“To a Mature Man”: Stage 2–Temple

My dear little brother,

– – Last week, I shared about Jesus in his Humanity being born of man, and having a lot in common with us. Since the day He was born, He has been showing us the real meaning of the Image of God in man: Humility.

Jesus

The next stage is what we have in Luke’s Gospel at Jesus’ 8th day old and his 12th year old. The significant stage when Jesus was recorded at the Temple has two different parts which are super important for the man or the woman who is coming into their fullness as a Little-Christ.

The First, is Blessing,  (Luke 2:21-40.) A parent has such love for their children, and here it seems to me that God showed favor to the little boy Jesus by sending Simeon and Anna to bless him. This was such a wonderful practice which ties to the Old Testament like in Genesis when Isaac, and Jacob blessed their children and spoke words that would come to shape their direction. (Genesis 27, 49) Notice that it is the blessing that precedes any command. From the beginning we have this pattern,

  • “God blessed them, and told them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:28)
  • In the Ten commandments, “I am the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me . . . ” (Exodus 20:2-3)
  • The Sermon on the mount opens with blessing and continues with commands. (Matthew 5)
  • Even if you look at the Great Commission, you have a very interesting phrase, “And he blessed them and said, ‘All authority has been given me in Heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples . . .'” (Matthew 28:18)

It appears that God’s pattern is to bless his creation, profess his goodness, then to stress what he wills for the creation to do. If we see this pattern throughout the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, should we be surprised to see it in Jesus’ life?

The Second thing, is Learning in the temple at 12 years old. In Philippians, Paul said, Jesus ’emptied himself.’ in Philippians 2. He needed to be taught. His understanding and his ‘answers’ amazed the teachers in the temple as he submitted to their teaching. Recently, I saw a Mormon video of Jesus in the temple himself doing the teaching, but the Canon of Scripture the Church worshipfully chose and keeps says, in Luke’s account that he was

. . . sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.~Luke 2:46

That is the pattern of one who humbly receives from those wiser and older than he. It is this stage of Jesus’ life where he was growing super familiar with the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. As Jesus did for his disciples in their “stage 2” when he “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” In the later stages, Jesus was only able to do the teaching he did because he had passed through this stage, having received God’s blessing, and having been taught God’s Word. He had been given the full framework for His own person and spread out his understanding to fully grasp his story.

Christian

These days, I have seen a fading in the excitement of seeing mass conversions to Christ, because so few of them seem to be followed up by something evidently genuine. People hear the Gospel, (which is a crucial part of Stage 2) but they do not progress beyond that. It appears that the person who has only reached this stage where they receive God’s blessing and learn God’s teaching, but progresses no further in their walk are merely shown to be soil that is hard, stony, or thorny. The word of God bears no fruit, and their heart is proved worthless.

The importance of this stage, however must be kept at the level with all the others. It is the blessing of God which reminds us how much we owe him in worship, glory, and thanks, for making us and giving us such good gifts. Many churches still are very intentional about blessing their congregations. Also, exposure to and training by Christians keeps on shedding light and nourishment on the soil of the heart filled with the faith of a child– faith which according to Jesus is necessary to be saved. In today’s time, a Christian will likely receive much of this stage in the temple of the church, though in relationship with a small number of believers it is possible. In this stage a Christian has certain things he must be sure he gains, things he must take care to avoid.

Application:

Gain:

  • Blessing– learn how much Good blesses and loves you through the blessings of people in the church. Learn how his love has shaped them, and as one who is in a later stage, take it upon yourself to extend God’s blessing to the world so they can know God’s love and goodness in a personal way.
  • Knowledge of God— Many claim to know Him, but have no idea who He is, or how or why he does things. The Scriptures bear witness to this: “In [the gospel] the Righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Romans 1:17. It is this faith by which a Christian can live. If he lacks this knowledge of God, he can by no means be saved.
  • Understanding about yourself. I am hesitant to put this in, because there’s all kinds of hoaky stuff out there about “be the best you.” and “Know thyself” etc. Still, even some popular theologians like John Calvin have recognized that the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self are inseparable. Here, the value on self-understanding is not for the purpose of Maslov’s self-actualization. It is more for the purpose of the prodigal son when he “came to himself.” It’s that moment when you come to the end of all that you are and recognize that you are totally broken and corrupt and in rebellion against God. This is crucially important for the Christian who seeks to enter the next stage.
  • Wisdom of God–Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) There’s a certain way the world works. It needs to be understood in light of the Story of God’s interactions with fallen humanity. Stories teach us wisdom even more so than they do knowledge.

