Math Myth

At lunch today I told this story to some 5th grade kids.

Once there was a division between the Sum and the multiplication. There was also a guy named Minus, who wasn’t very good at doing things. He wanted to remove the division between the Sum and the multiplication.

Minus had one problem. He didn’t have a heart big enough.

So he drank a lot of milk to make himself stronger.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

He went to school and learned everything he could about the division between the Sum and the multiplication.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

After school he gathered as many numbers around him as he could: all kinds of possessions.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

Finally, he prayed and asked God to give him a bigger heart.
And God gave him a bigger heart.

After this, Minus found Sum and multiplication still divided.
And because his heart was bigger now,
He applied himself to the division between the Sum and the multiplication
And Viola! He “subtracted” the division from between the Sum and the multiplication.

The Sum and the multiplication had a party and celebrated with cupcakes.

Then they all made an equation to remember how a Minus is always able to remove the division between the Sum and the multiplication.

That is why there is a minus sign used in the Division symbol.

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The Eye of the Storm

I’ve been here before
The world is sprawling around
The rush of water forcing its way
Down, around, along the ground
Inland waves sweep you off your feet
Fear of loss, and helplessness
Feeling too paralyzed to go outside.

Familiar is the feeling when I choke
A shame, a stifling of the breathing life
Situations feel insurmountable
Everything beyond my reach from my unsure footing
Each victory seems one stroke against the tide
Catastrophe feels bigger than reality
I wish I could run and hide myself somewhere.

This is what I have always known
The storm, the shame they have an eye.
One is the calm around which the winds rage
The other is that body’s light, I evade to the floor.
The fear to surge through the fiercest tempest
Only to let the ferocity shatter my frailty
Venturing to enter that gaze safely

Elihu told Job that God was here
Our heart meandering knows this home.
The screaming winds guard this safe place.
The place only the humble seek unswervingly.
As shame gives up the last ounce of covering
Naked and vulnerable just I alone remain
Staring into His gentle clear blue sky.

Always
Through chaos
Ordering all powerfully
Present within our midst.
Testing the heart
Choosing us
Loving

I’ve been here before
The world is sprawling around
The rush of water forcing its way
Down around, all over the ground
I will wait here with Him safely
His presence my security
His eye, my soul’s calm.

Melting

I visited the Welder’s house, and I received instruction.

He showed me a weld that was poorly done. It had sags. It had fish eyes. It had lumps. And it was not structurally sound. So either it would suffer abuse and afterward fall apart in 2-3 years, or it would nee to be ground down again. If it was done again smoothly in a structurally sound way, even after abuse it would last at least 10 years instead.

I understood: This is why God takes his time with us. And often has to grind us down and have us start over. Because he knows if he does not, then when we suffer abuse, we will be struck down to the core of our being, and will fall apart much quicker, unless he takes his sweet, steady time preparing His vessel according to the need only He can foresee.

He also showed me a weld with cracks, and he told me, “Cracks always propagate!”

I understood: any issue that is not dealt with before the Lord will continue to be an issue. Arrest smaller issues before they become larger ones.

He told me that welders often go fast because they get excited. But when that happens they only lay half of the load down. It takes a steady hand that has insight into the true nature of the particular metal who has a successful weld.

I understood: As God prepares his vessel, the vessel will be tempted to speed up the process any way he can, because he feels the Lord’s power, but he does not yet possess the true insight into the material which He is being welded into.

 

Famine of God’s Revelation

Hearts harden under dull ears
And dim eyes
The eyes and the ears are purposed
To explore the very nature of God
Visible to us and audible to us
During this short life we have on earth.

“The eye is never satisfied with seeing”
“Nor the ear with hearing.”
“Rivers running endless to the sea,” the preacher says.
So how can our eyes and ears adequately explore
This very nature of God visible to us
Even though it is spiritual eternity in pragmatic time?

Well, perhaps one way is to avoid the trap
Of the insatiability of the eye.
The eye in our technological society
Has more than enough to see in picture and video
The ears are deafened by the machinistic murmurings
Of everything man has made incessantly drumming.

