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

Deliberately

She fell to her knees in terror thinking she was going to be punished. But instead, she was healed, she was loved. She was exactly what Jesus was looking for.

As Jesus went with him, he was surrounded by the crowds. A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” Luke 8:42-48 (NLT)

The Greek word translated “touched” in these verses is haptomai. It is not an accidental brushing up against or jostling in a pressing crowd. It means to attach one’s self to, to fasten one’s self to, adhere to, cling to. I like how Jesus puts it in the New Living Testament, “Someone deliberately touched me.”

In all that jostling crowd, there was someone who was deliberately out to touch Him, cling to, fasten themselves onto Him. Not just be part of the crowd, part of the movement, part of a cool thing – Jesus has been summoned by the synagogue leader; maybe we’ll get to see a miracle-show!

No, this woman wasn’t focused on the show. She wasn’t after goosebumps; she was focused on Jesus. She was deliberate. She was pushing past, not only the pressing crowds, but also what people might think. The fact is, that in that culture and time, she was “unclean.” She was not supposed to be touching anyone, least of all this rabbi, this prophet. When Jesus turned and asked who had touched him, she fell to her knees in terror thinking she was going to be punished. But instead, she was healed, she was loved. She was exactly what Jesus was looking for.

Over and over in the life of Jesus we see him offending people, seemingly on purpose. Just when he gets this big crowd of followers, he goes and intentionally scandalizes most of them, and they turn away. Just a day or two before this, after his very first recorded reading of the word and sermon in a synagogue, he offended those attending so severely they tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:23-30)! Later, another encounter is recorded:

Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-26 (NIV)

These are hard words, but Jesus has a purpose in mind. As J.D. Walt has written, “… Jesus is working to separate the wheat from the chaff, the crowds from the converts.”¹

John 6 records Jesus weeding out another crowd following him because he miraculously fed them bread and fish. He tells them that if they want to follow him, they will also have to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Well, that did it. John 6:66 (NIV) records, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” But when he asked those who were left if they were going to leave too, the answer was:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. John 6:68-69

They were clinging to Jesus. They were fastening themselves onto him, adhering to him with the glue of faith. They weren’t there for the miracles and the bread; they might not understand everything yet, but they knew Him, the Holy One of God, and they were staying for Him. They were deliberate.

Jesus found that deliberate woman in the crowd and said, “Your faith has saved (saved, made whole, healed, delivered, preserved) you.” That word for faith is pistis, and means conviction of the truth, “belief with the predominate idea of trust or confidence … a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah.” Jesus is still searching through the crowd for the converts.

Lord, I want to be a convert, not just part of the crowd. I am deliberately setting out to touch you, to know you, to cling to you, the Holy One of God, the Messiah. Miracles or not; bread or not. Even healing or not. You.

 

¹J.D. Walt, Conjunction Junction: And or Or? https://www.seedbed.com/step-25-conjunction-junction/ 

Accepting God Accepting Me

Maybe part of returning to God is discovering who he is, his character and unfailing love. And once you know that – not what the world thinks or what you are afraid he is – but who he really is, his true character and identity, then you also know who you really are.

Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope. Zechariah 9:12a (NIV)

In our last Bible study at the jail we looked at the above verse. One of the sweet ladies commented that to her, “returning to the fortress” meant coming back to who God meant her to be. “Accepting God accepting me” is how she put it.

At first, I didn’t get it. Doesn’t “return to your fortress” mean returning to God? But I think she was on to something. Maybe part of returning to God is discovering who he is, his character and unfailing love. And once you know that – not what the world thinks or what you are afraid he is – but who he really is, his true character and identity, then you also know who you really are. Who you were meant to be. The loving Father loving you, his beloved child. The good Shepherd caring for you his little lamb. The hen who gathers her little chicks under her wings. Is this what Jesus meant when he said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15 NIV)?

“For too long we’ve primarily associated repentance with someone pointing a finger at us and saying, ‘Behave!’ Here’s how I see it. Repentance is the hand of Jesus reaching out to us with the invitation to, ‘Become.’ Becoming begins with beholding God as he truly is (i.e. like Jesus). When a person catches a glimpse of the true and living God and they begin to really believe, they also begin to believe in the possibility of their life becoming far more than they ever imagined before.” J.D. Walt[1]

Concentrating on behaving can turn us into finger-pointing hypocrites. Concentrating on becoming, or being, makes us beloved children with our eyes turned adoringly to our Father. “That’s my Dad! I want to be just like Him.” And Jesus showed us how to do that. We can only truly become who we were always meant to be under the shadow of his wings, abiding in the Vine, following the Shepherd in his flock, with the Father’s loving, guiding hand upon our heads.

As J.D. Walt goes on to say, “Anyone who has walked more than a mile or two down this road knows that behavior has a way of taking care of itself when the Holy Spirit empowered process of becoming takes root.”

Yes. Accepting God accepting me. Return to your fortress, oh prisoner of hope!

 

[1] Taken from Don’t “Behave.” Become by J.D. Walt https://www.seedbed.com/step-19-dont-behave-become/?mc_cid=ad45fa3de2&mc_eid=27234cb1e3

Thank you to Ian Livesey for the photo of the lamb on Flickr.

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

Build an Altar

Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am

Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am, and I will come and bless you there. Exodus 20:24b (NLT)

In all your ways acknowledge (know, perceive, recognize, admit, acknowledge, confess) Him, And He will make your paths straight (make right, make smooth, make straight, lead, direct, lead you straight along). Proverbs 3:6 (NASB)

Have you ever been going along when God reminded you who he is? Healer, Provider, Comforter, Redeemer, Savior! Have you ever stopped in that place and known, recognized, perceived that God was there, working, answering a prayer, comforting you in your waiting?

