Burning Bushes

There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up … God called to him from within the bush … Exodus 3:2, 4 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Revelation 22:17 

God got Moses’ attention with the flames that didn’t burn up the bush. Once He got Moses’ attention, He called to him from within the bush. J.D. Walt recently wrote that we are called to be burning bushes too. 

“The only reason the Word of God has been bound into books is so it might become unbounded in our hearts, our minds, our very flesh and blood bodies and unleashed through our lives in the world. We are meant to become living bearers, holy manifestations, burning bushes, Spirit filled fiery pillars of the Living Word of God who is Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.” — J.D. Walt, The Only Problem with the Bible1   

We are meant to become burning bushes, givers of light that are not consumed, God drawing through us.  

Jesus said,You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14 

… you shine as lights in the world as you hold forth the word of life … Philippians 2:15-162 

There is another way that we become light in the world. When we become living sacrifices and God’s cleansing fire falls on us. 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 (ESV) 

And just as people were drawn to the burning bush, they are drawn to the flame of the sacrifice and can turn to the Living God. In the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:16-39) there is a foreshadowing of this drawing when fire from heaven fell and burned up Elijah’s sacrifice, and the adherents of Baal worship confessed that the Lord is God. 

Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” 1 Kings 18:38-39 

Oswald Chambers wrote of the call of God coming out of the flames of yielding. 

“If you abandon everything to Jesus, and come when He says, ‘Come,’ then He will continue to say, “Come,” through you. You will go out into the world reproducing the echo of Christ’s ‘Come.’ That is the result in every soul who has abandoned all and come to Jesus.” Oswald Chambers 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Revelation 22:17 

… for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:29 

But maybe you are wondering, as I did, if God is a consuming fire, why wasn’t the bush consumed, why wasn’t it burned up? Why aren’t we burned up on the altar? I think it is because God is life and light and love, and what He burns up is sin and darkness and anything that is harmful and keeps us from Him. Only the ropes that bound Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were burned in the fire, but they walked with Jesus in the fire unharmed (Daniel 3:22-25). 

If we cling to the things that God’s holiness consumes and refuse to yield, we will get burned – and consumed with them in the end. Or, at the least, we will be left with nothing as the “wood, hay, and stubble” are burned up (1 Cor. 3:12-15).  

But if we put ourselves on the altar as a burnt offering and let His fire fall on us, we are cleansed and purified and set free. We are called to be burning bushes, to be burnt offerings on the consuming fire of His altar, a witness to His transforming power, His glorious majesty, and His unfailing love. And the more we let him burn away the darkness, the purer the flame, the brighter the light. And the needy, hurting, imprisoned people of the world are drawn to the light of the fire and we are able to call out to them from our burning bushes, “Come!” 

… his word is in my heart like a fire … Jeremiah 20:9 

The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Leviticus 6:12 

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit … Acts 2:2-4 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Revelation 22:17 

https://seedbed.com/the-only-problem-with-the-bible/ 

2 Berean Study Bible 

Photo, Flame by Annie Roi https://flic.kr/p/9VB6y7  

Today

Today  

I feel obsolete, insignificant, antiquated 

like the world has raced past me 

swirling up the dust of irrelevancy 

I feel that a young person reading  

my wrestlings 

if they read them at all 

would read with a dictionary 

as if for 18th century words 

long ago evolved 

It’s quaint they would say  

(with a knowing smile) 

as they dismissed it 

more likely 

view it as intolerant and offensive 

What should I do?  

Keep writing, though I am not sure why 

or wave the white flag?  

Is my today over  

or is it still

Today? 

So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts …” Hebrews 3:7 

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today” … Hebrews 3:13 

God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” Hebrews 4:7 

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2 

… the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever. 1 Peter 1:24-25 

Photo by Jack Bair

Broken Walls Made Whole

If you are with me in that place of impossible burden, feeling guilty and useless, not just hidden but buried, be encouraged.

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14 (ESV) 

When I looked at the original language of this verse, I found something unexpected, what seems like a vivid contrast, or even an oxymoron. 

I have always thought of waiting as a still (maybe frustratingly so, like sitting in a traffic jam) and almost sedentary activity, and patient waiting as almost an impossibility.  

The Hebrew word qavah (קָוָה), translated wait, is used twice in the verse. It means to look for, wait patiently, tarry, wait for, wait on, wait upon. It has this underlying meaning of the “tension of enduring, waiting.”1 But the words translated “be strong” and “take courage” are far from still or sedentary in their meanings. 

