Fractured

Anxiety, as I’ve experienced lately, can become my default mode. But He cares for you. 

Cast all your anxiety (merimna) on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries (merimna) of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. Matthew 13:22 

Both of the above verses about worry or anxiety use the Greek word μέριμνα, transliterated merimna. J.D. Walt has this to say about this word: 

“The word is transliterated ‘merimna’ and sounds like it spells. It carries a meaning of dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts. Anxiety, in a very literal sense, pulls us apart. It dis-integrates our very sense of self by attacking our core sense of security. 

So how do we deal with anxiety?  

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

Is it as simple as telling God what we are anxious about? It sounds good, but all too often when we are anxious we tend to worry our prayers rather than casting our anxiety on God. Anxiety must actually be displaced within us. The little word, ‘because,’ tells us how this displacement works. It brings us to the four most important words in today’s text: 

He cares for you.  

Did you hear that? 

He cares for you.”

J.D. Walt https://seedbed.com/swing-thought-2/ 

Merimna means care, anxiety, “properly, a part, separated from the whole,” “worry (anxiety), dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts.” It dawned on me that it is the opposite of the “all” I wrote about recently – loving God with all. When we let our hearts and minds be pulled apart by worry into parts it separates us from God. We need to cast it all unto God and love-worship Him with all. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:36-37). 

The Greek word that Jesus used in quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, translated “all” three times in the verse, is holos (ὅλος). It is the root of the English term “whole.” It means whole, complete, entire, “properly, wholly, where all the parts are present and working as a whole – i.e. as the total, which is greater than the mere sum of the parts.” 

Worry, then, is the opposite of this “all.” Worry fractures me into parts separated from the whole. Loving the Lord with all – all the parts present and working as a whole – is the opposite of being fractured into parts by anxiety. Anxiety robs God of my all-love. It means I am reserving some of my love – worship – for that which I worry about. Do I really trust God whole-heartedly? Anxiety, as I’ve experienced lately, can become my default mode. But He cares for you.  

The Greek word translated “cares” above is meló (μέλει) and means to be an object of care. I love that! “To be an object of care.” As Louie Giglio says “you’re on Heaven’s radar.” Even when we can’t feel it or see it or hear it. Even when it seems we have been abandoned and forgotten. 

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care (meló) if we drown?” Mark 4:37-38 

“Don’t you care?”  

How many times have I asked this question, roiling in my anguish and doubt? But he said he cares for me, and has demonstrated that love.  

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares (meló) nothing for the sheep. John 10:11-13 

So not being fractured, but being whole, means following the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for me. As Henry Nouwen wrote, it means trusting in God’s love. 

“It’s a question here of trusting in God’s love. The Greek word for faith is pistis, which means, literally, ‘trust.’ Whenever Jesus says to people he has healed: ‘Your faith has saved you,’ he is saying that they have found new life because they have surrendered in complete trust to the love of God revealed in him.” — Henry J.M. Nouwen 

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. 1 John 4:16 (NLT) 

God wants me to be whole. I become whole following the Good Shepherd – trusting – loving with all, complete, entire, as one. Letting Him lead and guide me, bind up my wounds, rescue me, hold me close. Christ in me and I in Him, making it possible. His all, my all. 

Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11 

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:22-23 (ESV) 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

“Did you hear that? 

He cares for you.” 

Photo, Fractured, by Brett Jordan https://flic.kr/p/8f8EHy  

Air Plant

The Presence of God. That is where I will truly live, abide, dwell.

I used to love plants, seeing them grow and bloom. I loved having plants inside the house with me too. Our previous home was like the Garden of Eden. We could grow anything because of the rich black dirt outside and a sun room inside for house plants. But, when we moved to our current home, surrounded by trees, nothing seemed to want to grow. The soil is extremely acidic outdoors. A nut tree even makes it toxic. And it is too shady indoors for most houseplants.  

So, I’ve watched one plant after another fail to thrive, or wither and die. Many seeds refused to come up at all. Houseplants, too, valiantly tried, but most were spindly and struggling. After a while I gave up on trying to force things to grow where they were not meant to grow.  

