The Lost Meaning of Repentance

Language is in constant fluid motion; words often change meaning over time. Repentance is one example of a word with value and meaning shifting over the years.

Linguists, those who studies language, tell us that youth culture changes language about every 6 months. Dictionary writers update, adding new words and adapting meanings of existing words, continuously. It’s not much wonder confusion arises when certain words are used. Some members of the population may understand one meaning, while another segment may have a totally different concept in mind.

Here are just a few words as examples:

  1. Awful now means something very bad or unpleasant, disgusting, horrible or terrible. At one time, awful meant “worthy of awe”.
  2. Fizzle once referred to the act of producing quiet flatulence. Now it simply means to come to a gradual end.
  3. Clue, or clew, was a ball of yarn. Today it has the meaning of “evidence or information used in the detection of a crime or solving of a mystery”.

Repentance

Biblical repentance goes beyond the dictionary’s definition of “sincere regret or remorse“. Remorse is a deep regret or guilt for wrong committed. A person can be sincerely remorseful without ever repenting.

Remorse, regret and repentance

“Why is definition important?” one might ask?

Jesus responded to accusations of socializing with the wrong crowd by saying,

“I have not come to call the righteous,
but sinners to repentance.”
Luke 5:32

If Jesus purposefully came to draw people to repentance, it is imperative we have a clear understanding of what He was actually meaning.

After hearing Peter’s first sermon, the people were deeply remorseful and knew they needed to do something about their spiritual condition, but they honestly had no idea what to do. Peter’s response was,

“… Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of your sins.
And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 2: 38

Repentance to biblical writers reached beyond feelings of guilt or shame. It was necessary for anyone coming into relationship with God. Years later Peter’s message hadn’t changed:

“The Lord … is patient with you,
not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9

Eternal Significance

Truth is truth! Whether I believe it or reject it, truth remains true forever. Where each of us will spend eternity hangs in the balance of this one word — repentance.

In a world of political correctness and apologetic niceties, I must be honest. Eternal hell is full of those deeply remorseful and in constant regret of sin.

Godly sorrow brings repentance
that leads to salvation and leaves no regret,
but worldly sorrow brings death.”
2 Corinthians 7:10

To repent is simply to change one’s mind toward God and sin. It is a voluntary change of will, feeling and action toward God involving not just a feeling bad about what one has done wrong or the consequences faced. It is a “godly sorrow” leading one to confess and renounce sin turning away from it completely.

Repentance is a changing of one's mind

Where once sin held great pleasure and lure, now it is seen clearly for its true destructive nature,

“For the wages of sin is death;
but the gift of God is eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 6:23

Sin is always deadly! Always! But when a person repents, God extends His wonderful gift of life, available because of Jesus’ work through His death and resurrection.

A Good Trade

Sometimes I have made what would be considered a “poor” trade to give someone else an advantage: taking the smaller portion of desert, using the broken pencil, choosing an uncomfortable position… I’m sure you have too.

A few years ago a man traded a single red paperclip. Fourteen trades later, he traded with the Town of Kipling Saskatchewan for a house. A paperclip for a house is a good trade, but not the best trade!

“If my people,
who are called by my name,
will humble themselves and pray
and seek my face
and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven,
and I will forgive their sin
and will heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14

I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land

Now we are talking good trade! Trading pride for humility to draw close to God! Better yet, repenting and turning from “wicked ways” and receiving forgiveness and healing. That is a good trade!

I love the “I will”s of the bible. There are promises of God available if we assume our responsibility. This one verse contains three such amazing promises — all are connected directly to repentance.

No Regrets

Sometimes people genuinely feel so attached to their sinful life style they honestly feel to repent would deprive them of joy. It is a perceived “sacrifice” many are unwilling to make.

True repentance accesses indescribable freedom and pleasure in obeying God. Undoubtedly, there is a loathing of the sin that once held them in bondage. For Christians, life is not a list of “dos and don’ts”, but rather fullness of joy in fellowship with God and others.

“You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Psalm 16:11

The fullness of joy!Sin holds pleasure for only a season! Repentance is the path to enjoying life fully now and for eternity.  There are no regrets to such a life choice!

It remains vitally important that we maintain the biblical meaning of repentance as God intended. Individually and corporately it is a principle leading to life and spiritual wholeness.

“Repentance means turning from
as much as you know of your sin
to give as much as you know
of yourself to as much as
you know of your God,
and as our knowledge grows
at these three points so our practice
of repentance has to be enlarged.
J. I. Packer

Choice for Today

To the tender-hearted person of faith, repentance is a continuing process. Holy Spirit both convicts us of sin, bringing us into sharpened awareness of areas of rebellion toward God, while convincing us of the immeasurable grace available to all who believe.

Today is the day of salvation!

The liberating force within repentance is difficult to articulate and wonderful to experience.

“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

There will be no better day than today! No better time than right now! Test and see just how good God is! I encourage you to take the step beyond remorse and regret to the freedom found in genuine repentance. It is the right time to experience God’s favor!

**********

 

Perspective and Choice – From the Bridge of the Cross

Since I’m nearsighted, I’ve worn corrective glasses since grade school. Being nearsighted may present problems, but having clear vision gives new perspective.

Failure to see clearly from an eternal viewpoint creates even more of a dilemma. Will I have a nearsighted perspective or choose a panoramic view? The cross of Christ is the bridge between two significant perspectives.

Paul put it this way:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly;
but then face to face: now I know in part;
but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12

Now we see dimly!

Stick with me as I illustrate!

Boxes

In my office with laptop before me, dozens of national flags dot the wall beyond my desk. The telephone and my bible are tucked close. A travel mug of icy water completes the items within my limited view.

To my right, a picture of my husband, a thank you note and a certificate clutter my desk.  A reed basket of discipleship material sits atop a tote of children’s journals. Three prints of personal paintings fill the remaining desktop. They represent an invitation to worship, to intercession and to fullness of relationship with Christ. Above the desk, a hand painted banner from a young worship dancer declares “Church rules! God rules!

When I adjust my position a quarter turn, I view my office mate steadily working at her computer. A song of praise continuously flows both from her heart and the speaker beside her. Her backpack slumps lazily from a comfy corner chair.

From the final perspective, I view through a large window into a hallway. The window pane originated from the “mother” church planted within our city decades ago. Imprinted in the glass are images of the vibrancy of that little mission church with a sign announcing “Jesus Saves”.

Since I spend so much time here, I might be deceived into thinking this “box” I call my office is “my world.” Here the ceiling hangs low, the lighting artificial.

Boxes of familiarity will foster either love or hate!

We grow to love or hate our familiar boxes!