The word translated “be strong” is chazaq (חָזַק). It means “to be or grow firm or strong, strengthen.” In its various verb tenses it carries the meanings of prevailing over, the sound of a trumpet growing louder and louder, securing a kingdom. It means to seize, grasp, take hold, retain, and keep, restore to strength, make strong and encourage. In Nehemiah it is used of the repairing of the walls of the city. 

Wow, these biblical images sound familiar and do not sound like passive waiting. They almost don’t seem very patient either.  

The word translated “take courage,” or be courageous is amets (אָמַץ). This word means to confirm, be courageous or of good courage, steadfastly-minded, be strong, make strong, strengthen yourself, fortify, to be alert, physically (on foot) or mentally (in courage), increase, prevail. 

So, the psalmist appears to be saying we have something to do while we wait: 

Wait for the Lord. But while you are waiting for Him, secure the Kingdom. Seize, take hold, restore. Sound the trumpet of the Good News. Strengthen yourself and others in the Lord. Repair the broken walls of the church. Be alert for the attacks of the enemy and resist him.  

It seems like the psalmist is saying while you wait conquer, prevail over the enemy, bring the lost into dwelling place of the Most High, our most loving God. And I absolutely believe that is true.

But to tell you the truth this study has left me feeling guilty and deficient. I am in a place right now as a caregiver where I cannot do much for the Kingdom – or so it seems. I find myself overwhelmed, burdened with necessary responsibilities, unable to do one more thing, even sometimes it seems to take one more breath. Obvious, visible doings like volunteer work and helps ministries are impossible right now. And I feel sad and stymied. 

But then the Lord showed me something. Could it be that by waiting patiently – yielding to Him and the place He has me in right now, serving Him though “the least of these” – focused on Him and together with Him, I conquer my self-life, prevail over oppression in the unseen spiritual realm, I witness to my faith, and encourage others by my perseverance. Maybe in this waiting-yielding time I become better, as Chris Hendrix recently blogged Becoming Better.  

Maybe this is a refining time for me. I have always wanted to do big things for God, maybe for the wrong reasons. Maybe I have wanted to be wonderful and seen, when He wants me to be hidden in the One called Wonderful. And who is to say whether our patient waiting and enduring and persisting in love is not as powerful an encouragement and witness to others as physically sounding trumpets and repairing broken walls? Aren’t the faithful prayers of one person powerful and effective according to scripture (James 5:16), even though only heard by God?

So, if you are with me in that place of impossible burden, feeling guilty and useless, not just hidden but buried, be encouraged. Put on your armor, grow strong, stand your ground, hold on, keep loving the hard to love, keep lifting up your prayers. Maybe be still and let God repair some broken walls in your soul. Cultivate the fruits of the Spirit. Let them beautify walls made whole. And you and I will come out of this with a witness of God’s faithfulness. We will come out better. 

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21 

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 1 Timothy 1:18-19 

For our struggle (fight, conflict, wrestling bout) 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, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground (take a complete stand against, withstand, resist, oppose, refusing to be moved, to keep one’s possession; ardently withstand, without giving up), and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13 

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40

Occupy (do business, make legitimate gain, bear much fruit, the opposite of being fruitless) until I come. Luke 19:13 (KJV)  

… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

1All definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Discovery Bible, NAS Concordance of the Bible, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. 

Image, Pomegranates hanging over wall on our climb to the castle, by ralmonline alm, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pomegranates_hanging_over_wall.jpg  

Go Stand

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.”  Exodus 33:7 

Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the Tent of the Testimony. Numbers 17:7 

Reading through the accounts again of the Israelite’s journey through the wilderness, I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. The tent, or tabernacle, that traveled around in the wilderness with the Israelites was called both the Tent of Meeting and the Tent of the Testimony, or Witness. And I realized something as I remembered that Paul said in 1 Corinthians that we are now that Temple or Tent. 

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 

And that being so, I realized that we are both – a tent in which to meet with the Lord, and a tent of testimony or witness to who he is. What does that mean?  

We are the Tent of Meeting  

We always have a holy place where we can go to meet with God and commune with him – our hearts – seeking Him, turning toward Him, open to His correction and love. 

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God’s presence, assured of his glad welcome. Ephesians 3:12 (NLT) 

Because of Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, we can now come into God’s presence as Moses did. 

