Intertwined

Psalm 147: 10       NIV

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

I don’t know that I have ever seen this verse so clearly before. We see what we are able to see, what our hearts are prepared for. I accuse God of adding things to my Bible that weren’t there previously. It is amazing how you can read the same passage year upon year and then, all of a sudden, there is something there you have never seen before. I suppose that means I am ready to hear this passage. Let us hope I am ready to share it as well.

God has continually had me teaching on being intertwined with Him, see our logo above. It is a representation of us intertwined with Christ. What is so important about this scripture is not only that we are expected to live in this intertwined existence but also that our Father is delighted with those whose trust isn’t in their own strength, but rather, in His.

Intellectually, we all agree that leaning on the Father’s wisdom and strength is the right and proper thing to do. It is the smart way to live life. The problem arises when faced with a new challenge or project. Our first reaction is not always to stop and consult the Father. Usually we get in our own heads about what is needed. Sometimes that immediately translates into activity, still failing to pause and consider. It is not that we don’t believe. It is simply a matter of habit. We are accustomed to jumping into action. It doesn’t make us bad people, but it does show why we need the power of transformation in everyday life.

God doesn’t transform us because we are bad and that is really important to understand. Instead, He is attempting to lead and teach us. Jesus’ coming has a great deal to do with integration with the Father. The Trinity comes to live in us, and Jesus wishes to teach us continual communion with them. He wants us to learn how to walk, step by step, day by day in their anointing and presence. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

God is pleased when we invest our lives in a continuous communion with Him. He does not delight in human strength. Instead, He wants to empower us with his strength. His plan is for us to be in constant communication with Him, even in our every breath. He can be that close to us so that at any moment, we can inquire of Him and receive answers and guidance. I like that. I hope you do too.

 

 

 

 

Better than Sheep

Psalm 145: 21        TPT

I will praise you, Lord! Let everyone everywhere join me in praising the beautiful Lord of holiness from now through eternity!

Now here is someone who really loves the Lord! I bet you can guess who wrote it. If you guessed David, you are right. You can see one reason why God called David a man after His own heart. It was the love David showed Him. I find myself wondering how David developed such a strong affinity for God. The answer is perfect for a trying time of lockdown and isolation.

David was a shepherd. His brothers were older than he and were soldiers. While the brothers were off fighting the Philistines, David was home watching sheep. He spent many lonely nights with those sheep. All that time alone paid dividends though. He learned he was not really alone. He began talking to the one who was with Him, his God. In the lonely watches he learned to communicate with the Father, and he learned to wrap his life around the Father. He fell in love with Father and he also came to know the Holy Spirit, which few in the Old Testament can boast of.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. In this case, David turned loneliness into a close, intertwined life with the Lord. We can do the same. If you are finding yourself still alone a lot, talk with Dad. You could come out the other side of Covid with more than long hair and an extra couple of pounds. You could become a David, knowing and talking with the Father with ease.

Indwelling Presence

Psalm 140: 13

Certainly the righteous will give thanks to Your name; the upright will dwell in Your presence.

Clearly there are two parts to this verse. I confess, it was the latter which drew my attention. The question this verse presents is, will the righteous give thanks and the upright dwell in God’s presence only in heaven or is this verse meant to suggest life on earth experiences. For it to have great attractiveness for me, it needs to speak of our human existence in the earth and I believe it does.

What is the epiphany of Holy Spirit inspired language about us giving thanks to God when we all move to heaven, or for that matter, where is the great revelation in exposing an afterlife spent in the presence of God? Those are great truths and good news, but the truly remarkable thought is that these two declarations describe life here on earth. We can also know this by the preceding language. Verse 12 reads, “I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor.” There are no afflicted or poor in heaven, no need for God to justly defend them. Therefore, we know the author wrote about an earthly condition in which it is possible to live in God’s presence.

That is what is attractive about this verse, living, dwelling daily in His presence. The glory of God has been sent into the earth to dwell among men. But wait, the best is yet to come. Jesus described this Holy presence as the inhabitation of the Spirit of God within us. We are the temple of the Most Holy. I know that sounds like just a bunch of “church words” but if we are to think of them literally rather than poetically see what an amazing idea His indwelling presence really is. The Apostle Paul said that nothing could in any way separate us from the love of God. Well, I guess not if we openly allow the Spirit to integrate with us in a meaningful way. I mean to say, this isn’t a churchy experience as much as a daily one when we allow the Spirit to expand into every part of our being and our lives. This living in and with the presence of God can become as real to us as living with our families. For some people living with God became more substantive than their existence with people. I have read of nuns and monks for whom the reality of God’s presence was encompassing. I am not suggesting we must live as monks but rather use their lives as evidence that this God of whom we speak, Yahweh, our true Father, can and will live with us as much as we can allow. The more we grow spiritually, the more capacity we have for sharing our lives with the three people of Divinity. We can long for just a bit more every day and then, by the end of summer, we will have a SONtan from all the time spent in his presence. That idea warms my heart, partially because I know it is an ever-increasing possibility. Seek Him. Know Him and invite Him into your everyday existence.