Avoid:

  • False Teaching– Jesus reserved his “Woes” for those who taught God’s word incorrectly. People who twist the Scriptures having neither, the spirit nor the letter correctly settled in the heart create great problems in the life of God’s people. Matthew 23. Measure up everything to the Scriptural revelation of Jesus Christ. If it doesn’t ring true with him ask more questions.
  • Traditionalism— There are those who have sought to make the church accessible to the three bad kinds of soils previously mentioned: the shallow, the hard-hearted, and the worldly. Avoid these things as you grow in Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding.
    • For the hard-hearted, they can still hear about Jesus, but they won’t be required to actually believe it. Maybe to fit in they will be required to do only superficial demonstrations of devotion like raising their hands, giving money, and attending regularly, nothing really all-involving.
    • For the stony-hearted, they can come to church, but there won’t be any really challenging doctrine that requires them to take deeper looks at themselves. They will have plenty of good man-teaching that will teach them have to grow maybe some AstroTurf lawn grass but no fruit.
    • For the thorny-hearted, they can come to church, and hear God’s word and even do some worthwhile things, but they won’t be required to clear out all the other stuff that’s important to them. They can come to church one day a week and six days of the week keep a garden of worldly thorns like entertainment, work, family, and possessions.

Summary: The Second Stage of a believer’s life is where the truth and blessing of God pour into a person. A person who is seeking to grow “To a mature man” needs to gain the blessing, knowledge, wisdom and understanding of this stage while avoiding False teaching or Tradition. Until a believer has biblical faith, he is not ready for stage 3.

Final thought: This stage could be compared with childhood, and for the Christian, I believe he can take comfort in this: that he is fulfilling this part of his Savior’s word, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Mt 18:3.

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“To a Mature Man” Stage 1–Birth

Jesus

Okay. Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God. The account of His birth ties him to His heritage. Matthew traces it back to Abraham, the Faithful Father of the Promise, the Father of the nation of Israel. Matthew 1, the genealogy which in brief relays the story of the Old Testament. In Jesus’ line there is a lot of mixed-baggage. Here are a few examples:

  • Abraham–Faith, but a cowardly liar
  • Jacob– a God-grappling deceiver
  • Judah with Tamar– self-sacrificing, but ignoble
  • Rahab–God-fearing prostitute
  • David–After-God’s-heart wife-stealer
  • Solomon– Wise man with too many ladies
  • Rehoboam– Just a jerk
  • Jeroboam– Weakling
  • Hezekiah–God fearing naive king
  • Manasseh–baby-killer
  • Josiah– Rediscovered God, but too late for everyone else.

And more. Those are the main ones that stick out to me. Mary’s genealogy in Luke 3 has many of the same names.

At the end of this list is Joseph who has a dream that his virginal bride-to-be is actually going to give birth to a baby named, “Jesus.”

“For He will save His people from their sins.”

Jesus’ name was given before birth, which to me indicates that he was not disconnected from his heritage. On the contrary, he was going to fix the mess that everyone else had made. This baby was born to make good all that was made bad before him.

His birth, though he was of royal blood, was in an animal feeding trough. Humble I believe could be the best way to describe it.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus was driven to Egypt out of the land of Israel, a people who once lost all their new-born kids to the king of Egypt, by the King of Israel who killed new-born kids of Israel. Tragically ironic. Whereas the current King of Israel wished to seize and to slay, this humble king was content to sleep and to lay.

“Out of Egypt I called My son!” Matthew reminds us of the story of how Moses had to stand for God against the King, as God brought His nation out of the womb of Egypt with tremendous birth-pangs. They came out with the spoils of Egypt, decked in all the jewels and gold of the welcome to the world as a new nation with One God.

Christian

You, my dear brother, were born once. I often find that not many Christians (Believers in Jesus Christ) recognize things they have in common with Jesus. Part of the purpose of this series is to help recognize some of these things. After all, according to Romans 8:29, Paul said,

“God foreknew and planned out that Christians would be conformed to the image of his Son [Jesus] so that [Jesus] might be the first born among many brothers.” [and sisters]

If my father read this,  I would tell him, I am not laying any claim on divinity for us humans, as it is true of Christ. We are of the earth, and we are creatures: we cannot be divine in Jesus’ way. Even the on the other side of resurrection, the end of humanity isn’t divinity according to Revelation 22. What I am saying is that the humanity of Christ is human enough for us to relate with him and identify with him as his brothers and sisters. In fact, in some ways He’s more wholly human than we are brokenly. For instance:

  • While you and I have an earthly father and mother, Jesus did have an earthly mother.
  • “Whatsoever is born of flesh is flesh.” John 3:6 “Jesus Christ is come in flesh.” 1 John 4:2
  • He had a real physical body that breathed, bled, lived, died, felt pain, felt weakness, wanted things.
  • He had siblings growing up.
  • He had a community of people around him who knew, cared about, and at first spoke well of him.
  • He had friends.

There is plenty of room in the image God: Jesus, for human you, also made in God’s image, to fit. He’s Humanity 2.0! 😀

“To tell you all of this again is no hard thing for me, and it is a safe guard for you.”

Church

And I want you to be aware that this view of Jesus as Human is not welcome in some churches. Gnosticism is, as my professor Dr. Ryan Reeves at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary said in his video, “Gnosticism and the Early Church,” a trend that affects the doctrines and practices of the church from even before Christ until today. It involves: three fundamentals:

  1. The tangible world isn’t real.
  2. The tangible world is hated or deprecated in value
  3.  One needs an elitist knowledge of how things *really* are in order to be saved.

