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  

What Is This Gospel?

Again, this week a theme emerged from many of the blogs and daily devotionals that I follow. “It’s amazing!”

But what is the Gospel? It is this, that God has sent his Son into the world to save sinners, Jn. 3, 16, and to crush hell, overcome death, take away sin and satisfy the law. But what must you do? Nothing but accept this and look up to your Redeemer and firmly believe that he has done all this for your good and freely gives you all as your own, so that in the terrors of death, sin and hell, you can confidently say and boldly depend upon it, and say: Although I do not fulfil the law, although sin is still present and I fear death and hell, nevertheless from the Gospel I know that Christ has bestowed on me all his works. I am sure he will not lie, his promise he will surely fulfil. And as a sign of this I have received baptism. — Martin Luther (1522)i 

We are acceptable to God not because we have obeyed, nor because we have promised to give up things, but because of the death of Christ, and for no other reason. — Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest 

The great doctrine, the greatest of all, is this, that God, seeing men to be lost by reason of their sin, hath taken that sin of theirs and laid it upon his only begotten Son, making him to be sin for us, even him who knew no sin; and that in consequence of this transference of sin he that believeth in Christ Jesus is made just and righteous, yea, is made to be the righteousness of God in Christ. Christ was made sin that sinners might be made righteousness. That is the doctrine of the substitution of our Lord Jesus Christ on the behalf of guilty men. — Charles Spurgeonii 

God loves you and me. He loves people like us. He loves people who have made an awful mess of their lives. And we have nothing to commend us and we’ve been unthankful and unholy and rebellious and stupid. And amazingly He loves us. It’s amazing! — Derek Prince 

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7iii 

i Blogged by Dr. Peter Cockrell https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2020/10/29/four-implications-of-martin-luthers-theology/  

ii C.H. Spurgeon, The Heart of the Gospel, a sermon delivered on Lord’s-day Morning, July 18th, 1886 

iii Blogged by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2020/10/28/hope-for-today-heirs-having-hope/  

Photo by Jack Bair 2020

The God Who Wants to Celebrate

He is always preparing, and calling for us to join in the preparation of this great party he wants to give.

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ Luke 15:22-24 

“William Tyndale, the man who translated the Bible into English in the 16th century, said: 

Evangelion (what we call ‘the gospel’) is a Greek word, signifying good, merry, glad and joyful news, that makes a man’s heart glad and makes him sing, dance and leap for joy. 

A church without the gospel fails to be a church. It’s something else—a social club or political action committee or a rallying point for pet projects or hobby horse hermeneutics. Those are man-centered organizations. And they can’t last. They make us sad. Maybe not immediately, but ultimately. Every man-made institution ends in tears. But the gospel ends with a party. It’s good news of great joy.” — Adam McClendon, The Gospel is Big Enough for Your Church (blogged recently by Dr. Peter Cockrell https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2020/10/06/the-gospel-is-big-enough-for-your-church/ ) 

Henry J.M. Nouwen also writes that God’s irrepressible love is the “love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate … ‘Rejoice with me,’ the shepherd says, ‘I have found my sheep that was lost.’ ‘Rejoice with me,’ the woman says, ‘I have found the drachma I lost.’ ‘Rejoice with me,’ the father says, ‘this son of mine was lost and is found.’” i  

I love that God’s love always wants to celebrate, that his good news ends with a party. He is always calling out to us, “rejoice with me!” He is always preparing, and calling for us to join in the preparation of this great party he wants to give. 

Timothy Keller notes that “in his first public exercise of divine power, Jesus turned several large containers of water into wine. Amazingly, John the gospel writer calls this miracle a ‘sign,’ a signifier of what Jesus’s’ ministry was all about. Why would Jesus, to convey what he had come to do, choose to turn 150 gallons of water into superb wine in order to keep a party going? The answer is that Jesus came to bring festival joy … Jesus’s salvation is a feast …” ii 

It is not surprising that the first miracle done by Jesus in this great story of the gospel celebration was at a marriage. Even though Jesus told Mary that it was not really his time yet, I don’t think he could resist a celebration – especially one of a marriage. Because that is how, finally, the gospel story will end: 

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Revelation 19:7 

 “… his bride has made herself ready.” The word translated “ready” is hetoimazo, which means to prepare, to make the necessary preparations, get everything ready. We take part in the preparation by getting ourselves ready – working out our salvation, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, dying to self, becoming holy. But we also help prepare by going out and inviting others to the party and helping them prepare. 

The father in the parable of the two sons calls for the preparation of a great celebration. Mark recounts the beginning of the gospel – the joyful celebration – also as a preparation.  

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way — a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:1-2 

Jesus told another parable, that is called the Parable of the Great Banquet. Again, it includes an invitation to a party that has been prepared. 

Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ Matthew 22:4 

If we are his servants, let us go out and proclaim the joyful news: There is a great party that has been prepared for you if you will come. Return! Come rejoice with the Father! Come in! You are invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb! 

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. Luke 15:32 

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:7 

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come. Revelation 22:17 

Photo by stainedglassartist, Cana detail jars, https://flic.kr/p/7bUyuv  

May That Grace

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14 

This short benediction at the end of Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth contains the whole of the gospel in one sentence.  

May the grace (good will, loving-kindness, favor, merciful kindness of God, gift of grace) that Jesus came to demonstrate and consummate by his death on the Cross – 

Which provided for the forgiveness and forgetting and throwing into the depths of the sea our sins which separated us from our great and compassionate God, ripping apart the dividing veil, opening the door, revealing who he is, making it possible for us to know God, know Him as our Father, and his great love and yearning for us – 

May that grace which made the way for us to come into God’s presence and know the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, abide in him and he in us, that we might be with him and he with us – Immanuel, Friend, Lover, Bridegroom – forevermore – 

May that grace be with you all (individually, each, every, any, all, everyone).  

