Breathe

Psalm 104: 29 – 30

You hide Your face, they are dismayed; You take away their spirit, they expire and return to their dust. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the ground.

You might not know it to just read these two verses, but they contain a couple of insights into the Divine Trinity and creation. In order to show the revelation which is contained here, let us first read this passage from a different translation. “When you take away their breath, they die and turn again to dust. When you give them your breath, life is created.” That rendition is from the New Living Bible. Did you see what happened between the two translations? The word “spirit” changed to “breath.” If you check the footnotes in any of the translations, you will find the other word footnoted. So, what does this mean?

There are several revelations in this. First, and probably most obvious, is that God’s Spirit, i.e. the Holy Spirit, is the breath of God. Now, if we were in church together, I could do a three-week series on that alone. What does it mean that breath is synonymous with God’s Spirit? A beginning point to answer that question is that every place in the Bible where you see breath or Spirit, you can, and should, mentally exchange the words. When you see that God “breathed” on something, you should hear, “Holy Spirit.” Somehow the Holy Spirit of God was involved in what was going on.

Second, God’s breath is life. We see that from these two verses, but it is evident from the creation story as well. “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being,” (Genesis 2: 7). So, it was the Holy Spirit of God which gave human beings their life. That is exactly what these two verses say. If we have the breath of God, the Spirit, then we have life. If the breath departs, so does life.

Now, I think that is easy enough to accept and understand at a basic level, but let’s take it to the next level. If a person has life, then doesn’t that mean he/she has a measure of the Holy Spirit? Besides which, Jesus is the life, so it is not a far reach to say that every living being has a measure of God’s Spirit, albeit, not in the fullness thereof. This does have a tendency to set our theology on its head, especially a theology of favoritism. It, on the other hand, explains why God thinks of us all as His children, even before we are saved. Whatsmore, today’s passage speaks explicitly of animals acknowledging that God gives them breath and life and feeds them by His own hand. So, through this we come to understand at a much deeper level how God views the earth and all of its creatures.

I am not saying that there is no difference between animals and humans. God does not call the animals His children nor has He given them authority. None the less, there is a wee bit of His own spark within them which is how they have life. We know this from today’s verses which speak specifically of God’s breath, the Holy Spirit. Second, I am not saying that we all have the Holy Spirit in the same measure. If you read the verses on the Holy Spirit you will see there are also different measures of “life.” This passage does not refer to the spiritual, newborn life, or even Spirit-filled life. It speaks to biological life of both humans and animals. So, don’t use these verses to overreach. They mean what they mean but don’t confer meaning beyond the text. They should bring enlightenment without us having to jump off a bridge. What they should speak to us is that we all have a bit of God within us giving us life. Some of us have come to know God personally; others have not. None the less, we are all brothers and sisters. We need to be gracious and inviting towards one another. We are blessed that we have been given truth for which we give the Lord praise.

Lastly, what I hope you will take out of this verse is the absolute connection between God’s Holy Spirit and breath. When you pause to take a deep breath, I hope, in your mind, you will connect that breath to God’s Spirit. Think on drawing more of the Spirit down into your lungs where that breath will be absorbed and distributed through your body. Let the breath of God increase in your being. And when you exhale, perhaps you exhale out injury, sickness, anger, or unforgiveness. Let the Spirit bring you revelation in and with your breath and find your stillness and peace in that breath. Shalom!

Shake Up

Matthew 27: 50 – 53

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two form the top to bottom, and the earth shook; and the rocks were split, and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

Try to wrap your mind around all of this for a moment. We generally accept that Jesus arose from the grave and appeared, in the flesh, to his disciples. Sometimes I think we don’t make enough out of that truth but at least there is general recognition of it. How about the rest of the manifestations? Don’t they boggle your mind just a little? How is it that when Jesus gave up his spirit, the earth reacted so violently?

I know, the unbelievers will chalk a great deal of this story up to a natural earthquake. I have no doubt the earth quaked. That’s kind of the point. Why, though, did it shudder? The answer, I think, is because the life force which had sustained it ever since it was created was yielded, released. For a brief time, Jesus was not the life (John 14: 6) and the earth trembled in response. The life, for a brief time, went out of it.

