Rapacity is such a striking concept, according to Dictionary.com
given to seizing for plunder or the satisfaction of greed.
Inordinately greedy; predatory; extortionate:
This word is closely akin to “rape,” and yet it is the very thing Jesus accuses the leaders of the Jewish religion, the Pharisees of being.
In Luke’s Gospel, after the disciples ask Jesus why his disciples don’t ceremonially wash their hands. the Lord said to him,
“Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of [rapacity] and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also?
Luke 11:39-40 (NASB brackets mine)
The indictment is not on the external world but doubly about their internal world. The two things mentioned: Rapacity (the craving for more to satisfy the self) and wickedness (lack of ethical moral character) are things I myself as a sinful human being can identify with. In fear, I crave the acquisition of my own entertainment so I don’t get listless, my own food so I don’t get hunger pains, my own acceptability in crowds so I don’t feel ostracized, my own money so I can avoid being forced to do anything. I crave the satisfaction of the self. I know what it is to serve God in a skin-deep way, only inside to leave the more precious, secret and important things for myself. The result of my own Rapacity has led me to situations where I am less than ethically or socially or morally care-filled, loving, and true.
This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. This is because the rapacity and wickedness of man has, does, and will destroy God’s messengers.
How do I know? Because of what Jesus says when he switches from talking to the Pharisees to the Law-experts. The Pharisees and the Law-experts were of the same sin. He tells them:
“Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs.
Luke 11:47-48 (NASB)
They are the offspring of those who killed the prophets, the rapacious and the wicked. It was this rapacity and wickedness that God recognized and said in His wisdom:
“I will send to them prophets and messengers and from out of them they will kill and persecute.”
Jesus quoting the Wisdom of God (Luke 11:49, translation mine)
Anyone who thinks that the days of persecution of God’s people are finished is shortsighted and foolish. It is the one who recognizes the wisdom of God that see the rapacity and wickedness of man, including the rapacity and wickedness of their own heart are the real villains in this world. The craving to serve the self and the lack of character has rendered the very object of God’s desire–the heart of His beloved creatures– the very weapon of the enemy used against God to wound Him.
The rapacity of man makes war against God and His people.
The call now to you, if He gives you the conviction of this rapacity and evil in yourself, is: repent! If you are like the Pharisees and your outer world is good while your inner world is rotting away with greed, and all the dark treasures you hold close for your own self-service and self-glory, then Jesus’ words to you are these:
“Charitably give what is within you, then behold everything is clean about you.”
Luke 11:41 (NASB)
The way to repent of this selfish desire to attain for self, is to give those things that are most special to you to the Lord and to the poor by extension. Then you will be like your Father who gives the deepest truest treasures He loves to show the World how much He loves them.
One final warning–do not leave your rapacity unrepentant: it makes you an enemy of God.
There are a lot of passages that seem far removed from today’s world, but this one is very close to reality.
Passage is Luke’s shorter account of the Sermon on the Mount in Luke 6:20-49. The longer one is Matthew 5.
The audience is: Jesus’ disciples. How many disciples did Jesus have? Vs. 17 (Not just the twelve)
I’m not going to use the word “disciples), going to call them: students.
Jesus has spent the night in prayer, and the day healing the sick
And Jesus lifts his eyes to see his students, and speaks to them.
He presents a contrast in the opening verses which is a
different contrast from Matthew 5. In Matthew 5, it’s all about “Blessings” and
laws that believers used to hear were updated to what they were now supposed to
follow. In Luke 6, Jesus contrasts “Blessings” with “Woes.” In both, he is
addressing his students (Again, not the 12, but all of those who are following
Him, and learning from him.)
Now, since we are followers of Jesus who get to listen in on
Jesus training the twelve, we can place ourselves right in this audience
alongside the listeners of His day, and we can hear that Jesus is speaking
directly to us who are seeking to follow Him and be like Him.
Here are the two lists side by side.
I did not realize that Jesus was talking to his students when he gave both lists. As a Christian in America, I see myself on the side of the list I do NOT want to be on. We spend so much time accumulating wealth, serving our own satisfaction, our entertainment, and the good opinion of men, when all we’re doing is securing deep pain for ourselves in the future. In living for the present, we sacrifice the eternal future God promises to those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, ostracized, ridiculed, and cast aside because of Jesus.
Is Jesus saying that wealth, satisfaction, entertainment,
and good reputation are evil things? No. Neither is being poor, hungry,
weeping, and hated and ridiculed necessarily good things. He’s pointing out two
paths of those who follow Him. One path involves being comfortable, worldly,
unbroken, and well thought of, the other is living in want, poverty, sorrow,
and ignominy for Jesus’ sake.
