Door

Did you ever notice that our doors are closed, but the door of heaven stands open?

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 (NIV)

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” Revelation 4:1 (NIV)

Did you ever notice that our doors are closed, requiring Jesus to knock on them, but the door of heaven stands open? Jesus has opened the way into heaven, into the very Presence. He longs to have fellowship with us. Let’s open the doors of our hearts, the doors of those secret places, those closed-off hurting places, and let Him come in and heal and love and redeem and repair.

I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My lover is knocking: “Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one.” Song of Songs 5:2a (NIV)

 

Image by Jack Bair

I will throw my net over them

… I will throw my net over them … Hosea 7:11 (NLT)

In the book of Hosea the Lord God laments over the sins of his people. In one place he says “Oh Israel and Judah what should I do with you?”[i] As a Mom this sounds very familiar to me. I think I have said that, or something very similar to my kids several times in frustration, “What am I going to do with you?”

Sometimes we look at the God of the Old Testament as different from Jesus. We only see the punishments, the judgments, the prophesies of enemies overtaking and dragging away. And that appears in Hosea. But, as I read chapters six and seven, I saw something else, very heartbreaking, but very wonderful and redeeming.

In the midst of God’s chastisements and listing of all Israel’s sins, he cries out three times from the pain and love of his heart.

I wanted so much to restore …

I wanted to heal …

I wanted to redeem …[ii]

But, they rejected God, they turned away to other gods, they rebelled. God grieves, “… no one cries out to me for help.”[iii] It all sounds so impossible, so despairing, so final.

But there in the middle there is this wonderful phrase. “I will throw my net over them.” This reminded me of Jesus on the shore calling to the disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

Jesus, the Great Fisherman, God in the flesh come to throw his net over us. God’s father-heart of mercy and love, God’s zeal to pursue and save us on full display. So, Jesus came-

To restore

To heal

To redeem

To pursue and catch us in His net of Everlasting Love

Oh Lord God, I cry out to you! I want to turn back to you. I am lost and floundering in the waves. Forgive me of my sins. Throw your loving net over me. And bring me into your Presence.

Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him. So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. Hosea 6:1-3 (NASB)

[i] Hosea 6:4

[ii] Hosea 6:11, 7:1, 7:13

[iii] Hosea 7:7

For more about God’s loving net see Imprisoned

Image, Casting a fishing net, by vakibs, https://www.flickr.com/photos/vakibs/5395469892/

He Knows My Name

A long time ago (47 years this spring!) I heard Him calling my name. It was a beautiful, clear, full-moonlit night in a small town in the Allegheny Mountains.

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” Isaiah 43:1 (NASB)

I was listening to the beautiful song You Know My Name by Tasha Cobbs Leonard recently and it got me remembering. It also got me wondering. What does it mean for God to know my name? What is the significance of calling by name? Names seem to be so very important.

The word for name in the Hebrew is shem. The definition of shem includes more than just a name though. It also includes the character of the named. The Ha-shem Adonai, the name of the Lord, encompasses his reputation, character, honor, authority, glory, and fame. Perhaps for our names it may also include infamy. God called many people by name in the Old Testament, including Abraham (Genesis 22:1), Moses (Exodus 3:4), and Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4-10).

The idea of calling by name also appears in the New Testament.

The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He [Jesus] calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3 (NIV)

The word translated name in the Greek is onoma. It also includes the idea of the character or reputation of the person named. It comes from the word that means “to know.” To say that he knows my name means he knows all about me, good and bad, the infamy and the character flaws, but calls me by name anyway. No wonder he has to say, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you!”

A long time ago (47 years this spring!) I heard Him calling my name. It was a beautiful, clear, full-moonlit night in a small town in the Allegheny Mountains. Our street theater group had been performing at the Reformed Church synod meeting and one of the sweet pastors had invited us to a potluck dinner at his little church. I was the last one in and so was alone when I heard someone calling my name. There was a breeze in the tall pines and, at first, I thought that must be what I heard. But no, a voice was calling out my name. It stopped me in my tracks, and I stood perfectly still. And it came again, and I knew deep down in my spirit it was God calling me. I stood there, hardly breathing, for a long time until my friend came out to ask if I was coming in.

Maybe you noticed that in both Isaiah 43 and John 10 the ideas of being called by name and belonging to Him are combined. In Isaiah God says, “I have called you by name; you are mine,” and in John, it says that Jesus “calls his own sheep by name.” The knowing of a person by name, the calling, is an intimate thing. It is a reaching out in complete love. It requires a response. The answers of Abraham, Moses, and Samuel were all the same: “Here I am!”

I hadn’t known how to respond to His call on that moonlit night. It was a few months later that a good friend led me to the Savior’s waiting arms. And I said, “Here I am!”

I guess what continues to amaze me is that despite knowing everything about me, he wanted me to be his, and that he still seeks me out. He still calls me by name to be his own little lamb and to let him lead me on. And because I have come to know him – his name and his character – I will follow.