And somewhere the simplicity of God’s nature
Is lost to a thick and overpowering web of Man’s devices
Noise and flash,
Song and dance,
Light and music—
Are not all of these things the diet of our eyes and ears?

A famine! A Great famine! Devestating and ruthless!
Storm-forced winds tear away all peaceful stillness
The glaring desert sun scorches the bare ground.
The rain is not permitted enough time to gather
The ground is cracked and dry.
The seeds within wait to be sprouted by just one word from the Lord.

A single drop of His truth
To cool the burning thirst of our souls—
A quiet whispered hush
In which veracity can settle—
One candle in the darkness
When all pseudo-lights are extinguished.

Pray the Lord of the Harvest
Send the rain that brings real life.
Clear the ground of its towers of Babel.
Let the eyes close in sleep and wait til morning.
And then, once you’ve tasted of the voice of Heaven.
Do not forget He who speaks and shows Himself to you every day
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, and call on Him while He is near.”

I’ve Glimpsed Him. (Poem)

It takes faith to believe that God is.
Once you have this, you can see him.
I do not promise that you will
Because He must decide to reveal Himself.
It takes a pure heart, with no guile.
Some believe that this is impossible,
But all things are possible with God.
How will you recognize him?
You won’t be able to ignore.
No more than a stick can ignore an all consuming flame.

How did I see Him?
I waited.
He spoke.
I looked.
He stood.
I bowed.
He is.

Music purged my heart of unexpressed filth.
Writing arranged my thoughts according to biblical specification.
Love set my heart on fire for another.
Joy surged in my creative freedom and pleasure of wisdom.
Peace quieted me in His approval.
Translation laid sticks of explosive dynamite end to end.
The Holy Spirit’s voice was the match.
The prizing and valuing of His own personal being.
And Jesus the Living one of all my life came.

T. Austin-Sparks~ “God’s answer to strengthen His people for Suffering.”
Is a new unveiling of the glory of the person of Jesus Christ.”

“What is the answer?
A new grasp of His greatness
That’s all.
And then if we are suffering
If we are knowing adversity, trial
And the clouds seem to be gathering, Accumulating, increasing.
How will we get through?
Only thus: by this:
Getting away
And asking
And seeking
And pursuing
In prayer
A new heart revelation–unveiling
of Jesus Christ.
And I am sure that will do it.
God give it to you.”
~T. Austin Sparks

 

[No] One

[No] One

The problem isn’t God’s willingness to teach
It’s our willingness to learn.
No one wants a course in suffering.
No one wants a diet of hunger.
No one wants a hard road of obedience.
No one wants the hill of difficulty
No one wants the splintery cross on their back
Only to be suffocated when you have carried it long enough.

No one wants to learn humility or compassion
The fear of the Lord or the depravity of his own soul.
No one would be utterly dependent on God
Knowing that God is not subject to our fleshly wants.
No one wants to give up everything to have nothing but God.
No one wants to leave behind their job,
Their home, their family, their hobbies,
Their possessions, their favorite things,
So that all they have is a heart to know God alone.

No one wants to pay the price to know God.
No one wants to forgo opportunity for the necessity of waiting.
No one wants to cease from their work
Until God Himself arises to work through them.

How endless, yet how tireless His search
For just one with a heart to know him!
The one to whom the Son wishes to show Him.

Mark the man of mean estate
Who holds for sin that powerful hate
And bears the scars of loss and shame
So not in vain He can bear His name.

For such a price, God can be known,
For such a cost, Christ’s pain is shown.
And only to the fire-purged heart
Will God His glorious life impart.