Messy Drawers

Matthew 23:27

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”

This verse reminds me of someone I once knew. His desk was immaculate; no folders, papers or files upon it, contrasted to my own which currently has multiple books, composition books, a calendar, pens (plural), a folder and a pad. I can still see a little of my desk but his showed more wood than anything else and each item; pen cup, etc. was precisely placed. One day, though, I got a glimpse in his desk drawers. It was pandemonium. There was no order whatsoever.

That is the way Jesus saw the Pharisees. They had their public (visible) personas worked out to the last detail. They wore robes, attended the feasts, gave offerings, made their tithes and said their prayers. Inside, though, they were rotten and full of bedlam. Their religion only went skin deep. In the private times of their lives, in their private thoughts and ambitions, they did not serve the Lord God. Religion was, for them, a public expression rather than a private one. This distinction is, of course, of first importance.

Jesus has invited us into the private realm of life. He offers his assistance and presence in our private lives and invites us into the intimacy of his life. Think about the Apostle John reclined on Jesus’ chest. Is this the Lordly relationship the Pharisees sought? No wonder it was hard for them to recognize him as their Messiah. And just think what it would have meant to their existence had they received and accepted him. Walls of isolation and separatism would have to be shattered. Formalism would have to be abandoned. Could a Pharisee transform enough to lay his head on Jesus’ bosom? Could he surrender that much of himself?

Jesus destroyed the protocols becoming a friend and brother. He changed the way we think of ourselves in the larger landscape of “religion.” He is gentle but longs to occupy all the private corners of one’s life. We can appreciate how uncomfortable that might make a person. He didn’t come demanding to be worshiped as a king, though he had that right. He came requiring much more. He asks for our lives; for our lives to be intimately wrapped around his and he offers himself as our lover. Wow! It is a bit much to wrap your head around, but it has the sweetest aroma about it. It calls us forward, even into the uncomfortable.

Righteous Life

Psalm 112: 1 – 6

Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous. It is well with the man who is gracious and lends; He will maintain his cause in judgment. For he will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever.

Today’s passage shows the characteristics and benefits of a life lived in reverence to the Lord. It describes the life of the person who loves the Lord. Blessing and prosperity adorn his life and he is prosperous in all his ways. It also shows his personality traits, traits which are gained through living enamored with God.

The person who loves God is a righteous person. That does not mean he is holier than thou. It means he is in right standing with God. Our righteous standing with God is part of the miracle and part of the mystery of Jesus’ victory. If I boast in my righteousness it is only because of what Christ has done for me. Though we didn’t earn it, that righteousness entitles us to a benefits package. I think it has a price too. We are to trade our life in the world, and any benefits it may have, for a life in Christ. We give up our place in the world for a life in him. It appears as a sacrifice but once you have transitioned you realize that you gain far more than you give up. I find this is a process. We are beginning to glimpse the great joy and benefit of living in Christ. The more we give up of ourselves, the more we gain. That is just like our Father. His kingdom makes no sense to the worldly mind.

This life in Christ has a transformative impact on our personalities. Now, that will cause some people great consternation. “Do you mean I have to give up who I am to be in Christ?” No, not really, and then, absolutely yes. The laying down of our lives becomes a pleasure, a freedom rather than a sacrifice. And truthfully, you are not giving up who you are but rather the imperfected you in exchange for the glorified you. You will still be you but the 2.0 version, and then 2.1, etc. You are evolving, transforming, coming out of your chrysalis as the beautiful butterfly which was always in your DNA. This transformation is reflected in today’s passage. Please look at this language again, “He is gracious and compassionate and righteous, . . . [he] is gracious and lends.” You can measure your level of transformation by this quote. As the transformation takes place, you will find yourself more generous, compassionate and gracious. It strikes me that graciousness is listed twice. The repetition must have significance.

I was just thinking about how we bless and care for others and Father blesses and cares for us. The blessing must flow downstream. Jesus wants us to live intertwined with him so that he can take care of us and has told us that we are not to have care about our own lives. We are to care about others. Once our minds and spirits are free from worrying about ourselves all the time, and thinking about ourselves, then we are able to hear the Lord communicate with us about the needs of others. It really is a great joy to be used of God to bless someone else. It is an honor to be trusted with even a small fragment of Jesus’ ministry.

Blessed is the person who loves and reveres the Lord. Blessed and to be envied is the one whose life is intertwined in the Christ. May it show in our actions. Let God’s name be lifted up and praised because of the generosity and caring of His children.

Immersed and Intertwined

John 21: 1 – 8

Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.

But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.

After Jesus died and was resurrected, he appeared, or manifested himself, in the flesh, to his disciples. That is an interesting study in itself, but not where I am going today. What I wish to point out today is the difference in John and Peter. Both are renowned disciples who are two of Jesus’ best friends but their approach to him and to the world is vastly different.

First, let me clarify something which tends to challenge people. In good writing, the author never uses personal pronouns. In other words, they don’t use “I”. The author is not supposed to be writing about himself or herself but rather about a larger context. In truth, this has changed with blogs and social media. It is one of the changes I had to embrace, though hesitantly, in writing a personal devotional. So, John refers to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” Okay, proprieties taken care of.

