Incognito

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” — C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of incognito: with one’s identity concealed.  

Synonyms for incognito: 

anonymous,    

faceless,   

innominate,  

nameless,  

unbaptized,  

unchristened,  

unidentified,    

unnamed,    

untitled 

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:37-40 

Image by Michael https://flic.kr/p/8cP1vw  

A Kind of Death

Yeshua 

wants me to 

love the brOTHER 

Loving the brOTHER hurts 

it is a kind of death 

Something is dying to truly love 

the bitter things and the fearful 

jealousy 

envy 

resentment 

entitlement 

unforgiveness 

greed 

fear 

bigotry 

prejudice 

suspicion 

arrogance and disdain 

the self-seeking things and the defensive 

For love  

self lies down surrendered 

naked and vulnerable 

In love 

love executes self 

joyfully  

leaves self  

hanging there 

exposed and 

bleeding out  

Only then the brOTHER can be loved 

only then the brOTHER can be 

my brother 

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

Image shared under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0, Stations of the Cross, William Mitchell – Jesus is nailed to the cross

Stop with Me

A man’s wisdom (discretion, knowledge, prudence, sense, understanding, wisdom) 

gives him patience (makes him slow to anger); 

it is to his glory (splendor, beauty, bravery, glory, honor, majesty) 

to overlook (pass over, let pass by, cause to take away)  

an offence (rebellion, sin, transgression, trespass). Proverbs 19:11 

Sounds like God, doesn’t it? Slow to anger, passing over our trespass because of the blood. Proverbs 17:9 also says: 

He who covers over an offence promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends

The word translated “covers over” is the Hebrew kacah. It means to plump or fill up the hollows, to cover, clothe, conceal. It is also used here: 

He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter. Proverbs 11:13 (NASB) 

This word is used for covering the nakedness of the priests with pure, white linen. 

You shall make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh; they shall reach from the hips to the thighs; They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they come into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place, that they do not incur iniquity and die. Exodus 28:42-43 (NKJV) 

The word was also used when Noah’s sons covered both his nakedness and his transgression when he got drunk. 

But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backwards and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness. Genesis 9:23  

This reminds me in the New Testament of clothing ourselves with Christ and the “new self.” 

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Romans 13:14 

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on (clothed yourselves with) the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:8-10 

I think we really need these verses right now when people are trying to kill each other for forgetting to turn on their turn signal, when people are forever cut out of our lives over words, when rage and violence erupts for the least misstep or mistake. We need to let some things pass. We need to be slow to anger. We need to clothe ourselves and each other. As my pastor, Dan Wolfe, used to say, we need to be a sponge sometimes and just let it sink in, be absorbed, and stop with me. 

Photo by Jack Bair

I Love You Lord

This kind of love comes from walking with Him in the dark places, from experiencing His deliverance when we are overwhelmed, from failing and falling and being lifted back up into His embrace.

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD. He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, LORD, my strength. Psalm 18:1 

Here David declares his love for God after the Lord delivered him from his enemy. Did you know that this is the only time in the Old Testament that someone says to God, “I love you”? The Old Testament saints are commanded many times to love the Lord with all their hearts, and they praise and worship and exalt Him a lot, but this is the only time someone is recorded saying “I love you.” I found that sad.  

But the word translated love that David uses here in Psalm 18 is a different word than the commandment (Deut. 6:5). The word in Deuteronomy is ‘ahav from aheb, which means to have affection for, to like, love the beloved or a lover, love a friend. But the word David uses is ‘erachamka from racham, to have compassion on, to love, to have or show mercy on, have pity. The Pulpit Commentary notes that ‘erachamka “expresses the very tenderest affection, and is elsewhere never used to denote the love of man towards God, but only that of God towards man.” 