Humility and Pride

I would like to introduce a way of thinking about the human composition. I understand that to discuss humanity is a grand subject unworthy of such oversimplification, but I hope you will forgive the philosophical implications of this picture. I’d like to view the soul, the heart, the mind, and the body at four levels. The deepest level is the soul and that is the essence of who we are, where the spirit lives and moves in and out. The second level up is the heart, where it is deeper than thoughts, though the thoughts can try to express it, it is the place where all stored information from the mind resides sub-consciously and cultivates emotion and mood and temper. The next level up is the mind, where thoughts are understood in a conscious sense, information is taken in and formed together into the simplest and most complex interpretations, often in an environment created by the heart, which assumes it’s stance of being at the soul and spiritual level. The Top level is the surface where the body is, where our mouths intake food and output words. Where our mouths breathe, and where our hearts pump life, and where our minds control us consciously and unconsciously to act. So there you have this pattern: four levels. Topmost is body, second is mind, third is heart, and fourth is soul.

Two other features of this pattern, I give you: The Spirit moves through all of them. The spirit moves through the body as energy to act, it moves through the mind as inspiration, it moves through the heart as emotion, it moves through the soul as the life principle that animates the whole  being. The Will is also something that moves and, if you will directs, the spirit where it decides to go. It is an elevator that reaches down to the level of the soul. It reflects the state of being just as it also reflects the state of the heart, and of the mind, and is visible in the human body.

These attributes, these building blocks can be seen as making up the human person. Now, I’m sure we can all think of other attributes that could be added to this basic 6 part composition, but I want to make a point about pride and humility.

C.S. Lewis is quoted to believe that the fundamental sin at the root of all other sins is Pride. I was in Starbucks talking with my wife and the man who was best man at my wedding, and he said, “I’ve always wanted to understand that emotion better.” “Pride? An emotion?” I said to him. I understood that pride is a matter of the heart, but it goes deeper than the heart in this word picture above us. Sometimes it’s frustrating when different cultures put the seat of the emotions at different places. In English it’s in the chest, in Hebrew it’s in your intestines, where will you put it next?

The point that my friend was bringing up, and I think it’s a valid one, is that pride is something deeper than the thought, and I agree with him. He and I are likely descended from the kings of Ireland and Scotland respectively, which doesn’t seem to matter to me all that much, since we are all descendant from the first King, Adam, but anyhow. Pride is a fundamental problem of sin. And even if you’re a King, or a knave, a prince or a pauper, a scoundrel or a scholar, you still can let pride rule your heart, because it is seated deeper than your emotions.

That’s exactly the point I want to make here. Pride is central. You can Stand haughtily like you’re high and mighty, that doesn’t make you proud. You can think grandiose thoughts of yourself that doesn’t make you proud. You can feel about yourself a sense of self-sufficiency in appreciation or deprecation of yourself, that doesn’t make you proud. All of those are symptoms of your pride. Your pride is at the level of your soul. It’s the impulse we have to crawl off the altar upon which we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. It’s the living principle of self-serving that naturally refuses the submission of the will to God. Pride is more formidable than any other state of being except one. Pride is more sturdy than confidence, more insistent than anger, more devious than mistrust. It twists the noble sword of truth into a dagger of division. It kindles a flame on the tongue that ignites the course of our lives according to our own being, rather than based on God’s own being. The Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life. These three, but the deepest of these is Pride. Lust of the flesh and lust of eyes are like two greedy hands feeding this impudent self-destroyer at the core of each of our very beings.

Pride is the opposite of humility, but even if humility is not grasped at the deepest level, pride can swing humility by the tail. Humility is pride’s sack-cloth it wears whenever it feels the need of ingratiating that part of all human beings where God intended for us to reserve our devotion and fealty to Him. Pride needs only an inch, and he can live in out-right rebellion against God. All Satan, the Proud One, needs in us, is the tiniest ledge—the smallest shadow he can hide in, and he will succeed in marring the glorious image of a holy God stamped on each one of us.

As I sat there with my friend talking about how Pride can be beaten. I wrote down this phrase on my phone when I went to use the bathroom: “Perhaps the will is the only vehicle that can deliver the nuclear blow of humility to the deeply subconscious and central issue of pride.” If the Will is like the Spirit and it can be like an elevator to all four levels of a person’s being (assuming again, my word picture is a good one) Can Humility be a choice of the Will?