The Bridge

As I exit the church, the air is crisp as the wind wisps my hair in uncontrolled fashion. The noise of the street rises as I make my way unto the bridge spanning a busy bypass beneath. From the bridge, the view is drastically different from my office.

As I look back, my office is hidden within the larger church structure that dominates my view. A senior’s complex snuggles in the church’s shadow. On the opposite side of the roadway rests a cemetery sheltered by mature elm, maple and spruce. A condominium unit fills the remaining gap within focus.

Turning southward, I notice the university,  nestled by Wascana Creek. A teepee village circles the front lawn of one of the nearest buildings. The rush of traffic comes and goes from beneath my bridge.

To my right the view changes completely, as I look toward parks and walkways. Trees, wildflowers, and chirping birds invite me further.

Another quarter turn and I face the traffic full on: coming and going, crossing and merging, entering and exiting. The constant din of motors and wheels, exhaust fumes rising from hot pavement and rapid movement of vehicles bombards my senses.

Then I look up! Wisps of white swirl upon a otherwise barren canvas of cerulean blue. The sun’s warmth intensifying even at this early morning hour.

Spaces

I don’t stop here making my way to the other side. Though I am very close to the bridge the sounds and busyness are immediately hushed as I venture along this “natural” walkway. Trees gently bend their boughs in open arm movement overhead. Children laugh and play undisturbed in a nearby park. Birds swoop and twirl in the gentle breeze.

A space to breathe and then breathe again!

I look back wondering how I can still be so close to the bridge but so far removed from what was just steps away. My soul breathes, then breathes again.

I want to stay, to linger, to rest! Responsibility calls me back over the bridge to my office.

Perspective

My shared office is small with both limitations and opportunities. In this little “box” struggles, trials, and hurdles are overcome daily. I am thankful for the privileges and blessings here as well. “Boxes” bear many labels: marriage, life situation, illness, financial restraint…

My perspective of life can be viewed only from a “box” of duty or commitment. I can jealously look at other boxes and wonder why some are larger, more elaborate, with more benefits than mine! I can even begin to resent my box and its limitations.

Blessings are equally distracting! Opportunities or comfort obscure by vision, causing me to forget it is only a “box” – a part of the something much bigger.

Bridges span two realities. There is before me a solid bridge — the cross of Jesus Christ, connecting present reality to the truth of heaven’s eternal promise. From this bridge, perspective changes. Without ceiling, The Light is pure. It is the transition point between the world in which I walk and the eternal realm in which I truly live.

Under the cross all life flows! I am exposed to cultures beyond my own. It is fast paced, at times draining, but always satisfying. There is nothing boring about living the way of the cross!

From the cross I catch the breath-taking view of heaven’s domain. I touch a different reality, feeling the freedom of life fully lived. There are “cross-over” moments of resting in the Presence of the Almighty. Eternity welcomes me further!

Questions and Answers

The questions we have and the answers we seek will be determined by perspective. Sitting in nearsighted little boxes, questions of God may be self-seeking and self-motivated.

Questions and answers from the position of the cross usually focus outwardly toward others. Here a world view forms in line with scripture and the finished work of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

As we taste and see the goodness of God in brief glimpses of what is to come, questions lose their urgency, answers become unnecessary in the Presence of the One who is The Answer!

We often fail to ask the right questions! Jesus, however, presented a question we all must ask. The answer will be a reflection of perspective.

“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,
Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist;
others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah,
for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood,
but by my Father in heaven…”
Matthew 16:13-17

The ultimate question is, “Who is Jesus?”

While most people viewed Jesus from the lens of nearsighted religious perspective, Peter saw more. Jesus, the Messiah, Saviour, God with man, stood among them.

“Who do you say I am?”

The Answer

The answer to that question will determine how we face every other answer-less question. Is God who He said He is? Is He incomparably loving, immeasurably compassionate, completely just, righteous, gracious and kind. Do I know Him as all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present? Can I trust Him?

Though the fig tree does not blossom
And there is no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock is cut off from the fold
And there are no cattle in the
stalls,
Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord;
I will [choose to] shout in exultation
in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

The Lord God is my strength
[my source of courage, my invincible army];

He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet
And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence]
on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].”
Habakkuk 3:17-19

In Him is courage and strength. Though weak in body, I consistently move forward in spite of challenges. Because of Jesus, I am free to enjoy the safety of my “box”, the connection of the bridge to God and others through the cross, as well as the wonder and abundance of heaven.

We shall be known, face to face!

With new perspective we can all “rejoice in the Lord” and “shout in exultation in the victorious God of (our) salvation.”

**********

Further Reading:

Something Better! God is Faithful to All He has Promised!

Hebrews 12 Throw Aside Every Weight and Sin

Lingering Long – Joshua, The Making of a True Lingerer

A young man named Joshua learned how to linger early in life. But how did this attribute develop? What is the making of a true lingerer — one whose heart is in constant pursuit of God.

Whether it is a good book, pleasant conversation with close friends, or beautiful surroundings, most of us have experienced that same longing to linger, a reluctance to leave. We cling to each moment, not to overstay our welcome, but rather desiring to engage fully in the experience.

Rest in the Lord and wait for His Presence

“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face,
as one speaks to a friend.
Then Moses would return to the camp,
but his young aide Joshua son of Nun
did not leave the tent.”
Exodus 33:11

Here is a perfect example! Duty called Moses to “return to the camp”, while Joshua lingered in the Presence of the LORD.

The Beginnings

Of course, this wasn’t the beginning of Joshua’s God experience. He was among those who witnessed the miraculous intervention of God bringing an entire nation out from the midst of Egypt

“with a mighty hand and outstretched arm
Psalm 136:12

The awesome deeds of God continued in the desert, turning bitter water into sweet, providing daily provision, and defeating Israel’s strong military enemies.

After the desert comes rest

This is where we first meet up with young Joshua.

“Moses said to Joshua,
‘Choose some of our men
and go out to fight the Amalekites.
Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill
with the staff of God in my hands.’ ”
Exodus 17:9

Later on we would get more details about the Amalekites and their guerrilla tactics. At first they picked off the weak and stragglers of the camp; now they form a serious frontal attack on the nation. An impressive foe to be sure! Joshua takes up strategic position on the field, while Moses assumes a safer spot on the hill!

Together, the battle was won! No one lingers on a battlefield! Get in! Do the job! Get out!

Taking a moment to linger over a sunrise

Next Meeting

Our next meeting with Joshua is quite different. God instructs Moses. The camp is directed to stay away from even the foot of Mount Sinai, or they will die.

“Then the LORD said to Moses,
Come up to the LORD,
you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu,
and seventy of the elders of Israel …
but Moses alone is to approach the LORD …”
Exodus 24:1,2

Count them! Out of approximately 2,000,000 people, 74 are invited to meet with God. And they do — face to face! Most people think it was only Moses who saw and talked with God. Actually, this whole group of prestigious leaders received special invitation.

