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

All there is

When despair has obliterated ordinary prayer, when the psalms fail and all words are stupid and meaningless, the mantle of loneliness surrounding me becomes a mantle of dark and wordless love. This darkness reveals the paradox of prayer: in the absence of God, all there is, is God. 

Suzanne Guthrie 
Grace’s Window 

Immeasurable Peace

Wow, I love it when God does this! These came almost one right after another in my inbox today. A message for all of us.

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus had moments where He would withdraw from the crowds because He needed to fix His entire being on God. Our souls find clarity and peace when we step away from the world so we, too, can be with our Heavenly Father. We will undoubtedly encounter the healing our souls and even bodies need when we sit still in His presence. — blogged by Estera Marian, Eyes of My Heart  https://theyesofmyheart.com/2021/02/26/rest-for-your-soul/  

Aren’t you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire? Don’t you often hope: “May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country, or relationship fulfill my deepest desire”? But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burnout. — Henri Nouwen 

May I ask you, what is that thing that is pressing against you? That thing that causes pain, brings tears, and appears as though it can never change. Just want to share that God is able, nothing is too hard or impossible for the Almighty and Sovereign God. Please allow me to encourage you to look up and know that God loves you and is with you in this season. — blogged by Beholding Him Ministries   https://beholdinghimministries.org/2021/02/26/trust-god-in-the-hard-place/  

Jesus knew the disciples needed the kind of peace that would see them through any and all situations. He told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you” … Jesus added, “not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27). This wasn’t going to be the so-called peace of a numb, zoned-out society. Nor would it be the temporary peace of the rich and famous, who try to purchase peace of mind with material things. No, this was the very peace of Christ himself, a peace that surpasses all human understanding. 

When Christ promised the disciples his peace, it was as if he was saying to them and to us today: “I know you don’t understand the times you face. You don’t comprehend the Cross and the suffering I am about to face. But I want to bring your heart into a place of peace. You won’t be able to face what is coming without having my enduring peace in you. You must have my peace.” — David Wilkerson, “Immeasurable Peace,” World Challenge Daily Devotional 

Naked Intent

Back then I would sneak out of choir practice and go sit in the dark sanctuary.

“This is what you are to do: lift your heart up to the Lord, with a gentle stirring of love desiring him for his own sake and not for his gifts. Center all your attention and desire on him and let this be the sole concern of your mind and heart … And so diligently persevere until you feel the joy in it. For in the beginning it is usual to feel nothing but a kind of darkness about your mind, or as it were, a cloud of unknowing. You will seem to know nothing and to feel nothing except a naked intent toward God in the depths of your being … But if you strive to fix your love on him forgetting all else, which is the work of contemplation I have urged you to begin, I am confident that God in his goodness will bring you to a deep experience of himself.” — The Cloud of Unknowing, chapter 3  

“… a state of naked faith, sustained by God alone in our absolute abandonment to Him …” — Jeanne Guyon, Union with God 

Sunday at church we sang the doxology.  

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!i 

I have been singing it since I was a child in the children’s choir at the Methodist Church. Suddenly, as I sang, I was in that place beyond time singing it again as that child who didn’t really know what she was singing. The child who wasn’t sure what or who was a “Holy Ghost,” the child who looked up at the stained-glass window depicting Elijah, Jesus, and Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration and was sure, as she sang those lyrics, that she was looking at a picture of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I didn’t know much, but I had a “naked intent toward God” as the unknown monk wrote, the “naked faith” described by Guyon. It was a faith beyond reasoning or logic, a faith that totally bypassed intellect because there was no real knowledge of the scriptures at that time.   
 

Back then I would sneak out of choir practice and go sit in the dark sanctuary – literally and intellectually in the darkness, in the cloud of unknowing – and wait on God. I didn’t know I was doing that; I didn’t even have any words for a prayer. Almost holding my breath, I would just be there. There was just that naked intent, that yearning and thirsting after God. And he gently met me there, though I could not fully comprehend him.  
 

