Broken Hearts

broken hearts 

broken hearts everywhere you go 

walking through crystal shards 

cutting again 

bloody feet 

bleeding hands 

jabbed with flashing slivers  

working deep 

rending despair   

yielding 

relentless 

 hope 

… he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound … Isaiah 61:1 (ESV) 

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. John 19:34 

Image by Peter.Lorre https://flic.kr/p/3yeriz  

My Dad

A few years ago, I sat down with my dad and recorded some memoirs of his life. The result revealed a funny, passionate, pretty cool guy. Dad passed away this week and we bury him today. I know this is long, but I would like to honor him by sharing some of his life with you. 

Dad was born in Ionia, Michigan, in 1927. He remembered that his mother kept him in long blond curls and lacy shirts (Little Lord Fauntleroy costumes) until he was three or four. He hated that. He had to wear knickers until he was eight or nine and really hated them. When he got his first pair of long pants he felt very grown up.  

When Dad was 12, they moved to a farm three miles north of Muir in Ionia County. He remembered getting up early enough to do the chores (feed the animals, etc.) before walking to the one-room school. In the cold months he had to get to school early to get the fire ready and the school warmed up. On the farm that Dad had the responsibility of a large half-acre “truck” garden. He had to plant, weed, and harvest the vegetables and take them to market in town. But he got to keep the profits, and he was able to save up enough money to buy his first beautiful bicycle from the Sears Roebuck catalog.  

Dad also raised a calf which won the blue ribbon at the County Fair. The animals loved him. Dad remembered one rooster in particular who would run down the drive to greet him every day when he returned home. That affinity to animals continued. I remember our dog Rowdy and my Dad “singing” together. My Dad would sing and Rowdy would howl along with him. That dog loved my Dad. 

My Dad was always a prankster. He told me some mischievous things he did as a teen. One time he and his friends put a large oak table in the middle of the highway to see a truck hit and demolish it. The driver got out and chased them, but he hid in a cornfield. Another time they took apart a wagon and put it back together on somebody’s roof. One favorite prank was to fill a paper bag with cow manure and set it on fire on a front porch and then knock on the door and run. Of course, the owner would come out and stomp out the fire.

One time a not-so-happy victim chased them. They scattered, running through back yards, trampling gardens and breaking down fences. The next day he was all innocence at the breakfast table as his scandalized parents read the headlines in the small-town paper: Hoodlums Destroy Victory Gardens.  

He told me that one of the worst punishments his mother could mete out was the phrase, “You will have to tell your father when he gets home.” Then he had to go all day dreading when he had to confess to his father what he did. Grampa Roy usually went easy on him though – being a joker himself. 

When he was in high school, he played football. In one game he was hit in a “whipsaw” (hit at the top and the legs at the same time from different directions) by two guys from the opposing team. He got a concussion and couldn’t remember the rest of the game. But the Ionia Sentinel Standard reported the next day that Douglas went crazy in defense, not afraid of anything. A year or so later when he was stationed on Bikini a Navy ship was anchored off shore. Two sailors got permission to come ashore to see him. They asked, “Are you Douglas?” They were the two guys who had hit him, and they were the ones who told him what happened the second half of the game. 

His Uncle Hiram told Dad that if he learned Spanish, he could go with him to South America when he graduated. He took Spanish but struggled. The war broke out and ended that plan. However, for the rest of his life he tried out his broken Spanish whenever he met Spanish-speakers. They usually gave him bemused, but polite, answers or nods. He also, on purpose, massacred French saying when parting company with you, “Your reservoir my sewer – that means good bye in French.”  

Dad joined the Navy at 17 as soon as he graduated from high school. He got a cyst removed from his leg ahead of time, so there would be no possibility he would be 4-F and not allowed to enlist. He got his hair cut real short ahead of time too so when he got in the chair at basic the barber took one look at him and said, “Get out of here.” But then – disappointing to him, but good for us – he got scarlet fever and had to be quarantined.  The war ended before he got out to the South Pacific.  