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu,
and the seventy elders of Israel went up
and saw the God of Israel
But God did not raise his hand
against these leaders of the Israelites;
they saw God, and they ate and drank.”
Exodus 24:9-11

Linger on the mountain with God

A feast on the mountain! Eating and drinking with God! Who wouldn’t want to be included in this group?  Wouldn’t that change your perspective of God forever? Maybe not! These very leaders would, within days, be involved in mass rebellion, forming a golden calf to worship, then declaring with their own mouths

“These are your gods, Israel,
who brought you up out of Egypt.”
Exodus 32:4

They witnessed God’s miraculous intervention, saw Him in His glory, and tasted of His goodness. Refusing to linger, they left the mountain, and God, quickly following after the delusions of men.

Except for one!

The Uninvited

Have you ever attended an important function uninvited? Honestly, I have been too embarrassed to try. Without an invitation from the host, I have graciously declined several occasions.

What if the host is God — the LORD of all? This invitation was specific, “Moses alone is to approach the LORD”.

“Then Moses set out with Joshua, his aide,
and Moses went up on the mountain of God.
He said to the elders,
Wait here for us until we come back to you…”
Exodus 24:13,14

The leaders were instructed to wait, to linger; they didn’t. Moses was instructed to proceed alone; he didn’t.

Alone but never alone!

Was Moses falling to the old temptation of fear, like he had at the burning bush? Then afraid to approach Israel on his own, he had Aaron join him. Was he again afraid to go alone? There is no preempt to Joshua’s presence.

Uninvited!
Not included in the list of dignitaries!
Not chosen!
A silent, unnoticed witness!
A humble and faithful servant!

Joshua’s humility and servant heart to his master not only gained him access to see the LORD, eat and drink in His Presence, but then to go higher … higher up the mountain.

Lingering Begins

One taste of the Presence of God was not enough. Joshua was never content to boast of his mountain experience, or lounge in yesterday’s glory. What began on the mountain marked Joshua’s life from this point forward.

Waiting and resting!

Every opportunity Joshua had in the Presence of God became one of lingering.

“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face,
as one speaks to a friend.
Then Moses would return to the camp,
but his young aide Joshua son of Nun
did not leave the tent.”
Exodus 33:11

Right here my heart grieves! What draws each of us so easily and quickly away? What duty is so pressing? Why are other pleasures so enthralling? Not just for the young, but also for the mature!

Linger to Lead

It is no surprise that when God summoned Moses to step down from leadership, Joshua was ready as successor.

“The LORD said to Moses,
“Now the day of your death is near.
Call Joshua and present yourselves at the tent of meeting,
where I will commission him.”
So Moses and Joshua came
and presented themselves at the tent of meeting.”
Deuteronomy 31:14

The tent of meeting! The place where Joshua lingered long, refusing to leave God’s Presence, became the very ground of His commissioning into greater service.

How many commissioning moments have been missed because those God would have chosen have failed to linger? How few commissioned are so captivated by the Presence of God they seek nothing else?

It is in His Presence that every promotion, elevation and advancement begins. Here we are transformed, equipped and ordained. Here our hearts remain subtle and wills flexible to the moving of The Spirit and the promptings of God.

Oh that we would all become lingerers, learning from Joshua’s example. That we would inhabit the Presence of God, coming more often and staying longer. What an example to emulate!

Welcome the Presence of God

**********

Further Reading:

A Hero – “If You Need Someone Strong, I’m The One!”

Leadership 101 – Take it from the Eagles

 

 

The Ultimate Goal is Love! Lord, Teach Me to Love!

I have been painfully inconsistent at setting strategically defined goals for my life. Except perhaps for one! When the love of Christ reached down to a broken, battered and hopeless young woman over 40 years ago, her one prayer and goal was, “Lord, teach me to love.”

I am that woman! My ultimate goal is to love — to love well, to love here, to love now.

But how?

The Goal is Love

Paul left his young disciple Timothy to bring firm correction to a church that was going off track. Several in the congregation had become “shipwrecked”, rejecting their faith. (I Tim 1:19) It doesn’t seem fair for this mature father of the faith to post such a young man in this difficult position.

Love made beautiful through scars!

From the beginning, Paul sets a solid foundation for Timothy:

“The goal is love,
which comes from a pure heart
and a good conscience
and a sincere faith.”
I Timothy 1:5

Imagine the scene! People scampering over each other for leadership status, anxious to be “teachers of the law”. Debaters of every imaginable controversy pushing their way to notoriety. The church was growing in spite of vocal minorities proclaiming twisted spiritual concepts. Exuberant hopefuls  were forcing themselves to the front of the line.

I certainly wouldn’t be volunteering for Timothy’s church placement. Sounds like the perfect setting for any young minister to become disillusioned and burned out.

Didn’t he deserve something better? After all, wasn’t he called of God? Wasn’t he ordained into ministry by the most elite group of apostles? Surely being commissioned by Paul himself bore enough weight to guarantee success!

The Heart

I’m going to be painfully transparent. Just last week in a one-on-one counselling session, a hurting woman sat opposite me. Our meeting was difficult; break through for her was slow, painfully slow. I felt the distinct reprimand of God, “MaryAnn do you have a heart of love? Love here!”

I realized in the busyness of appointment after appointment, I wasn’t stirred with compassion and tenderness toward this brave woman. In a moment, I both repented and humbly asked again, “Lord, teach me to love.”

Love is where good grows

In an instant my heart changed and so did the direction of our meeting. The woman left finding the hope in Christ, she was so desperately seeking.

The heart of love became a channel of God’s intervention.

Why am I so slow to love? Why is this a lesson  so often repeated? What causes my heart to so easily turn toward other missions and focuses?

“The goal is love which comes
from a pure heart…”

Oh! There it is! Instead of pure, my heart becomes infected by personal agenda, selfish desire, arrogant pride … The list is much longer! The pollutants invasive!

With David I pray,

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.”
Psalm 51:10

A Good Conscience

Paul sets a godly example for Timothy,

“So I strive always
to keep my conscience clear
before God and man.”
Acts 24:16

A clear conscience doesn’t come naturally, not to Paul and certainly not to us. It takes effort! Only out of this fertile ground of a good conscience will love grow strong and free.

Love is personal and vulnerable!

