Tuesday, March 29, 2016

To And Fro

"For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely his" 
2 Chron. 16:9.

The bible is specific, and this phrase "to and fro" is significant. The Law of First Mention in biblical interpretation gives the initial appearance of something in Scripture its meaning. "To and fro" first occurs in Job 1:7 and 2:2, and describes Satan's travels in the earth.

Consider this. These scriptures in Job call Satan one of the sons of God present before The Almighty. Why was he included and allowed to be there? Hmmm, something to think about.

"To and fro"  is the devil's travel itinerary in the earth. Kicked out of the heavenly realms, his field of accessibility is severely restricted. Why does God keep such a close watch?

According to Daniel 12:4 men also go "to and fro", in the same dimension Satan trolls, and will do so until time ends. God watches over all His creation but specifically those "whose heart is completely His." Those in this category, if not vigilant, are more susceptible to attack.

Fortunately for believers, we're not trapped in the kill zone of "to and fro". In his letter to the Colossians Paul exhorted them to "keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." Col. 3:1. Why? Because Christ, "...hath raised us up together and made us sit in Heavenly places." Eph. 2:6.

Paul understood we live and operate from a Heavenly realm far above earth and "to and fro". Still, many believers are unaware of who and where they are. They view life strictly from a temporal perspective.

The truth is we are a "new creation" 2 Cor. 5:17, but most still see themselves as "mere men" 1 Cor. 3:3. When was the last time you heard yourself or another believer assert, "I'm only human! What more do you expect?" (Break out Cristy Lane's "One Day at a Time". On second thought, please don't.) Jesus faced impossible situations and never resorted to that excuse. Just the opposite.

While here on earth, in His physical body, Jesus declared, "I am in the Father and the Father is in me" John 14:11 (note the present tense). The Father was in Heaven. Jesus was not only there, but also on the earth at the same time. He said this about those who would follow him:

"I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me" John 17:22-23.

Jesus said believers are in Him while He is in the Father - right now. For John, this must have been initially hard to grasp. By the time he penned what we know as 1 John, this impossibility was reality.

"By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He as given us of His spirit." 1 John 4:13.

Fortunately for those living as if this is true and for those still unaware of their real position in life, God keeps an eye out. He'll encourage those of faith to assume their place above and out of the fray of "to and fro". It's sometimes easier said than done. Our hearts may yearn to be completely His, but our minds (reason, logic, thought processes) are often rooted in the natural world nurturing unbelief, thus painting a target on our backs.

How about you? What do you think about Paul's belief that Christians are already in Heavenly realms? How do your feelings impact your ability to believe this is true, right now? How would operating from a Heavenly position remove opposition and reduce/eliminate blow back from the enemy? If Heaven is truly available now in this lifetime, do you still want to postpone being there to some time it the future?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why The Ox?

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 
Matt. 11:29-30

In his book, Ezekiel described a cherub. Luke's account of Christ's nativity records a heavenly host's appearance which terrified some shepherds. If a cherub matching Ezekiel's description, along with some of Heaven's other unusual beings, was part of those delivering the Lord's birth announcement, the surrounding area may have been very messy!

A cherub's four faces reflect the nature of God. Three of these: the lion, king of the Jungle; the eagle, top of the aviary chain; man, God's highest creation, represent the apex of their respective species. Then there's the ox.

Its strength is formidable, still an ox doesn't strike fear into one's heart. It's rather slow, lumbering and dull, hardly anything to get excited about. What does this show us about God?

Oxen can be harnessed in order to produce even greater results. Individually they're a force, as a team their power and strength increases exponentially. Young oxen are yoked with those more mature who train the newbies, enhancing their value and productivity.

Unlike work horses which require blinders to maintain focus, the ox's poor eyesight naturally limits its attention to things close by. It's not easily drawn off course or distracted by its surroundings.

As opposed to its three counterpoints, the ox is the only one who doesn't kill it's own kind or, for that matter, any other species. Pair up the other three into like teams and soon the claws and fangs come out. One would hardly classify that trio as being gentle or humble in heart. Not so with the ox. Jesus' reference to a yoke brought to His listener's minds this ordinary beast of burden. How does this apply to believers?

In Christ, we possess great strength and power. When we yoke up with Him, He trains and works with us to accomplish things we'd never figure out or be able to accomplish on our own.

