I noticed and interesting thing after I’d finished my list of word ideas to pursue in these next few weeks. The first word of each combination was capitalized but the second was not. It was only a function of digital grammar but it made me think about those combinations differently. The capitalized word became an attribute of God to be practiced and for sure the lower case one the challenge of practicing them. If I looked at them that way, how were they related? Where is it written?
Zephaniah 3:17 For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you.” Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song. Living Bible [TLB]
It’s a fact! “He will love you and not accuse you.” YOU are the object of God’s Affection! Ponder what walking in that Affection might mean.
It’s the definition of that next word that’s the challenge of our daily life. God looked at the male and female he’d created and because they were the completed image of himself, they were by definition Perfect [with a capital P], weren’t they? Our definition of perfection has taken a turn for the worse and lost it’s capital “P.” Rather than being focused on practicing the Affection of God and who he’s created us to be our focus has become skewed by the complication our own ideas of perfection. God is determined to simplify our lives and change our ideas too. Here’s where it’s written.
Micah 6:6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. [NIV]
Our possessions and offerings are different now but they’re still what confuse our perfection. It’s much harder to give the simplest of things – ourself. He knows firsthand our possessions and our wealth are not the answer to our perfection because He personally experienced everything we struggle with. The substitution of Jesus Christ “for the sin of [our] soul” has made the capital “P” part of the picture again for us. It takes time and it’s not easy but it’s simple: Perfection will come with the practice of walking daily in his Affection for you.
“He [God] has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
“…We should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of GOD…”
.Brother Lawrence from The Practice of the Presence of God.
I’m at one of those transition places between what I wanted to know and what I still need to know. I’m looking for that new focus of my daily study. Usually I begin with THE Word and then find my words but all I have today is word ideas prompted by that quote from The Practice of the Presence of God. It feels like I’m beginning backwards but I’ve just spent a few weeks on the assurances that access to “high notions of GOD” are built right into those who dwell with his Spirit inside them. Here I am Lord. I love you, please lead me…to your “Whatever” and the fullness of understanding there’s “Nothing” you will withhold as I continue to ponder the mystery of how to practice these high notions of God…and their wisdom for daily life.
Proverbs 16:20 Whoever listens to what is taught will succeed,
and whoever trusts the Lord will be happy.
21 The wise are known for their understanding.
Their pleasant words make them better teachers.
22 Understanding is like a fountain which gives life to those who use it,
but foolishness brings punishment to fools.
23 Wise people’s minds tell them what to say,
and that helps them be better teachers.
24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
making people happy and healthy. NCV
cRomans 8:38 For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, 39 or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. TLB
“Nothing can ever separate us from his [Christ’s] love.” Nothing! “That’s a big promise, isn’t it? Of course I believe it. Do I live like I believe it? This is one of those big promises it’s easier to “believe” than to integrate into the patterns of real life. An odd turn of mind happened as I pondered these two verses. What if they require my submission in order to believe and accept their assurance? I was surprised by that thought. That’s what made “nothing” something to think about.
Some time ago I discovered a one-word prayer to remind myself to face up to the reality God is organizing the fine points of my life according to his plan, not mine. There are times my greatest need is to pray that one word…”Whatever.” Praying “Whatever” is sometimes only resigned acceptance but sometimes it’s the one-word relief of accepting things that are too big to comprehend. That’s submission. Pray “Whatever” when you can’t figure out God’s plan but you’re convinced he has one.
That one word “nothing” in these verses is so all-encompassing it’s hard to comprehend too. I’m going to add another one-word prayer of submission…”Nothing.” Submission is more complicated than I know how to live but I know offering God these two unlikely words of surrender and acceptance are a good place to begin. Remember “Nothing” is really everything. That makes “Nothing” a good one-word prayer to remind you of the vast scope and permanence of God’s love for you “demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. Pray it!
John 15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
It’s a desirable thing to be a servant to Jesus but it’s even better to be a friend. A servant operates on a need-to-know basis to accomplish an assigned task. A friend shares the privilege of knowing the master plan. The great heroes of the Old Testament, Moses, Abraham and David, were honored to be identified as servants of God. They were faithful but their access to God was limited. For the most part they saw God as a chief-of-state they could only catch glimpses of through the eyes of the chief priest and obeying the law.
Now Christ has bridged that gap between servant and friend. This is your assurance: that friendship is yours at the most personal level; the Spirit of Christ living inside you. He did not choose you to live a life based on what someone else may or may not know but has provided all YOU need to know to be his friend. He’s chosen you as his representative so you “might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last” in the world we live in – our Father’s world. The ability to know God is only limited by our desire to know Jesus Christ on the same intimate level that he knows his Father.
Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
That phrase “continue to work our your salvation with fear and trembling” always catches me when I read it because of that other phrase “as you have always obeyed.” Long before we even had a conscious awareness of our salvation we were learning there were times we could be disobedient and get away with it. Paul is challenging us to consider situational ethics and our faith. God has swept away old boundaries and brought new freedom to our lives. We have our doctrines, we have our statements of belief, we have God’s truth…but we still have our options.
