Completed

When it is accomplished that the way God sees things is how I see things, that when my heart and soul are woven together with the heart of God through Jesus to make one heart, then I will be completed.

My flesh and my heart (soul, understanding, mind) may fail, but God is the strength (Rock) of my heart and my portion (share, possession) forever. Psalm 73:26 (NIV)

This is such a wonderful verse – in fact my life verse – but still it has always had a slightly negative connotation to me. Flesh failing, mind going, like the decay and decline of old age. And it does mean that – this earthly body and mind will fail – but there is a hidden treasure in this verse. It’s kind of an opposite way of thinking. We usually think of getting old and dying as a bad thing, as losing things, a falling apart. But I think there is more here, and a very positive message too.

The word translated flesh in the above verse is the noun sheer (שְׁאֵר).[i] It means flesh, body, physical strength. The secret message is hidden in its root, which is the verb sha’ar (שָׁאַר). Sha’ar means to remain, be left over, be left behind. Yes! This failing body is what is left behind. I love that image, that my flesh may soon be left behind, like Elijah’s robe falling to earth from the chariot of fire on his way to glory. And I don’t think he looked back for an instant. He was on his way to his Strength, his Rock, his Portion, his God.

The second message of hope is the seemingly hopeless word translated “fail.” It is kalah (כָּלָה ) and it doesn’t mean stumble and fall, mess up, like we would think. It means be accomplished, finished, be completed. How glorious! My time here may be finished, but, hopefully, what God intended in my flesh and heart will have been accomplished. I will be complete.  If God is my Rock, it will be as the last strokes of the artist’s brush on his masterpiece, the signing of His Name in the corner of my heart.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed (renovated, made new, changed into a new kind of life) day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16 (NASB)

Oswald Chambers described it this way:

There is nothing, naturally speaking, that makes us lose heart quicker than decay—the decay of bodily beauty, of natural life, of friendship, of associations, all these things make a man lose heart; but Paul says when we are trusting in Jesus Christ these things do not find us discouraged, light comes through them. [ii]

Light comes through them! Light comes through decay, this failing of the mind and flesh. I love that! It makes me think of a threadbare curtain, washed over and over, until it is so thin you can see right through it. You can see the light. Hopefully, you can see Jesus shining out of me.

The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 (NASB)

The word translated “clear” in the above verse is the Greek word haplous (ἁπλοῦς ) which means “single.” When my eye is single my body is full of light. It comes from the word that means to plait, braid, or weave together into one. I believe this means that when it is accomplished that the way God sees things is how I see things, that when my heart and soul are woven together with the heart of God through Jesus to make one heart, then I will be completed. My earthly flesh and heart may get more and more threadbare, but that just means His Light will be able to shine through, brighter and brighter. Yes Lord, be the strength of my heart. Complete your work in me.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect (accomplish, finish, complete) it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on …  Philippians 3:12 (NASB)

 

[i] All definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

[ii] Oswald Chambers. The Place of Help

Image in the Public Domain from pxhere.com

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

To Discover, All Along, to Whom I Belong

Receiving my true identity as accepted in the beloved and a delight and a treasure to Him is like a consuming fire, searing and painful, but cleansing and healing and life-giving.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these … Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Matthew 19:14, 16 (NIV)

God has been speaking to me about identity lately. Who am I? What is my real identity as God sees me. Matthew chapter 19 contrasts two different identities. A little child, who is totally dependent for food, clothing, everything. A little child whose identity is in his family – I am somebody’s child; I am somebody’s sister or brother. A little child who clings to his mother and father because they are life itself. A little child aware of his helplessness.

The other person is a very self-sufficient young man intent on building his own identity – what must I do? The child possesses very little, if anything. In fact, especially in those times, a child was legally considered a possession, whereas the rich young man saw himself as having many possessions. To one, the Kingdom is freely given, the other is intent on getting it – what must I do to get? The Greek word means to have i.e. own, possess. His identity was bound up in his doing and his possessions.

The children were invited to simply come to Jesus and the Kingdom was given them. Jesus invited the young man to enter also, to come and follow – but he would have to leave the possessions and the doings, his present identity, outside. He would need to become a dependent child, and that was something he felt he could not do.

For most of us, our identities are broken, the result of rejection and based on hurtful lies we have taken down deep into our souls. I am not (good, pretty, smart, etc.) enough. I am a disappointment. And worse, much worse. We spend our whole lives rebuilding our broken identities by doing, performing, acquiring. Trying to live up to somebody else’s expectations. Trying to be somebody that could be loved and accepted. Performing in the crazy, imaginary theatre in other people’s heads. Or, completely rejecting them all, thumbing our nose at everyone. Either way, writing our scripts and collecting all the props and costumes needed to play the part we choose. I become the book person, or the cat person, the financially successful person. I am the wise professor, the talented musician or mechanic, I am the good prayer warrior, the effective evangelist, the humble servant of Christ. None of those things are bad. Just like the rich young man, we may be doing everything right, but our identities are built on the wrong foundation. I am significant because of what I can do, what I can “get.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen† has written of how self-rejection is the enemy of our true identity. “Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection … Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”

Our core, the essence of our being is our identity – who I am, who I was made to be. Anne Voskamp in The Broken Way writes – “at the core of every one of our issues is this attempt to construct our identity on something else besides Christ” – in other words, to give in and accept the world’s definition of our identity, or to stand defiant and create my own. But, listening to the self-lies, in some kind of self-pitying martyrdom, trying to create my own acceptable identity – is sin and deadly. “Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God … Human beings were made not only to believe in God in some general way, but to love him supremely, center their lives on him above anything else, and build their very identities on him. Anything other than this is sin.” (Tim Keller, The Reason for God). My identity is not what I “must do” or what I “get,” like the rich young man in Matthew 19. My identity is found in simply accepting the invitation to come and be.

