The Breakthrough of Faith

Faith can be a most unconscionable and impertinent actor. The Woman with the issue of blood in Luke 5:25-41, discovered what most of the people today don’t know. Many who languish in doubt and life’s worries, do not know that their deliverance is in their reach. Because they don’t fully reach. They reach haphazardly, or partially, hesitantly. The type of Faith that brings healing to a person’s situation is Full-reaching breakthrough faith.

In my life, I have gotten lost in pointless and fruitless worries of life. Some even bear the resemblance and even smell of responsibility. But the first relationship and first ministry of concern to every person is with his God. I say again: the first relationship and ministry of concern to every person is with his God. If things are falling apart this is the first place to go, not the most convenient place to go. So often, when life has our face in the dirt, we don’t look up. Such an act of willful rebellion against those pressures which hold us down is unthinkable, except by faith. Faith leaves the nets behind to follow Jesus. Faith leaves father and mother and cleaves to the Lord. Faith stops everything it’s doing, and pursues Jesus. Faith breaks through the walls that hold the uncommitted at bay only. Faith goes off the tracks to be reset by the master conductor. Faith presses through a crowd just to touch his clothing. Faith does not demand. Faith lives or dies.

If you are sunk down in the yucky gunk of life. Go find Him.

“You will find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

Rejoice

An imagined quote of a Pastor friend: Preach to me from the Greek: from the Book of Philippians.

Here the words of Paul to a people who understood them: 4 Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε·  πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε.[1] Paul talked to people who were giving constantly—giving, giving, giving, expecting nothing in return. And he called them to “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say rejoice.”

This call to rejoice is a command to find joy in every circumstance in which they find themselves. And he relayed this command because they found themselves in a position to rejoice in the Lord, because they gave, gave, and gave constantly.

Another thing about Joy to consider is that in the Old Testament, the Psalmist described the restoration of the fortunes of Zion (Psalm 126) and he said “Rejoice!” This was a testimony to the nations that God had done a marvelous work, and it was so that the nations would be drawn to this joy. The hands of the people of God had been emptied and then filled, and all the people could do was rejoice in God who had given them all these things.

My charge to you, dear friend, is not to seek to follow this command at first, but first to find yourself in a place where you could be commanded to do thus. This is a joy that is only known by those who know what it is to be emptied, and used up, and depleted of all that one has, except the Lord. And once a person has given up all of this for the Joy of selflessly giving, he discovers the treasure that awaits him to sustain him in his giving: “Rejoice in the Lord Always.”

This is the secret that the Psalmist knew when he spoke “There is fullness of Joy in the Presence of the Lord.” (Psalm 16) Rejoice In the Lord always. This promise of “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) This promise of “I am with you always even unto the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Is the priceless treasure of every believer. Ravi Zacharias quoted G. K. Chesterton when he said “Joy is the central feature of life for the Christian, but sorrow is peripheral; because the fundamental questions of life are answered by his faith. But for the unbeliever, sorrow is central and joy peripheral, because only the peripheral questions are answered and the central ones remain unanswered.”

While Chesterton expresses the intellectual side of Joy, I add that this centrality of Joy is because at the believer’s heart is a priceless treasure of the presence of God which is the source of rejoicing as he gives up everything else he has. This is the Pearl of Great price which Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to in Matthew 13:45-46.

Now, how do I know that this is what Paul meant? By looking at the next verse. 5 τὸ ἐπιεικὲς ὑμῶν γνωσθήτω πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις.  ὁ κύριος ἐγγύς.[2] “Let your gentleness be known to all men; the Lord is near.” What I see here, is just as God bore witness to the nations of His goodness when he restored the fortunes of Zion, so He has sought that the joy of a Christian’s heart might be a light that would bless the joy-less, sorrow-full people of the world in darkness. This is why the command is to “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say Rejoice!” This is why Jesus said, “No one lights and a lamp and puts it under a basket, but does so to give light to all others who are in the house.” (Luke 8:16)

