The Great Exchange

“I’m trading my sorrows, I’m trading me shame
I’m laying them down for the ____________________”
I’m trading my sickness, I’m trading my pain
I’m laying them down for the ____________________”

Joy of the Lord

We each carry burdens, cares and pains: family responsibilities, money struggles, health worries, global fear, job stresses, marriage anxieties, and more, and somehow in the song we “lay them down for the joy of the Lord.” That sounds nice, but to me it smacks with fantasy. It sounds like, “I’m going to ignore these “tangible” things in my life so I can be happy thinking about God for a while.” That doesn’t really help, because SOMEONE has to carry these burdens! They’re important to me! If I don’t who will?

But what if we could trade our sorrows with God. Not like “I’m trading my sorrows for the joy of the Lord.” or maybe a little. I’m talking about trading sorrows the way true friends do.

Example: Person A has a relative who has passed away, and he really misses her. He pours out his heart to his friend, Person B. Person B Listens and receives the care of Person A, and Person A feels much better. Then Person A asks Person B “How are you doing?” Person B tells his Person A that his marriage is on the rocks and spends time pouring out his heart to his friend. Person A receives and empathizes with his friend. Both friends are encouraged and comforted not only that they have been heard, but that their friend the other Person counted them worthy of their trust. Is this not the essence of true friendship?

What if we could have that kind of relationship with God? A relationship where we share our cares and concerns with God, and God shares His cares and concerns with us?

Objection: Now you might say, “Whoa, hang on. God doesn’t feel cares and concerns the way I do. God is all powerful and all-knowing. He doesn’t feel worry or fear the way I do.” I understand this objection, because it seems like I am saying that our feelings of fear and worry about our cares and concerns are just like God’s feelings about His cares and concerns. It is true, God isn’t as powerless or clueless as we are, and in his perfect character does not feel fear or worry, but He does have feelings of care and concern. And believe it or not, He cares more and is more concerned about the things in your life that are alarming you than you do. Please bear with me, while I unpack this idea.

Biblical Friendship with God

First of all, it is Biblical to have a friendship with God where we share our concerns with God, and we take on God’s burdens.

1 Peter 5:7–“Cast all your cares upon God, for He cares for you.” God cares.

Also, look at the life of Moses, He joined God in His work to bring Israel into the promised land. He did this through a sharing of his burdens with God, (saying the work was too much, and God raised up 70 to help him.) and God sharing His burdens with him (Numbers 14:21 “As I live all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD.”) The exchange between Moses and Yahweh on Mount Sinai is an evidence of this give and take friendship, and as a result the people of Israel were saved.

There came a point in Israel’s History where God was looking for this dynamic again in the time of the Exile in Babylon, God spoke to Ezekiel saying, ” The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy and unlawfully exploited the foreign resident. I searched for a man among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land so that I might not destroy it, but I found no one. So I have poured out My indignation on them and consumed them with the fire of My fury. I have brought their actions down on their own heads.” This is the declaration of the Lord God.

Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

in John 15:13-15 Jesus says Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

Ananias who visited with Saul saw a vision of Jesus, and God spoke to him and shared a mission with him, and Ananias shared his concern with God, and God replied with further explanation. A sharing of care and concern both ways. Paul and John the author of Revelation had stories like this in their lives.

This relationship is Biblical. But what does it look like?

It does not look like simply reading your Bible. In the Bible we learn the thoughts of God, but we don’t experience the emotions of God. We can imagine them, but we don’t really experience them without something more intimate than reading the pages of the Living Word of God.

It DOES looks like prayer: Committing your cares to the carrying of an all powerful God, and then being totally freed up, waiting to receive His care upon you.

Now, for those of you who objected earlier, you might be further thinking, “Why would God do that? He doesn’t need us.” And it’s true He doesn’t need us to carry his burdens for his own sake, but he does need us to carry his cares for the world’s sake. Let me share with you two little-known principles about why this is the case with God that I hope will make sense: The Smell of God, and the Method of God.

The Smell of God

This idea comes from the verse, in 2 Corinthians 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”

Have you ever had a person talk about God who the words didn’t really feel right? Like there was something off in their manner, motive, or ministry that just didn’t “smell” right?

Whatever is in your heart “scents” your speech. As Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart _____________” (The mouth speaks) Your heart will always smell like what is in your heart. If it is your own cares, your words will smell like those worries and cares. But if you have given your cares to God and have received God’s cares, then your words will “smell” like Him. As I said earlier, You cannot receive God’s cares from God Himself thru the Bible. Only Prayer lets you do this. If you know your Bible from the first to the last verse, and don’t spend time sharing your heart with the Author, and letting the author share his heart with you, you will just smell like a dusty bookshelf. And if you have hearts carried by your own worries, your words will be “scented” with those worries which will overpower God’s aroma, and people won’t be able to smell God on you.