I must receive my true identity as His little child, totally dependent on Him for strength, faith, life, breath, food on the table, shelter over my head, talents and gifts. I’m realizing that even the words that come out of my mouth when I pray for someone, the love in my heart for them, the willingness and passion to serve – it all comes from Him – everything. At least the part that brings life to others. Otherwise, it is just me doing and getting for myself.

Receiving my true identity as accepted in the beloved and a delight and a treasure to Him is like a consuming fire, searing and painful, but cleansing and healing and life-giving. Lord, I pray that you would be all my treasure, all my identity, all my value, all my significance. A dear friend once prayed for me that I would “discover, all along, to whom I belong.” I believe God is answering that prayer. I am finally opening the Invitation.

I am a child of God 

I am beloved 

I am precious in His sight 

I am His 

And you also are among those who are called (invited) to belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 1:6 (NIV) 

They say that love can heal the broken
They say that hope can make you see
They say that faith can find a Savior
If you would follow and believe
With faith like a child
from Like a Child by Jars of Clay

 

† You are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living. 2017, p. 12.

The image is a photograph of me with my beloved Mom.

This blog post has been revised into a Bible study which may be freely used and copied. It can be accessed at Hidden Treasure Bible Studies here.

Fragile

In all my over six decades I have never once regretted love, I have never been sorry I was kind, I have never wished I hadn’t been so merciful. But I consistently bitterly regret lashing out in anger, crabbiness, rudeness – worthless words.

A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All men are like grass, and all their glory (checed) is like the flowers of the field. Isaiah 40:6 (NIV)

For the LORD is good and his love (checed) endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5 (NIV)

The same Hebrew word, checed  חֵסֵד –, is used in both these verses. Checed means goodness, loving- or merciful kindness, mercy. It is often translated “unfailing love” or “loyal love.” I like how the Message Bible translates it:

A voice says, “Shout!” I said, “What shall I shout?” “These people are nothing but grass, their love (checed) fragile as wildflowers.”

Love as fragile as wildflowers. Isaiah goes on in verse 8, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Our love withers and falls, but Psalm 100 promises that God’s goodness, lovingkindness, and mercy endure forever, or is forever, everlasting, evermore, perpetual, continuous, eternal, of unending future, from the beginning of the world to the vanishing point. This is proclaimed over 40 times in the Bible, 26 times just in Psalm 136. “His love (checed) endures forever!” Ours withers fast when things get hot and dry.

I have been meditating on how fragile we are. Not just physically, though our lives are very fragile and over too soon. The tiniest things can end it – a mutant cell, a virus. But also, how fragile is our “goodness” and “kindness.” Have you ever been praising God in the car, full of love toward your fellow man, and then someone pulls in front of you or you hit a big pothole, and all that checed evaporates in some not-very-nice words and thoughts? Have you ever come home from doing a “good deed,” feeling pretty good about yourself, only to snap at a family member? You don’t have to answer that. I have too many times. My checed is fragile as wildflowers.

I recently came home from delivering a meal and visiting a sickbed only to take my fatigue and sadness out in a rude email complaining of what I (mistakenly) thought was a flaw in a product I received in the mail.

I was surprised at myself, though I shouldn’t have been. I thought I had learned this lesson. In all my over six decades I have never once regretted love, I have never been sorry I was kind, I have never wished I hadn’t been so merciful. But I consistently bitterly regret lashing out in anger, crabbiness, rudeness – worthless words. One good thing came out of it though: I got to fine tune my well-used apologizing skills. The apology was mercifully accepted. That is one way we can express checed – by forgiving the fragile, withering failings of others.

At one of our jail Bible studies, a sweet, struggling inmate said something that hit home for me. “We have to mess up so we know where our strength comes from.”  Indeed. The strength to love, or to forgive, does not come from me. My beautiful wildflowers wither much too fast. But, hallelujah! His love never fails!

Lord forgive me for my worthless, unloving words. Help me remember my love is fragile. Help me to abide in you, dwelling in your presence always. Love others through me with your unfailing, forever-and-ever checed. You are my strength.

Finally (hereafter, for the future, henceforth, from now on), be strong (receive strength, be strengthened, increase in strength, be empowered) in the Lord and in the strength (great power, force, dominion) of His might (ability, power, strength). Ephesians 6:10 (NASB)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength (my Rock) and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

Photo copyright 2018 Derek Bair