But you may ask, “What does this look like for me? Does this mean I have to walk around with a big smile plastered on my face all the time?” No. We know that when Jesus, our Joy, walked among us, he did not selfishly show off his joy. He carried his joy into people’s situations as he bore with their griefs and carried their sorrows. He was so deeply confirmed in his Joy that to weep with those who wept He did gladly. And His gentleness was demonstrated to all men “for the joy that was set before Him.” (Hebrews 12:2) And we too, are to self-lessly rejoice in God, glorifying Him as the true source of life and joy, and to do so meekly, gently, mercifully because “the Lord is near.” And He “is near to the brokenhearted.” (Psalms 34:18)

The heart of the matter, according to St. Ignatius of Loyola, “Sin is unwillingness to trust that what God wants is our deepest happiness.” We have come to disbelieve God wants our true Joy because we are unwilling to find our true Joy in Him. It is convenient to ignore His presence and seek after whatever can offer us significance, satisfaction, or contentment on our own terms. This is the problem of our pride and the false spring, dry of living water resulting in our lack of joy. The answer is much more simple. The application of the matter is,

  1. Make sure you are in a position that you can find joy in the Lord. How? By examining your life for anything you would be unwilling to give up for the Lord, to the Lord in a moment. If you hold onto anything with greater force than you hold onto Him, your joy will never be full until you relinquish it. If you are bound in any circumstance you have bound yourself chasing after Joy on your own terms, get free: addiction, ambition are a couple. This is the imitation of Christ that Paul called believers to make of himself. Consider 1 Corinthians 4:8-16. And again in this letter to the Philippians, in 3:17. Consider Philippians 3:8-18.
  2. “Rejoice in the Lord always!” Find Joy in Him by spending time with Him. By understanding Him, by Obeying Him, and following Him. By listening to His voice, by cultivating a life that is lived by the truth that His loving eyes are on you and He is very, very near to you at all times.
  3. “Again I say rejoice!” Even in the midst of the greatest tragedy, stress, unfortunate circumstance, even blessing, and enjoyment, you will turn to Him who is near you, and thank Him as the source of your Joy. Remember to stop and remember His presence with you, and cast your cares upon Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
  4. “Let your gentleness be known to all, because God is near.” Do not let your rejoicing be the cause of greater sorrow to others. Instead, do as Christ did, and love people with your Joy by even laying it down to grieve with others, and show people love by sitting with them, embracing them, empathizing with them. And discover the joy that comes through giving more of yourself to others, this joy which God finds in doing the same with us. After all Jesus said, “It is more blessed (happy) to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
  5. Finally, let this joy in your heart be bright so that those around you can see the God who is real, and who is indeed the truest source of all joy, and then be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15) As Piper said, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” (Desiring God)

Launching Questions:

  1. What has been the common attitude about Joy in the Christian churches in which you’ve been? Explain your feelings about that attitude.
  2. How have you felt pressured to put on a brave face for other people even when things aren’t going so well?
  3. Paul talked to the Philippians about rejoicing as they gave. What is something you gave that brought you great joy to give it? Or what was something you were given that you could see it was a joy to them to give it, even if it was given sacrificially?

Interpretation Questions:

  1. What do you think it means to rejoice in the Lord? What are some ways you have done this or seen this done around you?
  2. Have you ever considered that there might be certain commands in Scripture that must be followed before others can be followed?Example: “First give sacrificially of yourself, then Rejoice!” What are some of the commands that are the first steps for a believer to take before they can move on to fulfilling the next commands?
  3. Why does the presence of the Lord bring Joy?
  4. Why does the presence of the Lord cause a person to be gentle and humble?
  5. How did Jesus navigate Joy in God’s presence, and sorrow in the presence of so many hurting and suffering?
  6. What is the difference between selfless Joy and selfish Joy?
  7. Why is it important for us to rejoice in the Lord?

Application Questions:

  1. In life, there are many things that can take a place of importance next to God, and oftentimes they become more important than our relationship with Him. What are some things (even good things) that have held great importance of your life and prevented you from being fully satisfied with Just Jesus?
  2. What are some things you need to give sacrificially to others?
  3. What are some practical ways you can rejoice in the Lord?
  4. What are some ways you can let your joy help when reaching out to people who are in pain, suffering, or sorrow?

[1] NA27 Php 4:4. [2] NA27 Php 4:5.

To the Laughing Son of God’s Grace

Dearest fellow Christ seeker!
– – In my search for Christ, I discovered some clues to the significance in his life in a deeper study of Luke’s Gospel, which I thought I’d share with you, “O most excellent Theophilus.”