Some I could see may start to object. Can’t I serve Jesus and still be comfortable? You can, but you miss out on over-exuberant joy. You miss out on the deep laughter that comes from honest hearts, you miss out on the true satisfaction that smells of eternity, and you miss out on the Kingdom of Heaven. And that is a tragedy of which Jesus said, “Deep pain to you.”
But why can’t I be happy now, and later? Why can’t I enjoy
my comfort now, and still be exuberantly happy later?
What? Have you forgotten your mission? Why are you here anyway? You are here to represent God on earth. Does God accumulate wealth for himself, or does God make himself poor so that others can be rich? Is God deeply satisfied with his own food, or does God forgo His own satisfaction, so that others can have theirs? Does God seek his own entertainment, or does God weep for those who are in anguish and agony? Is God well thought of by the world, or do people cast Him aside like a crumpled up trash-wrapper? Which God do you serve? You’re made in His image, so why don’t you look like him?
Jesus said in this passage, “A student is not above his teacher; but everyone after he has been fully trained will be like his teacher.” This is why the students of Jesus in America today are in such a sorry state: because we have ceased growing to look like our teacher.
Either, you will spend your time, resources, and livelihood–which means poverty, hungry, weeping, and ridicule– for something that will last forever –God’s work to bring about good in this world and the life to come. Or you will use your time, resources, livelihood to procure something that in the end will mean nothing. You’ll feel comfortable now, but deep in your heart you will know that you wasted your time.
Remember what Jesus said to his students. You are the salt of the earth. You’re the only thing making this world flavorful. Don’t give up your saltiness.
Illustration: 2 pretzels passed out at the beginning.
This is the world with you wealthy, satisfied, entertained,
and well thought of. (Eat the saltless pretzel)
This is the world with you being poor, hungry, weeping, and
rejected. (Eat the salted pretzel)
Confess your sins to God and cease from them.
Pursue Him devotionally in prayer.
Obey His commands in whatever situation you are.
Keep doing this until you have found your joy in Him again.
This is a guide for those seeking the Presence of God in their hectic internal world.
So much needs to be cleared from the Workbench of my mind. So that it can become an Altar where God can meet with me.
Many cares. They keep me from seeing and knowing Him.
My self-sufficiency. It keeps me from even looking to Him.
Distractions–I put them on the Workbench, making no room for Him.
These three things have been my mindset, and way of being. However, The following three things are what I long for.
4. An Altar–My First ministry
I cannot account for why, but in these moments I have discovered that the eagerness of God has been ready to send the fire of His Holy Presence to blow through, and search out, and scour away my heart with the Glory of His Spirit, His Word, and His presence.
5. The Fire
All of this is one thing: His letting you know Himself. It returns the heart to its original glow, and the problems are cast with a smaller shadow. His light shines from a heart now aglow with his fire. And so long as that fire is kept burning (For our heart is a most unreliable fuel) then it will keep our minds enlightened.
6. Enlightened (In the Christian Sense.)
As Paul prayed, so I pray “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. ~Ephesians 1:17-19
For this to happen, you must clear your workbench and first make it an altar.
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
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. OrdinaryReality. 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.
“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.
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 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!
Recently, a friend of mine told me that he believed the church should prioritize Paul’s teachings over Jesus’. Another friend told him that can’t be right. After all, if Paul learned from Jesus, we should prioritize Jesus’ teachings right? I believe this is a wonderful question and I believe the answer can be found by comparing the Old Testament Law and Prophets.
In seminary I learned that the Old Testament has three sections (Torah or Law, Prophets, and Writings) but the last two of those sections are exposition or explanation of the first section. One professor put it this way. “The Old Testament is the Torah and the rest of it is exposition of the Torah.” Another way to say this is that the Torah gives us the definition, the boundaries, the seed of what is to come, and the rest of the writings (The prophets and the writings, or just “the Prophets” for short) just explain how it happened in real life. Example: In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people, “You are going to go into exile, and God is going to bring you back.” (Deuteronomy 29-31). Read 2 Kings 17. You’ll see why He sent them into exile, and read Nehemiah and you will see what happens when God brings them back. Again, I will say it. The Old Testament = Torah + Exposition of the Torah.
Now if this is the case, which should we prioritize in the Old Testament? My answer is this: The Old Testament is set up in such a way that you need both of them to make sense of it. If you just prioritize the Prophets, chances are you’re not going to have much guidance to understand the plot of what’s happening. Why after all, did Elijah shut up the heavens in 1 Kings 17? (The Prophets) Because in Leviticus 26:18-20, God said he would shut up the Heavens if the people disobeyed. (The Law). If however we just prioritize the Law, then we will get lost in semantics and not know how it is rightly to be applied. Example: Leviticus 25 said you should give your land rest every 7th year. (Law) but we see in the Prophets what happened to the land when the land was NOT given rest every seventh year. (The Prophets) Within the Old Testament God does not leave us in the dark but gives us not only the seed of the tree, but also what the tree looks like when it is full grown. The seed of the Tree is God reaching out to love Israel. The Tree itself is God being faithful, and the people of God being faithless. We need both of these to rightly handle the word of Truth. We also need to use both rightly so we don’t get the cart before the horse.
