where does that kind of patience come from? From knowing that “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” … Those who know how painfully and helplessly weak they are apart from God are more ready to endure the weaknesses of others. They don’t resent helping for the hundredth time, because they gladly trust and submit to God’s plans, including the weaknesses he has placed around them.” — Marshall Segal https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/patience-will-be-painful  

Tenacious, gladly trusting, and, as Henri Nouwen writes, unhesitating.  

“Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love even more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love 

All this is indeed “humanly speaking, impossible.” But we have a Helper. 

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

The carvings had faded, but I ran my fingers through the grooves I could reach. ‘When you pass through the waters …’ The passage continued but my arm was too short.” — Charles Martin, Where the River Ends 

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save … Isaiah 59:1 

I will strengthen you and help you … 

I will be with you. 

P.S. And look what just came out as I was about to publish this! “Faith under fire becomes a furnace of transformation.” There is Another in the Fire

Image by Jackie, Noreaster April 16, 2007 https://flic.kr/p/GSsv8  

The Fellowship of the Unashamed

The guest pastor at our church this past Sunday had us all repeat the following amazing commitment to Christ. It is the text of a note found on the desk of a young pastor in Zimbabwe, Africa, after he was martyred for his faith. You may have read this before. It was quoted in a book by Brennan Manning called The Signature of Jesus. Manning wrote, “Perhaps the only honest measure of authentic faith is my readiness for martyrdom. Not only my willingness to die for Jesus Christ and the sake of the gospel, but to live for him one day at a time.”   

I think that last part may be the hardest. That daily thing. But I think that there is encouragement and hope to be found in those who have gone before. This message from the young martyr is so inspiring and challenging and wonderful that I wanted to share it with you. I know that there are at least one or two sentences in this declaration that will touch each of your hearts. Mine was “I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, rewarded.” Praise God! 

I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made– I’m a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.  My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. 

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power. 

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions are few, my Guide reliable, my mission is clear.  I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. 

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. 

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ.  I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me… my banner will be clear! 

Do Not Be Negligent Now

My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense. 2 Chronicles 29:11 

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) 

Stay awake (watch, be vigilant, give strict attention to, take heed) and pray … Matthew 26:41 (NET) 

For we know, brothers [and sisters] loved by God, that he has chosen you … 1 Thessalonians 1:4 (ESV) 

“Persistent prayer is a mighty movement of the soul toward God, and it stirs the deepest forces of the soul toward the throne of heavenly grace. It is the ability to hold on, press on, and wait. Restless desire, restful patience, and strength of grasp are all embraced in it. Prayer is not an incident or a performance but a passion of soul. It is not a want or half-needed desire but a sheer necessity.” — E.M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer 

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity (impudence, persistence) he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.  Luke 11:5-8 

“[Jesus] shows that prayer is not just mere words, but it is inconvenience, intercession, precision, and asking for the impossibilities … In a nutshell, prayer take guts. God grants our requests not only because He is our Friend, but because we have the guts and faith to ask. ‘Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16) … ” — The Nature of Prayer, Mulyale Mutisyai  

… do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you … 

i https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2021/08/02/the-nature-of-prayer/

  Image from Flickr, Praying Woman Hands by Long Thiên

My Eyes Are Fixed

This past month my father and I endured COVID.

But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge … Psalm 141:8 

This past month my father and I endured COVID. I have spent hours in the emergency room, in isolation, away from loved ones, and then away from home caring for my parents. I have had many sleepless nights, constant stress and worry, and even lack of food. I have whined and crabbed to God and cried a lot. I have found out how weak I am, and how much I need His strength for anything – especially to love and to serve. But praise to our loving caring God for his patience and care! And a big thanks to my fellow bloggers for your faithfulness to write what the Lord gives to you. 

“Look at Jesus and only Jesus. The waves and winds are there but don’t look around. Look to Jesus. When I look around me, I will sink because fear consumes me. But when I look to Jesus, I have peace. I have salvation! When Jesus taught me this, right that moment, I felt complete peace. I felt fear drawing away. Instead, fear was replaced with peace and confidence in Jesus.” — Deborah Agustin, Stop Looking Around https://lifehub.home.blog/2021/06/22/stop-looking-around/  

“‘So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what we see is eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4:18). When we begin to look at the unseen, we perceive the reality that there are no delays in God’s operations. In fact, we get to realize that in the spiritual realm, everything is accelerated, compared to the physical realm. That is why Christians find it difficult living in the present world because we have already beheld the end in the spiritual realm. Our supernatural view then clashes with the natural, which is painstakingly slower and disturbingly different from the spiritual.” — Mulyale Mutisya, Appearances of Delay https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2021/06/21/appearances-of-delay/  