The Method of God

God is out to reconcile the World to Himself. To do that He chose a creature of Heaven and Earth to be the bridge between Him and the World: Human. And not just any human, the Human: Jesus Christ. Who is the body of Jesus Christ? The New Humanity: Believers in Jesus Christ. So God’s method is to draw the world which sins and rebels against Him back to himself, using people to represent Him to them. This is God’s Method. And if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then God seeks to reconcile the world to Himself through you. You are God’s method.

Now, if God is out to reconcile the world to Himself, and he uses his people to do it, then He needs to fill those people up with His love and truth.

To sum up, God wants you to cast your cares on him, so that He can carry the weight of your concerns and cares so you don’t need to be burdened by worry, fear, anxiety, and doubt. But God wants you then to receive His cares, His heart, and His concerns from Him so that through you, God can reconcile the world to Himself.

Aren’t God’s Burden’s too Hard to Carry?

And just like Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.” By Burden, he’s saying my cares and concerns, the things I have a heart for, it is easy to carry.

Really? You’d think the opposite. People have taken up what they know are things God has said He’s concerned about, and they are so over-burdened and grumpy! Have you noticed? Someone says say, “We need to go and feed the homeless; there aren’t enough people feeding the homeless, I’m going to feed the homeless. Ugh, this feeding the homeless isn’t much fun, but it’s okay because this is what God wants, and God will help me do it.” And then they go and talk to somebody and either say “You should feed the homeless!” and try to guilt people into joining, or announce, “I feed the homeless!” for some saintly reason of “Oh people look at my example” But they are self-righteous. Do either of those things smell like God?

If this is you, and you’re wondering why you don’t have joy in it, or if you know somebody who comes across as guilting and self-righteous, the reason probably is, that you or that person haven’t REALLY given up your cares and concerns. You or they’ve just found the cares and concerns that you can carry that God has authorized.

This is one of the reasons why as sinful human beings, we have this need to worry and fret and not give up control. I think that we are afraid that if we give our cares to the Lord, then we’ll discover that He doesn’t really love us. We’re afraid that if we stop trying to do the “necessary” thing, then we won’t be able to earn the love that we are trying to deserve. This is why we get so weary and heavy laden, because as soon as we give up our concerns and cares to God, then we don’t have anything left to show how important and valuable we are. All we have left is God to show us how important and valuable we are.

Reading Matthew 6, you can hear that You are valuable and important, but you’ll never really know that until you give up all your cares and concerns to God, and wait to see how He responds. That’s the risk. Because then He will finally have a chance to tell you the truth, and He will show you His heart for you, and if you wait long enough, He will also show you His heart for the world. And with the showing of that Heart for the World, will come the sweet secret of those who know Intimacy with Him. This is also the badge that proves people are carrying God’s burdens rather than their own.

Joy.

This is the gentle, patient, persistent flame that can finally breathe when the burdens of life are cleared from off the wick of our heart. This Joy is based in so many things: it’s because you know you are loved and accepted and God has just shared His eternal love and truth with you that is so good it cannot be beaten! Through this great exchange of your cares for God’s, you will be entrusted with the heart of God. That example at the beginning of two friends. That is a hint of what it is like. And through this great exchange, the World will come to experience God’s love and power through you.

Now, just a warning, because some people may not want this. Doing this will result in one of two things: bringing the world closer to salvation, or bringing yourself closer to your own crucifixion. Likely both. For Jesus it was both, so why not for us? The more God is truly known in the world, the more people will have the chance to totally accept him, or totally reject him.

Some Practical Considerations for Doing this Great Exchange.