Peter, too, experienced the tenacity required to maintain a good conscience,

“Keep a clear conscience before God
so that when people throw mud at you,
none of it will stick.
They’ll end up realizing
that they’re the ones who need a bath. 
It’s better to suffer for doing good,
if that’s what God wants,
than to be punished for doing bad. 
That’s what Christ did definitively:
suffered because of others’ sins,
the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones.
He went through it all –
was put to death and then made alive –
to bring us to God.”
I Peter 3:16-18 MSG

This mud flinging world, when allowed, will pollute not just one’s heart, but one’s conscience as well. “None of it” has to stick! What people say or do cannot restrict our ability to live godly in a godless world.

Love enables such a response to adversity — adversity that Timothy was plunged into!

Christ was Timothy’s example! He is also ours!

Sincere Faith

“The goal of this command is love,
which comes from
a sincere faith.”

Undoubtedly, human love reaches far and accomplishes much. However, it only extends in earthly portion.

But there is love that surpasses human comprehension, flowing unhindered, unpolluted from the heart of God who by His very nature is love. Only God’s version spans beyond human capacity to the contentious, the wicked, the loathsome and the broken.

Timothy would need such love. So do we!

Only through a sincere faith, can and will this ultimate command of love be anywhere near possible.

Faith may move mountains,
but love conquers all!

I have witnessed this undefeatable combination of faith and love multiple times — each encounter awe inspiring.

Put faith and love together and nothing is impossible! As a matter of fact, that is exactly what Jesus said to the man, whose daughter was dying. He approached Jesus with desperately simple and faltering faith.

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus.
Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Mark 9:23

Let’s face it! Love is impossible for us! Only faith makes reaching the command possible. Our dependence is not in our own ability, but rather in Christ’s transforming nature at work in us and through us.

The Command

As we look again, we see love is far more than a goal we hopefully achieve in some limited fashion. Love is a command!

The goal of this command is love …”

A love that is unending and strong!

That may sound a little forceful given the situation Timothy was being thrust into. Nonetheless, it is a command to love.

“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.”
I Timothy 1:18

The specific words spoken over Timothy are withheld from our hearing. However, each one of us, as children of God, saved by His grace, have God’s affirming and confirming word through the bible. We may not have heard it from human lips, but God’s truth continually “speaks” into and over us.

As we remember God’s unfathomable grace toward us, we gain the capacity to more than endure — we fight! We fight the battle well!

Fighting for the sake of love may seem a contradiction, but it isn’t! Whatever we do of any value must be done in the context of love! It can feel like warfare as we defend and protect this goal, both inwardly and outwardly.

 

The goal of this command is love!

Love is always worth fighting for!

If God were speaking right now, I think He would personally say to each of us, ” ‘My son, my daughter, I am giving you this command … fight the battle well’ for love.”

“Lord, teach me love,” is my only fitting response.

Second is Better Than First! When Second is Best!

No one intentionally aims to rank in second position. In fact, the desire to excel begins surprising young. For most people, expectations to consistently rank in top place is unrealistic. Is there ever a time when second is actually an advantage? Can second be best after all?

I have a lot of experience at second place! I was second oldest among my siblings. Scholastically I worked hard to achieve good grades, sometimes even coming in second best. At track meets the majority of ribbons earned were red, the reward for second. I even entered a writing competition in grade school. You guessed it — second place!

“Whatever is worth doing is worth doing right,” was my father’s motto for excellence. He was right! It is always a good practise to aim at doing our best.

Whatever your hand finds to do,
do it with all your might…”
Ecclesiastes 9:10

Trying for first! Achieving second!

Work willingly at whatever you do,
as though you were working for the Lord
rather than for people.”
Colossians 3:23

Often our best efforts don’t get us to the finish line the fastest, merit the achievement we hoped, or gain academic excellence. Then what?

The Issue of Pride

Jacob’s firstborn, and the one who should have received the birthright, was Reuben. But God rejected him for committing adultery with his father’s concubine. Simeon and Levi in vengeful anger annihilated an entire village. They too were checked off the list of eligible candidates for first place.

Jacob preferred Joseph’s son Ephraim for the honour of top choice. But God saw things differently!

“Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
but he chose the tribe of Judah…”
Psalm 78: 67-68

Why was Ephraim rejected as “first choice”?

You go first! I'll go second!

His name means “double fruitfulness“! What is more, the tribe of Ephraim was acclaimed for their skilled and mighty warriors. (1 Chron 12:30) Sounds like a top qualifier to me!

As we follow history, we see Ephraim’s descendants become overly proud of their abilities. On several occasions, they were more than a little upset about being excluded from battle or shunned from being chosen first. Pride, rebellion and disobedience enjoy cohabitation. The tribe of Ephraim accepted this ugly triad which ultimately led them away from God.

“Ephraim is joined to idols! Leave him alone!”
Hosea 4:17

Why Judah?

But why did God choose Judah? Judah was Jacob’s fourth son from his first wife Leah  — the wife he did not love. Jacob had two wives, two concubines, 12 sons and a daughter. To describe family life as dysfunctional would be a gross understatement!

First or second? Depends on the direction you're going!

In comparison to his older brothers, Judah would never be considered “righteous”. He had his own set of deviant behaviours! So why Judah?

Maybe, his mother started it!

“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved,
he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.
 
Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.
She named him Reuben, for she said,
“It is because the Lord has seen my misery.
Surely my husband will love me now.”
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son
she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved,
he gave me this one too.”
So she named him Simeon.
Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son
she said, “Now at last my husband
will become attached to me,
because I have borne him three sons.”
So he was named Levi.
Genesis 29:31-34

Break Through

Second place is one thing; second place to a younger sister is unbearable. Especially when you share the same husband! Leah did everything she could to earn her husband’s favour. Nothing worked! She somehow reconciled herself to ever-present rejection, dwelling in the land of unloved.

It's my turn to be first!

Only those who have experienced such an agonizing existence, can appreciate her brave strength to praise God in the midst of her unending storm of pain.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son
she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.”
So she named him Judah.”
Genesis 29:35

Sacrificial praise extended in the midst of unbearable grief! Leah gave birth to more than a son. She brought forth undaunted worship, courageously choosing to turn her gaze away from people to God, Adonai, her Lord.

Judah’s birth was a turning point for Leah.

Another Second

Follow the family tree down a few generations and we come to David.

When the Israelites demanded a king, God agreed and sent Samuel to anoint Saul as the first king to rule over his people. (1 Sam 10) Saul, however, proved himself unfaithful being far more concerned with what people were thinking about him than how he stood before God.

“… Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”
1 Samuel 15:23

Who is king now?

David’s father, Jesse, didn’t consider his young son even a remote possibility when Samuel came to anoint the future king. But God saw in David the perfect candidate to lead his people.

“So Samuel took the horn of oil
and anointed him in the presence of his brothers,
and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD
came powerfully upon David...”
1 Samuel 16:13

Undeniably, David as second king exceeding the first!