He stayed in the Pacific though as a Navy corpsman attached to the 53rd Seabees construction battalion. He was based in San Diego, Hawaii, Kwajalein Atoll, Enewetak Atoll, and Bikini. His last duty station was Bikini as they prepared for the atomic bomb testing. Most of the guys had to go back out to the ship at night, but Dad was allowed to stay on shore in the medical tent. The tent had a refrigerator in it for medicines and penicillin and the guys would store beer in it. Other Seabees would bring steaks down from the food tent and a radio that got state-side music and they would grill steaks and listen to the music at night. Dad also talked the guy that usually did the food inspection before the soldiers could eat their meals into letting him do the inspection. That way he was first in line for chow. 

Upon his return from duty, Dad was accepted at Central Michigan University, where he studied for one year before transferring to the Western Michigan University occupational therapy department in 1947. Dad was staying at the YMCA while attending school, when he met my Mom at a dance in December of 1948. He had heard music and wandered down to the gym. They noticed each other through the crowd, but my dad was too shy to ask for a dance. Mom told her sister, “That’s the man I’m going to marry.” As the dance was ending Mom finally went over and introduced herself. My Dad never had a chance. He remembered the sweater she wore his whole life. They danced together at the next dance and never stopped. They taught ballroom dance for over 60 years together, only retiring just a couple of years ago.   

In a quiet moment just days before he passed into glory, we talked about going home and standing in the Presence of God. We talked about that we can’t stand before God because of good things that we have done or because we are, what he called, a “big wig” in the church. That none of that means a thing to God. The only thing that means anything to God is what Jesus did for us on the cross. That we are standing before him in filthy rags if all we have are the good things we have done. At least, if that is what we are trusting in.  

With the light of eternal revelation in his eyes he said that trusting in your good deeds is “like trying to buy your way into heaven.” Yes, exactly Dad! It’s like trying to buy our way into heaven. But the only currency accepted by God is the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  

He stopped being able to talk much soon after that, but I know we will meet again in God’s Presence. I love you forever Dad and will miss you greatly.   

Your reservoir my sewer.  

Photo, family photo shows that my Dad’s legacy of humor lives on in his crazy family. He’s the one in the middle in the bottom row.

All the Parts are Present

Can I do that? Can I give all the shattered pieces of my heart?

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:36-37 

“with all … with all … with all…”  

Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5. He said this is the greatest commandment. The Greek word here translated “all” 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.” 

All the parts present and working as a whole means holding nothing back. Jesus came and showed us how to love with all. 

“… whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:27-28 

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. Titus 2:14 (NLT) 

Jesus gave all, the whole. As Tozer wrote, His very self.  

“That eternal life which was with the Father is now the possession of believing men, and that life is not God’s gift only, but His very self.”  
― A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man 

All. Can I do that? Can I give all the shattered pieces of my heart, scattered, distracted, resisting, all the carefully separated and locked up memories. Or, will I keep holding back in entitlement to rage, unforgiveness; holding back in fear of the complete destruction of the remaining fragile ego; holding back the needed surgery on the bleeding, infected, pus-filled, putrid, putrescent wounds?  

All, the whole, entire, complete. My voluntary will binding it all together, like Abraham binding Isaac and laying him on the altar. The sacrifice total, greater than the mere sum of fragmented, dismembered, mangled, defective parts. Am I loving Him with all my mind, or am I holding back, reserving a little doubt, a little reinterpretation to justify some sin, unforgiveness, some command I don’t want to obey. “Did God really say?” Am I clutching some precious part of my life, unable to lay it on the altar? 

But Jesus said I have to give up everything. 

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Luke 14:31-33 

“If we shrink from the thought of fighting against God, we had better accept His conditions of peace. The worst folly of all is to enter into the conflict with a wavering will, not caring to know what “the things belonging to our peace” actually are, or to endeavour to stand apart in an impossible neutrality.” — Eliott’s Commentary for English Readers 

“An impossible neutrality.” Yes, being neutral before God is impossible. But that’s what we want – a truce. I will just keep going my own way and God will do His thing and let me be. I will keep back just this one thing and God will blink. But it doesn’t work that way. The King is on His way. He may be still a long way off, but He is on His way. And His terms of peace are all. All is what God wants of us. All or nothing.  