Second, people think this is an arrogant moniker. No, it is just the opposite. John is saying to his readership, and every other person, that his only value in the world is that Jesus loves him. It is a statement, or rather a reference, of great humility. “It’s little old me. I am no one but for the grace of Jesus’ love which is unearned for I am unworthy of his kind intention towards me. It is only by his benevolence that he loves me, nothing of my doing.”

Okay, now you begin to see inside John’s heart. Though he entered the ministry of Jesus as a Son of Thunder, he became the love apostle. He is the apex teacher on the relationship aspect of Christianity, teaching us that our love relationship with the Trinity and, indeed, with each other, marks our faith above all else. When you compare his letters with those of the other writers you will find they are unique. They reveal the integration with Father, Son and Spirit which I write about frequently. I got it from John.

So, John’s heart became tender. He learned to live and walk with Jesus. He learned to engage his heart even above his mind. His spirit became sensitive to the Holy Spirit and he received remarkable revelation out of that intertwined relationship with the Trinity. The whole book of Revelation is one remarkable experience that John enjoyed with the Holy Spirit. So, all this is to show you who this man became. I guess in a few words I would say of him, he became one with the Spirit.

In this story you see the sensitivity of his spirit to the things of the Holy Spirit and Jesus. When Jesus was standing on the shore, it was John whose spirit recognized him. Of all the disciples, it would be John who knew Jesus when others did not.

Now Peter, Peter was a man of action. He was strong willed, perhaps a little hard-headed, and his faith had feet. He did something. He was the one who jumped out of the boat to walk on the water with Jesus (Matthew 14: 29). When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and removed the ear of one of the soldiers (John 18: 10). This story finds Peter jumping out of a boat again. When John said to him, “It is the Lord,” Peter bailed out.

Both men leave us with good examples. John transformed himself into a spiritually sensitive person who could see and hear the Holy Spirit. Though Peter lacked John’s spiritual sensitivity, he was always quick to take action. That action may have at times been rash, but Peter was not going to be found sitting on his hands. If nothing else, he was going fishing.

Two models of faith – both give us insight and hope for who we may become in Christ.

The One Thing

Psalm 51: 11 – 12

Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.

I really had a hard time choosing which verse to send today. This psalm is good right from the beginning. You would really be blessed to read the psalm in its entirety. How could I not choose these two verses, though, especially verse eleven where David writes explicitly about the Holy Spirit.

There are many things which distinguish David from other Biblical personalities, but David’s most unique characteristic is that he knew about the Holy Spirit. There just isn’t much about the Spirit in the Old Testament and those who had a concept still had little experience. Of all the Old Testament writers David stands out for his walk in and with the Spirit. In fact, often I think he is a good example to us of walking with the Spirit.

We see from this passage that David was well aware of God’s presence with Him. He enjoyed an intimate fellowship with the Lord. Consider then the context of this psalm. It was written from a contrite heart seeking forgiveness for what others may have thought unpardonable. This psalm follows upon the heels of David’s affair with Bathsheba and all that entailed. Yet if you read the entire psalm, though contrite, there is evidence of David’s confidence in the Lord’s lovingkindness and His immense capacity for forgiveness. David may have thought his behavior warranted God casting David from His presence but his song and prayer indicate that he understood God’s mercy to be greater than any sin.

David didn’t have Paul to teach him about God’s grace. He didn’t hear Jesus’ sermon on the mount. Where did he learn these deep concepts? I surmise that David learned directly from the Holy Spirit. Though the Spirit had not yet been poured out, he was in the earth. We find in the Old Testament examples of the Spirit alighting on individuals with resultant power and ability manifested in their life. Then the Spirit would, apparently, lift and they would return to their normal abilities. When the Spirit would settle upon an individual they would perform extraordinarily.

David experienced this extraordinary empowerment too but what scintillates about David is the daily walk he enjoyed with the Spirit. There are at least several messages hovering here. I will suggest two, you choose what to ponder today.

The first message is obvious, I think. If people from the Old Testament were supernaturally empowered by the visitation of the Holy Spirit, how much more divine power have we with the Spirit living in us rather than just settling on us from time to time? The second idea is the evidence in this psalm that David had a working relationship with the Spirit of God. While others had little appreciable understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit, David was engrossed in a daily partnership with him. David importuned the Father to restrain from removing the Holy Spirit’s presence with him.

David’s hope was in living in the presence of the Father with the support of the Holy Spirit. Joy and sustenance were in those two elements. It’s really quite beautiful when you think about it. Likewise, for us joy, hope, sustained life and power are found in the presence of divinity. In the world, we strive, powerless against the sin wrought turmoil. In the Spirit, we have life abundantly. David found something, the very something our innermost being seeks. Our search ends in the presence of the Holy Spirit. David said, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple,” (Psalm 27: 4), and he dedicated his life to doing just that. Let us adopt a similar purpose. Let us say with commitment, “One thing I ask, this I shall seek, to live all my days intertwined with the Holy Spirit.”