Well let’s think for a moment. The Will is like the steering wheel for our whole life. If we don’t have much strength of will, it simply means we do not have much grip on the steering wheel, but we each and all have one. The Will is the place of decision. The Will Moves with resolve in action, in mental affirmation, in heart solemnization and soul “becoming.” The Will can deliver true humility to that deepest level.

Now, some of you, who I’m sure have already thought this out, may say to me, “Ah ha . . . but if you by your own will choose humility at the level of your soul, aren’t you able to take pride in that?” Well, I suppose so, if that’s what you were deciding. It’s not a serpent eating it’s tale though. It’s not a never ending cycle. All the soul needs is to choose to love God. How do I know?

Because in Numbers chapter 21, the people were complaining out of pride, so God sent serpents among them. By the way, He says in Deuteronomy that this whole time He has them in the wilderness is to test what is in their hearts. Deuteronomy 8:2, says, “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” So what is he doing here in Numbers 21? He sends the serpents among them to test them, to humble them, to see if they had a heart to keep His commandments. And what was the test? All they had to do was look at the serpent that was lifted up. That’s all they had to do. “Look!” Look! It is perhaps the most profound and simple movement of the body, but that’s not what saves a person. It is perhaps the most passive thing a mind can do to take in the information of a snake on the pole, but that’s not what saves a person. It’s perhaps the slightest nudge inside a person’s emotions against the organ of their acceptance, but that is not what saves a person. What saves a person, is the disposition, the humility to seek to see their salvation from the same hand of the one who afflicted them for example. It is the humility to seek salvation in God, not claim it for yourself. Humility gives it’s life at every level. Pride keeps back some part of it for himself.

To write about Pride is to do it an injustice. It doesn’t deserve this much attention, but because he has already done so much damage, I don’t need to convince you that it exists. You may need some convincing that it is in you. I know I did. I have a healthy does of the most unhealthy disease every man suffers from.

So how do we choose humility? What hope can we take that Pride is not incurable? Fear God is the beginning of wisdom. Fear God is to depart from Evil. Fear God keeps us from evil. Fear God is man’s all. Fear God is the antidote for pride. At least it abates it for a time, the way light abates a shadow. But should that flame ever flicker and die down, the shadows of pride will enshroud the soul evermore until the day when the Devil and all his works are totally and completely cast down. Fear God is the beginning.

This is an attitude of the Will, to transfer this Fear of God to all levels of our humanity. At the surface it is seen in obedience to God, and physical posture of submission before Him, and words which reverence Him. Fear God at the level of the mind is occupying every thought with him, seeking him and knowing Him. At the heart level, it is loving Him, and rejoicing in Him; thanking Him. To Fear God is for that fantastic word –which post-modern Christianity has all but retired—piety to permeate every part and parcel of us until we are no longer parts but we are one whole living in the Fear of God.

If any of you would give objection to this saying, “There is no need to fear God now that we have the Cross and Jesus Christ.” Or say, “’There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear,’ doesn’t the Bible say?” Of course you are right, except that you must examine more closely the meaning of Love as it is shown in the person of Jesus Christ. The attitude toward God, the soul’s position before God, the heart’s emotion toward God, the mind’s thoughts of God, the body’s posture toward God as seen in Jesus Christ was never irreverent or flippant. This lack of reverence we have for God is the very smell of Pride in a human soul that rises before the God who smells what is in secret, and cannot stand it. If Love be without reverence, it is not love, just like if love be without truth, it is not love.

So Pride versus humility. I am convinced that the answer to beating pride at that deepest level is from the deepest part of us, we decide to humbly and totally submit and fear the Holy God who fashioned us and created us in His image to rule and bless and fill the earth.

One way to test whether we know the fear of God, is if our hearts can feel the terror dripping from these words of the author of Hebrews 10:, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” If you do not feel the dread of this truth in your heart, you do not yet fear God. The emotions are not everything. They are a good thermometer. How hot is your heart at the knowledge and obedience of God?