Then I discovered air plants. I love them! They don’t need soil at all and they thrive even in low light. They absorb the water and nutrients they need mostly right from the air. Today when I was looking at one God said, “That’s what you are like. You have been trying to be what you are not, to put down roots where you were not meant to grow. But your life, your roots are in Me, in my Presence.”  

This reminded me of the Michael W. Smith song, “Breathei.” 

This is the air I breathe 

This is the air I breathe 

Your holy presence living in me 

Yes! The Presence of God. That is where I will truly live, abide, dwell. He is my air, life, light, sustenance. Help me Lord not to try and put down roots in the hostile, deadly dirt of this world, looking for something – love, acceptance, meaning, identity, peace – that only you can provide. Help me to remember I am a foreigner here, not meant for this toxic soil. Let your holy Presence be my very breath. Let me be an air plant breathing in You, breathing out your love. 

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 (ESV) 

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5 

I am a stranger on earth … Psalm 119:19 

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4 

i Full lyrics here: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/michaelwsmith/breathe.html 

Photo by Sheila Bair 

God Does Not Leave Us Alone

Well, it sure is obvious when God is sending me a message. Here is what came to me in my email this morning. Maybe it is for someone else too. Thank you bloggers!

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV) — blogged by Beholding Him Ministries  

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 

“You might need to read the verse again. Did you see the shift? God changes the focus for the Christian from what he has, to who he has. God tells us to do more than match our desires to our circumstances; we reconsider our circumstances based on the promise of enduring relationship with our God: I will never leave you nor forsake you.” — Greg Morse https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/in-love-with-the-life-you-dont-have  

Today, and every day, may we remember the secret of contentment in all circumstances: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”—Philippians 4:13 (NIV) — Alan Kearns https://devotionaltreasure.wordpress.com/2022/01/30/when-little-is-much/  

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7 — blogged by Beholding Him Ministries 

“What I find amazing is that our feelings of fear and doubt do not repel God from us. God does not label us as coward or weak when we feel afraid. In the Bible, whenever God meets a man who is fearful, God never turns away. He deals kindly, gently, and patiently as a loving father is to his child. So, His Word always instructs us not to fear. He always tells us, as if reminding us all the time and knowing that we easily fear and we easily forget, to ‘do not fear’. 

“For I, Yahweh your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13 (WEB)  

God does not leave us alone in our fears. Instead, He stays with us, comforts us, assures us, and helps us overcome our fears.” — Deborah Agustin https://lifehub.home.blog/2022/01/29/god-helps-us-overcome-our-fears/  

Thank you so much Lord that you do not leave us alone with our fears! 

Photo by Sheila Bair

Don’t You Want to Be Famous?

His whole life Jesus had an audience of One .

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” John 14:21-22 

I have read this passage many times, but this time it made me sad. Jesus was in the middle of explaining to the disciples the whole reason why he came, the whole reason he was going to die on the cross for them – and he gets this totally oblivious question. 

In chapter 14 of John, Jesus is telling his disciples that when he leaves them (via his death on the cross and resurrection) the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, will come. He is revealing to them the whole reason he came – to be, once and for all, the sacrifice for sin so that we could be in the Presence of God once again – that His Spirit could come and be with us and in us. The “Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive” (John 14:17). 

But they are still not getting it, and this disciple voices a question that echoes something that Jesus’ brothers had said, “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world” (John 7:4). In other words, “Don’t you want to be famous?” 

I had just read this verse about King David when I read the above verse: 

And David became famous after he returned from striking down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 2 Samuel 8:13 

This is one of the stories that the disciples would have grown up hearing. David’s famous exploits. And wasn’t the Messiah the Son of David? Wasn’t he supposed to come and strike down their enemies? Wasn’t he supposed to be famous? 

But being famous was never Jesus’ goal. His goal was to fulfill the scriptures written about Messiah, one of which is, “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets (Isaiah 42:2), or as NetBible translates it, “he will not publicize himself in the streets.” Many times, “[h]e warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 12:16-17). He would choose instead to reveal himself, or show who he really was, only to his followers. 