Now, this wonderfully simple pattern of understanding God’s word couldn’t possibly be the pattern for the New Testament could it? What major sections of the New Testament are there? The Gospels and the Writings (History, Epistles, and Prophecy) In essence, we have a repeated pattern of the New Law and Prophets.)
Does it work the same way? Is the New Testament, the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament exposition on the Gospels? Yet again, we find that God’s Word in the New Testament not only gives us the seed, but also the Tree. It shows us the Teachings of Jesus in their powerful demonstration and the proof of their truth, and then we are given in the writings what those teachings applied looked like in historical and instructive ways. Paul applied the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6 during the sermon on the mount about worry when he wrote tot he Philippians, “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” But Jesus’ teachings about how to treat your neighbors would not make as much sense to us who are not Jewish unless Paul and Luke expounded on them for us who are the nations outside of Israel.
So then, which do you prioritize? The teachings that directly apply to the nations (The New Testament Prophets) or Jesus’ words themselves (The New Law)? I see how I would lean personally, but once again, I must keep the whole in perspective. Just as the Torah is expounded in the Prophets, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word, so the Gospels are expounded in the Writings, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word. Both have a relationship that must be rightly kept in humble interpretation of each other.
But still there is one more layer to peel back, which I find rather wonderful and sobering
Now that we have a canon of Scripture, the Church is interpreting the Scriptures to the World in every culture, tribe, tongue, people, and nation. We have, in both Testaments, the pattern of the house, and now we are responsible to enforce, to explain, to bring into reality God’s Word as it is revealed through both Testaments. The question left to us is how is this Scriptural revelation of God going to brought to full expression in the world. Or to put it in another way:
What is the Kingdom of God today? Our blueprints are established, and the writings of the Prophets both old and new have shown God’s way of bringing His word to fruition. It is the power and leading of His Holy Spirit that brings God’s kingdom here on earth among his people. And this Kingdom is going to be the final testament to the nature and character of the God we serve before He comes again.
What a tremendous privilege and responsibility!
To show it visibly, I came up with this Analogy of the Testaments. Can you solve the analogy?
The rule of humor is you give two similar things one after the other, and then the third, you bend slightly to get a laugh. May the church not make God’s Kingdom the biggest cosmic joke that will make those watching to mock our God! Instead, may we be led and empowered by the Spirit to make of the church what the Spirit seeks to make of the Kingdom of God.
Hebrews 11:7–By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
This hard lesson from Noah gets to the grittiness of a stark reality depicted in both Covenants: some will not be saved. Faith is more than a spiritual exercise: it is the vitality of obedience that prepares us for the day of God’s judgment.
Who was Noah anyway? His name meant “rest” and he was named by his father with a hope that “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.” (Genesis 5:29) So he was a child born with destiny, but this is not why God warned him. God warned him because “Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9). God is a good friend. He doesn’t keep from sharing his secrets with those who walk with him. (See the previous post.)
God warned Noah by sharing with him what He saw (the corruption of the world) and what he was going to do about it. (flood the whole earth). He let Noah, who could only see with his two eyes, what God saw in the unseen. This warning is privileged to one who is seeking to know the Unseen God.
Noah’s internal response to God’s wrathful declaration, is not depicted as sarcasm, terror, doubt, or some vain imagination. Reverence is the word that Hebrews’ author uses. Reverence is submission of the heart to the obedience of God. Reverence is worship of God as the one who is worthy when your world is not yet but soon will be very literally falling apart around you. Obedience is the material offspring of a Reverent heart. As total as one is so total is the other. Obedience is only 100% if Reverence is 100%. And what are we told of Noah in Genesis 6:22: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.”
The implications for the believer today are staggering. Anything that draws the heart away from total reverence of God is also drawing the person’s body away from total obedience to God.
This is the life of Faith: Walking with God doing what He gives you to do.
“By which he condemned the world.” This is not vindictive as a way of saying, “Noah was looking down with grim satisfaction at all the sinners floating away.” No. This means Noah’s obedient actions were Noah’s proof that the world needed to be judged. Another way of saying it, because he did right, by the same rule everyone else had done wrong. Obedience is the sword that swings both saving those with faith, and condemning those without it.
This is the burden of Faith. Faith is 100% for God, and brings salvation, and is the just condemnation of the world who refuses to be whole-heartedly for One whom they cannot see. The tragedy was world-wide in Noah’s day, and one day again the tragedy will be world-wide once again.
Cultivate healthy reverence for God by examining your thoughts and affections toward him, and let every thing that is important to you be laid down on the altar of faith.