Find that grace, love and fellowship https://lp.billygraham.org/find-peace-with-god/

Photo by Jack Bair

Such As We Ought To Be

Can you hear God’s voice thundering through eternity? “There is now no condemnation! She is just as she ought to be!”

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies (renders and declares us just, innocent, righteous or such as we ought to be). Who then is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus who died (a violent death, perished, was slain, was separated by dying)-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Romans 8:33-35a

Two things about these verses really resonated with me. First of all, the concept of justification. The Greek word translated “justifies” has two facets – to render and to declare or proclaim.  For someone who heard for so many years daily (at least) about what I “should” or “ought to” be and do – and tried so hard without success to satisfy those expectations – the realization that God has rendered and pronounced us “such as we ought to be” is amazing grace. It is rest.

The render part means cause to be or become, to make. He caused us to become the righteousness of God by Jesus’ death on the cross.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

But the meaning of the Greek word also includes the concept of declaring or proclaiming. To declare or proclaim is different from rendering. It is to blow the trumpet, shout it to the heavens and to our enemies what Jesus did and that now we are right with God. Can you hear God’s voice thundering through eternity? “There is now no condemnation! She is just as she ought to be!”

Jesus rendered and proclaimed. He shed his blood on the cross in our place, he also shouted out “It is finished!” The difference between rendering and proclaiming is the difference between victory on the battlefield and the triumphal procession of the vanquished.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:15

The second thing that caught my heart in these verses is the idea of separation. Jesus was separated by dying from the agape love of God so that we would never have to be separated.

Astonishingly, the TDNT has this to say about agape love:

This term has neither the magic of eros nor the warmth of phileos. It has first the weak sense “to be satisfied,” “to receive” …

E. Stauffer in The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

Let me just say that I don’t think it is a weakness of God’s love that he is satisfied with us and receives us as we are. That is what so many, what the world, craves – acceptance. And that is what we have by the death of Jesus on the cross.

Recently, a dear friend pointed out something I had not seen before in Galatians 3:13-14

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

What is the blessing given to Abraham? I always stopped there and in my mind thought of this blessing as riches and prosperity. He was a rich man right? But what is this blessing? It is the promise of the Spirit. The Presence of God. That I might be a friend of God too, as Abraham was.

What is this “curse of the law” from which we were freed by Jesus death on the cross? If we go back a few verses in Galatians we see it.

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Galatians 3:10

The curse of the Law is all the “shoulds” and all the “oughts” that we can never fully satisfy. Jesus vanquished them all, and by the free gift of grace, satisfied God completely, that we may be received as friend of God, as child of God – “such as we ought to be.”

God’s Proposal

Paul is saying here that all things work for the good of those who have been called according to God’s proposal, God’s intention. But what, I wondered, is God’s proposal or intention?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (prothesis). For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29 (NIV)

I have always read this verse and stopped at the comfort of its promise: that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. This time I thought I would go through it carefully, word by word, and study it. When I got to the word translated “purpose” I was stopped in my tracks at the amazing depth and fullness and loving message hidden there.

The Greek word is prothesis. It means “a setting forth of a thing,” figuratively, a proposal or intention. Paul is saying here that all things work for the good of those who have been called according to God’s proposal, God’s intention. But what, I wondered, is God’s proposal or intention? The word prothesis also contains the answer to that question.

Prothesis also means a setting forth of the shewbread in the Temple, as exposed before God. The shewbread, or showbread, was the Bread of the Presence, which God commanded to be always before him.

Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times. Exodus 25:30 (NIV)

Prothesis is the same word that Jesus used in Matthew:

He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread (shewbread, loaves of presentation)—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Matthew 12:3-4 (NIV)

The noun prothesis comes from the verb protithemai, which means to place before, to set forth to be looked at, expose to public view. It was used of the bodies of the dead that were let lie in state. In ancient Greek it referred to the laying out of a dead body during the funeral (exposing the body for viewing), also called lying in repose. The laying out, or exposing of, the shewbread in the temple was like the lying in repose of the body of Christ. It was the exposing of God’s intention, his Grand Proposal to save the world.

God’s purpose, his proposal, his intention, that, Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Bread of the Presence, Immanuel, God with us, would die for us.

“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:48-51 (NIV)

This was always God’s intent, but there is more in Romans 8:28-29: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. He wants us to be like Jesus. To lay our lives down too. To help bring this life, this Bread, to the world. To share the good news of God’s grand proposal: that Jesus died and rose again from the dead to save us from our sins.

Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:7-11 (NIV)

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body. Matthew 26:26 (NIV)

 

Rise up and help us; redeem us because of (for the sake of, for the purpose of, to the intent of, on account of) your unfailing love. Psalm 44:26 (NIV)

 

Image by Heartlight https://www.heartlight.org/articles/201703/20170304_worthy.html

Sunrise to Sunset

Sing

unto the Lord, the Existing One, The Eternal

all, every one, the totality, altogether, in every place, every thing

howsoever, whatsoever, whosoever,

the whole earth;

shew forth, bear the good news, the glad tidings, announce, tell, publish, preach

from day to day, sunrise to sunset,

his

Salvation

deliverance

help

aid

saving intervention

victory

Yeshua

 

 

Photo by Sheila Bair