First and Second

The disciples felt an urgency to replace Judas Iscariot. They prayed, cast lots, and confidently chose Matthias. (Acts 1:24-26) God’s choice wasn’t on their list of applicants — Saul of Tarsus! The persecutor of the church, murderer of men, women and children? Saul? Yep, Saul! After Judas the traitor, Saul didn’t appear to be any step up, but he was. The second ultimately became the greatest Apostle of all, planting many churches and writing a large chunk of the New Testament.

Resting in place!

There is One “second” who is even greater. His name is Jesus. Jesus? Second? How could the Lord of all possibly be second?

 “So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”;
the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
The spiritual did not come first,
but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
The first man was of the dust of the earth;
the second man is of heaven.”
1 Corinthians 15:45-47

The first Adam sinned in the garden gaining for all mankind death while losing most everything else. Through his death and resurrection, the second Adam, Jesus, restored all the first forfeited.

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

There you have it!

After reading this, I know beyond a doubt that sometimes second so far exceeds the first, it is unbelievable to conceive it was ever second. In fact, Jesus was always God’s first plan, His only plan, His best plan.

Can second be best after all? Absolutely!

 

 

Free from all Fear! Psalm 34 – Is Fearless Living Possible?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in North America. For many people, living free from fear is an unrealistic expectation. Is fearless living possible? What would it look like? In Psalm 34, David hands us the key to overcoming all fear.

Believe it or not, there are more than one hundred phobias people experience. Many we can easily relate to: acrophobia (the fear of heights), ophidiophobia (the fear of snakes), mysophobia (the fear of germs, and arachnophobia (the fear of spiders).

Several years ago my daughter-in-law took possession of an inlaid willow frame I had made. She wanted to use it for a mirror. Since we had an unused large mirror, we both proceeded to the basement to cut it to the appropriate size. The first edge cut perfectly! As I was gently under-tapping the second cut, she frantically swung her arms in a wide flailing motion sending the mirror and tools flying through the air. A spider had appeared! She panicked!  The mirror shattered against the far wall. I laughed! (Sorry to the rest of you arachnophobics, I couldn’t help it!)

Fear can sometimes cause us do unusual things.

Positive Fear

Fear can be positive. In fact, it is essential to our survival! Fear warns us of impending danger. A certain amount of fear increases adrenaline flow helping us perform demanding tasks better.

I read once that Alfred Nobel awoke one morning to read his own obituary in the local newspaper: “Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before and he died a very rich man.” The obituary should have been for his brother, but in error Alfred’s name appeared instead. Alfred was afraid this would indeed be the assessment of his life so he initiated the Nobel Peace Prize, the award for those who foster peace! Fear led Alfred Nobel to rewrite his life’s work!

God Uses Cowards

There are 365 bible references encouraging us, to be courageous. One for every day of the year! The bible is full of accounts of God’s ability to use even the fearful, however.

  • Gideon is found hiding in a winepress, afraid of the Midianites (Judges 6,7)
  • Moses afraid of his own people and Pharoah was unwilling to obey God without help. (Exodus 3 & 4)
  • Ninety year old Sarah, fearful of promises long delayed lied to God about laughing at the news that she would conceive a child. (Genesis 18)
  • Jonah was afraid God would be merciful, so he ran from his assignment. (Jonah 1 & 2)

There were just as many who missed their opportunity because of their phobias:

  • Ten out of twelve scouts sent to explore Canaan infected the camp with fear of giants and strong cities. (Numbers 13 & 14)
  • The rich young ruler, afraid of losing his wealth and comfortable lifestyle, refused to follow Jesus (Luke 18:18-23)

Do Not Worry

Jesus encouraged the people,

” … do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink
or about your body, what you will wear …
Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes?
See how the flowers of the field grow.
They do not labor or spin.
… not even Solomon in all his splendor
was dressed like one of these.
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field,
… will he not much more clothe you
— you of little faith?
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’
or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ …
your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”
Matthew 6:25-33

For the majority of the world’s population concern for the basic essentials of life is constantly present! The wealthy minority worry about protecting their possessions, a secure retirement, the next vacation, and pursuing dreams.  Many in Jesus’ audience were struggling daily for survival.

Jesus frames this passage with wisdom,

” … store up for yourselves treasures in heaven
seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow …”
Matthew 6:20 & 34

All sufficiency is in God alone. He can and does give us the ability to create wealth and wisdom to know how to use it, but ultimately everything is His and comes from Him.

Free from all fear!

David’s words echo the thought,

Lord! I’m bursting with joy over what you’ve done for me!
My lips are full of perpetual praise.
I’m boasting of you and all your works,
so let all who are discouraged take heart.
Join me, everyone! Let’s praise the Lord together.
… make him famous!
Let’s make his name glorious to all.
Listen to my testimony: I cried to God in my distress
and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears!
Psalm 34:1-4

When did David write such joy filled praise? When he was afraid!

To escape from Saul’s death threats David ran toward Achish king of Gath. Because David was famous for his military exploits, hiding wasn’t easy!

“David …  was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath.
So he pretended to be insane in their presence;
and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman …”
1 Samuel 21:12,13

The Right Fear

In the midst of justifiable fear, David “sought the LORD.” Relief came! Courage was restored! He was courageous not because he chose to be brave, but rather because he sought God in the midst of his fear.

As a matter of fact, David recognized how deficient his courage was,

“This poor man called, and the LORD heard him:
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those
who fear him, and he delivers them.”
Psalm 34:6,7

The LORD, Jehovah, the self-existent, all powerful, eternal God is big enough to wipe away all fear and circle his trembling ones with protection. In Him is unrattled security!

The Human Factor

Let’s be honest, being afraid is something we all face. In agreeing with David’s assessment of our “poor” condition, we rightly position ourselves before God who fiercely defends, protects and supplies us with needed courage.

Fear the LORD, you his holy people
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.”
Psalm 34:9-10

Jesus said it this way: “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.”

When fear is centred in God alone, there indeed is freedom. Fearless living is possible after all!

**********

Further Reading:

The Righteous are as Bold as a Lion – Survive and Thrive

Never! 8 Things God Will Never Do

 

 

Timeless or a Capsule of Time? Time in Perspective

Any one else struggle with time? That fleeting thing that whizzes by at breakneck speed past days, months and years. Only by gazing at the Timeless One will we fully appreciate the capsule of time we are given and reign time into its proper perspective.

We micro-manage time with intensity.  With day planners in pocket phones that never leave our sides, we organize time for work, family and recreation. We divide our time into minutes, hours, days, months and years. Sensing the fleeting nature of time, we pack every moment with busyness.

Moses who lived a good 120 years, much longer than I anticipate life to be, said,

Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12

Life goes fast! Too Fast!