“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-33). Jesus said a lot in those simple illustrations. He quickly put an end to the idea that He offered some kind of welfare program. Although the gift of eternal life is free to anyone who asks (John 3:16), the asking requires a transfer of ownership (Luke 9:23; Galatians 5:24). “Counting the cost” means recognizing and agreeing to some terms first. In following Christ, we cannot simply follow our own inclinations. We cannot follow Him and the world’s way at the same time (Matthew 7:13-14). Following Him may mean we lose relationships, dreams, material things, or even our lives.” — Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/count-the-cost.html 

Give me grace Lord to accept your terms of peace: Everything. 

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Genesis 22:9 

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 

The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! Psalm 118:27 (ESV) 

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 

Photo, “Broken Pot” by Silly Little Man https://flic.kr/p/8PtRAa  

Justice to Victory

“We deserve bare bones justice, and what we get is grace upon grace upon grace.”

Here is My Servant,  

whom I have chosen,  

My beloved,  

in whom My soul delights.  

I will put My Spirit on Him,  

and He will proclaim justice to the nations.  

He will not quarrel or cry out;  

no one will hear His voice in the streets.  

A bruised reed He will not break,  

and a smoldering wick He will not extinguish,  

till He leads justice to victory.  

In His name the nations will put their hope. (Matthew 12:18-21) 

This prophecy about the Messiah, which first appears in Isaiah 42:1-3, says that he will proclaim justice to the nations, and that he will lead justice to victory. I wondered, what does that mean – leading justice to victory? Does it mean what it looks like at first glance, that He will finally bring justice and condemnation on all the evil in the world? Will He finally judge all the rebellious and sinners? I know that will happen someday, at His second coming. But I think that the “justice to victory” that He brought the first time was something else. Something wonderful. 

Matthew is clear in repeating this prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah that he is referring to Jesus first incarnation, or first coming, for the verses leading up to it say: Large crowds followed Him, and He healed them all, warning them not to make Him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah (Matthew 12:16-17). 

The Hebrew word translated “justice” in the original prophecy is mishpat, which means judgment. It comes from shapat, which means to avenge, condemn, contend, execute judgment. Throughout the Bible God warns that the judgment for sin is death: 

And the LORD God commanded the man … “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17 

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Romans 5:12 (NLT) 

Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. Deuteronomy 24:16 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 

Pure justice then is death for all who sin. That’s all of us, who in our selfishness and greed and lust have killed and maimed and impoverished each other – physically, mentally, spiritually.  For what we do, even secretly, even what we secretly think, affects those around us – “so death spread to everyone.” 

But, instead of pouring out His judgment on us, God’s judgment on sin was poured out on Jesus at the Cross. As Pastor Troy Gentz preaches, “we deserve bare bones justice, and what we get is grace upon grace upon grace.” In willingly dying as a sacrifice for our sin on the Cross, Jesus was victorious over sin and death. He brought justice to victory. 

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8: 3-4 

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Colossians 2:13-15 (NLT) 

“He [Paul] applies to us personally what Christ accomplished perfectly. When we are united to Christ by faith, his punishment becomes ours and his righteousness becomes ours, and God counts our sins against us no more.” — John Piperi  

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:25-26 

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57 

Thanks be to God that He brought my justice – the justice due to me – to victory by the shed blood of Jesus for us on the Cross!

Come to Him, wounded and fading and He will give you life. For “a bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not extinguish.” Salvation 

iHow Did the Cross Disarm the Devil? https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-did-the-cross-disarm-the-devil 

Image by Jack Bair

God is Pleased

This pleasure doesn’t just mean to be happy, but reaches out to embrace me by accepting the sacrifice made on my behalf.  

For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Psalm 40:12 

“My heart fails.” How often lately have I felt that way! I was drawn to look closer at this verse and was amazed (but I shouldn’t have been!) to find it leading me to the passion of God for the reconciliation of the world to himself. It all leads back to the Cross where the way back to God was opened. Everything leads to the Cross. 

Though I went looking specifically at verse 12 and the “my heart fails” part, it was the next verse, Psalm 40:13, that arrested me. 