It manifests in churches that do not value the material world around them, and have beliefs that God isn’t out to redeem the physical world, but rather to deliver our immaterial “souls” from this evil material world, and we need to know the truth that sets us free from our physical bondage to things like possessions, the temple of the Holy Spirit. “It’s an old garment anyway.” they say. “One day I’ll be free of my physical body and get to live forever with Jesus in a spirit-only world!”

Trends like this tend to hurt the church’s witness, because we value more thinking and experiencing than doing or accomplishing tangible results. Furthermore, it’s not in keeping with the overarching meta-story of Scripture. Jesus was just as much human flesh as you and I are, yet without sin. And it was THAT humanness that was the perfect representation of His nature. What’s more, the fact God became a physical tangible human being means that He has tied himself to our physical reality. And just as our bodies will die one day, this world will die one day. As our bodies will be changed, so the earth will be changed. The Spiritual is not at the expense of the tangible.

If however, Jesus was born, and the Church is the body of Christ, then the church is just as much human as it is spiritual, and that’s a good thing.

Pitfalls

In these stages, I plan to share a pitfall for each one, to avoid to ensure your own or someone else’s progress through the stages. At this stage in a Christian’s life, he is being exposed to the person of Jesus Christ, being reminded of true humanity through other Christians. The pitfalls he must avoid are false religion or False gods. Whatever we worship or believe comes to define who we are, and to believe things that are untrue, or fashioned after an ungodly spirit is to cheapen one’s own humanity. This of course presupposes that Jesus Himself is the True Human. If a person comes to believe something about humanity and the spiritual world that isn’t true, it will be a stumbling block and a hindrance toward their growing up into maturity. What a person in this stage needs is Exposure to Christ. To meet a Christian and be struck by their dissimilarity with the rest of the world. This gets a person started on their journey toward Christ. Let him avoid the paths that diverge from the Way after myths, false gods, and false religion.

Application (The part I know you really like)

  1. Take care not to de-human-ize Jesus. It’s really not honoring to him. His humanity was the perfect representation of God as the perfect image of God, and he has reset the Human race on a path to the full actualization of God’s character in the church.
  2. Be human! And base your definition on Jesus: humility. The apostle Luke was intentional to show the disciples of Jesus doing even the miraculous things Jesus did, like raising the dead even! Read Acts! Show kindness to your fellow humanity. Don’t think you’re something special. Be humble.
  3. Render to God what is God’s. Count your very being as a physical image stamped with the likeness of God. And recognize that you were born to represent Him on the earth, even as Jesus was born.
  4. Represent the earth before God. Not only is humankind the representative of God on earth, but the representative of Earth before God. Who better to be a mediator between these two realms of Heaven and Earth than one who smells of both homes.
  5. Avoid the Pitfalls.
  6. Read the Bible as a human. Here’s a logic puzzle:
  • If Jesus is both divine and human.
  • And Jesus is the Word of God,
  • and the Bible is the Word of God,
  • Then Why should the Bible be read only as Divine communication? Should it not be read just as fully as human communication? It was the resurgence of the humanities which helped Erasmus to translate the Greek New Testament, and Martin Luther to get a hold of the Word of God as it was meant. To read the Bible as a human means you read it as an author talking to a listener with pre-understandings and time-less eternal truths living in each of their hearts.

Final point: Every human who seeks to follow after Jesus must start at this point. To be human from birth. In short, a man must be born before he can be born again.

“To a Mature Man”

My dearest little brother,

– – We have been following Jesus together for a number of years now, and this Fall, it seems you will be moving out of my immediate range. While you are gone, I’ll miss your company, and talking with you, and sharing more insights into the mystery of walking with him. I know you’ll have plenty of growing to do where you are going, even as I still have plenty of growing to do here, but as you are going, I wanted to put these following blog posts in a place where you can get to them easily, and possibly share them with others who you get a chance to be a big brother to. It is an expansion on the 10 stages of the Christian life, based upon the 10 stages of Jesus Life, which you know has been my keen interest these last few years. In answer to the question, What does it mean to be a real, full-grown Christian?” I have arranged these reflections in a manner that I hope will be easy to understand, and appreciated for their ability to help you examine your own walk with the Lord. I know we both desire for the Church to be what God wants it to be. Thank you for your willingness to follow along with me as I follow Christ.

As Christ has loved us,
Let us love one another.

With Christ’s love,
Your older brother

Outline

The Stages of Jesus’Life as the Proto-Christian are these. The first four are Preparatory. The Second four are Kingdom. The final two are Post-Victory.

  1. Birth
  2. Temple
  3. Baptism
  4. Wilderness
  5. Community
  6. Service
  7. Justice
  8. Persecution
  9. Resurrection
  10. Ascension

I’ll dedicate one post for each of these stages with one final post to conclude.

P.S. Until all the stages are up, I’ll keep the outline at the front for reference, so you can scroll down for stages as they are available on Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m.

