John 8:51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death. 52 At this they exclaimed, ‘Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?’
These verses are such an odd exchange. It reminded me that the politics of power is nothing new. It can even impact faith. No I’m not talking about the “R” or “D” kind of politics but the dictionary kind: “activities associated with governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having, or hoping to, achieve power.”
Jesus’ words: “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death” challenged the Jew’s power over their people and that was the real conflict they had with Him. Their political authority gave them the ultimate power to end life, but Jesus continued to proclaim He had the ultimate power to end death.
Believers in Jesus Christ already have been given the promise of the power over death wrapped in the mystery of being “born again.” Born again is the indefinable personal moment of recognition that Jesus Christ guarantees your “new” life will not see or taste death. That life has already begun in you. You are living it right now. It doesn’t promise you won’t die but that by obeying His word in this life you will be able to see and taste the power of life that continues beyond death.
John 1:6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 , who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. NLT
I don’t think there has ever been a time when I have more clearly seen the “Light.” I really can’t even understand it myself. As odd as it is to write these words in the midst of grief over my husbands death, I feel the power of love, life, and thankfulness and light more completely than ever before.
This is my important testimony to you: The Light that has broken through the darkness of grief reminds me the “birth that comes from God” does so much more than overcome the darkness of death. You can depend on Jesus’s promise to give light to every circumstance of life…even death…so you can be comforted to continue.
John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. [NLT]
It’s almost a month since my husband was killed. I have been so blessed and comforted by my family. They have buffered the reality of my loss with their presence. They’ve flown in from around the country to help me navigate the unthinkable reality of death with the basics of life; food, activity and the practical and legal details that are now a part of my life. What was previously “normal” activity has now become a reminder of being alone but they have been the hands-on proof of God’s assurance that is not the case. One by one they’ve returned to their own homes and this week I finally have to face learning to live alone in mine.
It’s scary because I’ve realized I have never actually lived “alone” before. I moved from my parents home to my marital home nearly 63 years ago. I chose this book of John to read and ponder in these next weeks because it was important to my husband and the book of John is where my life of faith began long ago. I wasn’t physically alone then, but it was the place I first read the words that revealed Jesus gives life that spans all time, circumstances and relationships. What was true then is still truth now. “The Word already existed…with God… The Word gave life to everything…and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
John 20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
We know Lent is leading us, first to the Tomb, then to the Cross and finally to examine our heart. It seems like the empty tomb has come too soon in my readings. I’m still in preparation mode. “The stone” is the thing that has repeatedly caught my attention. In all four Gospel versions the story is about the empty and open tomb with specific mention of the stone and how it was moved.
My Cliff Notes:
– God chose “stone” to write His most important Words on
– Living stones
– Stone: a hard substance that comes from the ground, used for building of carving, used for a particular purpose.
It’s not too big a stretch of faith to associate these two verses and the mystery of that heavy “stone” having been moved. God’s first choice of material to write the 10 most important things He wanted His people to know was stone. Jesus is described as the Cornerstone,a and you are described as living stones. That’s in the Bible too. The wonder of the stone being moved is that once again God used a “Stone” to reveal exactly what He wanted His people to know. We know, thanks be to God, that it was His Breath of Life that moved Jesus from the tomb to His place in us. “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
a 1 Peter 2:4-7
Psalm 119:153-160 ר Resh – Head
153 Look on my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion, Lord, is great; preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love.
160 All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.
Right >§§§> Left
I have not forgotten your law, look on my suffering and deliver me. Preserve my life according to your promise, defend my cause and redeem me. The wicked do not seek out your decrees, salvation is far from them. Preserve my life according to your laws, your compassion, Lord, is great. I have not turned from your statutes but many are the foes who persecute me. The faithless do not obey your word, I look on them with loathing. Preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love, see how I love your precepts. All your righteous laws are eternal, all your words are true.
Resh – Head might be the Psalmist’s acknowledgement that he knows God is his Head. He is confident God always acts in accordance with His character. He is truly certain of what his heart knows about God but his words show us that isn’t always what is in his head. God has chosen to show us the honest words of this man “after His own heart” because they clearly reveal a struggle between the faith of his heart and the words of his head. That is the struggle people of faith still confront today.
