The Decision-less Middle

The message the Lord is giving me this week from the blogs and devotionals I follow is a sobering, but extremely relevant, one. Thank you to all the bloggers I follow. Be set free.

For the time is coming when they will no longer listen and respond to the healing words of truth because they will become selfish and proud. They will seek out teachers with soothing words that line up with their desires, saying just what they want to hear. (2 Tim. 4:2-3 The Passion Translation) 

“The Living Word exposes these self-inflicted boundaries to us—piercing our hearts, interpreting our innermost motives, and even challenging our cherished assumptions. This is why I contend that we should learn to let the Bible study us. 

For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, and it pierces more sharply than a two-edged sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts. (Heb. 4:12 The Passion Translation) 

Here’s the danger. Without this continual ‘piercing,’ without the Spirit’s constant recalibration of our perspective, without letting Holy Spirit speak through other people we’re in community with, who may even irritate us at times, our unexamined life will be just be following our own confirmation bias. 

They will seek out teachers with soothing words that line up with their desires, saying just what they want to hear.  

Like birds of a feather flocking together, we’ll only be open to teachers we already agree with. We will have stopped ‘the eyes of our hearts from being enlightened’ (Eph.1:18), resting in a truth that makes us comfortable instead the Truth that makes us truly free.” — blogged by Mel Wild https://melwild.wordpress.com/2021/02/23/will-we-follow-holy-spirit-or-our-confirmation-bias/  

Matthew 16:26: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (NASB). 

“These words bothered me. They still do. They set up a stark contrast I have never managed to get past. On the one hand: the whole world. On the other hand: my soul. I so want to dwell somewhere in the decision-less middle. I want a life overflowing with monetary wealth and I want a soul filled with God. The text tells me I must decide on one or the other. As a kid, I somehow knew the splinter of this saying would pulsate with nagging pain until I aimed my life in one of these two directions. It was clear to me. These roads led to two completely different destinations, and one of those would look like great gain and yet be complete loss. Little did I know at the time how these words would stick in my soul like a tiny shard of wood even to the present day. As an adult, I now know this is not a one-time transaction. It’s an everyday decision. “– J.D. Walt, How I Got a Splinter in My Soul and How I Got It Out  https://www.seedbed.com/how-i-got-a-splinter-in-my-soul-and-how-i-got-it-out/  

“… Janet Malcolm from her book In the Freud Archives: ‘There are few among us who do not resist self-knowledge. We are all perpetually smoothing and rearranging reality to conform to our wishes; we lie to others and ourselves constantly, unthinkingly. When, occasionally — and not by dint of our own efforts but the under the pressure of external events — we are forced to see things as they are, we are like naked people in a storm.’ 

When naked in the storm of his own sin, King David stared at the unvarnished reality of his bad moves. He confessed his sins and asked for mercy, ‘According to your steadfast love….’ (Psalm 51) We like David can embrace our true selves and confess our sins. Because we know God is forgiving and our time is finite: life will end. And we can lose or win by our actions or simply lose on time … With God’s help, I’ll sweep away self-deception to reveal my true self. And make good use of the time I’ve been given.” — blogged by Carole Duff  https://caroleduff.com/2021/02/22/losing-on-time/  

“Not only will Jesus have to take up his cross – you and I will. There’s no nicer, refined, more reasonable way, even if we carefully surround ourselves solely with nice, refined, reasonable churchy people. 

For true life requires complete surrender to it. And what will be the point of gaining the whole world by thinking as the world thinks, if it means falling short of true life?”  -Suzanne Guthrie, At the Edge of the Enclosure 

“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32 (NKJV) 

Photo copyright by Derek Bair

The Stability of Our Now, Our Always

Amen and amen! I can be sure of this.

And He will be the stability (firmness, truth, steadfastness, steadiness, security, the verily, the truly) of your times (your when, your now, your always, continually), A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; The fear of the LORD is his treasure. Isaiah 33:6 (NASB) 

Oh, how we need stability in these days! Stability in the above verse, also translated “sure foundation,” is the Hebrew word emuwnah (אֱמֻנָה). It means, literally, firmness. Figuratively, it means security, fidelity, steadfastness, steadiness, faithfulness, stability, steady, truly, truth, verily. The root of this word is aman (אָמַן), from which we get amen in the New Testament. (I know I have written about this before, but God keeps bringing me back. My need – our need – for His stability is great. See Amen)

When Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say to you” (I stopped counting at 70), he is actually saying Amen, amen! So be it! Truth! This is true, this is sure, this is a faithful word you can stand upon! 

R.C. Sproul writes this about Jesus’ use of amen: 

“There is, perhaps, no more remarkable use of the term amen in the New Testament than on the lips of Jesus. Older translations render statements of our Lord with the preparatory words, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you.’ Later translations update that to ‘Truly, truly, I say unto you.’ In such passages, the Greek word that is translated as ‘verily’ or ‘truly’ is the word amen. Jesus does not wait for the disciples to nod their agreement or submission to His teaching at the end of His saying; rather, He begins by saying, ‘Amen, amen, I say unto you.’ What is the significance of this? Namely, that Jesus never uttered a desultory word; every word that came from His lips was true and important. Each word was, as ‘amen’ suggests, valid, sure, and binding  … 

We also notice that Jesus uses the Hebrew technique of repetition by saying not merely, ‘Amen, I say unto you,’ but ‘Amen, amen.’ This form of repetition underlines the importance of the words that are to follow. Whenever we read in the text of Scripture our Lord giving a statement that is prefaced by the double ‘amen,’ it is a time to pay close attention and be ready to give our response with a double amen to it. He says ‘amen’ to indicate truth; we say it to receive that truth and to submit to it.” — R.C. Sproul, Amen. (emphasis mine) 

Amen and amen! I can be sure of this: 

Jesus is my stability, firmness, truth, steadfastness, steadiness, security, my verily, my truly. Jesus is Lord; Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is The Amen! The Truth. He is the sure foundation, the firm Rock I stand on. He is faithful and true. He is my certainty, my assurance – right now, when everything is shaking around me, and tomorrow no matter what happens, and forever.  