Burnout

In the famous The Tortoise and the Hare story, children are taught that slow and steady wins the race. I wish ministers were taught that fast and steady brings the burnout.

One sign that God’s servants are hooked up to a finite power source such as coffee, food, screen time, entertainment, hobbies, relationships, or the praise of men is burnout.

The Almighty power of God will never burnout, and its power outlet is found on the side of the wooden beams of Jesus’ own cross.

If you’re not carrying His cross, you are powerless. If you are not deriving your every sustainence from the Word of God, you have only pseudo-power. E. M. Bounds was right, prayer is where the power is, but that’s just because prayer brings a person into contact with the Almighty power of God. Only the humble will actually be strengthened by it though.

God is a Father, Lord, Friend, Priest, and the One who has borne everything you have carried; He knows. The guilt from burnout needs to be kept in the presence of God. It is mere pride which drives a man away from God out of guilt. Humble guilt runs to God, not from Him. If you can’t hear Him, then for His goodness sake run to Him. Leave every net behind!

If the shell that the body of Christ is wearing now–the exoskeleton of denominational Christianity which is only affordable in a pluralistic, materialistic, and person-centered culture like America–is tiring out the very soldiers who live to sustain it to the point where they are morally, spiritually, and societally compromised, then we either need better leaders or a better exoskeleton. I’ve got a feeling that God wants both.

Change

It’s something many people do not appreciate. On my way home from work, I was thinking about how the choir at my old church sang with a very heavy alto because there had been no change in the choir and had lost soprano members. But altos seem to outlast soprano.

There are always changes happening. If we don’t have change of something new, we experience the inevitable change of decay as things get old. Change is like weather. Weather makes our world fresh and new by precipitation and also breaks it down by erosion. Our world is not very unlike us: it is subjected to futility, and the unchanging nature of change.

We who seek to preserve constancy in this world will find it to be hardly a passive battle. The ground will keep waxing old, and we will need to dig for new fruits. The one who builds a house will need to maintain it or it will change to corruption. The one who tries to be faithful to his word will find he needs to sacrifice to keep it true.

One principle of how change works I realized on my way home from work. I will share it in parts and then as a whole.

Before change, something is okay,

Because of the principle that all is decaying, if something has been the same for a while, it is probably out of date or expired. To simply do things a certain way because you have always done them thus you will find things achieve mediocrity speedily.

but after change things get worse

Transition means that parts of the problems grown in situations left unattended by good leadership need to be cut out so that the good can be grown. It will get worse first.

So that things can get better than before

But if all the dead weight is cut out, and new vigor about the new ideas is infused (and they are good ideas) Then things will improve. Even here, this will not happen naturally.

Under a good leader.

Here’s where Trust, Integrity, Wisdom, and Value and a whole other host of dynamics come in. We who resist change are often seeking to preserve our own value both of ourselves and the things that matter most to us. What we seek is a leader who has the integrity to stay true to his word, who has the heart to recognize the things we value, and has the wisdom to cultivate them skillfully.

I believe change is a risk and what determines whether the risk is a good one or not, is if the leader is a good one or not. If he is good, if he is on the Lord’s side, if he is a servant, and is carrying his cross, trust him and follow him. If he is not on the Lord’s side, beware the effects of the changes that come.

E.M. Bounds said, “Men are looking for better methods. God is looking for better men.”

Prayer, Bible-reading, and Fasting: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Discipline

My dear sister in Christ,

– – We all are fighting many battles. We each have many victories and many defeats of which we can boast. To aid you in your plight, I have some thoughts on Spiritual Disciplines that I hope may be useful to a practical person such as yourself. May you find the blessing of a loving brother reflecting the love of the Big brother too both of us: Jesus Christ.

– – It may not seem like it, but Jesus can really identify with everything that we go through. On the surface, it looks totally different: Jesus was not a wife and mother of two adorable yet sinful children. The reason he can is because all three temptations to which Eve and Adam fell, are the same three temptations with which Israel was tried in the wilderness for 40 years. and by which Jesus was tempted by the devil for 40 days. The three roots of all the sin in our lives can be boiled down to these:

  1. Cravings–Selfish desires to satisfy the lust of our flesh.
  2. Mistrust– Not fully believing that God is good, or His word is trustworthy
  3. Rebellion– gaining power for ourselves, independent of God, submitting to anything but Him.

Adam and Eve both fell to these three temptations in Eden, Israel fell to these in the Wilderness, but Jesus in the Wilderness did not. This stage of Jesus life comes after Jesus’ Baptism, and he enters by the holy Spirit’s leading into the desert and he beats Satan’s temptations and leaves with the Holy Spirit’s power, which he cultivated in three practical ways: Fasting, Prayer, and the Word of God. These three practices have a specific objective to teach a particular State of being, which can counteract the State of sin into which we are born. These three practices have the potential by the Spirit’s aid to strengthen the Christian for any struggle he or she faces: whether tangible or intangible, visible or invisible, emotional or rational, external or internal.