As Paul said to his Philipian beloved church, I iterate, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” When Adam sinned, he sinned by mouth, by mind, by heart, and by soul. And when Jesus had the opportunity, “he did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. But he emptied himself.” This is our example for how to repent from our Pride. “And he took on the form of a servant.” The answer is to be a servant who is “obedient to the point of death even death on a cross.” This is the Salvation of the human soul, seen in Jesus’ humility and humanity, which we too are called to have the same mind. And this is how we as God’s servants, can know true humility when we smell it.

I close with this for now: pride and humility are like the odors of our soul. Pride is the smell of rotting flesh. Humility is the warmth of justice submitted to God as good. You can see the body, you can hear the mind, you can feel the heart, but you can smell the soul. And humility is the only perfume that is acceptable in God’s nostrils.

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.

Marks of God’s Servant

To be God’s Servant, you must give up what most people think of as living ordinarily: You do what you want and serve yourself and serve whoever you want to and enjoy life wile you have it. Such a life is utterly sinful and warrants the total death of the fruitless tree. You are a fruitless tree.

What characteristics mark the Servant of God? Well, let us look at the life of one of God’s greatest servants, through which God showed much of his own character. That was Moses. And Moses was a servant whom God raised up to do a marvelous work through, but Moses was not perfect. In many ways he was a man just like us. And yet Moses got to stand with Jesus on the mountain top in glory, with Elijah, another great servant of the Lord. What allowed Moses to be on that mountain top with Jesus, I believe, was that he had sought to see the glory of God face to face, but the Lord told him, “You shall not see my face because no one can see my face and live.” (Ex 33:20) Elijah went to the mountain of God seeking out God wanting God to give him an explanation for what was going on around him. “I’m all alone,” he said, “And they are seeking to take my life.”

I tell you one of the marks of God’s servant, is that they will seek to take your life. In the life of Moses there were two times, well, I mean there were many times that Moses’ life was in danger, but there were two times when he was threatened explicitly or on the verge of being killed. Once was after the 10th sign Moses performed for Pharoh. It was the 9th Plague of Darkness, and Pharoh said, “Don’t you dare show your face again, cause if I see you again I’ll kill you.” Moses said, “Indeed you will not see my face again.” That was the first time. The second time was after the 10th time the Israelites had tested God. It was right there at the edge of the promised land in Kadesh, in Numbers 13 and 14. The people had complained and tested God 10 times in the wilderness, and each time God disciplined them, slew them, gave them what they wanted, and Moses interceded for them. Now at last, this one final thing that the people of God were supposed to do: Go in an enter the promised land. Trust God that He is going to do it! Well, they hadn’t learned to trust God and instead they said in Numbers 14, “Let us go back to Egypt.” And they got ready to stone Moses and Aaron.

What happens next in Numbers 14 shows another mark of God’s servant. And that is God will only talk to you. He is selective of the company He keeps, and it says in the Scriptures that “He is intimate with the Upright.” in Prov 3:32. It also says in Amos that, “Surly God does NOTHING unless he first reveals his secret council to His prophets.” Ps. 25:14, “God shares his secret council with those who fear him.” Only those who fear God, those who are upright, only those whose hearts are pure can abide in His holy Hill. (Ps 15) A pure heart that seeks to know Him, and clean hands to fear Him and Obey Him.

The servant of God Moses goes in to talk to the Lord. Because of His closeness with God the people have sought to kill him, and because of his closeness with God, God will only speak his deepest feelings and thoughts with him. God tells Moses how he feels, and speaks plainly with him. It says in Exodus 33:11 that God spoke to him as one speaks to his friend.

What gave Moses the right to be God’s friend? Moses was a sinner. Moses was also more humble than any man alive. Moses knew his place with God, as humanly as he could know it. It is humility that grants you an audience before the Lord. He does not recognize the pompous or the arrogant, because they are nothing like him. He does not recognize the self-seeking, or the fool-hardy. He will not listen to the complaining, and whining of undisciplined children who aren’t getting their way, at least not without being ready to lash out with anger. If you find yourself grumbling, take heed to the warnings given in scripture. Let us not grumble as they did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. (1 Cor 10:10) It is the fear of the Lord and obedience to the Lord that is humility. Humility rightly takes its English shape from the same latin root as the English word Human. It is because humility is rightly understood as the art of being human. Jesus showed us what God is truly like– he showed us what true humanity looked like. He showed us why God doesn’t recognize the proud, and the reason is because God is nothing like that. The humility of God is shown in God’s servant. Humility is the basic shape a human must take if he is to have any sort of relationship with the God who made him in his image. Until he sloughs off his serpentine shape of a beast rearing its head up towards heaven fangs outstretched, he will not be able to bend low enough to avoid being eclipsed by the enormity of God’s magnanimity.

God talks with Moses and rescues Moses from being killed because he is His friend and he is humble. He tells Moses in Numbers 14 verse 11, “How long will this people reject me? How long will they not believe in Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?” If you look at the accounts of Exodus and Numbers at the miracles God did in their midst: 10 times, and the amount of times Israel rejected God they’re the same: 10 times. 10 is a mark of completeness in the Bible. God has completely done all the sufficient wonders to woo back his people, and Israel has completely done everything possible to reject God until now. God is just and He has borne with these people and he is finished he has it up to here: it is His holy, just, righteous character that even Pharoh recognized after the Seventh sign, that He be done with these people. He says, “I will smite them with pestilence and  and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

This is where we see the mark of God’s Servant and that is intercession. For the very people who seek to end his life, Moses relates here and also earlier in Exodus, that he would rather that his own life be ended than for theirs to be ended. (Ex 32:32) The level of “Let me take their place.” that Moses claimed is nationwide, but God doesn’t take him up on it. He listens to his friend Moses, and pardons them, and relents in the disaster, but just as with Egypt the Firstborn generation was slain, so Israel will also suffer the consequences of their utter rejection with the death they have chosen over him. What is remarkable about the servant of God, is that he has learned to choose God over everything else. He has chosen God over himself, he has chosen God over his livelihood, he has chosen to serve God completely, so that in a moment of intercession, there is nothing between him and God. He has allied himself with the ultimate power-holder in the universe, with the humility that qualifies him to wield it, and he says, “I even choose that your people should live instead of me. I would gladly give my life, so that these people may live.”

God’s servant is not a relished or cushy position. It may sometimes mean waging your eternity for the salvation of another. But you know something, that level of “I would gladly go to Hell so that they may live eternally knowing you,” is the very spirit in which Jesus Christ came to this earth to intercede on our behalf. And it was the mercy of God that he didn’t send Moses to hell for Israel’s sins. He sent Jesus to Hell for Israel’s sins, and for the sins of the whole world. And because Hell could not contain him, he left with the keys to the grave, and told his disciples, his friends, his servants, those with whom he was closest, that I have all the authority in heaven and on earth. And whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Now we see, what only a true servant of God can see. No nominal Christian will stare this ugly truth in the face and let it reflect in his own. A Servant of God isn’t one who let’s Jesus do all the suffering for him and that’s the end of it. A true servant of God realizes that pregnant truth which Jesus told his disciples, “Remember what I told you, no servant is greater than his master.” (Jn 15:20). “If they persecute me, they will persecute you.” If they seek my life, because I am so closely resembling the one they hate from the bottom of their heart, they will seek your life because you will be so closely resembling the one they hate from the bottom of their heart. Somewhere in Nominal Christianity we got the idea that Christianity is about Christ suffering for us so we don’t have to. But Peter knew better when he said, “As Christ suffered in the flesh, You also arm yourself with the same purpose.”

The Servant of God is self-sacrificing, humbly interceding for the ones who are seeking to end his life. He is so intimate with God that he knows the Heart of God, and lets his own heart break with it. The Servant of God suffers, for the very reason Jesus suffered, “so that others may live.” The servant suffers all the harms the world has to offer natural, supernatural, internal, external, bleeding, beating, blaming, shaming, isolation, excommunication, rejection: everything we have done to God and would do to God if we sinners had the chance. The Servant of God gives the world a chance to respond to God very clearly. Either they will join him in His suffering, or they will seek in the end to kill Him by killing you.