Life goes fast, too fast!

“I don’t have time!” are words that echo often throughout our culture. We postpone the things that should be done for what must be done!

Capsule of Time

If we experience even the years of Moses’ life and measure them against eternity, it would be like the tiniest capsule floating almost invisibly in an endless ocean.

Time is the most precious of all commodities. If I lose all my wealth and financial resources, there is opportunity to regain some portion. When health fails, The Healer stands close; heaven’s reality holds neither sickness nor death. If I lose even the closest ones I love, the hope of being reunited in eternity sustains me.

Timeless eternity!

Time is the only commodity never to be regained! This moment replaced by the next — both instantly gone!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
yet no one can fathom what God has done
from beginning to end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

We stir with an awareness of more! For surely we were created not for fleeting moments but everlasting days.

The Perspective of Time

Every part of creation is affected by time — everything! One glance in the mirror at my deep wrinkles and laugh lines and the crown of thinning grey shouts, “Time is passing, girl!” Youthful subtle skin thins, bones ache, eyesight dims, memory comes and goes.

Time management!

Hide it? Ignore it? Excuse it? Nonetheless, time wears through the most resilient, defying restraint. All of creation succumbs to its influence.

Because our minds cannot fathom anything apart from what we know, it is impossible to perceive Someone,  the self-existing God, beyond time.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years,
and a thousand years are like a day.”
2 Peter 3:8

Time is an earthly concept defined by multiple terms of measurement: decades, centuries, millennium. Time-words define our time, not God’s, because He is both within yet beyond all expanse of time.

The Timelessness of God

God has no beginning and no end. He has no past and no future living in the ever present now. In fact, He inhabits beginning and end simultaneously. Now that exceeds comprehension!

The only One expanding beyond all scope of time is God; He alone is absolute everlasting!

Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Psalms 90:2

Counting the moments of time!

Because mankind was created in His image, we too were made for timelessness.

“To be made for eternity
and forced to dwell in time
is for mankind a tragedy of huge proportions.
All within us cries for life and permanence,
and everything around us
reminds us of mortality and change.”
A.W. Tozer

We live in this tension of time! Its deep significance, yet fleeting nature. Time has intrinsic value, uncontainable essence.

Making the Most of Our Time

So how do we best value time? The obvious is to not waste it. Yet, we all have “time-wasting” pursuits. Television, computers, Facebook top the list of many. Less obvious perhaps are procrastination, fear, daydreaming and indecisiveness.

Time is to be treasured!

People and relationships are the most significant endeavours that should occupy our time. Because most of our days are spent in the workplace, create opportunities for deep and caring relationships with colleagues. Family will NOT always be there, as we sometimes perceive; seize moments to love and invest in close and distant relatives. Friendships take time to develop levels of trust and commitment that speaks mutually of love and value.

Live wisely among those who are not believers,
and make the most of every opportunity.”
Colossians 4:5

People are the only “things” we actually can take to heaven!

What about time for the greatest relationship of all — the one between us and the Lord? Is there time for prayer, reading and silent meditation of scripture, study of God’s character and nature, or serving Him by serving others?

Between Time and Timeless

A young man told me once that he actually liked funerals. Astonished, I asked why! Early on he recognized that funerals brought him face-to-face with the shortness of his own life. A wise young man, I think!

“It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.”
Ecclesiastes 7:2

It is neither in the beginning of life nor in the fullness of busy days that we come to realize that faith in Jesus Christ is not optional. Christ is the only solution to the fleeting nature of life on earth. In Christ “God’s eternity and man’s mortality” collide.

Time is fleeting!

Christ acquired the great victory for man’s dilemma with time!

O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
For sin is the sting that results in death,
and the law gives sin its power.

But thank God! He gives us victory
over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:55-57

We must all remember and view with brevity the limited time we have before we the leap from numbered days to limitless eternity. Today God extends His irresistible invitation. Death should never be “normal”. It pushes against all we are created and destined for. Thanks to Christ and the cross death never has the final word!

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

Today is the day to secure your place in eternity!

**********

Further Reading:

Finding The Solution for Pressings Problems and Difficulties

 

A Good Appetite is a Sign of Health – Blessed is the One Psalms 1

Most people prefer either sweet or salty food. Combine sweet with a good dash of chocolate and you will discover the pinnacle of my personal food preference. A good appetite is a sure sign of physical health; an unceasing appetite for the word of God and His presence are attributes of good spiritual health as well.

While reading Psalms 1, I began to evaluate how “healthy” my appetite presently is.

“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.”
Psalm 1:1-3

The Progression

The progression, or rather digression, within these verses is quite obvious:

  • walk in step
  • stand in the way
  • sit in the company

Allow me to form this progression more fully. If I’m not careful, I can find myself walking “in step” with others down the “chocolate-covered-delicacy” aisle in the grocery store (which of course I could find in a power outage blindfolded)! Although temptation is building, there is no serious problem yet.

It is when I actually stop and “stand” in front of those mouth-watering goodies, that I begin to feel compelled by some indefinable inner force to reach for my chosen “yummies”. Temptation has reached a whole new level!

I convince myself to plunk those goodies into the shopping cart, pay the price and stash them into the pantry for “company”. But what happens next is predictable!  You and I both know that inevitably I will end up sitting “in the company” of those sweet treats, devouring their scrumptious, though unhealthy, goodness.

The cycle is complete! I have stepped, stood and sat. The process is repetitively familiar especially at moments of fatigue and stress!

Danger Zone

Unfortunately, a far more serious cycle is the rhythm I notice in these verses!

“…does not walk in step with the wicked…”

Generally, I’m not overly tempted to “walk in step with the wicked.” In my work place, I meet face to face people being charged with serious crimes. I am reminded of the historic events of World War II where inconceivable wickedness was unleashed in unprecedented measures. Walking the soil of Cambodia, where unspeakable atrocities were openly committed, was a life-changing experience for me.

My main temptation is neither to “walk in” or even skirt around such serious issues. Blatant wickedness should and must cause everything in me to rise up and say, “Enough!”

“…or stand in the way that sinners take…”

Now “sinner” is far more inclusive!

 “for all have sinned and
fall short of the glory of God”
Romans 3:23

Like it or not, I am one of “all”. Paul puts it so well,

“I do not understand what I do.
For what I want to do I do not do,
but what I hate I do.”
Romans 7:15

Tolerance toward our own or other’s sinful bahaviour, is actually a form of “standing”. In fact, this word “stand” literally means to “delay or hold back from doing something.” Christ has made the way; we can immediately turn to Him, repent and begin moving forward. There is no place for sin in our spiritual shopping cart!

Personal Pitfall

There have been individuals and groups throughout history who have been so entirely consumed with evil that only a thunderclap of the hand of God is sufficient to turn them from it. Disdain for such wickedness has a way of mellowing to tolerance, and finally to blind consent.

Stand “in the way that sinners take” long enough and one becomes acclimatized to sin. How deeply does abortion, euthanasia, human trafficking burn upon my heart? Do I feel its sting as strongly now as ten or twenty years ago?

Sitting is my real problem! A personal pitfall! This term holds the context of “a dwelling place or abiding in a given location.”

“…or sit in the company of mockers…”

Mockers are those “who make what is good and holy the object of their ridicule“: “defiant, cynical, free-thinkers”; “their character is proud, self-sufficiency”. That description covers most of the culture we live in! A literal translation for the word is “pests”.

Have you ever sat down for a wonderfully prepared and planned picnic only to have pesty flies, mosquitoes and wasps show up and spoil the whole affair?

I am uncomfortable with “mockers”. Usually I make attempts to steer conversation toward a healthy path, try to insert the positive, or silently wait for opportunity to escape the situation. Unfortunately, far too often for far too long I “sit”!  Why?

I never sat in the company of revelers,
never made merry with them;
I sat alone because your hand was on me
and you had filled me with indignation.”
Jeremiah 15:17

Jeremiah had it right! He chose to sit alone rather than with negative talkers and mockers. How? His priorities and focus what set in the right place — toward God.

The Appetite Solution

The psalmist gives the solution:

Blessed is the one …
whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who mediates on his law
day and night…”
Psalm 1:2

My delight and desire, like my appetite, is where I find pleasure and will chose to sit.

Whatever I am hungry for, I will crave; cravings seek to be satisfied. If my “delight” is toward God, I will set His word, His desires, His perspective above my own and those of others. It will matter far more to me what He thinks than the judgments of those around me. Alone with Him will actually become the best place to be!

“Who stands fast?” Dietrich Bonhoeffer asked.
“Only the man … the responsible man,
who tries to make his whole life
an answer to the question
and call of God.”

There are many heroic men and women who have influenced generations with courage, stepping in time to a heavenly calling, standing perilously for righteousness at the cost of their lives and with steadfast voice spoke living truth. Such courage and bravery doesn’t come from walking, sitting and standing contrary to God!

The ways of the world may taste good for the moment, but the repercussions go far beyond.

The Promise

Listen to the promise within these few verses:

“That person is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither
— whatever they do prospers.”
Psalm 1:3

Now that is something worth chewing on! I may crave the sweet, but it is fruit that satisfies my need!

The image is of perpetual beauty and productivity. “Prosper” describes the Holy Spirit’s affect on persons making them powerful and mighty; pushing forward and breaking out; or rushing forward in battle.

A consistent appetite for the word of God by sitting with the truths of scripture, standing in His Presence, and walking along His path, reaps undeniable generational and eternal spiritual benefits.

Bravo to a healthy appetite!

**********

Further Reading:

The Word of God – Cutting a Straight Line!

The Bible – The Most Powerful Book in the World

 

 

 

 

Developing Wisdom – Where Can Wisdom be Found?

The list for developing wisdom might possibly include reading, encountering new experiences, extended education, befriending wise people, and even travel. There is a common notion that wisdom can be sourced through people or the world around us. Such a quest echoes Job’s words, “Where can wisdom be found?”

“But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?
No mortal comprehends its worth;
it cannot be found in the land of the living.”
Job 28:12

If Job is right, we may see elements of wisdom in the writings of the wise, gain increased perspective from a variety of experiences, people, cultures and study, but wisdom will not be found in the world around us.  What is more, Job believes we underestimate its core value.

Wisdom Albert Einstein

For What It’s Worth

The preceding verses of Job 28 explain in detail the depths people go to reveal earth’s “treasures” of precious metals and gems. In the darkest recesses,

“people assault the flinty rock with their hands…”
Job 28:9

I’ve never been a miner searching for gold or diamonds, but I have had my share of swinging a hammer to chisel against “flinty rock”. In one of my not-so-wise moments, I decided to make a flagstone path between one farm house and another in our yard.

My Dad showed me the proper tools and technique. Now it was up to me to search the rock piles on our farm and beyond to find the right rock, the flinty rock, that would yield to the not-so-subtle persuasion of hammer and chisel. It took persisting through summer’s heat, enduring back-breaking labour to split, haul and set each stone. All for flinty rock!

Build your home on wisdom!

I did it though — for the sake of a path!

This is an unworthy comparison to the efforts taken to uncover “precious” metals and gemstones. Am I willing to make such effort for wisdom? Will I seek wisdom with similar determination?

If I value wisdom, I will!

Why the Effort?

“The beginning of wisdom is this:
Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have,
get understanding.”
Proverbs 4:7

If I don’t correctly assess the true value and benefit of wisdom, I will give up before finding it. Why should one make the effort?

Wise mind - wise speech!

Here’s a few valid reasons found within Proverbs 4 and 8 alone. Wisdom will

  • protect and watch over you
  • exalt and honour you, giving you a garland and a crown
  • provide “riches and honour, enduring wealth and prosperity
  • give a “rich inheritance to those who love” it

Solomon says the benefits of wisdom

“..are better than gold, even the purest gold,
my wages better than sterling silver.”
Proverbs 8:19

Where Can Wisdom be Found?

Since Job’s companions were lacking in wisdom, Job answers his own question,

God understand the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells.”
Job 28:23

“…The fear of the Lord — that is wisdom…”
Job 28:28

Job throws in a bonus giving us both the “where” and the “how” of wisdom’s source. Is there an easier way? Another way? Any other way? Isn’t “fear of the Lord” outdated — archaic?

Wisdom - John Bunyan

Solomon, the wisest man that lived, emphatically confirms,

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Proverbs 9:10

James acknowledges there is, in fact, a kind of “wisdom” to be gained now from the things around us. He warns that such “earthly wisdom” will eventually produce the unexpected results of bitter envy, selfish ambition, disorder and every evil practice. We don’t have to look far to see ample evidence of this principle at work.

“Such “wisdom”…is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”
James 3:15

Billy Graham - wisdom

He, too, points our vision upward to the ultimate Source of all wisdom.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven
is first of all pure; then peace-loving,
considerate, submissive,
full of mercy and good fruit,
impartial and sincere.”
James 3:17

This is wisdom worth taking hammer and chisel too, worth pursuing with all diligence and effort, worth seeking and holding on to at all cost. Don’t you agree?

But How do You Gain Wisdom?