Be pleased (with me, delight yourself to make me acceptable, accomplish, accept the sacrifice, satisfy my debt, reconcile me, pardon me) to save (deliver, rescue) me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me. Psalm 40:13 

It was the “be pleased” part that struck me. When I looked at the Hebrew I saw that it doesn’t just mean to be happy, but reaches out to embrace me by accepting the sacrifice made on my behalf.  

The Hebrew word is ratsah (רָצָה). It means, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “to be pleased with; specifically, to satisfy a debt.” It means to be acceptable, approve, delight yourself, enjoy, pardon, be favorable, reconcile.  

God is pleased, delights even, to make me acceptable. He takes pleasure in accepting the sacrifice satisfying my debt. He delights to reconcile me, pardon me, save me!  

For God was pleased (took pleasure, was willing) to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 

What amazing grace! My heart fails from sin. I am oppressed and trapped under impossible debt. What is God’s response? He is pleased – takes pleasure, enjoys, is willing – to reconcile me to Himself, through the shed blood of His Son. It is not because He has to, but because it makes Him happy. It gives Him great pleasure. It delights Him. And even more than this, God is pleased to give me the kingdom, an everlasting inheritance with Him. God is pleased to do this as Jesus affirmed in Luke 12. 

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased (takes pleasure, is willing) to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32 

I am overtaken now, not with my inescapable sin, but with His overwhelming, unfailing, unending, amazing grace and compassion. 

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion (inheritance, allotment) forever. Psalm 73:26 

It is Done!

This is an invitation to participate in creation, the bringing of His Kingdom and perfect, loving will to earth. 

[Jesus] said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” Revelation 21:6 

What a wonderful proclamation: It is done! How we look forward to hearing it! “It is done” makes me think of Jesus on the cross saying, “It is finished!”  

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30  

That great redemptive work that he came to do, accomplished. The Lamb of God slain for the salvation of the world. But when I looked closer, I found that the two phrases – “it is finished” and “it is done” – mean two different, and very wonderful things.  

When Jesus proclaims, “It is finished,” the Greek word is teleó. It means to bring to an end, complete, fulfill, consummate. Jesus had fulfilled the will of the Father that he had come to do. Only Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, could finish the work on the Cross. 

The root of this word (tel-) means “reaching the end (aim). It is well-illustrated with the old pirate’s telescope, unfolding (extending out) one stage at a time to function at full-strength (capacity effectiveness).”i  It is like the completion of a spiritual journey, the unfolding of a telescope. The coming into focus of God’s perfect will. 

And that is wonderful. That is amazing grace! But, “it is done” means something, at least for me, absolutely astonishing. The Greek word is ginomai. The Strong’s Concordance definition is “to come into being, to happen, to become.” Properly, it means “to emerge, become, transitioning from one point (realm, condition) to another.”ii 

According to Marvin R. Vincent, gínomai “means to come into being/manifestation implying motion, movement, or growth” (at 2 Pet 1:4). Thus it is used for God’s actions as emerging from eternity and becoming (showing themselves) in time (physical space).”iii 

Jesus finished the work he came to do so that the new heaven and new earth could emerge. We could transition from this place of continual warfare and anguish and tears, to that place where all tears will be wiped away. That is breathtaking as it is. But now, if you want your mind completely blown, look at some other times that Jesus used this word. 

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done (ginomai) just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. Matthew 8:13  

Do you see that! Amazing, amazing grace! Jesus says that through faith the centurion participates in this transitioning, this becoming, this emerging from eternity of the works of God into this time/space realm. When we believe. When we pray in faith. 

When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done (ginomai) to you”; and their sight was restored. Matthew 9:28-30 

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done (ginomai) for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:28 (ESV) 

And Jesus taught us to pray this way – for the manifestation of God’s Kingdom and will to emerge from eternity and become in time and physical space. 

Your kingdom come, your will be done (ginomai), on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 (ESV) 

This is not just a liturgical prayer to be repeated by rote. This is an invitation to participate in creation, the bringing of His Kingdom and perfect, loving will to earth. 

Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done (ginomai) for them by my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:19 

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done (ginomai).” Matthew 21:21 

Does this give you faith to pray? Does this crystalize in your mind the why of praying – the importance of praying? It does for me. 

… if you have faith and do not doubt … it will be done [it will be, it will come into being, it will emerge]. 

… as it is written, “I have made you [Abraham] the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told … Romans 4:17-18 (ESV)  

And God said … and there was … (Genesis 1) 

iHELPS Word-studies, Bible Hub 

iiibid.

iiiVincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament

Image by Linda Tanner, The Butterfly is Gone https://flic.kr/p/piUExS  

He Will Fulfill

The Father is intent on fulfilling his purpose in our lives, on completing us and making us like his Son.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands. Psalm 138:8 

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. Psalm 57:2 (ESV) 

The Lord will fulfill. What a glorious comfort in these falling-apart days! Sometimes we don’t know what is going on, what’s the point, why are we here? The Psalmist proclaims, God will fulfill his purpose for us. This is a comfort. There is a purpose for my life. God will fulfill that purpose. There is an echo of this promise in the New Testament. 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV) 

The word translated “fulfill” in the Hebrew (gamar גָּמַר), and the word translated “bring it to completion” in the Greek (epiteleó ἐπιτελέω) both mean the same thing: to complete, accomplish, perform, perfect or make perfect, do, finish. God will do it.  

This reminded me of the great promise in Isaiah. 

LORD, you establish (shapath) peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. Isaiah 26:12 

The word translated “establish” means, at its root, “to set on the fire.” It is only used five times in the Old Testament – three times referring to setting a pot on the fire to cook (2 Kings 4:38, Ezekiel 24: 3), once here in Isaiah, and once in the great Messianic Psalm prophesying the crucifixion, Psalm 22:15.  

My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay (shapath) me in the dust of death

When looking at the root meaning “to set on the fire,” the first thing I thought of was laying the offering on the altar. The Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world. Jesus, who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14-18), was set on the fire as a sacrifice that we might have peace and fellowship with God. Jesus did it; he accomplished it, brought it to completion. 

It is finished! [completed, the debt discharged, accomplished, finished, performed] John 19:30 

And we were crucified with him (Romans 6:6). Set on the fire with him. 

When I latched on to these promises that God would fulfill his purpose, I grabbed on to them both for me in my struggle and for those whom I love who have fallen away (temporarily – Yes! Yet! But God … !). I never thought, but I should have realized, that the completion of God’s purpose in my life (and theirs) would lead me back around to overcoming, to “make every effort” to sanctification, to being crucified with Christ, to “count it all joy.” To being set on the fire. 

“There is a great difference which lies between this thing of doing and this thing of suffering and dying. Doing is delightful. It belongs to beginners in Christ. Suffering belongs to those who are seeking. Dying – dying to the self – belongs to those who are being completed in Christ.” — Miguel de Molinos, 1675 (emphasis mine)

The Father is intent on fulfilling his purpose in our lives, on completing us and making us like his Son. It all goes back to Jesus. It all goes back to the Cross. He has done it and he is doing his work in us. He will fulfill his purpose in our lives. He is faithful. He will keep his promise. Cling to that and keep praying, keep persevering. 

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4 

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works (does it) in you to will (desire) and to act (do it) in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13 

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11 

They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! Psalm 22:31 

Not Karma

Pay them back what they deserve, O Lord, for what their hands have done. Lamentations 3:64 

Jeremiah, the prophet whom God sent to warn Israel of impending disaster, had, for his troubles, been made a captive, thrown down into the bottom of a muddy, empty well to die, been beaten and put in stocks, mocked and insulted. And here he cries out to the Lord for vengeance. “Give them what they deserve Lord!” 

That is our natural reaction to mistreatment, isn’t it? Hoping they get what they deserve; hoping that karma will do its thing. The problem is, it is a two-way street. Reading this, I all of a sudden saw the contrast between Jeremiah’s natural reaction and the cry of Jesus from the cross: “Father forgive them!” 

Jesus was cruelly treated too, but he said something different. He pleaded for God to forgive. He didn’t cry out for karma or revenge. Jesus showed us another way. “Father forgive them!”  

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:1-3 

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” Jesus came as the exact representation of God. Jesus came to show us what God is really like. “Father forgive them!”  