Mary (Mariam) was a virgin in Nazareth, and Gabriel is sent from God to her. Suddenly this one who has stood before the face of Yahweh is speaking to her!

  • Gabriel’s first word is a very common greeting in those times, “Hey! May your days be well! Great to see you! Rejoice!” all summed up in “Greetings” My that english word can be a bit of a let-down, but in the original it’s a joyful salutation. It’s like “Heyyyyyyy!!!” with a big smile.
  • Then he calls her “highly favored.” It’s like In The Matrix, Dozer greets Neo with great excitement and anticipation for what is about to take place. The common solemnity of this occasion is enough to excite some people to fear, but here, this first word from Gabriel to Mary is very a version of: “Hey, you super-special person!”
  • The Lord is with you. He is not trying to calm her down yet. He is pointing out what David recognized is the source of the fullness of Joy. “The Presence of the Lord.”

These three parts of his salutation are awesome. It’s about to be some very good news. And earlier in the chapter we got an example of what happens when people don’t believe when an angel is telling them good news. Cousin Zacharias has been silenced now for over 6 months rather inexplicably, because this same angel delivered some super special news, and he didn’t believe him. Mary’s response however is very human and humble. She is doing two things. She is deeply perplexed through and through, and she’s also pondering what kind of visit this is.

Then Gabriel unloads on her a super-duper bombshell of a lifestory.

Now, just to reveal: as I studied each verse, I wondered “What it would mean if he had just stopped there?” What was the significance of everything Gabriel told Mary. Since it was divine communication, kept treasured forever in the heart of a human concerning the salvation of all humanity and the world, I figured it be worth looking into.

  • Don’t be afraid.–Mary needed to be calm enough to hear this.
  • You have found favor with God–It always starts with God’s grace!
  • Behold you will conceive in womb–Life will start
  • And you will bill bear a son–Life will be born
  • And you will call his name Jesus–The child shall be named.
  • He will be great–this will be his quality
  • And He will be called the son of the Most High–The child shall be named again.
  • And the Lord will give him the throne of his father David.–He will inherit David’s Kingdom
  • And he will rule over the house of Israel forever–He will rule in this kingdom forever
  • And of his Kingdom there will be no end.–And there won’t be a time when he stops ruling, or when his kingdom falls apart.

These insights stand out to me from these poetic lines from Gabriel’s word.

  1. The Lord is compassionate of our frailty. He knows we can’t hear or remember anything He said if we are afraid.
  2. God’s Grace is what shone on Noah before it described him as righteous. It is His way to begin with the face of God’s gracious favor being turned in the direction of an individual through whom he would bring about His salvation. In these moments we glimpse the mirth of God who is glad at the beauty and effectiveness of His plan.
  3. Jesus’ life is outlined here from “Conceived, born, named . . . to given a throne, ruling, and never-ending. Each piece is important, and each piece speaks to something special that God is doing.
  4. The middle section is “He will be great and be called son of the Highest One.” There any many high ones, but this child will be son of the “Highest One.” Also, He is called twice, did you notice? First his name is called “Jesus” then he will be called “Son of the Most High.” A mystery, but is this just common parallelistic repeating in the scriptures or is there an intentional pattern here?

In any case, dear Laughing Son of God’s Grace, there is a lot of joy packed into these verses which overuse and traditional limelight can really make hard for our eyes to see.

Merry celebration of Jesus’ Birth! Which probably happened right around this time of year btw!

😀

Depths of Understanding

Through translation and the molten nature of meaning in language, I have recaptured in my imagination something pleasantly sober the way even the hardest truths can be. No matter how hot the fire burns or how brutally it breaks down constructed things to irreducibly simple forms, it still brings warm life to the cold and reminds us of deep things intrinsic to human existence.

Consider the earth, with only the surface inhabitable, and yet beneath an entire world un-trodden by man’s body, where only his dreams and musings may go. Understanding goes deep with a person deeper than their body, but it also comes forth from within a person in ways that effect their tangible livelihood. There are lightnesses of understanding which men contemn, and there are depths to which some men go that many who go there seem stuck upside down with their bottom sticking up in the air: completely un-comprehensible to the surface mind. The lightness does the heart good, like the sea air does the deep-sea diver’s lungs good. But the Ordinary alone is not enough to maintain a profitable life. The ordinary life in which we live– that layer of reality in which we move around, make decisions, and react with decisions and chance far greater than our own control– is ruled by other layers of reality. And the deepest layers are the Highest layers. Let me lay out these layers as I see them.