Looking though the eyes of the ox we're less prone to sideline distractions. Concentrating only on what's ahead, we've no vision for future obstacles, real or imaginary, that produce fear, and prevent us from moving forward.

When adopting the personality of the ox we help shoulder the load, and share responsibility. The work's not glamorous but necessary in order to bring God's kingdom to earth. In the process we don't waste time, energy and resources devouring our own and those around us.

How about you? How do the characteristics and nature of the ox speak to you about what God's like? We know He is glorious and wonderful beyond description. Why do you think He chose to identify Himself with the ox? Which of the cherub's four faces do you most readily identify with and why?

p.s. Early Hebrew was like Egyptian hieroglyphics; it was a pictorial language. Later, letters, which also double as numbers evolved. The first letter of the aleph-bet, the aleph, was depicted as the head of an ox. When Jesus spoke of being yoked to Him, His audience would have immediately identified with this common work animal and the original picture of aleph. Aleph is comprised of two other Hebrew letters, the yod and the vav. Yod equals 10 and vav equals 6. Aleph has two yod's (20) and a vav (26) bringing its sum total to 26.

The tetragrammaton, the 4 letter unspeakable name of God is YHVH (Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey) or our word Yahweh. The numerical equivalent of these 4 letters is also 26. In the same way that YHVH cannot be pronounced, aleph has no pronunciation. Because its numerical equivalent is the same as YHVH, aleph is also considered to be the number of God. In addition when you see LORD capitalized, it normally refers to YHVH in the original manuscripts.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why Starve Yourself?

"He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters" Psalm 23:2 (KJV)

"Shepherd the flock of God which is among you"
1 Peter 5:2

"I'm done with church because I'm not getting fed!"

I've heard this over and over again, and it runs completely opposite of Hebrews 10:25 which reads to, "not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is."

This line of thought, "I'm done with church”,  appears to be taking on a head of steam. The early church, however, faced this same situation proving, "there's nothing new under the sun" Ecc. 1:9.

The reasons Christians abandon church participation and attendance are too numerous to cover in one short post. For brevity's sake, I'll comment only on what seems to be the most popular and prevalent excuse d'jour...diet, or a lack thereof. This begs the question, "Why are you starving yourself?"

The Twenty-third Psalm beautifully depicts Jesus in His role as our Good Shepherd. Verse two portrays the luscious venues of food and drink He provides for His flock. Absent in this psalm, and in sheep husbandry as a whole, is the notion that under normal circumstances the shepherd is responsible to spoon or force feed the sheep. He leads them to pasture and water; it's their choice to eat, drink or go without. If one isn't getting fed spiritually speaking, who's fault is it?

Now before you get too upset consider this - who has been charged to shepherd the local flock? If you guessed the Pastor, according to 1 Peter 5:1, you're mistaken.

"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder..."

In Peter's opinion the elders, not just the Pastor were to care for the assembly.

The word elder used here means not only those who serve in an official capacity, but also those older and more mature in the Lord believers. In Hebrew there is no word for retire so none of us gets to sit back and coast. The Pastor's role isn't to provide a week's worth of spiritual nourishment in one sitting, but to introduce a portion of God's Word to consider. It's the individual's responsibility to dig in and receive revelation and insight. Sermons/teachings are springboards to propel one deeper into the things of God. It's wonderful to get a taste of someone else's understanding, but if you only nibble there and go no further, you'll starve.

Taking time to delve into God's Word isn't only for one's personal benefit. Developing maturity takes seat time (a term stock market traders use for experience) with God, His ways and His Word. The interaction of fellow brothers and sisters, at all levels of growth and development, helps keep the local flock from getting fleeced and slaughtered. Many shepherds keeping watch raises the level of safety exponentially.

How about you? If you're frustrated about the level of spiritual content from the pulpit, what are you doing to avoid starvation? As you grow in seniority and maturity in the Lord, how are you participating in managing the local flock? If you're not part of a congregation, what steps are you taking to maintain not only your own spiritual growth and development, but also that of the younger, newer lambs of the Good Shepherd's flock?

p.s. Those who know me will understand the significance of the peas on the plate. This is a meal I'd voluntarily skip.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Dust Bunnies, Creepy Crawlies and the Holy of Holies

"But only the High Priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood which He offered for Himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance" Hebrews 9:7

A study of the tabernacle and later temples provides not only detailed descriptions of the structures but also a comprehensive list of those who served there and their official functions. One position is conspicuously absent - a janitor for the Holy of Holies.