Good Shepherd
Comforter
Refuge and Shelter
Unfailing Love, unfailing, unfailing
Redeemer
Deliverer
Lamb of God, who takes away my sins
The Amen, trustworthy, trustworthy
Faithful and True
Emmanuel, always with me
Father, Abba

You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made. Job 14:15 (NIV)

I pray you will hear him calling your name.

He knows my name
He knows my name
He knows my name
Yes He knows my name
And oh how He walks with me
Yes oh how He talks with me
And oh how He tells me
That I am His own

(from You Know My Name by Tasha Cobbs Leonard)

Listen to You Know My Name here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMnkJ-X8l5s

Photo by bwminseattle on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/3KRVoJ

 

 

 

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

Running from His Heart

God’s love and purposes were, and are, relentless. You might say he is one-track when it comes to the salvation of the world.

The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the [presence of the] Lord by sailing to Tarshish. Jonah 1:1-3 (NLT)

I don’t know why this always makes me laugh. OK, I do know why. Go ahead and put your name in the blank:

But ____ got up and went in the opposite direction in order to get away from the LORD.

See what I mean? We all have done it. We have all tried to run away from God, with the emphasis on the word tried. In Jonah’s case, God was sending him to the city of Nineveh to call them to repentance, and Jonah didn’t want to do it. God said to Jonah, “Get up and go.” Instead, Jonah got up and ran; the word means “to bolt.” God told Jonah to get up or arise. Maybe, as a prophet of God, he was on his knees worshiping in the Presence and received this call. His reaction wasn’t exactly what God had in mind.

It seems nearly every person in the Bible called by God to do something started their reply with an excuse. But, I can’t talk very well (Exodus 6:30). But, I am too young (Jeremiah 1:6). But, I am too weak and unimportant (Judges 6:15). Except Jonah, he just bolted. Apparently, David tried to escape God too.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10 (NIV)

David concluded that it is impossible to run from God. After all, His very name is Immanuel, God with us.

There are always so many reasons why not to answer the call to get up and go. When we look only at ourselves, we see weakness, sin, fear and doubt. But there may be just as many excuses when we look at God. As in Jonah’s case, he didn’t want what God wanted: the salvation of thousands. Especially these particular thousands. “Knowing well the lovingkindness of God, he anticipated that He would spare the Ninevites on their repentance, and he could not bring himself to be the messenger of mercy to heathen, much less to heathen who (as the Assyrian inscriptions state) had already made war against his own people, and who as he may have known were destined to be their conquerors.”[i] Another commentary explains, “he feared God’s compassion would spare the Ninevites on their repentance, and that thus his prediction would be discredited.”[ii]

So what were Jonah’s reasons for bolting? Prejudice, personal pride, and self-preservation. Prejudice: the Assyrians were Gentiles, reprobate, the enemy. Pride: he had a reputation to maintain. He had been publicly calling down horrible judgements on these people. Self-preservation: the Assyrians had attacked Israel before and were prophesied to do it again (Hosea 9:3; Hosea 11:5).

But God doesn’t care about any of that. Jesus showed us what God is like and what he expects us to be like. Jesus loved everybody the same. Jesus was completely humble. Jesus determinedly and obediently walked right into his own death. God’s love and purposes were, and are, relentless. You might say he is one-track when it comes to the salvation of the world. After Nineveh repents Jonah exclaims, “I knew you were going to do that God!” (Jonah 4:2). That always makes me smile too – Jonah knew God was going to save those people because he knew God well enough to know who God is, what God is like, and to know God’s heart. We may not be so honest with ourselves as Jonah, but when we run from God isn’t that what we are running from? His heart? His relentless love? His good, life-giving, excruciating purpose for our lives?

Kurt Bennett points out, “There’s only one place in the bible where we see God running.” That place is the picture of God shown in the parable of the prodigal son. In it, Jesus describes a loving father running toward another fugitive. If you are running from God and his call for your life, turn around and run back. You will run right into His relentless love.

Grace that chases me
O relentless Love
Morning faithfully
Brings mercy to me
Your sweet mercy

—James Mark Gulley, Stephen Gulley

 

[i] Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

[ii] Pulpit Commentary. Hendrickson Publishers

 

Image 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

Point of View

As I have been visiting the jail and coming to know the ladies there, God has been speaking to me about how important our point of view is. He showed me that there are two ways to look at people. One is from the viewpoint of Hell and our Accuser (Revelations 12:10). One is from the viewpoint of Heaven, where we are seated with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6-7).

If you are looking from the viewpoint of Hell, you are looking up at people and can only see the dirt on the bottoms of their feet. If you are looking from the viewpoint of Heaven, you are looking down at people and you can see the hand of God resting on their heads. 

I start to see faintly the hope and passion for the end of their journey, a glimpse of eternity. If I follow God’s gaze I begin to see as He sees.

… and [God] raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show (point out) the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6-7 (NASB)

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work (poem) of your hand. Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)

You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Psalm 139:5 (NLT)