Paul draws us to a centrality that neither Job nor Solomon had the privilege of experiencing.  In writing to the Christians at Colossae, Paul says,

The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For in him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things have been created through him and for him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Colossians 1:15-16

D.L. Moody wisdom quote

Paul persistently laboured so that everyone might know Jesus Christ, because in Him

“…are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Colossians 2:3

Splitting flinty rock won’t expose the greatest treasure available. Wisdom is discovered, granted and given to all those who are willing to pursue the vastness, beauty, magnificence and wisdom within the invisible God, made visible through Christ. Through a vibrant relationship with Wisdom, and here alone, does one become wise.

Simple Advice

The people who now walk that little garden path will never know the hours of labour it took to transform flinty rock into usefulness. Thousands of steps have skipped, jumped and hopped along that little winding trail.

In the same way, as one looks to only earthly sources for wisdom, one is tempted to skip, jump and hop from one good read, piece of advice, speaker, preacher and scholar to another without truly gaining the depth of wisdom and understanding available.

Fortunately, many people seek wisdom; unfortunately most people search in an array of earthly and psychic realms.

Here is simple and sure advice from James,

“If any of you lacks wisdom,
you should ask God, who gives generously
to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to you.”
James 1:5

Let us confidently and boldly ask for wisdom to saturate our lives, resting in His Presence, seeking His face, knowing Him more, and somehow moment by moment becoming more like Him in wisdom.

Chesterton Quote

**********

Further Reading:

Is there a Wrong Way to do The Right Thing? Attitude Makes All The Difference

 

 

 

 

Transition of Seasons – Embrace the Change

September’s dawn hesitates with each new morning, weary perhaps from the busyness of summer’s unceasing activity. The long daylight hours are filled with a multitude of treasured moments to remember throughout winter’s dark freeze. Cooler nights and shortened days herald the transition of seasons and prepare us to embrace the change.

Our summer certainly was filled! A June wedding, God’s gift of a fresh start, in Nevada and our own 46th anniversary of life together. A jam-packed family camping adventure with hiking, fishing, biking, boating, lounging, campfires, games and giggles topped July’s memory making attempt. Mid August brought the completion of internship closing the chapter of Master’s Commission training. We laughed with friends marking birthdays from the north and south. Many moments captured forever in our grateful hearts!

Season of Change

As I consider personal transitions, the most dramatic came with marriage: single to united, independent to interdependent, under my father’s protective wing to another man’s, enjoying the benefits of my childhood home to making our own. Marriage brought a lot of change, that continues to this day.

Transition of Seasons

Seasons predictably come and go! Here in the northern hemisphere, the transitions may come subtly but the changes can be drastic!

The church that began with the apostles over two thousand years ago has seen major transitional changes, as well. Each change acutely different from the one before; each sparked by a fresh dawn of revival, while restoring an element of something lost.

With the Reformation and Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door in Wittenberg in 1517 came an awareness that salvation is by grace, and grace alone. It cannot be bought, earned or waggled into.

Luther - Wittenberg - 95 Theses

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

not by works, so that no one can boast”
Ephesians 2:8-9

The price of redemption paid in full!  Jesus death and resurrection is forever enough! Nothing added and nothing taken away!  This cosmic event bridged the great, dark chasm between God and humanity. Now that’s enough to make one dance, leap and shout with joy!

However, it didn’t take the church long to grow lethargic. Another transition was needed to stir up the greying coals of revival.

The Great Commission

Prayer is always the unseen channel of fresh fire. It would take Edwards, Wesley, Whitefield and others to again stir the church reviving and awakening the desire for evangelism. The church jolted to action! God’s grace is for all!

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name
of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;
and lo I am with you always,
even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20

Go into all the world!

For the first time since the evangelistic wave of the apostles, “go” was back in the “go”-spel! The church took seriously the commission to bring the Good News to all peoples!

But how does one effectively go without the tangible Presence of the Lord?

Preparing for Change

There were many forerunners to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street in 1906: D. L. Moody, Maria Woodworth Etter, Charles Parham, Evan Roberts and more. But Azusa Street became the fault line of the greatest quake of change in the church since the original Pentecost of the Book of Acts.

The outpouring! The Holy Spirit moved to the forefront with restoration of signs, wonder and miracles:

“These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe:
They will cast out demons in my name,
and they will speak in new languages.
They will be able to handle snakes with safety,
and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them.
They will be able to place their hands on the sick,
and they will be healed.”
Mark 16:17-18

Miracles, signs and wonders will follow them who believe!

Every shaking of revival transforms those willing to change. Recoil or embrace? With each restoration of truth, fearless, faith-filled, hungry, even desperate, God seekers step from the familiar and welcome the inexplicable grace of God’s open hand.

The Father’s Heart

The most current transitional change broke forth with fresh awareness of the goodness of God, a revelation of the Father’s heart. With impeccable timing, it broke into an environment plagued by fatherlessness.

The Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century quotes deaths through wars and oppressions alone totalled more that 188,000,000. The twentieth century became marked as the most lethal in mankind’s history. Each death represents families broken. Millions of fathers snuffed out, removed forever!

God’s heart most certainly must have wept over man’s ability to annihilate and destroy! Great grace flooded over chaos with a tsunami wave of His open heart of love through the Toronto Blessing. The impact continues worldwide!

God is good!

“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Psalm 100:5

While the outpouring of Holy Spirit at Azusa Street created more denominational divides than any other movement, the revelation of the love of The Father has drawn denominations together like no other.

Change is Coming

As distinct as the shift from summer to fall, I feel another change coming. It is an exciting time! The church is rising and growing at unprecedented rates secure in restored revelation:

  • Salvation through grace and grace alone
  • The gospel for all peoples
  • Filled with the Holy Spirit
  • Radically loved by The Father

Wait! Pardon me for mentioning it, but my bible neither starts nor ends here! There is more!

The first act of God in Genesis was to prepare a garden for the union of a special couple, Adam and Eve. It was a place of constant fellowship between God and man, filled with peace, joy and unbridled communion.

The last act of God in Revelation is presenting the bride to The Bridegroom. Can you imagine that wonderful day?

The bride is getting ready for the Bridegroom!

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.”
Revelation 19:7

Every season of change for the church, every transitional wave of blessing and revelation, is for one purpose! The bride prepares for the Bridegroom!

Pulled close by His grace, the global church rises with arms reaching all. She is alive in the Spirit, immersed in the Father’s love. She is being slowly transformed into the likeness of The Bridegroom. Christ is coming back for a bride fully representing His heart, His character, His nature and His glory. He will not be unequally yoked!

“The bride has made herself ready!” There she will stand, a glorious church filled with strength, dignity, purity and honour.

However, to be ready, she must be willing to embrace change.  The same transitions that have occurred corporately are to be approached personally and intentionally as well. Welcome each season with confidence that every change is, in fact, a preparation for the Bridegroom.

Get excited! The wedding day is perhaps closer than we think!