I have come a long way since then. I have studied the Bible for many years and have a lot of head knowledge now. But still I know that what God wants, what he looks for, what delights his great heart is that naked intent toward God, that hunger and thirsting after Him from the depths of my being. My essence seeking after His essence. Let me just be there. 

My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Psalm 143:6 

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” Matthew 11:25-26 

And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (NASB) 

For more on the “naked intent” toward God see a previous post https://wrestlingwordblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/a-naked-intent-toward-god/

Photo, detail from Coloured Reflection by Ben Keating, https://flic.kr/p/GHzQ3T  

Center of the Storm

I stood there beside him, and because he was there with me, so brave and calm, all the fear evaporated.

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and ask him more directly to give you joy, peace, and a pure heart. Purity of heart means a heart where God is the center of your attention. Take a simple sentence like “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want,” and repeat that quietly during the day until the truth of it enters the center of your being. You will always continue to have feelings of depression, anger, and restlessness, but when God dwells in the center of the storm, the storm is less frightening and you can live with trust that in the midst of all of the darkness you will be led to a place of joy and peace.—Henri Nouwen

This quote brought me back to my childhood. Our new house was the last built on the block, and beside and before us to the west were empty fields. That was the direction the storms came from and we could watch them awesomely and terrifyingly racing towards us. Dark sky and writhing, black clouds, and spectacular lightening.

Most of the time my mother would herd us down into the basement to ride out the storm. I know that was the safe place, but there was a lot of fear in that because we couldn’t see what was happening, only hear the roar of the wind and the crash of the thunder, and the ominous warnings coming over the radio.

But sometimes I snuck up to the open garage where my Dad stood watching it come and overtake us. And I stood there beside him, and because he was there with me, so brave and calm, all the fear evaporated. We shared the awesomeness and the glory and the majesty of the storm together. I was in the center of the storm. But I was with my Dad. I was never afraid of a storm again.

Nouwen’s suggestion of meditating on the word in these times is a good one. You may feel overwhelmed with what is roaring about you right now. But your Father is always there with you in every storm. Sneak away now to stand with him. Fix your eyes on Him. Be still and know.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56: 3

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

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

I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until this violent storm is past. Psalm 57:1 (NLT)

 

More encouraging verses can be found here: Fear Bible Verses

 

Image, Storm by texaus1 https://flic.kr/p/R41Zbp

 

Except

I’m fighting down fears right now. But that “except” is there, holding me on the Rock.

I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. Joshua 24:4

This unassuming sentence is tucked into a long account of the history of God’s people at the end of Joshua’s life. But the verse jumped out at me this last time I read it. At first it would seem that Esau got the better end of this deal. God gave Esau the hill country of Seir, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt – and we know what happened to them there.

Esau missed out on 400 years of slavery and 40 more years in the desert wilderness. He became very rich and great, with many chiefs. Genesis 36 is the account of Esau and his greatness, his many descendants, and their many chiefs. Esau had “kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king ruled over the Israelites” (Genesis 36:31).

A commentary on Genesis 36 notes, “As F. Delitzsch says[i], ‘secular greatness in general grows up far more rapidly than spiritual greatness.’ In other words, the progress of the world far out distances the progress of the righteous who are waiting for the promise.”[ii]

Yes, it would seem that Esau got the better deal. Except. Except Esau also missed out on:

  • Deliverance from slavery
  • Redemption by the blood of the Passover lamb
  • Miraculous rescue from the enemy
  • Pure water from the Rock
  • Bread from Heaven
  • Hearing God’s voice from the mountain
  • Comfort and protection of the cloud and the pillar of fire
  • The giving of the Word of God
  • The refining as silver
  • The testing as gold
  • Learning dependence on God alone

I know that I would have been right there with the panicked Israelites heart and soul as they grumbled against Moses saying, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (Exodus 17:3) … “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” (Numbers 20:5).

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I would have been with them because I’m fighting down similar fears right now. But that “except” is there, holding me on the Rock. Except, I want to be part of the Story.