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young assistant Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. Exodus 3:11 

Moses spoke to God there in the Tent as a friend, face to face, but had to leave to attend to the needs of the people. But Joshua never left the Tent. I have always thought, how amazing and precious to never leave the Tent of Meeting! But that’s exactly what we can do because of what Jesus did on the cross. We can dwell continually in God’s Presence.i 

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 

We are the Tent of the Testimony  

The Tent was also called the Tent of the Testimony because it contained objects that pointed to God’s plan of redemption and reminded the people of all that God had done for them. These objects were witnesses to God’s love and care. Among them were the Ark which “contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant (Hebrews 9:4).”

These objects stood as witness to God’s Word (the commandments), God’s goodness and care for their very lives (the manna or Bread of Life), and the authority of the High Priest (Aaron’s rod that budded). The High Priest was a type of Jesus who would take the blood of the sacrifice – his own blood – into the heavenly Holy Place. 

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Hebrews 9:24 

This is what we are witnesses to; this is the testimony of our earthly tent: Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), the Bread given for the life of the world (John 6:51), the Word made flesh (John 1:14), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). This is what Jesus has done for me; this is who he is to me. 

When I think of myself this way, as a Tent of Meeting and Testimony, a lot of Bible verses click into a new focus, and I see why holiness, and perseverance, and trust in God is so important. May God show you who you are in Him and give you grace to stand. 

… at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 

Go (pursue the journey on which you have entered, follow) 

and stand (stand immovable, stand firm, in the presence of others, in the midst, before judges, steadfast of mind, not hesitating, not wavering, stand ready, stand prepared) 

in the temple (in the temple courts, in the sacred place) 

and speak (utter your voice, emit a sound, speak, talk, tell, use words to declare, preach)  

to the people (population, people groups, tribes, nations) 

all (each, every, any, all, the whole, every one, all things, everything of) 

the words (which have been uttered by the Living Voice, things spoken, the Word) 

of this Life (life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection to be consummated by accession of a more perfect body, and to last forever).  

Acts 5:19-20 

do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? 1 Corinthians 6:19 

Go and stand in the temple … 

i For more on the Tent of Meeting see https://www.gotquestions.org/tent-of-meeting.html 

Image, free download from Pxfuel

“Come down from the cross!”

Whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. Matthew 27:39-42 

Come down from the cross! As Christians, we are to be crucified with Christ, and whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross. This is man’s remedy. It is man’s way to show strength. It is like kids in the schoolyard, “You say you’re so tough? Prove it! Come over here and fight!” It reminds me of this verse: 

And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Luke 9:51-55 

This was not the first time that Jesus had been tempted to prove himself, justify himself – glorify himself – with the words “IF you are the Son of God.” Turn these stones to bread! Throw yourself off the pinnacle of the Temple! Come down from the cross! But Jesus always remained fiercely focused on the will of his Father – the salvation of the world. Love kept him focused. Love kept him nailed to the cross.

Man’s remedy is to come down from the cross. To call down fire from heaven. But what did Jesus command? “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-44). I like how the Message translation puts it. 

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best–the sun to warm and the rain to nourish–to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. Matthew 5:43-45  

Jesus said that this loving-your-enemies thing, this giving like God gives is to be daily. And it can only happen if we deny that self that wants to call down fire. It can only happen If we have been crucified with Christ, if we stay there hanging on the cross with him. Daily. 

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily (throughout the day) and follow me.” Luke 9:23 

I am to be daily crucified with Jesus. Hidden in him, I am to be his witness. To be a representative of his love and forgiveness and salvation here on this dying earth. Henri Nouwen said it this way: 

“Whenever, contrary to the world’s vindictiveness, we love our enemy, we exhibit something of the perfect love of God, whose will is to bring all human beings together as children of one Father. Whenever we forgive instead of getting angry at one another, bless instead of cursing one another, tend one another’s wounds instead of rubbing salt into them, hearten instead of discouraging one another, give hope instead of driving one another to despair, hug instead of harassing one another, welcome instead of cold-shouldering one another, thank instead of criticizing one another, praise instead of maligning one another . . . in short, whenever we opt for and not against one another, we make God’s unconditional love visible.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with 

(rendered idle, unemployed, inactivate, inoperative, deprived of force, influence, power, caused to cease, severed, separated, loosed from us, put an end to, annulled, abolished, destroyed, made of no effect, vanish away, made void)

that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7 

I love that! The old me is unemployed. The one who wants to come down from cross and curse and hate and malign is inactivated. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage you – don’t come down from the cross. In this time of insults and mockery and hatred, don’t respond in kind. Stay there on the cross with your Lord. Take it up daily. Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”(John 12:31). That is our mission. To draw all men to Christ. To make God’s unconditional love visible. To give God’s best. To love and forgive and bless no matter what. To be crucified with Christ. 