He can be your stability too. Put your faith in him. Salvation

Truly (Amen!), truly (amen!), I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24 (NASB) 

So Jesus said to them again, “Truly (Amen!), truly (amen!), I am the door of the sheep. John 10:7 (NASB) 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27-28 

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27 

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken. Psalm 62:6 

Read more about aman (אָמַן) here Faith, Part One

Image, Strong by Eduardo Martinez https://flic.kr/p/2ihGeUk  

His Mercy Prevails

Praise the Lord [shine, flash forth, boast, glory, clamorously make a fool of yourselves, celebrate, act like a madman], all nations [peoples];

Laud [loudly praise, commend, glory, triumph in] Him, all peoples [tribes, communities, nations]!

For His lovingkindness [goodness, kindness, faithfulness, mercy] is great [prevails, is strong, stronger, mighty, powerful, valiant] toward us,

And the truth [firmness, faithfulness, sureness, reliability, stability, certainty, verity, trustworthiness] of the Lord is everlasting [forever and ever, evermore, perpetual, always, unending, eternal, without end].

Praise the Lord [shine, flash forth, boast, glory, clamorously make a fool of yourselves, celebrate, act like a madman]!

Psalm 117:1-2 (NASB)

 

David danced before the LORD with all his might. 2 Samuel 6:14a (NKJV)

 

Image: Jump for Joy by Kreg Steppe https://www.flickr.com/photos/spyndle/3480602438

The Craftsman

Isn’t this just like God, to overcome destruction and chaos and hatred, with creativity, redemption, and love?

Then I looked up, and there before me were four horns. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these?”
He answered me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.”
Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. I asked, “What are these coming to do?”
He answered, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise their head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.” Zechariah 1:18-21 (NIV)

In this amazing vision, that was given to Zechariah, God meets and overcomes brute force and destruction with craftsmen, with artisans! With craftsmen who will restore, redeem, remake like new. And this act of mercy and unfailing love – this checed – terrifies the enemy who can only mar and destroy and scatter.

Isn’t this just like God, to overcome destruction and chaos and hatred, with creativity, redemption, and love? He is the ultimate artisan, the Creator. Jesus was the Craftsman at his side during the creation.[i]

I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep … I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. Proverbs 8:27, 30-31 (NIV)

He continually is creating and crafting – the entire Universe, but also you and me. I am, we are, his poiema, his poem if we surrender to his expert hands. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) says that “we are God’s workmanship” or “we are God’s masterpiece” (NLT). Though it may seem like chaos reigns, he is always working, always re-creating, always redeeming – and our enemy is terrified.

The word translated craftsmen encompasses many types of creativity and craft: craftsman, carpenter (it is very cool that Jesus was a carpenter-craftsman here on Earth), artisan, engraver, artificer, stonemason, blacksmith. The craftsmen in the Bible were always doing one of three things: creating and adorning God’s Temple, fashioning idols and adorning their temples, or they were hammering out weapons for warfare.

Made in the image of God, we are craftsmen too. We were made to be always adorning a temple – either the temple of God as we adorn our hearts (working out our salvation) with holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, humility – or the temples of our idols, perhaps with greed, covetousness, bitterness, jealousy, resentment, unforgiveness, pride.

We, as craftsmen, are also given the trust and authority to hammer out weapons of warfare – and to wield them – in this fight against evil, chaos, destruction of all that is good and right, the fight against the hatred of all whom God loves. These weapons of our warfare are many and mighty. Mostly they are not intuitive to our flesh. They include praise and thanksgiving in the face of impossible odds (2 Chronicles 20:15-25). Ephesians lists more of the weapons and armor that we use against the enemy.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God … Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Ephesians 6:12-16 (NIV)

Isn’t it amazing that the weapons of our warfare are truth, righteousness, faith, and the Good News of Jesus death and resurrection, his love, forgiveness, and redemption? Isn’t it wonderful that with these we disarm the rulers of this world?

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NIV)

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:13b-15 (NIV)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome (subdue, conquer, prevail, be victorious over), evil with good. Romans 12:21 (NIV)

Let us, as “little craftsmen,” adorn our hearts as temples of the Lord. Let us forge the weapons of our warfare, working alongside The Craftsman. Let us overcome the brute force and destruction, hatred and chaos of this world, with the Word of God, with truth, mercy, praise, thanksgiving, and unfailing love.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10 (NASB)

 

[i] See 1 Corinthians 1:30

Put in and Drop the Anchor

For this reason we must pay much closer (earnest, exceeding, more abundant, more frequent) attention to what we have heard (hold it in our minds, bring our ship to land, put in at safe harbor), so that we do not drift away from it (glide by, carelessly pass, let it slip our minds). Hebrews 2:1 (NASB)

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)

Only hold on (seize and hold fast, don’t let go, keep carefully and faithfully) to what you have until I come.  Revelation 2:25 (NIV)

 

 

Image: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Kathleen Gorby [Public domain]

%d bloggers like this: