The Scribe

After a return to translation,
– – I remember. My soul is spread out before God like a puddle of water in the hot sun. I feel my spirit rising up within me to moisten and soften my heart with tears that cleanse me of the world’s hardening smut and worthless frivolity. The English Bible is like a lantern with a fresh, warm firelight within it. The heat is intoxicating like wine’s drunkenness (without dissipation) that begets an even deeper sobriety. My melted form twists and swirls before the majesty of the Fire in which it was first forged, and in this white-hot groaning holiness, the dross collects around the mouth of my chest in guttural wailings and tears of joy and cries of laughter. The aches of futility are assuaged, and the drudgery of time is nullified, my youth kindles like a flame dancing on the wick of a single moment. I am opened up to the glorious goodness of God in humbled trust and the hope of glory is bursting from my heart in song, poetry, story, and questions seeking to lay hold of even more of the Answer.

– – This is only the birth of something new. From here, my thoughts and feelings are blessed to carry the fire of God’s Holy Word into every part of my being through my Journals probing and applying and forging of the truth of life’s mystery into a sensible, handled, accessible portal for myself and all who hear me to enter in to the same gateway into the Wonder of God’s person. Thoughts are laid like iron bars parallel upon the perpendicular wood of my emotions, laid out and empowered and straightened by the Holy fire purified, so that the locomotive of my will to choose and serve and love God with all my heart may transport this precious cargo all around the trail He himself has laid out for my wheels. Not to speed or slow except by His bidding for any hills or curves I cannot see from my own window on the side of the locomotive. As I seek vision, He shows me a map of the railroad upon which I am tracked, and helps me see ways to cultivate what I carry in my payload, even as He sets me in motion Himself. The payload is destined for a particular destiny of destination and the Boiler’s fire must not go out til there is no more track.

– – This birth and cultivation manifest a different sort of fruit than mere thoughts, but also a more excellent and beautiful abundance out of which my joy is mingled again with sorrow and expressed colorfully to the world: Heaven sings to the Earth and in the earth the reply rises from deep within it. A soul without song is an ember glowing but flickering with no tongue of flame. Music explosion makes the dance of heat give off radiant and comforting light to all who languish in darkness and who shiver in cold disbelief. They warm themselves with blankets of silence trusting their own heat to keep warm, when suddenly in their eyes and ears a melody of painful pleasure touches their dry frozen eyes with warm moisture and the dull ringing ears with magical delight. The skill of the composer to bend his heart and lightly carry his listener to a place where he has exercised the eternal possibilities of the finite, given the mind room to explore new patterns and meaning, and most of all, gathered all hearers into one solid pool of Eternity’s Elixir from which all souls take their draught which expediently refreshes it in God.

By a verse of translation a man is confronted by his darkness.
–     O that he would break at the sight and melt!
The next verse warms his heart with honest tears.
–     O that his laughter may accompany each drop!
Another and peace tests him with rest and sleep.
–     O that he may have the heart to keep pursuing his Beloved!
Still a fourth and the shape is delighting to his eyes.
–     O that he may preserve the art of the shape in all he does!
A Fifth and the Master knows the one who is just beginning to know.
–     O that he may cling to the Father’s hand and not let go!
A Sixth and the agony of the world’s condition is felt.
–     O that the scribe may not falter at the weight!
A Seventh and the glorious solution is realized.
–     O that God’s doings may be his only acts!
Eight, the numbers cease to count the length.
–     O that a finite man not grow weary of eternity!
Nine, who am I? I have forgotten myself for Him.
–     O that their happiness together be treasured forever!
Ten, the ripple has ceased and Christ is at hand.
–     O that nothing dare come between him and His God!
– – Words fail beyond 10, but colors and music and poetry and deeds of life can give the echo of Translation’s effects.

– – Even still there is more. In silence, He, that True Holy Spirit speaks, giving oxygen to the flame which fragile burns to light the way.
–     By this light, Jesus explained the Scriptures to his disciples so that their hearts burned within them.
–     By this light, Peter and the disciples proclaimed the deeds of God to all peoples and languages birthing the church.
–     By this light, Saints and Prophets saw visions, performed miracles spoke of the future, and conquered the world by faith.
–     By this light, the church spread abroad abolishing heresy and expanding His Kingdom around the whole world.
–     By this light, a monk translated the Scriptures for himself and started a Reformation of the church in Europe.
–     By this light, expositors and translators continue to reinvigorate the church with the fresh ever-true revelation of Jesus Christ.
–     By this light, I, a Light-bringing Advocate and son of the Word of Fire, live to remind God’s children using music and words of the Gospel of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ so that the church may be one, and the Earth be reshaped for the Glory of God.

– – And so, this gem, this secret Jewel of my existence I make know to you now, dear Joyous Bondwoman. Translation is the fountain in which I play youthfully, through which I am made wiser than many of the aged. It is the Treasure of my soul. It is the very firing of my secret furnace. It is my most intimate time with God. It is the Key in the ignition of my spirit. It is the inspiration of all music I do that is good. It is the stone upon which I sharpen the warrior’s sword and the oil with which I anoint my shepherd’s staff.
– – Without my translation, I quickly dim like a suffocating flame. The filth of the Earth I intake and spout forth futile flagrant folly and ferociousness without translation. Without my translation, many have been my failures and stumblings in anger, lust, and laziness, and anxiousness. The weakness of my mortal frame becomes a concavity which breaks to serve itself without translation. Without translating I see only ill in people’s faces, and readily condemn others. Only my own righteousness is my security without translation. By translation I am deeply reshaped to Christ’s form. Without it I am disfigured repugnantly to callous frivolity.