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross 

Image, Coventry cathedral father forgive, by David Perry https://flic.kr/p/qfiB6r  

The Treasures of Darkness

God’s love is always facing out.

I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. Isaiah 45:3 (NASB) 

I blogged about this verse back in July1, but I see now that it was just a beginning. God has been leading me deeper into Isaiah 45:3. He is showing me, and hopefully, all of us, something amazing for this dark time. 

I will give you the treasures (storehouse, treasury, magazine of weapons in the armory of God)  

of darkness (misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, obscurity, night)  

and hidden wealth (hidden treasure)  

of secret places (the hiding place),  

So that you may know (perceive, recognize, comprehend, understand)  

that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel,  

who calls (summons, invites, calls for, calls and commissions, calls and endows, appoints) you by your name. Isaiah 45:3 (NASB) 

There is a treasure to be found in our darkness. A treasure that can only be discovered there in the dark night. Encouragement and comfort and beauty, a light on the path through. Comfort and encouragement for us in our struggle and fear and pain, but also for others. Maybe mostly for others for God’s love is always facing out. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4  

There are weapons to be forged in the darkness. It’s interesting that God’s treasure house or storehouse is also a magazine of his weapons. Weapons of the faith that shields, the love that overcomes, the joy that imparts strength, the song that crumbles walls and disperses enemies. Yes, we have these weapons from the first, but we don’t really fight well with them until they are tested – mostly in adversity. Like David, who tested his sling and stones against the lion and the bear.  

There is a commission to receive in the dark times. For in the dark times he calls, he invites, he appoints and commissions us to go out and share our testimony. A testimony birthed in the darkness. It is an awesome thing to be summoned, appointed, and commissioned by God. Isaiah 43:1 says: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”  

It’s like that letter you get when you are drafted into the service, and you are no longer your own for a few years, but this summons is infinitely more. Unlike the draft letter, God gives you a choice in the darkness – you can give up in despair and anger at God, or you can pick up your weapons and step forward and sign on the line with that new name He has called you: Mine. 

“Be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Paul instructs, “Arm yourself with faith build up your belief now, before the day comes. Learn your song, and you’ll be able to sing it in your fire. 

This is the hope of our most holy faith: our Lord causes a song to come out of the darkest of times. Start now to build up your holy faith in him and learn to praise his majesty quietly in your heart. When you sing your song, it will strengthen and encourage your brothers and sisters. And it will testify to the world: ‘Our Lord reigns over the flood!’” — David Wilkerson 

Photo by Jack Bair, 2020

1 see When You Are in Darkness https://wrestlingwordblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/11/when-you-are-in-darkness

I Testify

The one who existed from the beginning is the one we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. 1 John 1:1 (NLT)

This is what eyewitnesses do. They testify about what they have seen and heard and experienced, with their own eyes and ears and hands

I have been called to be a witness, and I, too, testify that

I have heard His voice calling my name. I have heard Him say to me, “You are mine!”

I have looked, while in the spirit, into His eyes like unending pools of molten love, like perfectly pure liquid gold, purer than anything here on this earth

I have felt His Presence, very near, right beside me, instant in need, comforting, cheering me on, relentlessly offering me this Hope, pointing out the Way

I have experienced His unstoppable power and authority, taking my breath away, healing, redeeming, restoring, bursting bonds, kicking down doors, bringing me out into that spacious place

I have experienced this power in me, in my heart, in my mouth and in my hands, working through me sharing this love, this healing, this redemption, this new-creature, new-way-of being, new Life

I have known the power of His Truth repairing the twisted, mangled parts, the mind-blowing revelation of His Word, changing my thinking, switching the track, crumbling unscalable walls, blowing away the chaff

I testify, with my own ears, with my own eyes, in my own life, with my own hands

He is Jesus Christ, the Word of Life

 

Image in the Public Domain, by Brad Shorr

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