Jeremiah didn’t have that. But we do because of what Jesus did on the cross. It is the “Good News,” the gospel message. You are forgiven. They are forgiven. Jesus made the way for our forgiveness, and gives us the power, through his Spirit to forgive. We don’t have to trust in, or be the victims of karma. We may have done really horrible things, and people may have done horrible things to us, but God hears the cry of Jesus on the cross, “Father forgive them!” 

You are forgiven. Come and receive what Jesus did for you by dying on the cross. If he or she or they have mistreated you, forgive, let it go, put it God’s capable hands. Let God love them back home, just as he is doing for you. That’s quite a bit different from karma. Karma wants revenge. God wants redemption.  

Lord forgive us and make us a new creation. Give us the power to say with you, “Father forgive them!” 

What does the Bible say about Karma?

Image, Niagara Falls, by Boris Kasimov  https://flic.kr/p/2g3fgeL

Nothing

Might we dare to become nothing with him to bring his lost loved children home? 

Recently I read a quote by Kierkegaard that took my breath away, until I realized what he really meant: 

“I have only one word to say, but if the power were given me to utter it, that single phrase, so that it would be fixed and unforgettable, then my choice is already made and I know what I would say: ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing; O Christendom, remember this!’” — Søren Kierkegaard, Papers 

“Our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing!!” This statement was startling, even blasphemous, to me at first. But then I remembered these verses: 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as (think like, direct your mind, seek for, set your mind, have the mind and thoughts of) Christ Jesus:  

Who, being in very nature God (though he was God), did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage (grasped, asserted, clung to, exploited),  

rather, he made himself nothing (emptied himself, gave up his divine privileges, made himself of no reputation, without recognition, valueless) by taking the very nature of a servant (slave), being made in human likeness.  

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled (assigned himself a lower rank, abased) himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) 

Kierkegaard, in Denmark, was reacting, as Wilberforce had done earlier in Englandi, to the prevailing Pharisitic mindset that focused on outward appearances, and believed that all it took to be a Christian was to live in a “Christian” nation, attend the State-approved (acceptable) church, give your tithes, and, even better, have your own noticeable pew dedicated to your family. What you did the rest of the week didn’t matter. Individual responsibility for holiness was unknown or ignored. 

Most of these, especially well-to-do, churchgoers wanted to be “something.” They wanted to be “somebody.” But our worth to God does not come from outward appearances, accomplishments or wealth. In fact, these sorts of “something” may be detestable to God if they become our gods. 

He said to them [the Pharisees], “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. Luke 16:15  

But Jesus chose to be “nothing,” though he, of all humans to ever walk the earth, had the right to be Somebody – King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But he chose to be of no reputation, valueless, and he is our model. The word describing Jesus’ choice to become “nothing” is the Greek verb kenóō, which meansproperly, to empty out, render void; (passive) be emptied – hence, without recognition, perceived as valueless (Phil 2:7).” ii 

This Greek word comes from kenós, which means “empty, void; hence, worthless (“null”), amounting to zero (of no value, profit).”   

Very few of us choose to be a big fat zero. We may feel like one, but we rarely choose it. Most of us crave the approval, the recognition, the respect of the world. You can only choose to be nothing and valueless in the sight of the world if you have a solid-rock certainty that you are of infinite value to God – and that others also have infinite value. 

And Jesus knew his value to God – “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 17:5). And he knew our value to God, for it beat passionately, faithfully, unending, unchanging in his heart, the very heart of God. And so, he came to be a nothing and to be “obedient to death— even death on a cross” for us. You are of great value to your Father. 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16  

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9 

Might I dare to become nothing with him to bring his lost loved children home? What would that look like? It would mean to trust utterly, even to the last breath. 

But he has demonstrated his own love for us … 

“God creates out of nothing—wonderful, you say: yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” — Søren Kierkegaard, Journals 

God keeps bringing this theme back to me in different facets. See also Emptied

i A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity. William Wilberforce. Fulltext available at Project Gutenberg https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/25709  

ii Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Image: Detail from Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet [1852-6], Tate Archive, image  released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

Flowing Myrrh

What really got me about the myrrh is how it is harvested.

I slept but my heart was awake. 