– – Still more, yea more. Still even more and more. Free time is but a canvas upon which to paint eternal mystery. O how I have sluggishly slacked in heart away from translating in Hebrew to this extent! How sweet and good and true love is when shared with another soul, though its effects are cultivated to similar results to translation with time-spent devotion to Christ. And in the light of Love like this life leaps and ladles out longevity. Time cannot validate itself without meeting eternity’s approval, and when I translate I cannot check the time.
– – I hope that your ears, as I have perceived them in the fire, be ready to receive this part of me so verbosely yet concisely expressed. This is translation, and this is what I pray that God has given you the heart to understand.

Matthew 13:52~”Every scribe who has become a disciple of the Kingdom of Heaven is like a head of a household who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”

 

Meditations of a Pearl

~It’s so hard to see in this place.
So deprived of even warmth as a comfort.
Nowhere to hide from the loneliness inside
The soft, cushy beddings beneath me beat me up.

This irritating, grating, infernal thing.
It won’t let go, and deeply I am suffering.
Keeping tender so life can keep me well-rounded
Or hardening myself and becoming a less beautiful thing.

This insignificant, minuscule granule–
This meager task I am given to do, bearing up under life’s weight
Around me the ocean of political and circumstantial upheavals swirls by,
Toying with my shy shell like one of an angry child’s legos.

It is endless, futile, like the sun’s faint glow which doesn’t warm me here.
My fists may clench like my teeth, unwilling to swallow the silt life thrusts me into
But anything kept in my fist will escape the moment my pearl sees the sun
That day when my tired muscles shall give out,

Whether by the prying knife, the ravenous creature, or the cruel, stony washboard of life
Eventually my deeply and closely guarded treasure will emerge
And through sifting be surfaced to be found by the Merchant.
May He find a pearl of great price.

~Inspired by T. Austin-Spark’s sermon, “A Pearl of Great Price.”

The Mystique of Reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew– Part 4 (Last part :)

– – I have mentioned nuances a lot so far. What I mean is the combination of denotative and connotative meaning: meaning that is directly expressed and meaning which is subtly implied. A silly example of this is if a girl introduces a guy to . . . no . . . those are too messy . . . If a friend tells his friend, I now, know that you care about me.” the Denotation is: At this moment I know you care. The connotation is: At one time I did not know you care. The English Bible brings out some of these denotations and connotations from context, but one thing it can’t make up for is the use of syntax in Hebrew and Greek to establish emphasis in communication. One example off the top of my head is Romans 10:3, “Being ignorant of the of God righteousness and seeking their own to establish they did not submit to the righteousness of God.” The contrast denoted in English and Greek is clear, but the fronting of “The Of God” righteousness reemphasizes the point of the whole letter about the righteousness of God being revealed  English flattens this and misses some of the nuances pointing back to God’s righteousness in the OLD Testament.

– – It is at this juncture I want to introduce a point about God’s word i have never heard expressed by anyone else, but I think it will be widely agreed upon just by common sense. The Word of God is not just What He says, but also How He says it. It is the same in communication between people isn’t it? One man says “I love you” to a woman he is proposing to. Another time he says, “I love you.” to a co-worker who just got him coffee. Is the word communicated the same? No. Same words different relationship, different tone of voice, different inflection, different situation, etc. This is the way it is with human communication, and human communication of humans writing to humans in human ways with shared understandings is the way God chose to communicate His divinely inspired word. The Mystery of Jesus’ incarnation is not dissimilar.

– – What I have discovered after 8 years in Greek and 3 in Hebrew, is that the Word of God rings out so much clearer in the original languages, and He is very lovely in His leading, very brilliant in His glory, very true in His tone. Because I am still not a master of either language, I do read English and because I am in relationship with English-listeners I read English, but when I do, it reminds me of watching a VHS tape when you’ve seen Blue-ray. The picture still comes through, but the color, the sound, and the quality is sometimes lacking in the clarity to tell the story in the most meaningful and appropriate way. And I am still learning not to apply my English nuances to the Greek and Hebrew texts; it is something I wonder if we ever unlearn, or if we just humbly accept our own frailty and incapacity to get it right alone.

– – One more illustration which I sheepishly borrow from Kate and Leopold, but those who have actually been to Paris may attest to: The most famous art gallery in Paris is the Louvre. But some people don’t know that only a fraction of the paintings are on the walls, the real art show is in the basement. All the revered works of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and so on.The Bible is like the Louvre, in English you will only get a fraction of all that it contains.

This is my call of exhortation. If you are content with the paintings on the walls of the Louvre, then by all means enjoy them, but if you seek to know the source of their art better, if you hunger for a richer depth of appreciation for the soul and ethos of the art before you, I invite you to come down into the basement, where the fragile treasures preserved timeless await the witnesses who have the heart to enjoy them.