Jesus warned them about the love that the Pharisees had for honor and fame, and how that desire corrupted all of their good works (Matthew 23). Being famous had become their goal, replacing the desire to please God. Jesus commanded his disciples not to be like them.  

When I was growing up becoming famous was always pressed upon me as the most desirable goal. Being admired by others equaled being of value. So, I pursued a stage career, where standing ovations are the ultimate expression of approval and love. One night, in the middle of performing, looking out at a large, admiring (I hoped!) audience, it all seemed suddenly empty. I thought, “What am I doing here?” And when the run was done, I turned and walked away. It was only a few months later that Jesus revealed himself to me as Lord and Savior and ultimate Lover of my soul. 

If Jesus had only come to do famous exploits, to be victorious over the Romans and set Israel free as a nation, it would have just been another entry in the history books. Like David conquering the Philistines, it would have just been a good story. It would not have meant anything much to me.  

But his whole life Jesus had an audience of One – “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) – and that audience gave him a standing ovation. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). That’s what I want, to have an audience of One, to make pleasing God my life’s goal, and to hear him say someday, “well done, good and faithful servant.” 

“Look,” [Stephen] said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:56 

Image, Ovation, by Joi Ito  https://flic.kr/p/R3nQd  

Go Stand

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.”  Exodus 33:7 

Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the Tent of the Testimony. Numbers 17:7 

Reading through the accounts again of the Israelite’s journey through the wilderness, I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. The tent, or tabernacle, that traveled around in the wilderness with the Israelites was called both the Tent of Meeting and the Tent of the Testimony, or Witness. And I realized something as I remembered that Paul said in 1 Corinthians that we are now that Temple or Tent. 

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 

And that being so, I realized that we are both – a tent in which to meet with the Lord, and a tent of testimony or witness to who he is. What does that mean?  

We are the Tent of Meeting  

We always have a holy place where we can go to meet with God and commune with him – our hearts – seeking Him, turning toward Him, open to His correction and love. 

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God’s presence, assured of his glad welcome. Ephesians 3:12 (NLT) 

Because of Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, we can now come into God’s presence as Moses did. 

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young assistant Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. Exodus 3:11 

Moses spoke to God there in the Tent as a friend, face to face, but had to leave to attend to the needs of the people. But Joshua never left the Tent. I have always thought, how amazing and precious to never leave the Tent of Meeting! But that’s exactly what we can do because of what Jesus did on the cross. We can dwell continually in God’s Presence.i 

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4 

We are the Tent of the Testimony  

The Tent was also called the Tent of the Testimony because it contained objects that pointed to God’s plan of redemption and reminded the people of all that God had done for them. These objects were witnesses to God’s love and care. Among them were the Ark which “contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant (Hebrews 9:4).”

These objects stood as witness to God’s Word (the commandments), God’s goodness and care for their very lives (the manna or Bread of Life), and the authority of the High Priest (Aaron’s rod that budded). The High Priest was a type of Jesus who would take the blood of the sacrifice – his own blood – into the heavenly Holy Place. 

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Hebrews 9:24 

This is what we are witnesses to; this is the testimony of our earthly tent: Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), the Bread given for the life of the world (John 6:51), the Word made flesh (John 1:14), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). This is what Jesus has done for me; this is who he is to me. 

When I think of myself this way, as a Tent of Meeting and Testimony, a lot of Bible verses click into a new focus, and I see why holiness, and perseverance, and trust in God is so important. May God show you who you are in Him and give you grace to stand. 

… at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 

Go (pursue the journey on which you have entered, follow) 

and stand (stand immovable, stand firm, in the presence of others, in the midst, before judges, steadfast of mind, not hesitating, not wavering, stand ready, stand prepared) 

in the temple (in the temple courts, in the sacred place) 

and speak (utter your voice, emit a sound, speak, talk, tell, use words to declare, preach)  

to the people (population, people groups, tribes, nations) 

all (each, every, any, all, the whole, every one, all things, everything of) 

the words (which have been uttered by the Living Voice, things spoken, the Word) 

of this Life (life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection to be consummated by accession of a more perfect body, and to last forever).  