Did you ever think of having compassion or pity for God? Sometimes I have felt sorry for Him, for all that He has gone through with us. For all the rejection and hatred and rebellion and mangling of souls, brutal oppression of each other and destruction of His perfect world. But I know my compassion does not, cannot, come close to the compassion God has for me. When God has compassion on us it is intense and active love. Chaim Bentorah says this about racham: 

“The problem is that we have no good English word for racham. We use the word love, mercy, compassion but all fall short of the meaning of racham. The correct use of racham is the womb.  When expressing an emotion, it is the love that a mother feels for her baby while in the womb or just emerges from the womb … It is love that is natural, unmolested, unchallenged and almost perfect.  This is racham.  A few years later when that child rebels, causes problems, wounds and breaks the mother’s heart, that love becomes ‘ahav which is an unconditional love, but it is not that perfect love that was unchallenged. As a human creature we cannot achieve such a high standard of love except at the birth of a child and even then you would have to be racham in a simple Qal form.  It still falls short of racham in a Piel intensive [active] form. As much as you love God, with all your heart, soul and might you may reach the level of David to say ‘Erachamka na Adonai. But it still falls short of God’s racham for us.” — Chaim Bentorah1 

Interestingly, there is also only one place in the New Testament where someone says “I love you” to our Lord. In the famous exchange on the beach (John 21:15-17), the risen Christ asks Peter three times “do you love me?” Peter affirms his love for Jesus three times. And in this case, as with David, Peter uses a surprising word. 

Jesus asks Peter three times, “do you love me?” He uses the word agapao the first two times, but phileo the last time. All three times Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, I phileo you.” The difference between the two words is very similar to the difference between ahav and racham. 

“[Phileo is f]rom philos; to be a friend to (fond of (an individual or an object)), i.e. Have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while agapao is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety: the two thus stand related … the former being chiefly of the heart and the latter of the head.” — Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible 

Kenneth Wuest2 calls agapao “the noblest word in the Greek language.” I always got the impression that Peter was shirking the highest love, that he was admitting to Jesus that he couldn’t achieve the purest and noblest love, that the best he could do was phileo love. And that Jesus finally gave in to Peter’s good-enough phileo-love in a “Ok, we’ll work on it” kind of relenting. But I think what Peter was really saying was this: Yes, I know and will obey the commandment to love You. But my love for you goes deeper, I love You as a dear friend, I delight in You, You are my only joy, I cherish You above all else.”  

“It [agapao] is an unselfish ‘love,’ ready to serve. The use of phileo in Peter’s answers and the Lord’s third question, conveys the thought of cherishing the Object above all else, of manifesting an affection characterized by constancy, from the motive of the highest veneration.” — W.E. Vine 

It seems to me that this kind of love is, in a way, above agapao love as it goes from head knowledge and assent to the heart. We cannot think that phileo love is less than agapao. Paul startles when he writes to the Corinthians, “If anyone does not love (phileo) the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranatha. (1 Corinthians 16:22) 

I think, yes, that our joy and delight and love for Our Lord will always fall short of His for us, as His love is pure and perfectly unselfish. Unlike us, He does not have to wrestle down the soul, the “me”, the ego every day to achieve this kind of love. It is His glory. It is His essence. It is Himself. But Jesus confirmed that it is possible for us, in Him, to phileo-love when He asked Peter the third time (I’m sure smiling with His own phileo-love sparkling in His eyes) if Peter loved Him. 

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love (phileo) me?” John 21:17  

It seems to me that both of these kinds of love come from the grace of God. But ahav and agapao seems to be connected to faith and decision and obedience to the word and the will of God. Racham and phileo grow out of relationship. They come from walking with Him in the dark places, from experiencing His deliverance when we are overwhelmed, from failing and falling and being lifted back up into His embrace. We can know that though we, like the children who break the mother’s heart, have broken His heart over and over, yet He still racham-loves us, He still phileo-delights and joys in us. And our hearts respond as Peter’s. 

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.” John 21:16 

… the Father himself loves (phileo) you because you have loved (phileo) me and have believed that I came from God. John 16:27 

1https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2019/09/hebrew-word-study-i-indeed-love-you-lord/ 

2Golden Nuggets from the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest 

Image, detail from Quiet Evening on the Georgian Bay by TranceMist https://flic.kr/p/ajQSCL  

Kind and Good

Paul lists being understanding, patient, and kind along with enduring troubles, hardships and distresses. I think both may need equal amounts of endurance.  

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. Psalm 145:17 (ESV) 

This verse in Psalm 145 caught my attention as it brings righteousness and kindness together. The word translated “kind” is chasid or hasid (חָסִיד ). As an adjective it means kind, pious, godly, holy, merciful. As a noun it means a godly person. The Brown-Driver-Briggs commentary notes that it means both “because kindness, as prominent in the godly, comes to imply other attributes, and to be a designation of the godly character, piety.”  