What about the veil in the temple? That is such a poignant fact. The veil separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple, and indeed, the rest of the world. Symbolically, this represents the reality that no longer is God hidden behind a veil from the ordinary person. The veil has been pierced, rended and ultimately abolished. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God is available to every person without the need of an intermediary. Was it coincidental that the veil in the temple was torn in two when Jesus gave up his spirit? I wouldn’t agree that damage of that sort is a likely result of an earthquake.

But lastly, surely no seismologist would argue that bodies coming back to life and arising from their graves is an expected consequence of an earthquake. These people entered the city and appeared to many people. It is surprising to me that we don’t make more of this amazing consequence of the life of Jesus. He is resurrection life and those saints are the proof of it.

The world shook when Jesus gave up his breath. Never before in the history of the earth had there been a moment without “the life.” Jesus’ release of his spirit shook the earth to its foundation, literally to its core. Many who did not previously believe, including the soldiers who participated in the crucifixion, were instantaneously converted. Of course, the news of this Jesus spread throughout Asia. This was a big deal.

I think we forget how big this event was. It is so far away from us in time and experience that we have lost the measure of its importance. Jesus’ death, quite literally, shook the world. But hold on to your hat because he isn’t done. He is coming back and he is going shake up the world again. Many, so called, unbelievers will recognize the truth of his deity and will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Life and Peace

Romans 8: 6        NIV

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

I am sure we all want life and peace. Jesus said he came to the earth to give us abundant life (John 10: 10) and I certainly do not want to frustrate his purpose in my life. I am equally convinced that you want the peace of Christ flowing through your life along with the abundant life he brings. I wish, sometimes, there was nothing I had to do to position myself for all the blessings of the Father. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Our Father has blessed us with every blessing in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 1: 3). How, though, do we have all that blessing manifest upon us routinely? As to peace and life, Paul answers that question for us today in this verse from Romans. Our minds must dwell on the things of the Spirit rather than on the things of the body or of the world.

You’ve all heard this verse before, but I wonder how well we hear it. This makes sense, of course, but it is much easier said, and agreed upon, than actually done. The world and all its pleasures are before us daily. We live in the world and must interact with it. It can be a challenge to live in the world and yet not be part of it. It is hard to interact with the world all day and at the same time keep our minds on the Spirit. None the less, that is the way to peace and life.

One hears a great deal of talk these days about intentionality. It means to be purposeful about the minutes of our day rather than blowing about with the wind. It means to make some determined choices and let those guide our day rather than just bumping along from one stimulus to another.

If, when we awaken in the morning, we immediately turn our thoughts and hearts to the Lord, it is much easier to stay in that place with him and with the Spirit all day. You can actually stay linked with the Spirit all day, even when you have to go to work, do the shopping, pick up the kids, etc. All the tasks of life are easier when you stay connected with God’s Spirit.

Notice that the mind is governed, or ruled, either by the flesh or the Spirit. What are the things of the flesh that attract us? Well, it is all the things of the world, isn’t it and things our body wants. It could be sleep, food, television, wine, social activity and more. None of these things are bad, are they? God is not trying to deny us these things, but it can be a question of priority. Are these things which gratify the flesh the focus of our attention? Are they more important to us than the things of the Spirit? The verse says that when our minds are ruled by these things, it is death. When our minds are governed by the Spirit, we are always led to life and peace. That sounds nice. So, we need to learn the skill of focusing our minds on the things of the Spirit and then staying connected there even as we travel through the world. The Spirit will always lead us into blessing. He will always show us the way of peace and life. We have only to fix our minds on him and he will bring us love, joy, peace, life and the blessing of God. That is a good plan. So what are you thinking about today?

It’s Your Choice

Deuteronomy 30: 19           NOG

I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.

Are you familiar with this verse? I want you to be. It is so very powerful and can change your life. In fact, this is a great one for you to meditate on. The piece of it I wish to highlight today is the word “choose.”

God has offered us life. He has offered us blessings. Death and the curse entered the earth in the Garden of Eden. So, both life and death and blessing and the curse are out there for the choosing. The interesting aspect is that we get to choose. I always smile when I read this verse because I hear it this way, “I have given you the choice between life and death, the blessing and the curse. Let me give you a hint. Choose life and blessing.” It is like God is trying to clue us in on which one to choose. It seems ridiculous at one level. We should be smart enough that He does not need to give us a hint and yet, it is a forebearer of a truth. We often make the wrong choice. We choose death instead of life and the curse instead of the blessing. Why would we do that?