– – But do not go without a guide. Art is best appreciated in conversation. You need bring nothing with you accept humbleness in your humanity, and a heart to seek out Him who is truly good. Let an expert in these paintings teach you so you can enter into the joy, anguish and love that rests deep in the art before you and the Heart within you.

– – To do this for the Bible in the original languages, I recommend Mounce’s Biblical Greek, and Van Pelt’s Biblical Hebrew to get you started! And find a good teacher or a fellow student to go through it with you. Languages live between people and die when unspoken; but God’s Word will never die. Enjoy the world you discover in the text; I guarantee it will be bigger than your current one and it is not very far at all from where you live out each day. Be patient, resilient, sentient, and repentant, and His Word will come alive in you to mold you into the shape of the Word: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thank you for reading this introduction, contemplation, explanation, and invitation.

The Mystique of Reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew– Part 3

– – Here comes the point I am making: No translation is clear cut. Not even the English word “No” is an adequate translation for the three Hebrew words for “No.” or “Not” or the three Greek words. For example, the First of the Ten Commandments as they have been numbered in the Protestant Western tradition is “No other God’s before me.” But what kind of “No” is this? Or in Romans when Paul said, “Shall we continue in Sin that Grace may increase?” What was the emphasis conveyed in his words, “No.” English is a beautiful language with a substantial collection of words to choose from, and yet none of them mean “exactly” what the words in another language mean. And when people dig deep into the dictionaries of Noah Webster and Oxford, they are digging wells of deeper understanding that top into underground rivers not flowing with the same intensity or even direction as the authors ever intended.

– – This is why, as my hermeneutics professor taught from Moses Sylva’s book Biblical Words and Their Meaning “Meaning is at the clause level” not the word level. In other words, “Context is king.” Words and context in language are like teammates in a team. The team is the sum of what each individual contributes, and and the individual is defined by his role in the team. So context helps fit the right meaning to the words, and the words make up the context. So, then, if one reads in English the verse “No other God’s before me.” and does not see the Hebrew expression, “No other God’s before my face.” He lacks a deeper nuance which actually clarifies whether “before” in that verse means “ahead of me” or “in my presence.”

– – So many passages in various English versions are difficult when trying to juggle English nuances with a Hebrew or Greek flow of thought, especially if it is in archaic English which we don’t even use anymore. I mean, what does Lovingkindness *really mean anyway? It escapes me how people can hold so strongly to an English translation with outdated English, perhaps they enjoy the taste of “sweeter water” in their own English language. While I can sympathize with this enjoyment, achieving insight into the original meanings of the Word of God in Old English is limited at best. Why trade the perfectly valid nuances of modern English for outdated ones in search of richer meaning when both are utilizing an emotional and relational communicative manner completely separate from the original author?

(Continued in Part 4)

The Mystique of Reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew– Part 2

The Bible is one of those rare books in which the heart of the reader is transformed while he reads.


The things the heart did not know are added into the mix
The things the heart thought it knew are shown to be multifaceted
The things that seemed complicated become more simple
The things that seemed simplistic become deeply rooted in deeper layers
And each layer of the Bible into which the heart breeches becomes at the same time a deeper layer of the heart of the reader.
So that whatever the Reader’s heart is searching for is found here in this book, and is found to lead to richer and more beautiful realities upon which all relaity is based.
The treasure of all treasures, the source of all meaning, the wisdom of eternity strung through time.
And all of this is brought forth from the mouth of One.
Who made Himself known to all the earth in Jesus Christ,
He is the Word, the Wisdom, the Way, the Wonderful.
And He is my Savior, my Lord, my friend, my beloved.
I am His and He is mine.
He is I am
יְהוָה Ἰησοῦς Χριστός.
Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen.


– – To read the Bible honestly in any language is to dig deeply into the soul of humanity; because of this, every person who considers the intent study of the Bible must be willing to be honest with the darkest parts of himself. And he must approach it with the reverent care-filled trepidation of a man who has unsteady hands performing surgery on his loved one; perhaps an even better illustration would be a regular patient frequently returning to the operating table with a weak, sick heart, trying not to Jerk around while the Doctor performs surgery on him.

– – In this humble posture, the empty hands are filled with the riches of God’s goodness, one little piece at a time. Each piece can enrapture the reader with the warmth of solidified volcanic rock fresh from the mantle. Over time even this rock cools and the heart cools in response; it must feel His fire again. It must grow with the heat of the All-Consuming fire of God’s holiness, which is the only fire hot enough to keep the chilly emptiness of the World’s vanity at bay.

– – Such began my own “addiction” to reading God’s Word. That is the word that first came to mind: “addiction.” but it’s probably more like drinking soda all your life, and then one day you try just plain water; and it supplies all your body’s needs for replenishment of oxygen and hydrogen through the digestive system, and all without a sugar coma, or the slavish cravings for more. Soda was the “addiction.” Water has offered the freedom from that addiction, and allows the drinker to enjoy all other beverages better. And in spite of every other option being open and enjoyable, water becomes my favorite drink for as long as I live. This is more like what God’s Word is to me, in contrast to the empty philosophies and ideologies of movies, books, and stories which today’s world commandeers to assuage our soul’s deep thirst for meaning, value, purpose and identity. God’s Word is the Water of the World,  by which all who drink of it may live.

– – I live out in the country with my family in two houses and a mobile home, and we all use well water. My Grandmother’s house has a well that was dug to a dept of 100 feet, with a water softener. It’s alright, but this water tastes like a tad of sulfur, and this iron-nasal taste that when I was a kid always tasted to me like boogers. (Not that I would know what they taste like . . . Then there’s my parent’s house where I live, the oldest of the houses. And this house, built in 1960 had a well dug in the back yard all the way down to about 200 feet. They didn’t usually drill that deep unless they had to, but I will tell you, as all others will say who have lived in my family, and as visitors with fresh taste buds attest to us: It is the best tasting, sweetest water around. No sulfur taste; no iron. Just good hard water.

– – You can gather by now one of my points: The deeper you go, the sweeter it gets. The same is true of the Bible. The English Bible translators have done a tremendous job at reconstructing the flow of meaning in another language. It is now possible to read all the way through from Genesis to Revelation the Gospel of God in a language easy to grasp! What a depth of gratitude we owe to those who have interpreted for us God’s Word. God’s blessing be upon them.

Continued in Part 3

The Mystique of Reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew– Part 1

My Dear Readers, known and unknown,
– – I hope all had a very Merry Christmas celebration. Jesus is the reason for all the seasons and family and friends are the most precious gifts. My most prized gift I received this year is a close but definitive race between my very own blue ceramic, 12-hole, song-bird, “Ocarina of Time.” (Zelda fans will understand my glee!) and my very own black, single-bound, silver-edged, double ribbon-ed Readers Greek and Hebrew Bible! The Bible won by two words.

– – I am a student in Seminary and have learned to read, translate and exegete Hebrew. it’s a slow process, but I am gradually getting more cozy with it. I also took Greek in Seminary, but I had been translating in Greek since my Junior year in High school when my Dad taught me. As a result of studying the languages, the Word of God has opened up to me, like petals of a rose to expose the aromatic bloom of Jesus’ radiance! As Jesus said to the Religious Leaders in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures [Old Testament] Because you think that you have life in them, but it is these that testify of Me.”

– – Some of my friends, while they confess admiration for the scholarship, don’t see any reason or feel sufficient motivation to learn the original languages of the Bible. They have expressed to me different reasonings:

  • “I don’t need it to do what God’s called me to do.”
  • “I understand the Bible fine comparing different English versions.”
  • “The English Bible I use is all I need for faith and practice and that’s good enough for me.”

These among other reasons are not bad reasons at all. In fact, I’d agree with the first reason that some people are called specifically to areas that learning to read the Bible in the original voice would be a superfluous expenditure of energy. And as for the second reason goes, the same way two eyes see three-dimensionally, so two or more English versions add a depth to anyone’s reading of the text. And the third reason does not have anything inherently wrong with it. they are right: understanding God’s word in a language of the heart and mind is really all one needs to be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

So, then, why learn to read one even two old languages just to read a book that is much easier to read in English? If you are a person who holds to the first reason, then by all means remain in that condition as God has specifically equipped you. If you are of the other two reasons or another and you are not sure why you would want to learn Greek and (or) Hebrew, allow me to share what I have discovered from my own personal study of the holy written Word of God in Greek and Hebrew.

Continue to Part II (I broke it up into four posts because it was getting long when I wrote it in my journal last night.)

Wind, Tongue, Heart

Wind
Tongue
Heart

Churning
Burning
Yearning

Tempest tossed
Flame-brands crossed
All feels lost

Rivers eddy
Warmth is steady
Always ready

Clouds raging linger
Pyres point the finger
Please dull the stinger

Storms are slackening
Fires are blackening
Soul is flattening

Hush! Little wind and be calm
Brush! Feed the fire and keep warm
Thrush! Shells crush, but do no harm

Sea of glass as flat as a plate
Soft embers blown by love not hate
The strength of words now marked in slate

I’m
at
rest.

Vision: God and the Scientist

I saw a man in a grey room typing at his keyboard. He was sitting in front of a computer, but his head I couldn’t see, except for a black square to mark out one whose face I could not see. He was a scientist. He was doing research on something.

I realized that he is being fed misinformation by those who do not acknowledge God, and who become foolish in their dark hearts.

And suddenly I knew. The answer is not better teaching.

The answer is God Himself intervening in the life of this scientist to bring Him to the knowledge of the Truth of Himself, in which all science is appropriated.

And as the Kingdom of Heaven latches onto him and lays hold. He passionately shares his findings and his way of thinking winsomely to the people in the scientific community.

Slowly the teaching in Science is changed back to a wisdom that advances the causes of science far into the reaches of unknown space. The galaxies were explored at greater depth. The human genome. The arch-robin and finches of the Galapagos are not classified separately anymore. A piece of flesh is sold in the marketplace for more tissue cells than ever before.

The Lord spoke to the scientist and he heard Him. He spoke and began to work wonders in his midst. A Christian who knew God but man knew not healed a nurse in a hospital.

How did you do that? “You ask because you will not believe. Ask and you will believe.” said the old man.

The scientist read his Bible and began to pray, and God found in his heart a pure passionate fire to live for him. The seed of rebirth was born in his heart, and flowered in living salvation. He began to speak to others about the revelation he found which was a light bulb to all his scientific teachings in darkness.

This is all I saw.

Interpretation: I believe it is the only answer to true salvation of the scientific community. God has to personally intervene. You who complain that the teaching must be better, and groan under the weight of misinformation called fact, and limited perspective called exhaustive, just take heart. All it takes is God intervening, and He will intervene in answer to the cry of His people, and He will remember His new Covenant in Jesus Christ. He is the Savior. Science is not the answer. Jesus truly is the answer, because only when God Himself intervenes to save, do we see the lasting powerful change and know in our hearts the goodness of God.

 

“With Me”

I feel like I am at the center of a merry-go-round. The world is spinning around me and if I step out from this center, where already my head is spinning I will get swept to the non-existent corners of the spinning circle. These two words in combination have unlocked some of the most profound mysteries of the Christian Faith that I am still only in the seedling stages, but if you will permit me I’d like to share just what these two words entail as I muse on the meaning of this in my life.

The first thing to note is that the Me is a capital “M”. That means whenever the phrase is used, it is being said by God to the one who is listening. That is the first earth shattering fact. God speaks. Did you know that? The same God who spoke into the darkness and said, “Light, Be!” can speak in your hearing if you have the heart to wait in the silence and listen? The Phrase “With Me” is something He said to me as I was pre-writing a story for a beloved woman whom I love more than anyone else in the world . . . that’s my wife in case you’re wondering . . . and she was trying to understand some things about how faith works. Well, I haven’t written the story yet, but this phrase with all its earth shattering implications can still carry meaning in other less storied ways, although it seems to be a favorite way of God’s to show us what things mean by putting them in a story. After all God had the Bible written, a story with 40 authors that spanned all of time to it’s eternal beginning and ending, but through it all these two words resound with the eternity and temporality of both. “With me.”

Another thing to note is that “With Me” is something God can say to the one who is acting, so that he will act “With Me.” It’s kind of like you’re pulling on a rope to heave a boat onto shore, and He comes up behind you and tells you to do it “With Me.” meaning as He Himself is acting behind you, and it is His strength that will accomplish the task, not your own. He isn’t saying this because he doesn’t have enough strength to do it, so he needs you to do it with him. No, no, no, no, no. You are his representative in any given situation. Most of the time when God did something miraculous he did it through the hand of Moses, or Elijah, or one of his servants. Did Moses strike the Nile and turn it to blood or did God? The answer very simply is both of them. Was it God’s power that accomplished it or Moses’ power that accomplished it? Well obviously it was God’s. But why did God have Moses do it with him?

Part of the idea communicated in the phrase “With Me” is making sure that you are whole-hearted in acting with Him. God is 100%, and you get to be 1% of that percentage in an action He is doing, because you are his creation, and God is moving His creation with His creation. It is what He does, but I want you to understand this. People say you need a lot of faith. Even Jesus said, “You don’t need a lot of faith. You could have mustard-seed faith and it would be enough to move a whole mountain.” You don’t need a lot of faith, what you need is complete faith. God being represented 100% is the mystery of faith in you who are whole-hearted in submission to being “With Him” as He does it.

So here you are in the midst of a situation beyond your control, and your heart is afraid, which by the way is a division of your heart from God. When you’re afraid, you are not 100% whole heartedly devoted to God. In fact, if you were whole-hearted you would have no fear except fear of God. But you’re in this situation, where you need a miracle, and you are crying out to God, but you don’t cry out with your whole heart. You hold back part of your heart so that if the answer does not come you won’t be disappointed. God does not answer prayers with that lack of faith. It is when you completely, whole-heartedly, soundly and with all your being are swept up in the hope and desperation of believing that only God can save you, and only God can answer you, that you can appreciate the level of faith with which He does things.

I’m sorry what was that? God has faith? Faith is the fruit of the Spirit, and God is full of Faithfulness and Love. When he says, “With Me.” He is offering himself fully to be present in that situation with you with all the power you need. All that remains is your complete total faithfulness of heart to Him and it will be accomplished. It is when He says, “With Me.” That He is inviting you to “Go! You have the green light. I’m ready when you are ready. I am fully present, and if this is what you want with all your heart, I am ready to do it with you.”

Faith is more appropriately understood through the phrase, “With Me.” Because when you are in a situation and you must act, to do the impossible, like lift a gigantic bolder off of a crushed human being, or calm a storm, or to act in some way that seems impossible, the only way you are going to accomplish it is by totally being present in the situation, and totally being submitted to what God is doing in the situation. He may say “With Me.” in a rebuking tone depending on the heart He is speaking to in order to communicate, “Stop your way. Do it with Me, as I do it My way.” And when you stop doing it your way, and do it “With Me.” you will know the power of God and your own powerlessness.