Why would anyone want to be a servant of God? It truly is as preposterous as it sounds for someone to want to be God’s servant. That is why it takes the call of God to raise up such a person to die to self daily. But I tell you, what I have been describing so far in this short article is not something different from Christianity. God’s Servant is anyone who represents God rightly. And the only human being to do this perfectly is Jesus Christ. The Christ is the Anointed Servant of God who rules as King the way God rules. Let me ask you, What is a Christian? A Little Christ. A replica, a reproduction, a fellow anointed servant of God who rules the way God rules. Let me ask you this. How did Jesus, who rightly represented God rule? He served. How did he conquer? He gave Himself. What power did he have? Only that which flowed from the Holiness of the Spirit within him, which the Father gave him to accomplish His will.

One of the final thoughts I’ll leave you with for now about the Servant of God is something I have been hinting at this whole time, and it may be obvious once I say it. It is only God’s servants who are authorized to wield God’s power. The Holy Spirit fills the believer with power to accomplish God’s work supernaturally. If you are looking to be filled with supernatural power than become God’s servant in truth from the heart. If you want to wield God’s mighty demonstrations of healing and miracles, recognize this is your price tag. To represent Him in power, is to know Him in pain. To know Him in the power of His resurrection, is only possible through knowing the fellowship of His sufferings.

O God speed the day! Raise up true servants of God, so that the world can be reminded in living color how You look and move and feel for them. God give us servants, give us prophets, give us those with whole lives devoted to serving you in the power of Your Spirit. Give the church your benchmark for holiness, so we can know that the Kingdom of God is NOT in words but in power! Call Your people to repentance. Call your people to Obedience. Call your people to Seek you. Call your people to Faith, believing and trusting and knowing You. And Lord give us hearts utterly devoted to serving you again. And let the world be drawn to you by the light of our fires, so they may see our good works and glorify You our Father who suffers with us.

Answer: The Cross

“By His stripes we are healed.”
There it is again.
I’ve heard that so often, like I’ve heard, “By the atomic bomb Nagasaki was destroyed.”
Let me rearrange it:
We are healed by His stripes.
Let me take care of the pronouns.
We are healed by Jesus’ stripes.
Let me personalize it for this blog.
I am healed by Jesus stripes.

Why? What about Jesus getting beaten senseless is so healing for me? I’m sick. I consider the deepest cause of my sickness is my own self-salvation, my own self-righteousness, my own self-service, or simply, my own “sin.” Is it just a matter of Jesus being beaten for that, that I am healed?

“The stripes that wound scour away evil.” All the brokenness of the world He scoured away in his body. There is something to that, because His resurrection proved that God was coming not just to crucify the world, but resurrect the world. The world will burn. The world will be remade. We will die. We will be changed. Every pain I face isn’t just a reminder that it hasn’t happened yet. It’s a chance to go to the cross and embrace it and say, “I accept your mercy to righteously judge my brokenness and my sinfulness because of your great love, and I lay down my life again, the way Jesus did on the cross, and ask you, that I may take it up again to serve you a little longer.”

The Cross is the door; only the dead can pass through it. That means I can’t save myself, I can’t heal myself, I can’t rule myself, I can’t love myself, or keep my relationships or my family, my church, even my own life for myself. “God you can have me, but you can’t have my family.” You haven’t gotten a hold of it yet. It’s Christmas, the “Family Holiday” it has become more so than Thanksgiving. Everything needs to be nailed to the cross, even family. Right?

So how does this practically apply? I am going to wait patiently for the Lord to completely heal me. Seems simple. People of the “Faith” tradition will say, “Proclaim it!” I do indeed. Just remember God doesn’t listen to the proud. He listens to the humble. 🙂 The humble are those who embrace the cross. It’s perfectly in keeping with God’s plan for the world to work supernatural healing in the world. I kinda want someone to come to my house and teach me a bit more of how this works, but the cross takes care of all sickness. And if there’s a sickness still, then He’s bringing part of the world to the cross, until it’s completely put to death. I guess.

The Cross is the answer. Thoughts?