So, in this Hebrew word, kindness implies godliness. Interestingly, the corresponding Greek word also combines the two attributes. 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 

The Greek word translated “kind” is xrēstós (an adjective, derived from xráomai, “to furnish what is suitable, useful”). It means “properly, useful (serviceable, productive); well-fitted (well-resourced); useful (beneficial, benevolent) … On the spiritual plane, xrēstós (“suitable, usefully kind”) describes what God defines is kind – and therefore also eternally useful!”1  

“Usefully kind” reminds me that “faith apart from works is useless” (James 2:20 ESV). God doesn’t just have kind thoughts toward us, He does kindness. And so must we. Marvin R. Vincent noted that “We have no adjective in English that conveys this blend of being kind and good at the same time.”2   

Kind and good, or kind and godly, at the same time. In his letter to the Corinthians, recounting some hard experiences, Paul also talks about kindness. 

… as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love … 2 Corinthians 6:4-6 

It is enlightening that he includes being understanding, patient, and kind along with enduring troubles, hardships and distresses. I think both may need equal amounts of endurance.  

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13 (ESV) 

Yes, it takes endurance, it takes trusting completely in God, to continue loving, continue being kind and doing kindness, in the face of personal suffering and the lawlessness of this present age. It takes abiding in Jesus too. I know that I can’t do it in my own strength. He said we can do nothing apart from Him. But I cling to the promise implied in that statement: if we abide in him we can do anything. Including be kind and good. 

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (ESV) 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:5-6 (ESV) 

Help us walk with You, in You Lord, and be kind and good to the end. 
 

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35 

1HELPS Word Studies by Discovery Bible 

2Word Studies in the New Testament by Marvin R. Vincent 

Miniature World

Many times, how God sets things up is definitely not how we would choose to set things up in our own miniature world.

Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years of Jehoiada the priest. 2 Chronicles 24:2 

I am reading through the Old Testament again, and the weirdly sad, downhill history of Israel. Here, 2 Chronicles records that Joash did many good things and rebuilt the temple – but only as long as the old priest, Jehoiada, was alive. Immediately, upon Jehoiada’s death, however, the king and the people abandoned the temple and started worshiping idols. Zechariah, the priest, stood up to them and they murdered him. 

The next king, Amaziah also starts out good. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly. Again, weirdly, even illogically, though he listens to God about attacking the enemies of Judah, and God makes him victorious, he then brings back his enemies’ idols. The Bible records that he brought back the gods of the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them (2 Chronicles 25:14). Does this even make sense? 

Why is idolatry so irresistible? I think for two reasons, at least. One, you can see and touch them, and God can seem elusive and far away. Two, you can control them. Idols don’t come and rebuke you for your sins. They don’t command you to do things you don’t want to do. You command them – at least in your imagination. 

It says that Amaziah “set them up.” In this context, it means to prop up, cause to stand. As God laments through Isaiah: 

They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Though one cries out to it, it does not answer; it cannot save him from his troubles. Isaiah 46:7 

This made me think of a kid with a train set, creating this miniature world, where he is “god” and decides where to set up everything and how it should run.  

But in reality, “causing to stand” is something that God does: 

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. Psalm 33:8-9 

My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together. Isaiah 48:13 

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Romans 14:4 

Through him [Jesus Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2 (ESV) 

It is God doing the setting up, not the other way around. In fact, the Hebrew word translated “set” in Isaiah – they set it [the idol] up in its place, and there it stands – is the same word that is translated “put” or “placed” in Genesis 2:15: 

The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. (NLT) 

God sets us in our place and makes us stand. But, many times, it is definitely not how we would choose to set things up in our own miniature world. He asks us to do hard things like die to self and love our enemies. If we are honest, there are times when we would like to put our enemies on our little train track and run them down. But God commands love. He commands forgiveness. 

His commands run directly counter to the message of popular culture all around us – self-care, self-awareness, self-love, self-improvement. How many times have I heard the phrase “you’re worth it” in advertising? 

In this environment, God’s voice speaks an ancient, and increasingly unknown language. Put others first; be a servant; die to self; do not be proud; submit to each other; bless the ones who curse and persecute you; do good to the ones who hate you; do not repay evil for evil; live at peace with everyone; do not take revenge; take care of your hungry and thirsty enemy. Love your neighbor. Love one another. Love. 