This level of powerlessness, I think is why we don’t want to be “With Me.” We don’t want to hang out with the Super-impressive power-holder, because next to him we feel insignificant. Pride and fear water down faith. They take that 100% concentration of a human fully submitted to God, and reduces him to a corrupted image that lacks in the glory of God. The risk we experience whenever we step out on faith, whether it be embarrassment, or lack of confidence, this risk is the temptation to see if your heart is utterly devoted to God, or if you are asking with any hint of selfishness. If there is any unsoundness in your faith, it will falter. It takes total surrender, and un-distracted boldness to stare Him in the face, who with a flinch of his face has the power to render you empty.

So God calls you in faith to do what must be done, “With Me.” that means furthermore, and much to our rejoicing, that He is active in accomplishing Good in the world. He is working. Just as Jesus said, “My Father is always working.” (Jn 5:17) And he said, “I do nothing except what I see my father doing. Whatever the father does, the Son also does in like manner.” (Jn 5:19).

This is the secret of faith. God is working. You are His child. He has the power, so do things “With Me.” as He calls you, and commands you to do them. It is the Father telling his son, “Join me in my work, that you may grow up to be like me.” as Jesus demonstrated for us. And Jesus was destined to be firstborn among many brothers. So don’t think that Jesus was the only one who had miraculous powers. The Apostles got to do everything Jesus did, and more. Miracles still happen today, but the true miracles are ones that re done, “With Me.”

So, how does one grow in the ability to answer and act in power when God speaks to you and says, “With Me.” The simple answer is something I heard Leonard Ravenhill quote once. He said, “Sinning people stop praying. But praying people stop sinning.” How do you get to do things “With Me.” By simply abiding and staying, “With Me.” Go where He goes. Speak as He speaks. Listen as He listens. See as he sees. Do as He does. Think as He thinks, Feel as He feels. This is the spiritual calling for every believer. You are his image on earth. You are a little Christ. You are to be about your Father’s business proclaiming the Kingdom, healing the sick, preaching the good news to the poor, setting the oppressed free, and proclaiming the time of God’s favor, and calling the world to repentance.  But you cannot do that and you will not do that, and you will not even WANT to do that until you are resolute to stay with Him.

The Lord does not listen to the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. His yoke is easy, his burden is light. If you will surrender your many heavy burdens and those grooves in the rock you’ve been chiseling for yourself to have some grip of safety should a whirlwind come, and you leave everything behind and follow Him with everything and not turn back. Then you will begin to see more than just life being aligned in pleasant ways. You will see more than just a wisdom that is not your own, guiding your decisions. You will see more than just smooth places where you felt only thorns before. You will see more than just clear opposition from friends and enemies which prove you to be His disciples.You will see more than the depth of your own human depravity and that of your fellow man. You will see more than just hard situations which need miracles supernaturally resolved. You will see more than the supernatural physical healing. You will see more than the demons being cast out. You will see more than than the dead being raised. Beyond all these things, you will know the fullness of Joy being in the presence of your loving God and will walk the path of life with Him forever. And best of all you will see God.

How do I know? Because Enoch walked with God, and God took him. Elijah and Moses sought to see God, and Moses got to see His back, and Elijah was carried to heaven in a whirlwind, and they were ontop of the mount of transfiguration where they got to see the glory of God’s face in Jesus’ face. Because Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

As I finish this article, one final note. “With Me.” isn’t something we can manipulate God into saying. It’s not something He says all the time. He says it whenever He chooses. And He invites you on His terms, when He wants to speak it. I have heard Him say it to me only in an instructive way, and in this instructive way I communicate it to you, dear reader.

The God of Tenth Chances

To be sure, the subject of God’s character is an inexhaustible topic. Books about books will continue to be written, but in my experience there are few books which will reverence the One who is being studied from a personal standpoint. Whenever I listen to preachers I listen for the soft hush ready at the edge of every word apprehensive they might miss His still small voice when He speaks. I wait in the listening of men like John Bunyan, Leonard Ravenhill, T. Austin Sparks, or any believers who have suffered martyrdom for their faith, and my soul reaches out its hands to be warmed by the fire of holy men of God who let the Holiness of God forge them. Men like these came out of that fire the color of molten metal: that Amber shade of reverence that tempers each word at just the right temperature to comfort and confront the selfish human heart. In my study, I have been discipled not to know the content, but the character, not the plot-lines but the person, not the heroic deeds, but the heart of the One who did them. And one such story amazes me, simply put. And in light of so many who mistakenly wag their bony fingers at God in the Old Testament and say, “You are all wrath and no love. You look nothing like Jesus.” I feel compelled to patiently try to keep back my smile as I look them seriously in their misguided expressions, and assure them that there is more to the story if you know where to look.

The story is familiar thanks to Cecil De Mill’s The Ten Commandments, but as often happens whenever something is taken out of its culture and put into the vein of another set of values, the story gets rewritten in ways that obscure what was originally going on. One thing that has helped me to see more of what is happening in the story of Moses and God versus Pharoh in Egypt over the people of Israel, is translating the passage from Hebrew into English. Syntax, Word-meaning, nuances, and idiomatic phrases are much more refined down here at this level, and some of my findings I want to share with you. My aim is not to tell you a different story: My aim is to tell you more about the Hero.