Acts 5:19-20 

do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? 1 Corinthians 6:19 

Go and stand in the temple … 

i For more on the Tent of Meeting see https://www.gotquestions.org/tent-of-meeting.html 

Image, free download from Pxfuel

Inside the Heart

Again, this week, God had a message for me through the blogs and devotionals that I receive. I pray this blesses you too. And thank you to all you wonderful bloggers out there!

Have no motivation other than to know your Father in heaven … Prayer is not simply getting things from God— that is only the most elementary kind of prayer. Prayer is coming into perfect fellowship and oneness with God. If the Son of God has been formed in us through regeneration (see Galatians 4:19), then He will continue to press on beyond our common sense and will change our attitude about the things for which we pray. — Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, updated edition 

Fixing our eyes on Christ is the first step and the entire path of the Christian life. We don’t look to Christ in faith to be saved and then look to ourselves to persevere. We trust Christ alone as our Savior and look to Christ alone and follow Him as our Lord. In order to look to Christ as our Savior and Lord, we need new eyes and a new heart … As we grow in the grace and holiness of our Lord, being enabled by God’s free grace to die more and more unto sin and live unto righteousness, we’re called neither to fix our eyes on ourselves nor to fix our eyes on our own sins that entangle themselves around our ankles. We’re called to run with endurance by looking to Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith. We are united to Christ and are made able and willing to turn our eyes upon Jesus — away from ourselves — so that by looking to Him, we are motivated to joyful, cross-bearing obedience as we “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him . . . for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Col. 1:10–11). — Burk Parsons via Dr. Peter Cockrell, Already Not Yet   https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/fixing-our-eyes-on-jesus/  

The praise of peace 

The peace in praise 

Inside the heart is Jesus raised 

The ransom paid in love the cost 

So that my soul may not be lost 

I praise the peace in Him alone 

Forgiven sins He did atone 

In peace He holds me close to thee 

In praise I pray to constant be 

 — Sisylala  https://sisylala.wordpress.com/2020/09/15/the-praise-of-peace-the-peace-in-praise/  

Foxes have their holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head ~ Matthew 8:20 

Jesus, being all-knowing knew that the teacher of the law meant that he wanted to follow Jesus from place to place physically, yet Jesus wanted a place to abide- in the spiritual sense of the word. Jesus wanted the teacher of the law to ‘realise that I am in the Father, and you are in me and I am in you’ (John 14:20). In other words, Jesus was beckoning for the man to, ‘Remain in me, and I will remain in you’ (15:v4) … Once we accept Jesus and His Holy Spirit lives in us, then we become God-carriers. Paul writes, ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price’ (Galatians 6: 19-20) … we are like an empty shell without God in us. — Mulyale Mutisya   https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/foxes-have-their-holes/   

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 

[All added emphasis mine.]

Image, “Empty Shell Close Up” Pixabay2018 

My Host

Our prayer becomes a prayer of the heart when we have localized in the center of our inner being the empty space in which our God-filled mind can descend and vanish, and where the distinctions between thinking and feeling, knowing and experience, ideas and emotions are transcended, and where God can become our host. “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21), Jesus said. The prayer of the heart takes these words seriously. – Henri Nouwen

One phrase really struck me from this quote: “God can become our host.” In my heart, God the host. I usually think that in the opposite way – that I am hosting God.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

I have thought that if I condescend to open the door and let him in, I can be his gracious host. When all the grace comes from him. And if I have given my heart to him, he is my host. Given as in:

Give: to make a present of; to put into the possession of another for his or her use[i]

Wow, that takes all control away, but also all decision-making and stress. I really stress about hosting anything. I fret about things like, what am I going to serve? How do I cook it? How should I decorate the table? When should the guests arrive? ​ So God being the host really resonated with me. If God is the host, if our hearts are his now, it’s all up to him.

We become the guest in our own hearts. He lays out the banquet – or not. We sit at the table, or maybe, we serve.

 

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

 

[i] Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

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