-1. Humor. Humor is the level of understanding to which one person goes, to make another person exert greater understanding than himself. It makes the ordinary feel that he is indeed sane, and this fool who prates on and on makes him who is listening feel that he is sound. It is the humble gift God has given humanity to encourage and comfort the world with its ever-precarious, ever sobering, ever deepening conditions of decay and uncertainty and trouble. Well-crafted humor is the very fragrance of understanding rising up from the vents of that which is deeper than us. But, when used effectively, humor raises us to great heights, then either sets us down again, or plunges us into the deeper understandings into which we must dive. O the thrill of the hammer swung backward through the air, only to rush forward to drive the nail home once more! O the exuberant and silly breath we take to dive once more to the depth of understandings!

0. Ordinary Reality. The realm of the real and clear. Here far is far, and near is near, a spade is a spade, and a cigar is a cigar. Do not read between the lines. Words are sufficient. Listen to what is said. Read what is written. See what is shown. Many find this simple life good. It is. And yet the corruptions beneath the surface have far too often twisted the surface to that which is not simple. Look around you at the dishonesty of man’s hearts. A simple weight well-calibrated is true and good. It is the plethora of dishonest weights that make this level of understanding a dangerous ground. “Don’t believe everything you read” say the wise, and wizened. Solomon also said, “The simple believe every word, but the prudent consider their steps.” ~Prov 14:15.

1. Joy— Ah the pledge of good faith! There is truth beneath the surface! The Promise of a better surface life comes from digging a deep foundation and a roomy storehouse where the temperature is cool year round. Such cools calm the temperamental flares of heat which spring from a lack of reserve. The deep waters of life flow beneath the surface, and cool water is a nourishment to every soul seeking shade and sweetness in this broken desert of life. A man of understanding carries within him an oasis in any desert! He is the happiest of fellows to embrace the streams of truths that water all of the plants up on the surface. Indeed, for many this results in a nerdy withdrawal from all things surface and ordinary, and thereby leaving those without refreshment feeling abandoned, ignored, and deprecated. Nevertheless, these ordinary folk gain the hearty laugh of staring at people up-ended, bottoms in the air seeking some sort of treasures and refreshment that would otherwise be bought with a great cost underneath the hard sun.

2. Weight— The pledge is sweet, and the collection of waters tastes good, but there is too much water to carry around with a person. A man’s canteen, strength, stomach, and mind can only handle so much. Eventually, the immovable and inescapable nature of what is understood leads many to shy away from the responsibility which is thrust upon those who have understood it. Not only are there many who are in need of the life here in encased, but the one who knows of it comes to see the real predicament at the surface. The pressure and weight of all the understanding comes to sober the one once drunk with the pleasure and raucous laughter of understanding, and he comes to see his own face in the water, and in that face recognize his own makeup of water, and his resemblance to the owner and supplier of all the water in the world. These are those who are stuffy and self-absorbed and feel impregnated with the grand self-importance of that which they hold, lest they give way to the deeper levels of understanding which require greater courage.

3. Sorrow–Fingernails grind on a chalkboard, and a bone fallen out of joint is a deep pang of something wrong in the world. Understanding brings grief, that depth of the weight of all the world crashing down on broken supports. Seeing people in reality slip off the edge into oblivion unnecessarily just because the scales are tipped out of favor of real justice. It is heartbreaking to know not only the problems for so many, but the connection of the problems to other problems both cause and effect, and to see this web of impossibility, like the web created by a mirror shattered and fragmented from some point of impact. Understanding in people who face the deep underbelly of the world have one of two directions they can go now. It is too thick to explore here, you cannot go left and right. You can return to the surface with your sorrow you have learned, and boast over your understanding as deep as you went. You laugh at those who revel in new discoveries, because you have forgotten the pledge of good faith, and have seen heartbreak the more understanding you have grown. You can return jaded. Or you can go down deeper.