Who is the hero? Well, the obvious answer according to the way the story has been told is that it is Moses. And Pharoh is the villain. This is close, and its easy to see how the hero’s side is the one Moses is on, and the villain’s side is the one that Pharoh is on, but I can tell you with complete confidence that the hero isn’t Moses.

How do I know that? Well, for one thing the action does not originate with Moses. Moses is not the one who is on a quest to save the people of Israel. That is God’s doing. Moses isn’t the one who goes through and slaughters all the first-born of Egypt, that was God. God was the one who remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God was the one who gave the words to Moses to speak. Moses isn’t the hero, he’s the Hero’s message boy. And God wanted him to be his message-boy. In fact, he grew angry when Moses refused to be his message boy, and let him have a message boy himself so he would actually go. Moses isn’t the hero. The hero is Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who made man in his own image, and against whom Adam and Eve sinned. Same God.

It’s also the same God who saw the intentions of all humanity’s hearts in Genesis and saw the need to shorten man’s life-span so that evil would not become irreversibly rampant. Evil would have taken over the whole world except one man, God’s remnant– the one man who stood in the gap. It’s all God needs to keep his foot-hold or his work. He chose a remnant, he held onto a single thread a number of times in the Bible, where He kept on holding onto the hope and plan that he would in the end save his people.

So his people, in this passage are the people of Israel. God is fighting for them, and Moses is the servant who does his master’s bidding. His master is the hero. The villain is Pharoh. Pharoh is shown to be the villain in plenty of actions he does like drowning the Hebrew babies, and in things he says. One of the things he says to Moses and Aaron when they come to him, “I do not know Yahweh. Who is he?” Boy are you ever about to find out!

Yahweh is shown in this story to be very patient. It is something about Him that I have come to appreciate more and more. He says to Pharoh, not quite like what Moses said in The Ten Commandments, “Let my people go, and they will serve Me.” or here in this first account “Let my people go into the wilderness to celebrate a feast to me.” His first request was let them come and eat with me. The intention of this request was shown to be answered later on in Exodus of what God was talking about in Exodus 24. The elders and Nadab and Abihu and Moses and Aaron go up and they get to eat and drink together in the presence of the God who they could see, by the way. God was interested in celebrating, but he was also interested in holiness. So here he was, God the hero, commanding his subject Pharoh king of Egypt to release the children of Israel who had been suffering great affliction under his hand. And what does Pharoh say. He says, “Who is Yahweh, that I should obey His voice?” God is so patient. He knows Pharoh is hard of heart. God is part of the reason why his heart is hard.

So then begins a contest between God and Pharoh, and God agrees to this contest, for no other reason I can surmise other than He wanted to show the world what he could do. He had to show the world how powerful He was to humble the proud. But if that was all he showed them we would just be reading a variation of the book of Job, where God flexes his muscles for Job. No, no, no. What we see here in Exodus is the just, merciful, thorough, and patient devotion God has to deliver His people, from the proud who he knows from afar. This story is prototypical for the whole Gospel which we who name the name of Christ hold to be a treasure in our hearts. The Gospel, the good news, the bitter-sweet reality is that God will stop at nothing to get his people back, but not without giving his rival every chance in the world to set him free.

So, God is a God not of second chances, not of third, or fourth, or fifth chances, but here we see that God is a God of Tenth chances. Even the seventh chance, he considered being done with the contest, but He is so patient to give his rival every chance to submit before He goes for the jugular. Because all the terror He unleashes in Egypt, the staff-snake, the blood, frogs, lice, flies, disease, the boils, he says to Pharoh, “You still won’t give up?” Then he brings 3 more signs of his power, Hail, locusts, and darkness, and still Pharoh’s heart is hardened.

Is God cruel to tease him? Cruel? Did you watch closely? God is King. He has the right, and he gives Pharoh 10 chances to turn back before he whips out the big guns. God isn’t cruel, he is merciful! He is also devoted to finish the fight He starts so he can have his people free to serve him.

Have you ever considered this, when you read the narrative of God versus Pharoh, never once does it say that God was angry with Pharoh. If you don’t believe me check the story again for yourself. God’s wrath isn’t mentioned until much later. In fact the first 10 signs God does in Egypt, God sends them by the hand of Moses. It isn’t personal yet, but then, when the 10th plague, which is the 11th sign is given out, the last straw that broke Pharoh’s camel’s back, We read an interesting statement in Exodus 11:4 which we do not see earlier on in the story. God says to Moses, “About midnight, I will go out into the midst of Egypt.” In the Hebrew it is glaringly obvious with the presence of the first person pronoun, ‘I’. I tell you, when I translated that my soul shuddered through me. God’s patience has run its course, and now He himself is coming to rescue His people. And the blow is devastating. He cripples Pharoh, and Egypt by taking the one thing they have left, what the American President J.F. Kennedy said once in his speech on peace, “We all cherish our children’s future.” God took that future away from them because of their pride.

Yes, God is one who kills; we are the ones who deserve death. But can you see His patience, His incredible forbearance which Peter, who saw Jesus closer than anybody else did, recognized? He said, “God is not slow in fulfilling his promise, but is patient with us not wanting any to perish but all to come to the knowledge of repentance.”? (2 Pet 3:9)

O the tenacious love of Yahweh, who will not let the proud stand to oppress the children of freedom! The proud person’s days are numbered, because they are nothing like God.