Preliminary caution: Nothing can be done except by the leading of the Holy Spirit. Make sure He’s even on board with you, or you are going nowhere like a boat with sail raised and no wind.

  1. Fasting. Jesus ate nothing for 40 days, and Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” In the Greek it is clear that he was not trying to get Jesus to doubt that he was God’s son. On the contrary, he was saying that since he was the son of God he had the power to gratify his own desires. However, Jesus humbly responds with the lesson that Moses told the people of Israel that God was trying to teach them in the wilderness for 40 years: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The key thing Jesus held to in his temptation here was radical DEPENDENCE on God. It is the only way we can beat this particular root cause of sin in our lives: we depend on God for everything. Jesus learned this lesson of Dependence on God through Fasting.
    – – Practical ways to do this. Fasting means 1. denying ourselves something precious to us in which we find great happiness and joy, and depend on for our very livelihood for a period of time, and 2. replacing that very thing with reading God’s word, talking with God, listening for God in silence, doing things for others and serving God, focusing all your energies mental and physical on trying to know God intimately, doing nothing until you hear God’s voice tell you to, etc. Example: Instead of eating a meal, spending time reading scripture. Instead of watching TV, praying, instead of listening to music, practicing silent waiting on the Lord to Speak. Any period of time that practically works for you: an hour, a day, a week, a month, as the Holy Spirit leads you.
    Again, the goal of this practice is to depend on God for everything, your sustenance, your sanity, your spiritual well-being. Not only will the fruit of the Spirit self-control be added unto you, but also the fruit of patience, and peace.
  2. The Word of God. In addition to Scripture memory, which we both have had and has served us well, there is an even greater importance on appreciating the whole Story of the Bible. G.K. Chesterton helped C.S. Lewis recognize the Bible as the True story meant to capture the imagination as well as the mind’s search for truth when he said this, “Christianity met the mythological search for romance by being a story, and met the philosophical search for truth by being a true story.”~Everlasting Man The Gospel story from Genesis to Revelation serves one purpose: to reveal God’s righteousness from faith to faith. (Romans 1:16) The Bible does not assume that we just assume God is righteous, it shows us how especially in the Old Testament leading to the Gospels. This way the Word of God reveals God shows us one thing “God is trustworthy.” When Jesus was tempted to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, Satan told him, “Son of God, God said he’d take care of you, so go ahead and jump.” Jesus’ response “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Indicates there was an implicit temptation of mistrust in Satan’s suggestion. Jesus however responds by saying in essence, “God has shown Himself to be trustworthy more times than I need. I will not test Him.” He learned this from reading the Hebrew Old Testament, and seeing the story of the Bible unfold to where he was. Through all he read, he learned radical TRUST in his father.
    Practical ways to do this: Reading God’s Word as a true story will give your imagination opportunities to wonder at God again, to take into your heart the same truths you wish for your own children to embrace. The Bible isn’t a collection of laws, but a story with laws in them, and that story reveals two main things: God is good, and we are rebellious. One resource I highly recommend is the Bible Project. They have Youtube videos explaining the Bible themes, Books of the Bible, Hebrew words, and more all in engaging, animated videos which kids from 4th Grade and up can appreciate. I recommend their Video series on the Torah (The first 5 books) and their “read through the Bible” series on each book of the Bible, and also reading the books of the Bible trying to trace the story line from Genesis to Revelation.
    Again, the goal here is to teach you the same radical TRUST Jesus had in His father by seeing how God has dealt with the world up to this point.
  3. Prayer. This is the big one, and I am glad to hear how you have already incorporated this one into your life so much! When Satan tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world, if he would simply fall down and worship Satan, there was only one way Jesus could say no to that temptation. DEVOTION: a love for God that would rather have Him than anything else. Fasting, and reading God’s Word foster this too, but there is something about the intimacy and communion of prayer, rivaling marital copulation in love shared. Prayer is where we meet with God, know God, love God, and are met, known, and loved. E. M. Bounds wrote a book, “Power through Prayer” explaining these principles that prayer is where a Christian derives his power. The secret to this is two fold: on the one hand, we are made in God’s image, and the more time we spend with the one whose image we bear, the more our broken image is remolded and reshaped into His likeness. (Example: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story the Great Stone Face.) But on the other hand, God is love, and this love can only be shared and expressed in a close intimate encounter and continual DEVOTION to the beautiful God whose beauty melts the heart of stone with His pure love.
    Practical ways to do this: “Pray without ceasing.” I like to apply this by making God a part of every conversation: not talking about Him, but talking with everyone as if God is standing right next to you. Talking with Him about everything. It takes practice, but it becomes super easy the more intimate and excited you get when you recognize how He is feeling, acting, and thinking toward others around you in any given moment in time. Also, setting aside time to keep Him as the main thing. Everything else in the world will vie for your attention, and every responsibility will chain you up unless you make the choice deliberately that God is the the most important person in your life, and you would rather have Him than ANYTHING. Finally, praying with people so that it becomes not only a personal devotion, but a mutual encouragement to share God’s love.