4. Surrender— The point of impact, where the real world we live in was shattered like that mirror is the brokenness of humanity which must be acknowledged and dealt with at the source of the problem: me. G.K. Chesterton understood this when asked in a Newspaper, what is the problem with the world.” He responded with these two words, “I am.” This is the moment to which Understanding leads a person: will you seek to preserve your life, or will you lose it? Here again, the man who has understood– who has “stood under” the reality of life and seen it’s fractured-ness and fractals and fractions–has two choices. He can lose self in annihilation or an inglorious manner that utterly rejects the goodness of understanding he learned at the beginning. Or He can entrust himself to the wise One who led him down this far on his journey of understanding, and commit the unpardonable sin against self: surrender to someone greater than yourself who requires your all with no caveats, no reservations, and no exit strategy. This is the “Lose yourself” that Jesus spoke of when he said, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel will find it.” It is a risk. It is very much like death. It’s like giving up, except it’s more like “Okay God, you win. I won’t keep fighting you anymore. I will actually submit to you, and accept that You are the Savior and not me.” This is the decision to which your journey deeper into understanding has been leading. There is Reality, Joy, Responsibility, Sorrow, and ultimately Surrender of self to the One who has proved how worthy He is through his impeccable track record.

This is the end.
Of the old life.
Of the New life
This is the beginning.

5. Peace

“There are depths of love that I cannot know, til I cross the narrow sea. There are heights of love that I may not reach, til I rest in peace with Thee.” ~Fanny Crosby

Understanding brings a person to the core of all that is, and he discovers the need to surrender, and once there is surrender, suddenly, from the very core of a person’s existence to which Understanding has led, a life is born anew. A life that is never-ending because it is begun by the One who is Never-ending. A life that is not your own, but belongs to the One who truly owns all things. A life that is set not on a broken platform, but the deepest possible foundation: to the core of reality itself: The Maker, the Word, and the Resurrection. This is where Understanding can bring a person, but only with humility, love, grace, and courage–honesty with self and God. He is there at the center of the layers of reality. And in His presence is the FULLNESS of the joy the understanding of which one found hints at the beginning of his journey. He is there, eagerly awaiting those who will take up their cross, and lay down their lives for His World-saving cause.

The Depths of Understanding
Illus. by Aner327

These are the Depths of Understanding as I have seen it. And I hope that God gives you the heart to go to this depth with Him. Remember: “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” ~Hebrews 11:6.” If you find yourself at any point of this journey and you have stopped short of the Self-Loss Surrender that leads to life, go back to the last point you found yourself, and seek God. After all, “He who seeks God understands all things.” (Prov 28:5)

The Bible: Embrace

The Bible is a rare book which embraces its reader’s heart with love. It knows its reader and it receives its reader with the same knowing love Jesus had when he spoke in parables. Our heart’s deepest questions are not just answered, but they are loving accepted and left unanswered until our fears are laid to rest by the testimony of God’s faithfulness, and then we find that the answer isn’t just in the Bible, but the answer is out there seeking the questioner. The book is like its author: loving, truthful, humble, and wise. Through the book, the reader comes to know what the Author knows about the reader, and then invites and excites gratitude to the Author for how well the Author understands, searches out, and resolutely stretches out its arms and his hands to bring the willing heart into right relationship with Himself. When reading it, one wonders, is it a book or is it a person? The Bible is obviously a book of books, but the Author’s love and truth so saturate every page that the Word– the message, the thought, the meaning– of the book come alive in the heart– as alive in the heart as the Author of both the heart of the reader and of life itself. O that every student of the Bible would learn the Bible’s ways of embracing the heart of the reader with all its questions, doubts, and fears, and of showing them knowing love that invites them to be saved!

The Bible: Theological, Historical Narrative

As I watched a video on the Bible being historically accurate, I creatively learned this diagram to make sense of these three descriptors, and why they are important.

Taught to Christian Ed 6th Grade Grace Christian School on May 22, 2019 to

As a way to show it to people, the explanation of the “Snowman” diagram starts at the bottom with just the word “Narrative” in its spot at the start. Each word is put in quotes, it is filled into the diagram.