Esau didn’t just miss out on the hunger and the thirst, the fear and uncertainty, the hardship and the trials. He also missed out on being part of the great Story of Salvation. Esau missed out on being part of Jesus’ story. The Story of the Savior.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew 2:15

Lord, bring me out. Bring me through. Bring me into the wilderness with you. Write me into your great Story of Salvation.

Jesus
Write me into Your story
Whisper it to me
And let me know I’m Yours

–Rich Mullins

 

Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. Hebrews 12:16 (MSG)

[i] Franz Delitzsch. New Commentary on Genesis, 2:238.

[ii] NetBible Study Notes

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

To the Vanishing Point

Yet I am always (continually, perpetually, constantly, like the daily sacrifice) with you;

you hold (grasp, take hold, seize, take possession of) me by my right hand.

You guide me (guide tenderly, lead me away captive, conduct me along the path) with your counsel (plan, purpose),

and afterwards you will take (get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, acquire, buy, bring, marry, snatch, take away, receive) me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire (delight in, take pleasure in, bend down to) besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail (be spent, be used up, waste away, be exhausted, come to an end, vanish, perish, be destroyed),

but God

But God!

is the strength (the Rock, refuge) of my heart and my portion (allotment, possession, territory, inheritance) forever (everlastingly, unending future, to the vanishing point, eternally, without end).

Psalm 73:23-26

 

Image in the Public Domain

Very Present Help

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

God is our strong refuge from the storm,

our hope, our trust, a place of refuge, shelter from rain or storm, from danger,

a helper in time of trouble, adversity, affliction, anguish, distress, tribulation

He is found to be — vehemently, exceedingly, speedily, mightily, greatly present,

He comes forth to meet us in our trouble with muchness

He is able

He is with us

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Psalm 23:4

 

Knots in the Cord

We may cut the cord ourselves by giving into fear and doubt, but each time we come back He binds us to himself again, tying another knot, shortening the cord, drawing us ever closer.

Surely there is a future (or a reward), and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 23:18 (NASB)

I was intrigued to find that word translated “hope” in the above verse is the Hebrew word tiqvah (תִּקְוָה), and that it literally means “cord.” Figuratively, it means expectancy, hope, a thing that I long for, but literally it is a cord. It is the same word that is used for the scarlet cord the Israelite spies told Rahab to tie in her window in this verse:

“Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord (tiqvah) in the window. Joshua 2:21 (NIV)

Her scarlet tiqvah was a literal cord, but it was also a hope and expectation of salvation. I think hope is like a cord because it is a firm attachment to God, like an umbilical cord, from which we draw the strength to keep going, to keep growing.

Tiqvah comes from the Hebrew word qavah (קָוָה) which means to wait, look for, hope, expect, but also means to bind together. We are bound to God through our faith and hope in him, and he promises that he will not cut the cord, our tiqvah. I can cut the cord myself, and I have many times, by giving into fear, despair, hopelessness and doubt. But each time he has proven himself ever faithful again, and each time I come back to his loving arms. And each time he reties the cord, tying another knot, binding himself to me again. And each time those knots of love and grace shorten the cord, drawing me ever closer to his heart.

The New Testament calls this hope an anchor of the soul. You don’t throw an anchor overboard without attaching it to your boat with a rope or a cord. And the other end of the cord has been knotted firmly for us by our Lord Jesus in the Holy of Holies, the very Presence of God.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. Hebrews 6:19-20 (NIV)

Yes, Lord I choose to tie your anchor to my little, drifting, tossing boat. I choose to hope in your word, hope in your promise, hope in your name, in your very character. Give me strength to hope no matter what is happening around me. I come back to you again. Forgive me for the doubts and fears. Tie another knot in the cord. Draw me ever closer to you.

I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them. Hosea 11:4 (NKJV)

For the law made nothing perfect, and now a better hope has taken its place. And that is how we draw near to God. Hebrews 7:19 (NLT)

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:5 (NIV)

 

Image is free from Pixabay