One final thought: Please do not pursue the practical at the expense of the personal. It may be my personality coming out here, but I believe there is a personal root to everything. I encourage you to follow these practical steps wherever you can, and do not forget that He’s right there personally available for all of it. Expect to fail and learn to depend on God even in your failures.

May God bless you, my sister, and I hope that we both may mutually grow into the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. God’s peace be with your spirit.

Exodus 40: The Tabernacle and the Glory

Exodus 40:33–Thus Moses finished the work.

Explanation: In this passage, the LORD, Yahweh, God of Israel speaks to Moses and tells him, “Arrange everything in the Tabernacle just as I have instructed.” Vss. 1-15. Then in vss. 16-33 Moses does what the LORD says. Vs. 33 says, “Thus Moses Finished the work.” The amount of detail that went into Exodus 25-31 where the Tabernacle instructions are given, and then from Exodus 35-39 where the instructions are carried out sounds redundant in that they are so similar. And once “Moses had finished the work” then the glory of God filled the Tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting.

Principalization: There is a pattern to the spiritual principle of life which seems evident in multiple Scriptures– a natural order in which God works.

  • In Genesis 2:7– When God made man, it said, he formed man out of the dust, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And Man became a living soul.
  • In Genesis 7:1-15– Noah did everything according to what God commanded, And in vs. 16, Yahweh closed the door of the ark behind him.
  • In Genesis 14 and 15, it was after Abraham refused the reward of Sodom that God deepened His covenant relationship with him.
  • In Joshua 1-6, God’s directions were followed precisely, and God miraculously brought down the walls of Jericho.
  • In 1 Chronicles 28:11-19, the Temple instruction was passed from David to Solomon, and once the temple is completed in 2 Chronicles 7 the Glory of God comes down.

The order that seems to be shown in these passages is this:

  1. God gives a commandment.
  2. His servant obeys.
  3. His servant finishes the work.
  4. God’s glory and power show forth.

If there is any lack of even one of these first three elements the fourth cannot be. A complete obedience to the God who commands is the prerequisite for God’s glory and power showing forth.

Interrogation: In light of this pattern– First all on earth must be arranged; then Heaven comes down, the question I posit here is the same question Phineas’ wife asked in 1 Samuel 4:21 when she named her son after she heard the Ark of the Covenant was taken and Eli the High priest died:

Where is the glory?

In Exodus 40:38 the writer said, “Throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD as on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.”  If we are in a time of spiritual day, where is the cloud? If we are in a time of spiritual night, where is the fire?

If Jesus came to be Immanuel, God with us, and promised that he would never leave us or forsake us, where is the presence of God which shattered fortified walls? Where is the breath of life in the body of Christ? Where is the power from on high with which the first church was clothed in the upper room at Pentecost? Where are the tongues of flame that melted all languages barriers back into one people like before Babylon?

When I as a citizen of America attend the local assemblies here in my hometown of Ocala, FL my answer is this:

Wherever it is, it is not here.

My father once told me there is a very fine distinction between faith and presumption. I believe that in these passages I recognize that the difference between faith and presumption in the following stories:

In 1 Samuel, King Saul lost God’s precious anointing for Kingship, because he disobeyed God. Samuel rebuked him and said, “Has Yahweh as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For Rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.” Saul lacked faithful obedience.

In Isaiah 1, The Kingdom of Israel was mocking God by worshiping Him while living a disobedient life. God’s response was, “I hate your worship! Clean up yourselves!” and he gave them the key to their redemption in vs. 27. “Zion will be redeemed with Justice, and her repentant ones with righteousness.” What the people lacked in societal obedience, the Lord would restore them through their obedience.

In Matthew 9, Jesus ate with the tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees said, “How dare you?” But Jesus said, “Go learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.'” He then goes on to work Miraculous wonders in the community by raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. What Jesus did have was the obedience, relationship, and love of His father.

From these examples, I can see that the difference between presumption and faith is something that combines righteousness, justice, love, and obedience together:

Humble devotion to God.

Exhortation: I weep with Paul as he recounts the scriptures, “There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.” Who has a heart after God? Who seeks Him, and Him alone? Who wishes only to know Him, yea still to be known by Him? Such a man will pursue The Lord with prayer. Such a man will refuse the bribe of the rich, such a man will despise public fame. Such a man will hate any allegiance or alliance with Evil. Such a man will often walk alone, yet not alone. Such a man will be poor in worldly esteem, but in Christ will know true contentment. God is looking for just one man who will seek Him. One man who will stay with Him. One man who will obey, who will follow, who will weep with Him, and rejoice with Him. One man who will do as he sees his father doing. One man. That’s all He needs. With such a man, the glory of God will rest in his heart, like a seed in the earth. With such a man, the power of God will work in his weakness. With such a man, the holy Spirit will smell of God on him, and he will be that aroma of life to life, and death to death.

Where is the glory? The hope of it is Christ in you.