Let me ask you a different question. Supposing you rather have life and blessing, how do you make that choice? What mechanism is in place for choosing? That is the main issue, I believe. Do folks know how to choose life? In how many ways do we choose the curse instead of the blessing? I believe most Christians do not realize there is a choice, how to make the choice, or how they are making the wrong choice daily.

One of the most poignant events in the Bible is found in the book of Joshua. As the book opens, Moses has just died. He, who was the liberator of Israel, who led them for years through their long sojourn, who importuned God for them, prayed for them, taught them, and cared for them, is dead. Now what? Shall the nation of Israel fall apart right there, having never crossed over into the promised land? It is a climactic moment is Judeo-Christian history. It could have all ended right there, on the wrong side of the Jordan. Instead, God appointed Joshua to be the leader of His people. How would you like that job, following in Moses’ footsteps? It must have been pretty frightening for Joshua. God took him aside, though, to give him the secret of success, to be his coach and mentor. God told Joshua, “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” (Joshua 1: 7 – 9).

I know that was a long quote but you need to see it all. Right here God gave Joshua the choice to fail or succeed. He even gave him the crib notes for the test. In other words, God didn’t make success a mystery. Success or failure lay at Joshua’s feet so God showed him the path to success. He gave him all the secrets. That is what God does.

Here is my point. Father wants us to succeed so He has given us the cheat sheet. “Here are all the answers,” He says. All we have to do is use them. How many points do you find in the quote from the book of Joshua? I counted seven. The real question is, how many of them are we doing. This is how we choose life and blessing. Joshua didn’t have to take God’s advice. We know he did because he enjoyed success and led the nation of Israel into the promised land. He chose blessing. He chose life.

Here are two of the big seven. One, do not fear. If we live in fear, we fertilize death and curse. Second, and this is a really big one, meditate in this Word day and night. When we meditate in the Word, we are actively choosing life and blessing.

This passage from Joshua teaches how to choose to live in the blessing. We need to follow where the Lord is leading. We need to communicate with him so that we see his ways generally and the specific path he points out for us. We can choose to be blessed. We can choose the abundant life Jesus said he came here to give us. I think if you will follow the advice God gave Joshua, if you will learn how to commune with Jesus and actually do it, that you will find yourself in overflow of everything good. Please, choose life, choose the blessing. It’s your choice.

The Righteous person

Psalm 1: 3

And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever he does he prospers.

An idea came to me today that I believe we will enjoy. Let’s take a trip, you and me, a journey of songs, as it were. Beginning today let us sojourn through the Psalms. Each day I will send you a verse out of a psalm beginning with Psalm One and continuing until Yahweh says, “Halt.” There are 150 Psalms. I do not intend that we do them all but perhaps we will do a couple of weeks’ worth. We’ll see but through this little adventure, I think we will get a better flavor of the Psalms. Sometimes you need to not bounce around so much in reading the Bible because you get a truer sense when you hang out in a book for a while. So, let’s jump in and see how we like this. Send me your comments. It might even be fun for you to anticipate which verse I will send the following day and who knows, if you send me your favorite verse in advance, well, maybe that will be the pick for the next day. So, tomorrow we will look at a verse from Psalm two. Which verse do you like?

Today’s verse is such a fun one. The psalms begin by characterizing the difference between a righteous person’s experience and a “wicked” person’s life. The righteous person is firmly planted. You can stop right there and shout. What image do these words paint in your mind? Being firmly planted means that the storms of life do not cause you to topple. You are not that tree that gets blown down in the storm. You have the ability to bend and flow with the wind all the while your roots, which run deep, firmly grasp the earth. They don’t strain to hold onto life in the tempest because you are simply rooted. You are so grounded that the winds of change or even turmoil do not disturb you.

You are firmly rooted near streams of water. That means that no matter how dry the season, or how infrequent the rain, you are planted at the stream where your roots do not have to search for water. You always have an ample supply because you are constantly resupplied by the flow of water past your roots. Go deeper in your celebration that you are planted by the stream because the stream represents the Holy Spirit of God. Meditate on that a little while.

You always produce fruit when you are supposed to. You are steady and reliable. Everyone knows they can look to you for fruit. You shall not wither and die. Your leaf remains young and supple. You provide shade and nourishment for all who come under your boughs.

Lastly, the piece de resistance, everything you do prospers. Write that one on a 3 X 5 card. Heck, make a poster of it. That is some good news, at least to all who believe it.