The Bible is “Narrative” which means it is “Story.” And what does a story have? It has “characters,” it has a “plot,” and it has “meaning.” That part of the story that really gets us. And a story is crafted by the imagination of a man, yes?
Now a lot of people are content to accept the Bible as a wonderful collection of stories for the most part, but the debate will really start to come into the next level up. Because the Bible isn’t just Narrative. It is

“Historical” Narrative. When I say Historical it means that the things in this story, “Really happened.” And in history we don’t have just any characters or plots, or meaning, we have real “People,” “Events” of history, and as we look at history we start recognizing patterns in history. Case in point: Roman Empire’s rise and Fall. This pattern of rising and falling has prevailed throughout history.
A lot of educated people will debate if the things in the Bible really happened, but evidence supports the Bible’s historical account, just like the Senacherib’s Prism. Some people who don’t accept the Bible as God’s word will say, “It is Man’s recording, and Man’s crafting of the story.” The debate may convince them that there is historical evidence, for the story, but the final part of the Bible’s descriptors, is the part that people who are not Christians will not accept at a heart level. Because the Bible isn’t just Historical Narrative. It is

“Theological” Historical Narrative. That means it reveals things about “What is really going on. The Bible gives voice to the part of us that knows this world is more than the world we can see, taste, smell, and hear. There is an unseen “God” and there are unseen “Spiritual realities” which are moving in the world: Angels, demons, blessings, curses, and at this level we actually get to the “Truth.” Now while The Story is Man Crafted, and History is Man recorded, Theological means it is “God revealed.”

The Bible is all three levels, and in order to understand the Bible, you have to accept it at all three of these levels. It is Theological, Historical Narrative. Because The Historical Level is written at the level of “Earth”: The events that concretely happened in time and space here on this planet. But the Bible also accounts for and describes the real of “Heaven.” And because it is story it also speaks at the level of the “Heart.”

Please get this: God has revealed something to Man about Heaven and Earth which He had Man record and craft so that it could reach your heart. This is why the Bible is the best and most all encompassing book ever written. It is Heaven and Earth, and the Human heart all wrapped into one Volume, and it sets all of them back into right relationship with God.

So yeah! The Bible is Theological, Historical Narrative. Isn’t that awesome?!

11. Wilderness Manual– Wrap up

Fellow Pilgrims
– – I am wandering like you, following the cloud of His leading, and I see that this is the Pilgrimage that He calls us to.
– – In the Torah, we see in Deuteronomy 8:2-3 that God is searching out man’s heart. He knows that the heart is the seat of life, and He is seeking to save the life of His creation. In the Torah, we see our hearts, as in desperate need of His salvation.
– – In the Prophets, we read of men like Elijah who followed God’s lead, and did mighty works of power by the Holy Spirit. In 1 Kings 17-19, we read of Elijah’s encounters with God, and the ways God sustained him, led him, used him, and preserved him.
– – In the Gospels, The fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets was Jesus, who showed us all how to navigate the wilderness in Matthew 4, and Luke 4. If Jesus went through the wilderness by the leading of the Holy Spriit, must not we also follow Him even here? It is here we learn dependence on God, trust in God, and devotion to God. O you who wander far from Home go with Him, and your home will be near to you each moment.
– – In the Writings, we see Paul’s exhortation to believers to learn from the Wilderness stage. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:14, He calls us to run, to have self-control, to learn from the failures of Israel, and to flee from idolatry.
– – I wish I could say more. More could be said, but my words are not the ones you need. You need His Word: the one word that sustains you. For more on the Wilderness stage, consider this writing exploring Jesus’ time in the wilderness.
– – Finally, dear reader, I commit all of this to Him. I pray He lead you, feed you, and prepare you for the great things He wishes to accomplish through you. There is no way around the wilderness. By the strength of God’s heart, may your heart make it through these challenges and move onward into the fullness of Glory in the presence of God. In Jesus name,
Amen.

Your brother

10. Wilderness Manual– Coming up Short? (32)

Reuben and Gad were going to settle in before crossing the Jordan with all the rest, but they assured Moses and the people, “We will build sheepfolds for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we ourselves will be armed ready to go before the sons of Israel until we have brought them to their place.” (Numbers 32:16-17a) This was good in the sight of Israel.