 

Eternity and Caffiene

The more we feed on corruptible things
The more our bodies are broken down by it.
The more we feed on eternal things
The more our bodies are renewed by it.

I came to understand this, bless the Lord who is merciful and just, after a week where He gave me a specific directive, “No chocolate.” It wasn’t even words. It was merely a feeling deep within my spirit, as He was inviting me to follow his leading in a deeper non-verbal way. I thought of chocolate, and knew I was not to eat it. But what was weird was, I could eat it, and He said it was okay. The first day of school–Monday, I turned down a chocolate cupcake that was apparently “divine” according to all my other friends. The entire day, I ate no chocolate, no coffee, just ordinary food. And to celebrate the blessing of Monday, I ate chocolate. The next day, my hand and my arm were scraped up from a nasty fall, and I had one of the most chaotic chorus teaching days in my career. I ate a bit of chocolate each day for the next four days, and the week ended with a class of discouragement, and lethargy and longing for the weekend, and feeling dismal about my work.

I have been reading The Refiner’s Fire with my wife at night, and as we read last night, T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

“Dependency on the Lord is a governing and an abiding law of true spiritual power.”

Examples of this in practice involve feasting upon eternity at the cost of the material. Fasting serves this purpose. Silence, waiting, giving, sacrifice, all of these things exercise the heart to lay hold of what really matters, to avoid the snare of the empty corruptible resources of this world.

In common terms, have we not even seen that foods that are natural are full of nutrients, but the more they are processed by the devices of men, they are stripped of their nourishment? The life is the same way. If you feast on God, you will not only be satisfied, but even your hungry times will be hopeful. If you feast on the devices of man, you ingest the woeful product of man’s corruptibility, which more often than not works for a temporal and fleeting end, rather than a spiritual and eternal one.

Even now, on this day of rest, as I write this work, my body reels for more caffeine, but my heart is growing strong in its absence. Not because chocolate is any evil thing. It is merely temporal, but God has bound up eternity in the heart of humanity. This is why it is so true that, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” It is the breath and thought and person of God which sustains our souls for life.

The reason I feel I must publish this, is I see more and more the T-shirts with the cute slogan which helps us laugh at our Christianity translated through American Culture. “I can do all things with Christ . . . and Coffee.” I would laugh, but the matter is too grievous. I do not judge the practice of eating or drinking. I do not have that right. What I do judge is the proud display of Jesus + something else, as the basis for our life. To lean on anything at all beyond just Jesus, is the very spirit of idolatry which breathes corruption into our daily lives.

Do you not know the flesh wars against the spirit,
And that the spirit wars against the flesh?
What provision do you make for the flesh that you may fulfill it’s desires?
Do you caffeinate your body so it can function in a society based on too much work, noise, and business?
Isn’t the church called to more than that?
One of the hindrances to power in the church today, is that we do not know how to be utterly dependent on God.
We are afraid of what from ourselves or our possessions that would cost us.

Christ + Coffee is a house divided against itself. It cannot stand.

Do not be so simple as to think I’m really talking about Coffee as being an inherent evil. If you think so, I think you are looking for fault in what I say in order to preserve your own affection or dependence. And yet, why is it that the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians, “Do not be drunk with wine, which is dissipation, but be filled by the spirit.” I think we could have a modern translation of that, “Don’t live on coffee, which is dissipation, but be filled by the spirit!” “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.” If you are not feeling liberty in your life, I would suggest you are walking in something less than God’s spirit.

I have written this for myself. I sit here in a quiet place, waiting on the Lord. I step out on faith that the energy I do not have is supplied by God for what I need. And if I look to Coffee, it will let me down. If I look to chocolate, it will let me down. Time is too short, to live a dis-empowered spiritual life, because you have substituted holy joy for entertainment, and spiritual power for caffeinated power. Both will be tried by fire, and there will not be enough coffee to put out that fire. It is an all consuming fire. All that remains is what is of eternity. When your life is burned up before the presence of a Holy God who judges the living and the dead, how much will be burned up because it was based on coffee, and how much of it will survive the trial because it was based on nothing but Christ Himself?

Jesus’ Rule and Human Destiny

Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale shared last week that one of the fundamental questions to be answered by any worldview is “What is my purpose?” The Bible answers this question by saying that God made human beings to rule and fill the earth. (Genesis 1:28) Their rule was submitted to His rule, but He gave the earth to Adam’s children to rule (Psalm 115:16).

The fundamental loss of this purpose, which happened when Adam sinned, is he disobeyed God to usurp God’s rule over him in order to be his own ruler like God. I find it fascinating how resonant stories of deep meaning in our lives have picked up on this motif of a second in command usurping and supplanting his master by seizing power for himself. For example, STAR WARS has made this as one of the cardinal principles of the Dark side of the Sith. The apprentice always kills the master. Disobedient to authority, eventually leading to deposition of authority. In Antman, the apprentice eventually overthrows and undoes his mentor. This way of usurping authority in rebellion is the classic evil of Satan’s sin against God.