In that place stop and build an altar. In that place acknowledge and confess Him. In that place offer up your sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. And He will bless you there. He will lead you straight along.

One Thing

One thing only is necessary, that I find God, that I am one with Him – to see Him, to hear Him, to experience Him, to know Him.

The number one is very important in the Word. Old and New Testaments proclaim, “Hear … the LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4, Mark 12:29). Having a oneness in ourselves, in our hearts – a unity and oneness with God in relationship and love is the theme throughout. David asks God, “Unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11). James warns us not to be double-minded, but fixed, sold out.

Come near (be joined) to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (wavering, uncertain, doubting, divided in interest). James 4:8 (NIV)

 Marriage – the two becoming one – is a picture of this goal of oneness with God. So, idolatry, making anything more important than our relationship with God, is seen as adultery. We were made for this oneness, but our sin and rebellion has divided us from the One who loves us. Jesus came to show us the way back, to provide the way for this to happen. Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy, “There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone” (1 Timothy 2:5-6 NLT).

Karl Rahner wrote of Jesus’ life and acts as a demonstration this one essential thing.

Therefore Jesus goes into the desert, therefore he fasts; therefore he leaves behind everything else that a man needs even for bare existence, so that for this once not just in the depths of his heart but in the whole range of his being he can do and say what is the first and last duty of humankind – to find God, to see God, to belong to God to the exclusion of everything else that makes up human life. And therefore he fasts. Therefore through this cruelly hard act, this denial of all comfort, this refusal of food and drink, through the solitude and abandonment of the desert, through everything else that involves a rejection, a self-denial of the world and all earthly company, through all these he proclaims this fact: one thing only is necessary, that I be with God, that I find God, and everything else, no matter how great or beautiful, is secondary and subordinate and must be sacrificed, if needs be, to this ultimate movement of heart and spirit.[i] (emphasis mine)

One thing only is necessary, that I find God, that I am one with Him – to see Him, to hear Him, to experience Him, to know Him.

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

To see God
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

To hear God
One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see! John 9:25

To experience God
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

To know God

Everybody I know says they need just one thing
And what they really mean is that they need just one thing more
And everybody seems to think they’ve got it coming
Well I know that I don’t deserve You
Still I want to love and serve You more and more
You’re my one thing

Save me from those things that might distract me
Please take them away and purify my heart
I don’t want to lose the eternal for the things that are passing
‘Cause what will I have when the world is gone
If it isn’t for the love that goes on and on with
My one thing
You’re my one thing

One Thing by Rich Mullins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aqP-A4tKCA

 

Image in the Public Domain: Mary Magdalene at the Feet of Jesus by James Tissot. In the Brooklyn Museum

[i] The Great Church Year, Karl Rahner.

A Naked Intent Toward God

Like a newborn baby rooting around by instinct to be reunited with my mother, I am forever seeking the secure covering of the swaddling blanket, to be held tightly by the everlasting arms to the life-giving, comforting breast of God. 

All my bones will say, “LORD, who is like You, who delivers the afflicted from him who is too strong for him, And the afflicted and the needy from him who robs him?” Psalm 35:10 (NASB)

“All my bones will say.” That phrase stuck out to me. How can my bones praise God, cry out to God? I’ve read of my soul crying out to God, but my bones? The Hebrew word is etsem (עָ֫צֶם) and it also means substance or essence. My very essence cries out to God. Beyond where my thinking or feeling resides, my essence praises God, cries out to God, seeks after God, as the “naked intent” written about by an unknown monk.

Therefore what time that thou purposest thee to this work, and feelest by grace that thou art called of God, lift then up thine heart unto God with a meek stirring of love; and mean God that made thee, and bought thee, and that graciously hath called thee to thy degree, and receive none other thought of God. And yet not all these, but if thou list; for it sufficeth enough, a naked intent direct unto God without any other cause than Himself.i

My essence yearns with a naked intent toward His essence. Julian of Norwich also wrote of this.

God will be known; he is pleased when we find our rest in him. All that falls short of him will never satisfy us … And I saw quite clearly how much God is pleased when a person comes to him in all simplicity, as it were quite naked, unafraid and trusting.ii

Naked, but unafraid and trusting, like the newly created in the Garden. Before there was anything in between, before there was the veil caused by sin that separates. That is what I yearn for. Wordsworth wrote of a deep remembrance of that time before the separation from our true home.

Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home
–William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood 

Like a newborn baby rooting around by instinct to be reunited with my mother, I am forever seeking the secure covering of the swaddling blanket, to be held tightly by the everlasting arms to the life-giving, comforting breast of God.

“Imagine a child finding his mother again after he is born: tasting her not in the amniotic salt of womb water but in the honey of her milk, and hearing her not in her nearby heartbeat, but in the clear sounds of her laughter and speaking and singing. Or imagine him trying to find her in the night, rooting through blanket folds guided by the combined scents of her breath, her hands, her clothing, and the lingering touch of lavender. Imagine him learning to call her to himself with his own new voice.” –Suzanne Guthrie, Praying the Hours

We don’t need many words to do this. Babies don’t have many words. Bones don’t have many words.

“A monk I know once told me about a woman who complained that she had ‘run out of prayers to say.’ He responded, ‘Ah good! Prayer is what happens when you run out of words.’” –Suzanne Guthrie, Praying the Hours

 Let me run out of words, go beyond words. Let me recognize the longing of my heart, of my very bones for You. Let me yearn for You Lord with my essence. Let me thirst and crave your Presence as much as You crave mine.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV)

As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. Psalm 42:1-2 (NLT)

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being (all that is within me, my center), praise his holy name. Psalm 103:1 (NIV)

And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Mark 15:37-38 (NASB)

(Photograph copyright 2018 Derek Bair)