Principle: So long as Jesus hasn’t returned, we are in a wilderness where once there was a garden. There is a tension of settling in here as a pilgrim does on his journey, but then he keeps moving. The Wilderness teaches a person that he must be whole-heartedly for God, and also teaches him that even when he gets out of the wilderness, he will need to keep moving. The battle wages ever onward until the Promise of God is fully taken possession of, and the church can walk unified in Jesus name, representing God rightly in the world. Reuben and Gad both settled in, and committed to the task. This is to be our heart as we leave the wilderness stage. While we are here on earth, the question remains in all that we do, “Are we coming up short of the fullness of God’s promise?”

Application: If you have gotten this far, you have what you need: God is Enough, and He will bear His fruit in your life, and though you fail, He will bring about the zeal of heart to accomplish His work in you. This exhortation I give you. Don’t stop short of the Kingdom in all the Lord gives you to accomplish. Let God be your companion, your value, your everything. Take care of your families and your possessions, and then go forth and lay hold of the Kingdom of God, which men of violence take by force. Only stay with Him. He brought you to the wilderness, and through the wilderness. Go and be with Him as he leads you out of it.

Warning: Do not settle for less than the Kingdom, or you will lose everything. “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Numbers 32:23 There is no room in the economy of God for a partial-hearted person. As the Lord Jesus said,

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me, for whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” ~Luke 9:23-24

9. Wilderness Manual–Sin and Zeal (25)

Principle: After a time in the wilderness, being scraped down to the heart that has chosen the goodness of God, the journey back to what some call ordinary life is filled with danger. God has brought his vessel through the fire and now the test is to see how it responds to a foreign, destructive, and once beloved presence called Sin. The response of the heart prepared for God, is a response of zeal against it.

Many have a zeal against sin, but it is from a place of self-righteousness. “I am better than this they say.” On the other hand, The one who has been through the wilderness, who has walked with God, and tasted of His holiness will have a completely different perspective of sin. It is a righteousness based on God not on self. Sin is not only evil, it is worthless. It is not only death, it is killing. It is not only wrong, it’s unthinkable! The heart that burns against God for sin cannot understand this perspective. The heart that burns for God against sin cannot see otherwise. It is all consuming zeal that earned Phineas a perpetual priesthood. It is this all consuming zeal that turned God’s wrath away from His people.

God is One. He is not less than One. We in heart are not One, we are divided and varigated, and compartmented. Sin has fractured us like a mirror designed to mirror God’s glory, instead we splinter it and His image is marred. It is when we are whole that God recognizes Himself in us, and His integrity proves himself to be true in response to the truth in How He made us. This is why David said, “To the pure, you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself twisted.” Psalm 18:26

Application: Emotions stir in the melting pot of the heart that allows a person to change for the better or the worse. Let your emotions be excited against sin, even as they are allowed to fully enjoy the goodness of God, and you will find your heart more whole. Let nothing temper or cool your zeal for God against evil. And let your zeal be even as Jesus’ zeal: a zeal to seek and to save the lost. Coolness will mend no cracks in your heart. Also, take action against sin, so that the emotions of your heart have oxygen of freedom, and fuel of action to keep glowing and blowing to purge out evil, and to bring light to the dark and cold world enslaved to sin.

8. Wilderness Manual–Three Victories but One Redemption (21)

The outward situations are growing in intensity. Arad, Amoriates, and Bashan all fought against God’s people and lost, because of God’s power at work in Israel. They have learned much from the wilderness, and God’s power is effective in creating the impossible right before them. But the heart of the people is still ungrateful.

Principle: The power of the Spirit is simultaneously able to create powerful victory on the outside, while disciplining the weak failure on the inside. God does so when he is using beloved sinners and sinful image bearers to enact his purposes. His way of producing outward results is staggering, but even more profoundly moving is His way of training his children up close. When the people are complaining, God sends fiery serpents and they bite them, and then in the midst of the discipline God provides the cure. Do they have the heart to look to the one who wounded them to see His love and purpose for them?

Application: Do not count your outward victories as evidence of God’s approval of you. Beware your ingratitude, because it will keep rearing its head. When you fail, keep staring God in the face as you experience his discipline. In his face you will find the truth and love that makes you right before Him again. Expect God’s work to be evident beyond you, but let your primary focus be clinging to Him. He is your cloud and your supply.