A beautiful contrast of this is seen in the humility of King David. He refused twice to lay hold of the crown for himself: to strike down the current King Saul. In this way, he showed himself to be a man after God’s own heart, and it was his line that was blessed and established for the Messiah to come through.

Go back further, and another example: Joseph. When he was 2nd in command of Potiphar’s house, and though he was tempted day after day by his bride, he said, “My master has entrusted everything to me in this house, save you. How can I do this great wickedness and sin against my God.” (Genesis 39.)

Human kind was made to rule, but the way of rule is not to escape authority, or to crush it, but to submit to it. To stay close enough to the Moses, that He chooses you to be his Joshua.

God desires such to serve Him, and you will never serve a better master than He.

Worship Restoring God’s Image

Background:

Some passages in certain books of the Bible show God’s intentions toward humanity up-close and personal. Exodus 34 is one of them.

The story up to this point is God has established Abraham’s family to represent Him in His fallen world, and he has just delivered them from the nation of Egypt who enslaved them. The people, however, prove to be stubborn and rebellious of heart, when He brings their complaining souls to Mount Sinai and makes a covenant with them. While Moses goes up on the mountain of God for 40 days and 40 nights to get the Tabernacle instructions, the people brazenly rebel right in front of God’s presence by degrading God’s living glorious image to that of a calf made of gold. God is so insulted, He is ready to start over with just Moses, but Moses intercedes, and God changes His mind. Moses punishes the people, but God still will not Himself go with the people, or He’ll consume them.

Moses goes back to God for another 40 days and 40 nights to plead on behalf of Israel, and settle a new covenant with Israel. And here he asks the most daring request a human could ask of God, “Please let me see your glory.” God responds by telling him, he can see His goodness, and hear His name, but He cannot see His face. God prepares the new covenant, and bases it on, not just what he’s done for Israel, but upon His own character. He passes in front of Moses telling Moses His name and all that it means, and Moses responds by hurrying to bow and worship.

The name of Yahweh

How does God describe Himself?

  1. Yahweh–I am. He exists. He simply is, was, and ever will be.
  2. El–God. Creator, Judge, Powerful, Ruler.
  3. Rahum–Compassionate–Characterized by the tender feeling of the heart toward those who are suffering: also the tender feeling a Father has for his children.
  4. Hanun–Graicous–With a face shining full of favor.
  5. Erek-Aphaim–Slow-angered. He has a long fuse.
  6. Rav Hessed v Emeth–Abounding in Love and Truth. All that is in God is full to overflowing with Loyal love and truth
  7. Notser Hessed lelaphim–Keeping Loyal love to thousands. He keeps His commitments to all.
  8. Nose’ avon, vpesha’ vhattath–Forgiving wickedness, transgression, and sin. The Hebrew word Nasa’ has the connotation of Carry. It is not the Hebrew Idea of letting go of a sin, but the idea of bearing with the person who is sinning, transgressing, and acting wickedly against.
  9. V’Nakeh Lo yinakeh— By no means letting the guilty go unpunished. He will justly execute His wrath upon all.
  10. Paqed avon avoth al b’ney, v al b’ney b’nim al Shaleshim, vraveyim. Visiting the transgressions of the fathers on the children and children’s children to the third and fourth.

Dreadful and Glorious. God of the Old Testament showed Moses exactly what He is like.

Moses Response

Moses hurried and bowed down and worshiped. (Vs. 8) For an creature of earth to be thrust back into the fiery mantle from which the dust came, would be less terrifying than for a human made in the image of God, to come to know the one whose image he bears. Fullness of Joy, and utter dread. Worship– This is the melting in God’s presence in which all of our unworthiness is exposed like silver dross, and the Image is recast to that which it was originally intended to represent. The people of Israel cast a calf, and therefore exchanged God’s glory for the lesser glory of a creature of earth. (See Romans 1:23) But here Moses was before God’s glorious good presence and name, and he worshiped. He wrote down all that God commanded him on two stone tablets, and came down the mountain.

The Result

Moses’ face shone radiant light from being in the presence of Yahweh. (Vs. 29) He did not know it, but the people feared to go near Him. Did he glow like the moon or like the Sun?

  • In Daniel, the righteous are told that their faces shone out “Like the brightness of the expanse of Heaven forever and ever.”
  • In Matthew, this is translated as “The righteous will shine like the Sun.” Matthew 13:43
  • In Matthew 17, Jesus’ face shines like the Sun on the Transfiguration mount.
  • Acts 6:15 Stephen’s face looked like the face of an angel, and he looked up and saw the glory of God. Acts 7:54
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 says of the believer, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
  • A little later in his letter, Paul expresses, “The God who said, ‘Light will shine out of darkness’ is the God who has shone in our heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

It is safe to say Moses’ face shone like the sun. But how? God had restored the image of His glory in humanity in Moses here for a short while. How except by the revelation of Himself and Worship?

Worship is how God restores His image on earth. And if he restores His image on earth, He restores the earth. Only . . . through fire.