God’s way is always outwards, always towards others. His train is always one-track towards bringing people into the Kingdom. To accomplish this, God commands love in self-sacrifice. In God’s world He is the Worthy one, and the focus is on other-care, other-awareness, other-love, other-improvement. And I can let Him care about and take care of my “self” because He does and He will to the end.  

Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy. Jude 1:24 (NASB) 

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2 

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.’ Matthew 22:37-39 

Jesus answered, “I am the way …  John 14:6 

Image, Trains by Quinn Dombrowski https://flic.kr/p/LRAueB  

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  

Skewed Intentions

It would seem that, not only where my focus remains, but also the motives of my heart are vital to my thinking, behavior and actions.

On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. Luke 6:6-7 

The Pharisees were watching him closely, insidiously, treacherously, awaiting a chance to pounce. Their total focus was to catch Jesus breaking the law and entrap Him.  

But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” 

He looked around at them all (Mark 3:5 says that he looked at them in anger and grieved at their hardness of heart) and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. Luke 6:8-10 

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious (filled with fury) and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6:6-11 

They were furious! A man was healed. A man who most likely had either been a burden on his family or reduced to begging. But the Pharisees, hoping to entrap Jesus, insisted that healing constituted work and the man should not have been helped.  

“It is important to note that Jesus was not violating the law of God when He healed on the Sabbath. He was surely acting against the Pharisaical interpretation of the law and against their particular rules. But the Holy One of God, who came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17), did not violate the law. The basic reason that Jesus healed on the Sabbath was that people needed His help. Need knows no calendar.” — Got Questions 

In any case, Jesus skipped over all the arguments about interpretation and just loved the man.  

And they were filled with rage. They were so intent on their interpretation of the law that they missed it! You shall love …

You know what the interesting thing is? The word that is translated “furious” (in the Hebrew, filled with fury) means folly, madness, “madness expressing itself in rage.” At its root it means, “no-mind” referring to irrational behavior or mindless actions. It means lack of sense “folly, foolishness” which easily degenerates into “a state of extreme anger that suggests an incapacity to use one’s mind – extreme fury, great rage.”i 

Wow. It would seem that, not only where my focus remains, but also the motives of my heart are vital to my thinking, behavior and actions. The Pharisees were watching Jesus closely, a good thing. We should all fix our eyes on Jesus. But their intent was skewed and so they were blinded to God’s will and heart, mercy, love, compassion. As Jesus warned: 

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, 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 in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 (ESV) 

I need to be careful that my eye is healthy. What is my focus and intent? Is it on being right and in control? Or is it on God’s word and will? What is my motivation and heart’s desire? Is it self-righteousness, self-glory? Or God’s glory, God’s delight. 

And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart … Mark 3:5 

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) 

iDefinitions from HELPS Word-studies, NAS Exhaustive Concordance, and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. 

Image of oil lamp by Bee Collins https://flic.kr/p/bSdftM 

Lord, Lord

Jesus was always nudging people towards his true identity.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23 

Reading these familiar verses, I wondered about the repetition of the name “Lord.” It reminded me of the verse in Exodus where God proclaims his name to Moses. 

Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Exodus 34:5-7 

The people calling Jesus “Lord, Lord” were using the repetition of the Name in their defense. The first group called him Lord, Lord but didn’t do what he commanded. If you look at the previous verses in Luke 6, this includes, as God had described himself to Moses, loving your enemies, not condemning, but having mercy, forgiving sins, and saving the lost.

The second group defended themselves with works they had performed. But the works with which they defended themselves were the more spectacular and self-promoting. They said they did these works in his Name. Yet, again, they didn’t mention compassion, grace, faithfulness, forgiveness.  

I am not saying that prophesying and driving out demons and performing miracles are not good and important. Rather, I am thinking, along with Martyn Lloyd-Jones, that “We can worship religion and be very religious without God.” We must always intently have as our focus the glory and the will of God – knowing God – day by day, step by step. The temptation to glorify ourselves is insidious. 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 

Jesus was always nudging people towards his true identity. “Who do you say that I am?” “Why do you call me good? No one is good save God alone.” “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”  

And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. John 12:45-46 (ESV) 

Could these “Lord, Lord” references be another way of making them think? Remember Jesus said “I and my Father are one,” deeply offending the religious leaders by calling himself equal to God. Could the repetition of the title Lord, as God himself had introduced himself to Moses, be another nudge? If you think I am the Messiah, the Son of God, the Anointed One – if you call me Lord, Lord – why don’t you obey my commands? 