  • First of all, in American culture we are so good at self-soothing. You already can think of the things you depend on for your comfort and recuperation. Deny yourself those self-soothings you do whenever you are burdened and worried and anxious about your cares and concerns, and give them to God instead. Turn the TV off, put the snack down, put the Phone down, and go to God.
  • Second, set aside some time in the day to pray and talk with God regularly. Our First ministry isn’t to our family or ourselves. It’s to the Lord. I recommend before anyone else wakes up or after everyone else is asleep.
  • Third, “Go aside.” Moses saw the burning bush and turned aside to see the great sight, and when God saw Moses had turned aside, then he called out to him. There’s something about relating with God where He needs to see you. Maybe He wishes to know that you are seeking Him for His own sake, or maybe it’s just a lot easier to talk with someone when they leave the business of where they are, and stop long enough to fully receive what they say. Don’t go to God in between things. Literally stop whatever you’re doing, go somewhere private, and pour out your heart to God, then wait to hear His response.
  • And Fourth. Give your burdens over to Him. There are probably countless ways to do this, and some of them are well known: say them out loud, think about them and remember a Promise from God’s word, write them down methodically, write them down crazy fast.
    • For me, I have found it helpful to do it with a physical action or a visualization. A physical action is important because any doctor will tell you that worry and stress is a physical thing. If your shoulders are slumping because a heavy weight is on them, go to God, and shrug that burden off your shoulders, and pick it up and hand it to God. Where is he? right in front of you? Up above you. You can say, “God, can you please get that?” This is NOT as crazy as Harvey the Rabbit. God is really there right? Then talk to Him like He is really there!
    • The other way I mentioned is Visualization. Picture your worry and then in your imagination give it over to Jesus. Let it take whatever natural shape it takes in your imagination. it can be a big glob of poop, it can be anything, and then the conscience can help your imagination rightly understand what Jesus does in response to that. These are just methods I have tried, but there are many others.
  • Fifth consideration: It’s probably going to take longer than you think depending on how much time you have already spent casting your cares on God, Each one will need to be sorted and dealt with. If you feel like you’ve given all your concerns over to God, and one keeps popping up, you probably missed one. Keep going til your mind and heart are ready to stare your friend in the face with boldness because he has stayed with you the whole time you’ve unloaded on him.
  • Sixth when He shares with you keep His Confidence.

The Situation

The world today is a mess. And the sin of humanity is the problem. Romans 3:11–“There is no one who understands. There is no one who seeks for God.” As it was in Paul’s day, so it still is today. But if the sin of humanity is the problem, the salvation of humanity is at least part of the solution. It doesn’t sound very different from Ezekiel’s day. The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy and unlawfully exploited the foreign resident. I searched for a man among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land so that I might not destroy it, but I found no one.”

First, I address the church as a whole: without the heat of prayer, the Church will be lukewarm and ineffective. Unless you pray in this way, the world will not know Jesus through you.

Come on! Rise! Go! Find Him! Seek the Lord while he may be found!

A Quiet Voice

I speak. Will you hear?

The governing bodies of America are shifting
Like tectonic plates underground.
One presses from New York city skyscrapers
The other presses from the Appalachian Mountains
The molten center is in our capital.

One rises with Nature and Nature’s God
The other builds a tower to the Heavens
One rules by Constitution
One rules by Progress
They clash over one man.

His feet trample the mountain grass
He’s empowered by the wheels of progress
Yet the mountain people praise him
And the city-dwellers raze him.
Why?

He accepts the boundaries of stone
And breaks the bands of silicon.
He pushes back on man’s frailty
Establishes natural rights fruitfully.
A volcano is not self-centered.

Betwixt these moving forces mold
A new way through the new and old
One must accept God’s quiet voice.
As we are led to the defining choice.
A choice that may not be either or.

New growth must retain the life of the old.
What is that life, and where is it hidden?
Ask the quiet voice.
It will tell.
Listen.

To the President: from your boss

Dear President Trump,

 – – Hi, I’m Luke Ferguson. I’m your boss. My boss has some thoughts that he’s given me, and I want to pass them on to you.

 – – The Truth is being suppressed. Your power is limited, but you can help. The Freedom of the Press and the Freedom of Speech apply to you just as much as it does to every American. Find a window where the Truth can be spoken that no media outlet can touch. Offer verifiable information, and so win the trust of your people. Call the nation, government, people, and culture to Justice. And let yourself be the first casualty of the movement. You know of whom I speak, when I reference this.

 – – I hope and pray that our boss will be glad that He hired you. Show the world His love and power, the way Jesus did.

Your servant,

Luke Ferguson

Rapacity and Repentance

Rapacity is such a striking concept, according to Dictionary.com

  1. given to seizing for plunder or the satisfaction of greed.
  2. 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.

The Happy Christian

How to be a Happy Christian in the World Today

A message from Luke 6:20-26.

  • 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.

Luke 6:20-26

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)

Repent. How?

  1. Confess your sins to God and cease from them.
  2. Pursue Him devotionally in prayer.
  3. Obey His commands in whatever situation you are.
  4. Keep doing this until you have found your joy in Him again.

The Workbench and the Altar

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.

  1. Many cares. They keep me from seeing and knowing Him.
  2. My self-sufficiency. It keeps me from even looking to Him.
  3. Distractions–I put them on the Workbench, making no room for Him.
  1. Many Cares
  1. My Self-Sufficiency
  1. Distractions

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

Presenting yourself to God asking Him for God’s filling and anointing

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.

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

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: The Analogy of the Three Testaments

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.

Old Testament

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.

New Testament

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

Our Testament

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?

What is the answer?

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.