The Psalmist knows every circumstance of his life is exposed to God’s own heart. I think that’s what he wants us to learn too. “We [must] let our mind descend into our heart and there stand in the presence of God.a Standing in that presence our heart and head can finally recognize the gaps in our faith. That is the place God’s own heart transforms our faith from what our own heart and head know into faithfulness based on knowing God’s law is always balanced by His promises; His decrees by His compassion and His precepts by His love.
a Henri Nouwen in Spiritual Direction
Reading these verses forwards, and then backwards and pondering their meaning continues. It seems like all of Psalm 119 has been about the building of the temple within the people of God; you and I. Today seems a perfect time for to punch a hole in the walls that we depend on for protection to let in a little more light using the Hebrew “ה He.” I haven’t missed the “coincidence” that God has used winter darkness, a raging pandemic and the period of Advent to do just that.
ה He – Window, Lattice
Psalm 119: 33-40 ESV
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandment for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!
33 I will keep the way of your statures to the end, O Lord; teach me
34 I keep your law and observe it with my whole heart because you give me understanding
35 I delight in the path of your commandment, lead me to it
36 Your testimonies, not Selfish gain, inclines my heart
37 Give me life in your ways and turn my eyes from looking at worthless things
38 Your promise confirms that you may be feared to your servant
39 Your rules are good for they turn away the reproach that I dread
40 Your righteousness gives me life! Behold I long for your precepts
Click here to read a previous post about the meaning of ה He – Window
25 My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
God’s Word has survived all these centuries because it’s more than information. Psalm 119, Daleth – Door is truth beyond time, translation, and even survives reading these eight verses right to left. My hope is that after you’ve read the eight verses above as copied from the English Standard Version you’ll read my right to left versions with the “Door” in mind. Daleth is the Old Testament Word of God that opens the “Door” to our communication with Him through our relationship to Jesus. “Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”
25 Give me life according to your word, dust clings to my soul
26 You answered me with your statutes to teach me your ways when I told of my ways
27 I will meditate on your wondrous works to make me understand the way of your precepts
28 Your word strengthens me when my soul melts away for sorrow
29 Graciously teach me your law and put false ways far away from from me
30 Your rules set before me are the way of faithfulness I have chosen
|31 Let me not be put to shame O Lord, I cling to your testimonies
32 Enlarge my heart so I will run in the way of your commandments
Click here to read a previous post about ד Daleth – Door
Hebrews 3:12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.a” [NIV]
“That day, next day, one day and someday” is a tongue-in-cheek description I recently read to describe the confusion of keeping track of time and days when the routines of life are altered during long-lasting life circumstances like this pandemic. I’ve experienced that confusion about time and days myself. It’s a real thing that caused me read this Scripture as if it was speaking about the confusion of time and days, then, as a danger in the spiritual life of believers in Jesus Christ now…and the much needed protection offered for “today.”
We have been so blessed for so long as a nation, as a democracy and as individuals that we’ve become confused about how real, and subtle, the danger of a “sinful, unbelieving heart” is. “Today” is the one word in this Scripture that made me realize “that day, next day, one day and someday” is really about missing the warning and protection available “now.” “Now” is our God-given opportunity to to “share in Christ” and “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness…Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…a”
a Psalm 95
Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[our] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory…16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Here’s a timely grammar lesson for 2020 courtesy of the Apostle Paul written during the first generation after Jesus, sometime in the 50s, while Paul was in prison. His If/Then sentences present conditions/situations [the Ifs] and the resulting/expected outcomes [the Thens] that even the passage of time can’t diminish.
If – “you have been raised with Christ”
Then – “seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right
hand of God”
If – “you set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”
Then – “when Christ who is your[our] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”
If – this Word from the Apostle has found it’s life in you today
Then – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
I Corinthians 3:7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building….21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. NLT
This image of how seeds sprout is a visual object lesson of the truth of this passage. Growth begins with a small kernel of life locked within a hard outer shell. You could be forgiven if you looked at that unsprouted seed and thought it was just a small pebble. That would be a sensible conclusion because there are some things only life can confirm. Without planting and water that is all that seed could ever be.
Paul describes the growth of life: “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” Growth reveals what was hidden in that hard shell is the power of life only God can release. That broken shell will ultimately fall away as the “spout” grows but will always be the primary evidence that confirms God can produce new life from hard cases.
“And you are God’s field. You are God’s building…So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”