Moving through the wilderness necessitated the assembly and dis-assembly of the tabernacle on a periodic basis. At that time the Holy of Holies got a much needed airing out. Dust bunnies and creepy crawlies got the boot.

Solomon built the first permanent temple which lasted about 400 years. The second temple built by Ezra and later enlarged and embellished by Herod stood for 586 years. The most notable difference between these two magnificent structures was the absence of the Ark of the Covenant in the second building. The Ark disappeared sometime around the Babylonian invasion and subsequent destruction of Solomon's masterpiece. The Ark, the visible, tangible manifestation of the presence of God was gone.

The Holy of Holies was an enclosed room. Once a year the High Priest entered with incense and blood. Upon completion of His assigned duties he left. The room wasn't entered into again until the same time the following year.

In almost 1000 years of combined existence in the two temples, the Holy of Holies was never cleaned. My house has a basement that until recently was rarely visited. It takes no time for dust to build up and unwanted visitors to arrive there. By the time either temple was demolished the Holy of Holies would have accumulated hundreds of years of stale incense smell and dried blood. Add to that a thick coating of dust, cobwebs and all types of critters. Surprisingly, God didn't seem to mind. He didn't appoint an anointed custodian to regularly sanitize and freshen up His room. There's a lesson to learn from this.

In the same way that God dwelt in the innermost part of the tabernacle/temple, He chooses to reside in the innermost part of man, the heart. He seems more interested in being invited in and permitted to live there than on the heart's initial condition. He'll take any heart in any state of disrepair and disorder.

No one was allowed to clean up God's room (mother's don't tell your kids this). Similarly, no one can adequately clean up oneself and through self effort make them self acceptable to God. To those of us who aren't clean freaks, we knew we liked Him!

God's idea of a clean environment rubs our religious spirit the wrong way. The maturation process of sonship does bring essential and necessary changes to our lives. We all have dust bunnies and creepy crawlies but they don't send God packing and heading for the exit. If we allow Him, He'll set up a housekeeping schedule on His terms and develop us into a great place to live.

How about you? When you made Jesus your Lord, how messy was your life? What did God overlook when He accepted your invitation to set up His abode in you? What works better- a rigorous self-improvement program or having Him isolate the grime and together working with you to remove it? His concept of an ideal environment can look very different from ours. Since it is His house, why not let Him do things His way?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


"There they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not take it" Mark 15:23

After hours of brutal punishment, culminating with crucifixion, Jesus was near death. Offered what amounted to a sedative meant to ease suffering, He refused it.

Why? What harm could it have done? The final outcome would have remained the same, just a little less painful. Jesus never acted without purpose so what was He trying to teach us here?

Earlier that evening in the Upper Room, Jesus shared communion with his disciples. The bread was His body and the wine was His blood. According to Leviticus 17:11, life is in the blood.

In the bible, myrrh symbolizes death. Added to the wine the combination of the two would result in a dilution of life. Jesus declared His reason for coming was:

"The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy, I have come that they may have life and have it to the full" John 10:10.

Jesus didn't offer or participate in any form of a watered-down version of life.

Pressures bear down on us and tempt us to look for escapes, if not totally, than at least for short term respites. Is that so bad when they don't impact the final outcome? Maybe yes, maybe no.

I am by no means discounting the use of any properly prescribed medications to relieve pain. Self-induced altered states, however, can end badly. Anesthetizing suffering away increases the temptation to check out again and again. If the situation cannot be changed then the pain of the process can at least be dulled.

Altered states impair one's ability to make sound judgments. In that condition it's easier to make one's life worse, not better. The inability to think and reason coherently can cause one to miss possible solutions, prolonging and increasing the agony.

In the midst of a horrific situation, Jesus elected to stay in the now. Refusing to self-medicate He had the presence of mind to entrust His mother to the care of His closest friend John, genuinely forgive His persecutors, and offer an assurance salvation to a repentant thief.

How about you? Are you under relentless pressure that has you desperate for relief? What avenues of escape lure you to disengage, even just temporarily? If these options won't change or improve your situation, are they as harmless as they appear? Would a temporary fix be worth missing a real, permanent solution?