By faith [Moses] forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.  Hebrews 11:27 NKJV 

“In this one short verse we discover the essence of endurance: seeing Him who is invisible. How do we see that which is invisible? What faculty enables you and me to see it? The answer is faith. Faith is related to the unseen. Faith is a sure conviction concerning things not seen (see Hebrews 11:1). If you and I are going to hold out, the unseen world will have to be more real to us than the seen.” — Derek Prince, Endurance Through Focus 

“If you’re not already walking through a trial, you will soon. As you do, resist the temptation to hide your flaws or your sin. Fight the desire to pretend everything is okay. You’re surrounded by other broken people (like me!) who long to help you. And each one of us is strengthened not by our own gumption but by the gentle hand of a Mighty God. 

 It is good news that should cause us to proclaim with David: “I love you oh Lord, my strength” (Ps. 18:1).” — Hannah, For When You Feel Broken https://agratefullifelived.wordpress.com/2021/06/10/for-when-you-feel-broken/  

And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. Hebrews 12:1-2 

Image in the Public Domain

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  

Running Heart

“Come what may, I want to run.”

I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. Psalm 119:32 

To run with a heart set free, a heart of passion. Running this way, on a narrow path, to me implies fearlessness, trust, knowledge of the path, being in good shape (preparation, training), focus, selflessness. Not carefully picking my way over, possibly dangerous or rocky, unknown ground. Not slowly, ready to turn and go back if it gets too hard. This running implies commitment to a goal. It implies wholeheartedness. 

Runners in the Old Testament many times were part of the Royal Guard who served the king, running before and after the king’s chariot (see 1 Samuel 8:11; 2 Samuel 15:1). Other runners were messengers. 

One poignant story of a runner-messenger is in 2 Samuel. David’s son, Absalom, had tried to overthrow the throne, but the rebellion had been put down and Absalom had been killed. Joab commanded a runner to go and give David what he thought would be good news. But, Ahimaaz son of Zadok knew his king. So, he begged to also run with message. 

Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, “Let me run and take the news to the king that the Lord has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies.” 

20 “You are not the one to take the news today,” Joab told him. “You may take the news another time, but you must not do so today, because the king’s son is dead.” 

21 Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed down before Joab and ran off. 

22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok again said to Joab, “Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.” 

But Joab replied, “My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.” 

23 He said, “Come what may, I want to run.” 2 Samuel 18:19-23 

“Come what may, I want to run.” Ahimaaz wasn’t running for reward. But rather, he knew that David would be heartbroken at the death of his son and he wanted to get there first and maybe soften the blow a little. He was running for the love of his king. 

In Psalm 119:32, David says he runs in the path of the Lord’s commands. The Hebrew word is the noun mitsvah (מִצְוָה). It comes from the verb tsavah (צָוָה) = to command, charge, give orders, lay charge, give charge to, order, send a messenger.  

“Command [tsavah] is used for the instruction of a father to a son (1 Sa 17:20), a farmer to his laborers (Ruth 2:9), a king to his servants (2 Sa 21:14).”  — Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol II  

If we have received Jesus as our Savior, we are all of those things. We are children of our Father God, laborers in his field, servants of the great King. We are his runner-messengers and we run in the path – the Way – of his commands. He has illumined the Path and shown us the Way to run. He has given us great and faithful promises that if we run on this Path we will not stumble or grow weary. 

I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Proverbs 4:11-12 

But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)  

He has commanded us to run with His message of love, redemption, hope and healing to a heartbroken world. Let us run for the love of our King – fearlessly, selflessly, wholeheartedly, passionately, faithfully. 

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 … Hebrews 12:1 

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message (or word) of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored (literally in the Greek, “may run and be glorified”), just as it was with you. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 

Draw me after you and let us run together! Song of Songs 1:4 (NASB) 

Photo by Raid Gaspésie  https://flic.kr/p/Yp1wfA  

Yet God

I am reblogging this post from a while ago. Still true. Always my heart.

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

Wrestling Word

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” (Psalm 73:23 NIV)

“Yet” is my favorite word in the Bible. That may seem weird, but what comes after “yet” in many verses so often is a startling declaration of the faithfulness of God, of faith, hope, or of steely resolve to persevere. Many times, these are some of the most beautiful and inspiring verses in the Bible.

What comes before David’s declaration above in Psalm 73 is his expression of frustration and anger at the seeming injustice of God, saying at one point, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.” (Psalm 73:13-14). His doubt and bitterness increase to the point of acting “senseless and ignorant” like a “brute beast” before God.

Yet!…

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