    Listen! My beloved is knocking: 

“Open to me, my sister, my darling, 

    my dove, my flawless one. 

My head is drenched with dew, 

    my hair with the dampness of the night.” 

I have taken off my robe— 

    must I put it on again? 

I have washed my feet— 

    must I soil them again? 

My beloved thrust his hand through the latch-opening; 

    my heart began to pound for him. 

I arose to open for my beloved, 

    and my hands dripped with myrrh, 

my fingers with flowing myrrh, 

    on the handles of the bolt. 

I opened for my beloved, 

    but my beloved had left; he was gone. 

    My heart sank at his departure. 

I looked for him but did not find him. 

    I called him but he did not answer. (Song of Solomon 5:2-6) 

This passage reminds me of the parable Jesus told of the man in bed who didn’t want to get up to help his friend.  

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?  Luke 11:5-7 

Just like the Shulamite in the above verse, the man was all cozy and settled and didn’t want to get up. But he finally did, as she did, when the knocking continued. Jesus called it “shameless audacity.” And I suppose it is audacious, knocking on someone’s door persistently in the middle of the night – especially the door of a bride. But he does not give up. Though it appears, when she finally gets up, that he has left, he has not abandoned her. But rather he has aroused her to rise up and seek him. For he “works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)  

And he has left behind in his passion, the needed grace, for she says, “I arose to open for my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with flowing myrrh, on the handles of the bolt.”   

He has left behind flowing myrrh. What is the significance of the myrrh? The Illustrated Bible Dictionary says this about myrrh:i 

“First mentioned as a principal ingredient in the holy anointing oil ( Exodus 30:23 ). It formed part of the gifts brought by the wise men from the east, who came to worship the infant Jesus ( Matthew 2:11 ). It was used in embalming (John 19:39 ), also as a perfume ( Esther 2:12 ; Psalms 45:8 ; Proverbs 7:17 ). It was a custom of the Jews to give those who were condemned to death by crucifixion ‘wine mingled with myrrh’ to produce insensibility. This drugged wine was probably partaken of by the two malefactors, but when the Roman soldiers pressed it upon Jesus ‘he received it not’ ( Mark 15:23 ).”  

So, the myrrh looks forward to Jesus, our anointed High Priest, who would die for us on the cross, and to the Bridegroom, perfumed for the wedding to the Bride.  

“He has come perfumed as if for a festival, and the costly ointment which he brought with him has dropped on the handles of the bolts (מנעוּל, keeping locked, after the form מלבּוּשׁ, drawing on), viz., the inner bolt, which he wished to withdraw.” — Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament 

What really got me about the myrrh, though, is how it is harvested. “Myrrh is harvested by repeatedly wounding the trees to bleed the gum, which is waxy and coagulates quickly. After the harvest, the gum becomes hard and glossy.”ii 

This myrrh that is left behind on the handle is still fresh and running. Still new.

His mercies are new every morning. Lamentations 3:23 

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 

The myrrh left behind on the handle is “[s]weet smelling myrrh – Or (as in the margin) ‘running myrrh,’ that which first and spontaneously exudes, i. e., the freshest, finest myrrh. Even in withdrawing he has left this token of his unchanged love.” — Barnes Notes on the Bible (emphasis mine) 

The Bridegroom has left behind the token of his unchanged love for us. But the myrrh also points to the Bride. The running or liquid myrrh was used, as commanded by the Lord to Moses, to anoint, in addition to Aaron, his sons to serve as priests, and to anoint the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 30:22-30). That points to us. We have been anointed as priests to serve our God (Exodus 19:6, Revelation 1:6). We are the Tent of Meeting, or Temple (1 Corinthians 3:16).   

Rise up and seek Him church! It is time. He is knocking. 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 (ESV) 

i M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, 
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. 

ii Caspar Neumann, William Lewis, The chemical works of Caspar Neumann, M.D.,2nd Ed., Vol 3, London, 1773 p.55 (quoted from Wikipedia) 

Image in the Public Domain. Commiphora myrrha tree, one of the primary trees from which myrrh is harvested. Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrrh#/media/File:Commiphora_myrrha_-_K%C3%B6hler%E2%80%93s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-019.jpg  

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