I try not to be a “canned” Christian but it’s so easy to spout the truth you know as if you’ve really figured out how to live it. That’s the challenge of situational ethics. This last year our Pastor quoted someone-or-other with this [paraphrased] statement: “We judge others by their behavior and ourselves by our intent.” Our freedom in Christ has faced us with options and our situational ethics. That’s why we need to “continue to work out [our accomplished] salvation with fear and trembling.” You don’t think God misses those times when you still get away with misusing your freedom do you? Not a chance! That’s the “fear and trembling” part but we have these words of assurance from Paul. In the midst of working through matching up our situational ethics with our freedom we don’t have to rely on our doctrines or our statements of belief or our own will. This is God’s truth…”it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” You can’t do it alone.
1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are a temple [sanctuary] of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? NASB
The word [sanctuary] was the footnote next to the word “temple” in the verse but that word is my inspiration. I did a painting last summer for our church and titled it Sanctuary. It’s quite large – about 52” wide by maybe 36” tall. It’s a painting for both decoration and function. It protects the large TV screen in the fellowship room…more importantly it’s a message painting.
Sanctuary can be hard to find in the big picture of life. Do you see the cross? The cross is the path. Look for sancTuary where the living water, the cross, the open door and the sun all come together and reveal the secret. Expand the image and look more closely and you’ll see the “secret” of sancTuary, ΙΧΘΥΣ, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. See it?
Sanctuary is a beautiful promise God has provided for the big picture of your life. But wait there’s more! 1 Corinthians 3:16 goes beyond the promise of safety to an incredible blessing of assurance if you’ve found the “secret” of sancTuary. “Do you not know that you are a temple [sanctuary] of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Your life IS the sanctuary [temple] God has chosen to live in! Live big!
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
I wrote the words below nearly 40 years ago. I had a deep emotional understanding that Galatians 2:20 had really happened in my life. Christ’s life in me was complete and my life in him was a promise. I could live with that! There’s a purpose along with the promise of that one verse – growth! Life happens and wounds happen but flesh is healed by “faith in the Son of God.”
We were saved by recognizing the beauty of the scars the Son of God bore in our name. Now we have the privilege of sharing this assurance of growth – the beauty of our own healed scars.
Reprise: To Life! https://readandponder.com/?s=To+Life%21
Posted on June 29, 2015 but written in the “olden days” of the 1980’s.
“Imagine the position of a body on a cross. Feel your feet pinned with your ankles together so that your legs are useless. Sense your arms pinned outstretched as far from your body as possible, unable to provide any defense or protection, leaving you completely at the mercy of your surroundings.
As I hung there, pinned not by nails but by my own feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, excuses and tears dripped from my wounds, not blood. At last, when the pain was too great I could barely speak “Be with me, God, I’m so alone,” and it was finished.
There were friends, then, who cared for me in my brokenness who prayed and stayed with me until slowly the pulse of new life grew stronger and steadier and I was free of the shame of my scars – able to say, My wounds are healed, but the scars remain as a sign of the resurrecting love of God Amighty.” Shirle Bedient
1 Corinthians 2
• 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
• 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
• 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
If you’ve been a believer in Christ more than 5 minutes you’ve heard about sharing your faith with others. God has become part of your life. He’s no longer out there in some vague cosmos, he’s changed your mind! That’s an exciting and real process that barely has words to describe it. This is where you get to raise your hand in agreement with Paul, “I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.”
It’s scary stuff to speak [or write] about our faith because our spirit knows the reality of our thoughts and our merely human judgment finds it so easy to put information ahead of transformation. Paul’s words are both challenge and assurance to us.
Our words don’t have to be “wise or persuasive” but they do have to reveal God’s power to combine human wisdom with the work of his Spirit. That’s what makes them testimony and gives us the assurance that the “mind of Christ” is being created within us.
2 Corinthians 5
• 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
• 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
What’s next? That’s always the mental “blip” for me after having come to the end of a long string of blog posts with a clear theme like Christmas and the ending of a year. New Year’s day I re-read the last post of 2017. Then I opened https://www.biblegateway.com to the Verse of the Day: 2 Corinthians 5:17, the very beginning of my list of assurances that God’s will is up and running in the life of his children. It felt like my question was answered. Why not begin a brand new year with a brand new look at those assurances one by one?
It was interesting that the scripture makes a distinction between “mortal” and “life” and the two dwelling places involved. It feels like I have one foot in each of the two kingdoms, one good and one bad, but God has created them both! The heavenly one, “life,” often seems distant and the mortal one on earth seems so wounded.
That reminded me how important this part of the Lord’s prayer is: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It reminded me to look at myself and others in this earthly kingdom through the lens of that so often spoken prayer and be assured God’s will is NOT a secret. “…If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”… “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”