Ripe

1 Chronicles 29: 28

Then he died in a ripe old age, full of days, riches and honor and his son Solomon reigned in his place.

Well, if you are following the story this week, our friend, David has died passing, on the mantle of leadership to Solomon. What I find interesting in this passage is that he died at a ripe old age, full of days, full of riches and full of honor. My interest is especially piqued by the fullness of days. There is another passage in the twenty-third chapter that goes along with this. Verse 1 of that chapter reads, “Now when David reached old age, he made his son Solomon king over Israel.” There is a footnote at “reached old age” which tells us that he literally was “sated with days.” He was full of days, satisfied. Of course, that brings to mind Psalm 91: 16, “With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.”

You should live on planet earth healthy and prosperous until you are fully satisfied. You aren’t supposed to die because you are sick. You are supposed to lay down your body and move to heaven because you are well satisfied. David was ready to turn over the running of Israel to his son and did. Everything was in place, his work done, his life full and satisfied. He left having fulfilled his mission in life.

Christians need a brain washing and this scripture is good for it. We have been coaxed by the world into sickness and death but Jesus is the life so we must adjust our thinking. Right now, each of us already has eternal life. The only difference will be that we will move to heaven at some point. However, for all we know, we may be back on earth someday. The point is, though, that we have begun to think like the world instead of like God and that is a problem. When people ask what you are going to die of you ought to say of satisfaction. When I am full of what this world holds, I will move on and it won’t be because I am sick or diseased. We’ll just lay down these bodies.

Get this mindset working in you that God has promised to satisfy you and don’t quit, don’t lay down until you are full and satisfied.

Judgment Day

John 5: 24

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

I have already had my judgment day. How about you? Do you hear Jesus’ word? Do you believe He who sent him, i.e. God, do you believe God? Jesus said if you hear his word and believe God then you have passed out of death. You have passed into life. You have eternal life. You have it now. There is another part of this verse, though, and something we need to hear. All you hear Jesus’ word and believe God have already passed into eternal life and do not come into judgment. That is a big statement and a momentous idea. You will not face judgment. Jesus has already paid your way with his blood. Hallelujah!

Many Christians have their eyes focused on judgment day. That is not where our focus ought to be. Our focus is to be on Jesus’ word. Will there be a judgment day? Truthfully, judgment is already in the world which is why Jesus came, to save us from the judgment that was upon the world, but you have passed into life.

The thing which is most troubling about Christians who worry about their result on judgment day, is that they work to earn a good judgment. They believe that on judgment day their deeds will render them either a good judgment or a bad one. Here is the unabashed truth of that. They are hardly Christians because they are not wearing the mantle of Christ. They are actually humanists because they are trying to win God’s favor by their good works rather than the sacrifice of Jesus. They believe there is something they can do to woo God and it is, in reality, a stench in God’s nose.

The only thing that makes any of us worthy of gaining heaven is the blood sacrifice of our beloved. There is nothing you can do to make yourself one bit more saved than you are now. You will not face the judgment seat because you have already been judged and passed onto eternal life. You made a choice. You chose Jesus and that choice is the dividing line. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil,” (John 3: 19). A negative judgment is on those who love and choose the darkness. For those who choose the light, they are saved and passed on into eternal life. So, you have reason to celebrate and praise the Lord for you have been spared judgment.

There is one other thing of note in this verse. It is interesting that Jesus did not say this good news is for those who have “heard” his word. He said it is for those who hear his word. Think about that for a moment. What is the difference. Also, Jesus did not say that eternal life is for those who believe “in” God. That is what we read but not what Jesus said. Jesus said heaven is for those who “believe Him who sent me.”

I believe Jesus is communicating a dynamic relationship to us. He wants us to hear, and continue hearing, his word, the word that he is speaking today. Then we are supposed to believe it. We are supposed to believe what God is saying and believe what He has said. Satan believes “in” God. That is no big thing. We are called believers because we are supposed to believe God. We are to believe His Word and even act on it. We believe He is faithful, kind and that He is present right now in our own environment. We believe He is alive and active. We are believers in all Jesus’ words. That separates us, especially when our actions show our belief. We act on our beliefs. Everyone does, so when we act on Jesus’ words, our belief system shows.

If you believe Jesus and hear his words. If you believe God and all He has said throughout the centuries, then you have already passed out of death and into life. You are already living in eternity. Eternal life is yours. That is some good news and perhaps encouragement too.