God is a hero who takes down Pharoh and sets free His people, and even after his people are free to go, that last intention of Pharoh’s heart is proven yet again to be evil continually, through and through. He lashes out with the last of his strength at the Red Sea, and Yahweh obliterates his military. Pharoh knows by the end, only when he has lost everything, that he is beaten.

Now it gets personal. God is with his chosen people who have seen His wondrous works, and now we see the anger of God. We see it when the people complain, when they refuse to obey, and we see God very personally involved in leading the people in a cloud by day and fire by night, he feeds them he gives them water, and all they do is complain and say we want to go back home.

Seven strifes and sinful compainings later, God is ready to wipe them out. It’s written in Exodus 32! What? A God of love? Of course! Somehow many have come to miss the anger of God that is backed by his great love which he has for his people. It is not an out-of-control. Hardly! As he said to Moses in Exodus 34, Yahweh is “Slow to anger” literally it takes a long time for the anger to come out of His nostrils. Yahweh is an angry God, because his very name is Jealous. (Ex 34:14) Jesus showed us this in the temple when he cast out the money changers and sellers out of the temple. Zeal for his house consumed him. Anger and zeal and jealousy are not weaknesses in God’s character, they are part of what make Him good. Of all the people in the world, he did not expect the Egyptians or the other nations to know him, but he did in his heart hold that the Israelites would know him. The affront to God was not from Egypt who sinned in ignorance; it was the nation He had chosen for himself to call his own, and to show the whole world how He could love such a people.

And in this moment, God in the Old Testament is written off by many as being nothing more than a wrathful and vengeful God? You bet he’s wrathful. If a man had just patiently won a battle against an ignorant enemy, only to have the prize you fought for whom you loved so much criticizing you and begging you to go back, even erecting images to fantasize over what they used to have in their idolatrous slavery, you would feel some of what He felt.

Enter Moses, God’s message boy who God brings along for this expedition, and in Exodus 32, Moses intercedes for the people, by being part of God’s secret council. Moses represents God to Himself by being the mediator, by demonstrating his understanding of God’s character, and implores him to show more kindness and truthfulness, and God changes his mind.

The fatalists out there like some of my Calvinist friends don’t appreciate the gravity of what Moses did. To think that any sinner could change God’s perfect mind is tantamount to blasphemy. But to think of it from the standpoint of relationship, God is one who invites us into His council and considers what we have to say. Not many of us get to this point with God, because most of the time when we pray it is us who are changing our minds to God’s. It takes great humility, communication, and trust with God, for you to have a say in His council. And God is gracious enough to gladly give us this chance. After all, one might argue, which God would be better? A God who did everything the way he wanted it because that was best for everyone, or the one who entrusted the decisions of what was best for all to others who he let into his council, and still managed to do the perfect and correct thing. One is aloof, the other is accessible. Our God is not aloof, but he is accessible to the humble.

What a hero! What a God! So patient, so kind, so . . . what many of us might call “human.” Jesus, the human, showed us, better than anyone else what God is really like. Because in him, “We beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the father full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14) Jesus is God, just as the Word was God in the beginning with God. And he mysteriously assumed the whole essence of Creation in Himself because all of it subsisted through him.

And God is the God of Tenth chances, because even after 10 times of seeing if there was any other way, God Himself steps into the picture, and what a dreadful sight to behold! 10 times it is proven that creation will fall apart unless He himself comes to rescue us. Jesus, God Himself came Himself to save the world, Himself, because no one else could do it. God made the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 that the people of Israel would come out of Egypt into the promised land, and that this covenant was contingent not on what Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob did, but on what God did. And God himself walked in between the pieces, knowing that if Abraham broke the covenant, then He would have to pay the price. And so Jesus died on the cross, and gave his life willingly because no one else could do it.

Does God deserve what we do to Him? He has been good, we cannot see that. We would rather blame Him, and shame Him, than bless Him and confess Him. You who see only a harsh and unloving God in the Old Testament, the issue isn’t with God, it’s with your heart. The Bible says, “Seek Yahweh while he  may be found.” You’ve got one chance this vapor of a fleeting life to seek out and know and love the God who you are called and created to obey. And Jesus Christ isn’t some milder version of an angry God, He’s the entire package with all the tears, laughter, jealousy, power, healing, and wonder-working of God as He is known through the Old Testament.

Take heed, you who are on your ninth chance God has given you, because His patience does end. You have an intercessor now who has gone to the cross for you, and if you spit on him, and refuse him with your heart, your soul is forfeit. There is no more sacrifice available for you who will not look at the love of a God so tender and good, who gives His all so that you can be free to serve him. God is a God of 10 chances, and Jesus said to forgive your brother 490 times, but know that one day it will be too late. Either your heart will turn to stone, or your body will turn to dust. “Cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts you double-minded.” James 4:8.

So much more needs to be said on God’s behalf. This is a beginning, a taste, a call to recognize and remember the one whose image you bear. He is calling you to repent, and represent Him well in the world as perfectly and humbly as Jesus did.