If what we work toward is not to be spectacular or religious, but rather to know Him, then we will know and experience His great heart of compassion and mercy. That great heart that came down with Jesus 

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:11-13 

Oh Lord, may you never have to say to me “I never knew you.” May I be ever sensitive to your heart, listening for your gentle voice telling me what you want me to do – or better, what you want to do through me – right now. May I live in you and you live in me such that the light of your compassion and grace, patience, love, faithfulness, and forgiveness shine out into this dark and hurting world.  

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (ESV) 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10 

Photo of rainbow by Jack Bair

When You Pass Through the Waters

Choosing love, choosing possible, most-likely, suffering, means choosing over and over.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 (ESV) 

I noticed it says “when” you pass through the waters and the rivers and “when” you walk through fire. Not if. Right now, is a “when” time for me. Both parents in Hospice. Exhausting caregiving. And I am sure that there are others of you reading that are up to your neck or smelling the smoke too. I would like to share with you some writings that have encouraged me. 

“I’m no sage. I don’t pretend to have this all figured out, but I know this: some live well, some die well, but few love well. Why? I don’t know if I can answer that. We all live, we all die – there is no get-out-of-jail-free card, but it’s the part in between that matters. To love well … that’s something else. It’s a choosing—something done again and again and again. No matter what. And in my experience, if you so choose, you better be willing to suffer hell.” — Charles Martin, Where the River Ends 

Yes, when you choose this Way. When you walk through the fire. When you follow in his steps. 

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 

Besides descending into hell after his death on the cross, Jesus suffered a great deal of hell while on earth. We are commanded to follow in His footsteps, but we need to do it with His mindset. Becoming nothing. Being a servant. Pure love. 

Against my own best intentions, I find myself continually striving to acquire power. When I give advice, I want to know whether it is being followed; when I offer help, I want to be thanked; when I give money, I want it to be used my way; when I do something good, I want to be remembered. I might not get a statue, or even a memorial plaque, but I am constantly concerned that I not be forgotten, that somehow I will live on in the thoughts and deeds of others. 

But the father of the prodigal son is not concerned about himself. His long-suffering life has emptied him of his desires to keep in control of things. His children are his only concern; to them he wants to give himself completely, and for them he wants to pour out all of himself. 

Can I give without wanting anything in return, love without putting any conditions on my love? Considering my immense need for human recognition and affection, I realize that it will be a lifelong struggle. But I am also convinced that each time I step over this need and act free of my concern for return, I can trust that my life can truly bear the fruits of God’s Spirit.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son  

So, choosing love, choosing possible, most-likely, suffering, means choosing over and over. A “lifelong struggle.” And as Marshall Segal writes, it must be tenacious. 

“In other words, the deepest patience comes from a humble and hopeful joy in God above all else. That means that real patience is not only inconvenient, difficult, and wearying, but, humanly speaking, impossible. The kind of patience that honors God is so hard that we cannot practice it without help from God. It grows only where the Spirit lives (Galatians 5:22–23) … Paul does not charge the church to admonish the weak, but to help them, and the word for help here can also mean to hold firm or be devoted. There’s a tenaciousness in this help, a clinging to the weak, even after months or years of inconvenience and sacrifice. Where does that kind of patience come from? From knowing that “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” … Those who know how painfully and helplessly weak they are apart from God are more ready to endure the weaknesses of others. They don’t resent helping for the hundredth time, because they gladly trust and submit to God’s plans, including the weaknesses he has placed around them.” — Marshall Segal https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/patience-will-be-painful  

Tenacious, gladly trusting, and, as Henri Nouwen writes, unhesitating.  

“Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love even more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love 

All this is indeed “humanly speaking, impossible.” But we have a Helper. 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

The carvings had faded, but I ran my fingers through the grooves I could reach. ‘When you pass through the waters …’ The passage continued but my arm was too short.” — Charles Martin, Where the River Ends 

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save … Isaiah 59:1 

I will strengthen you and help you … 

I will be with you. 

P.S. And look what just came out as I was about to publish this! “Faith under fire becomes a furnace of transformation.” There is Another in the Fire

Image by Jackie, Noreaster April 16, 2007 https://flic.kr/p/GSsv8  

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