Walk with God. Let your relationship with God be the basis for all else in your life.
Obey him 100% in whatever he calls you to do. It is your salvation.
Be real with believers and unbelievers about God: there is no middle road: there is only fully obedient and saved, and not fully obedient and condemned.
Pray for those who are weak or lacking in faith that they may have a heart to trust in Him who is unseen.
Establish relationships of trust with others and let them see your own faith in action.
We will talk more about “the righteousness which is according to faith” as we talk about Abraham.
Now that I am exiting another stage of life, Time has locked into high gear for me. Days are an afterthought. Weeks gone in a blink. In a flash the months are past. I anticipate time will only continue to accelerate.
I know time hasn’t budged. It continues to grind at the same pace it has with a few variations of years being seconds longer or shorter. I know the change is within me. What has caused me to feel time has sped up?
I believe I have found the brake pedal and the gas pedal for time. Why do children feel like every day is an eternity, and most adults feel like it is a blur? This equation helped me find the answer:
Requirements speed up time Retirements slow it down
Ask any retired person, their days crawl by just like a child’s does. When in the working world however, our time is being poured out into the mold of those who require things of us. Our present is thinned to a narrow strip between what just happened and what is needing to happen in the next minutes.
Present time is the greatest gift we have: and the celebration of that present gift is rest. Responsibly rejecting the requirements of a person for a time, and enjoying the gift of doing nothing of required consequence allows a person to be real with themselves, and most importantly with God. This is what makes rest an act of worship which just happens to be prescribed in the Ten Commandments.
Think about it: Why do you work? Why do you do anything? Is it not a reflection of your belief about the God who you worship? If you believe God is always working, then you will never give yourself a break. If however, your design is patterned after a God who rests occasionally, should that not inform your decisions concerning your own rest?
Genesis 2:2–“On the seventh day God rested.”
The Lord has made us after the pattern of His likeness with eternity in our hearts. It is Eternity that we step into whenever we rest from our labor. The silence, the stillness, the sweet release of tension– These are the gift of God to a body worn down by time’s millstone march.
This Christmas season, take time to rest. Enjoy the gift of eternity that God has given you, and see what your heart is just waiting to release as part of the tension you have built up over time.
Such a special discussion of intimacy with God must acknowledge its effect on the world. Much more is at stake in a relationship of this type than a person’s spiritual satisfaction.
Babylon (Genesis 1-11)
The “real world” as many adults posit it to many young people is one messed up pile of diarrhea. It’s been that way since Adam’s sin manifested in the Tower of Babel. All of humanity gathered together for one purpose:
“Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
The world has historically been united before, and “world peace” once meant something godless long ago. And God scattered every nation across the world with different languages. Humanity had risen up as the spawn of Adam’s fallen humanity, and they were determined that they did not need God. No intimacy, no seeking to know God, only a seeking to be known by a name they themselves made. This is the way of the world, so I don’t pray for world peace anymore, at least not without God.
They wanted a great name for themselves, but God showed one man the path to making his name great: intimacy with God. Friendship with God.
Abraham: Genesis 12-25
What was the promise? part of it Genesis 12:2– “I will make you a great you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and so you shall be a blessing.” The Principle here is this: Trustworthiness with God is the path to one’s name being great for the purpose of blessing the world. Without this friendship, it is not going to happen. But if it does happen, there is no telling how amazing the promises of God will unfold in a person’s life.
The best part of this relationship of intimacy with God is God himself. And with such a closeness with Him, the world will be touched by the blessing of this relationship leading to salvation for all who will accept it.
Isaac and Israel: Genesis 24-35, Old Testament
One of the benefits of Abraham’s journey with God, is that his son carried the spiritual heritage even further! The last act of Abraham was finding a bride for Isaac, and Isaac’s death came only after his son Jacob had wrestled with God and been given his new name Israel, after beholding a face of God.
The pattern was set by his father, and the family became Israel, the nation which would be priests to God. They would show the world the way back to a relationship with the Father, but they did a poor job of it until Jesus came, as the glory of Israel.
The Church: Romans 1:5, and 16:26
And one such son of Israel of the tribe of Benjamin shared the goal of his ministry in the beginning and the end of his letter to the Romans.
“Through Jesus we have received grace and apostleship to bring about theobedience of faith among all the [Nations] for His name’s sake.” ~Romans 1:5
This is God’s design: to let the blessing of a relationship with Him come forth in all that the church does to bless the world. This is the only way there will be any blessing from the church. Without the aroma, the presence, the facial expressions, the words, the actions, the character of God himself evident in all our actions, the world will not be able to see Him. Such a reflection of God is not born in academia, or in the realm of moralism, or political maneuvers, or even social programs. The glory of God is seen face to face with Him, and face to face with each other.
And so I close with Jesus’ own question in Luke 18:8 “When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?”