I John 3:1 Behold, what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the sons of God! For this reason, this world does not know you: because it does not know Him. 2 Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God. But what we shall be is yet to be revealed. And we know that when He shall be revealed, we shall be like Him. For we shall see Him as He is. RGT [Revised Geneva Translationa]
You may remember a simple chorus sung as a round based on these specific words of I John 3:1. You may still mentally hear the music. If it’s unfamiliar take a minute to listen here. It’s a very basic two-sentence structure that repeats and overlaps as each side sings their part to complete the Word to the other.
Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us,
Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us,
That we should be called the sons of God,
That we should be called the sons of God.
Reading those words triggered the memory of the music that goes with them. The testimony of truth is when music and the Word are combined, the two halves of the human brain are uniquely engaged in a lasting way. Behold! Reading Words on a page has the power to stimulate the music of our memory and remind our heart that the Father has given His love is to His children [of any age] for this purpose: our hope “that when He shall be revealed, we shall be like Him. For we shall see Him as He is.”
aThe Geneva Bible is specifically designed to be SPOKEN and HEARD, repeatedly, and is built on the premise that a crucial key to revival in the present can be found in one simple practice from the past—speaking God’s Word back to each other in community.
Hebrews 8:10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.[NIV]
Trusting your heart and mind really are under God’s control has to become one of the main disciplines of experience for the believer. There are other experiences we have a better handle on: gathering information from the Bible, the Church, Godly people, prayer and service in the Lord’s name. OK, got it, now what?
That answer to “now what?” is so simple…and yet so much harder because the reality is even those disciplines are not our own. They certainly express our faith, but where did that faith come from? They’re certainly the evidence of experience that proves the reality of our desire to please God, but where did that come from? Faith and desire both came from the simple acceptance of what God promised at the day of our salvation. Simple right?
Just as faithfully as we practice those other disciplines of experience we need to learn to practice this simple truth…“I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Simple acceptance is what makes this discipline of trust so much harder. Can you believe God intends you to trust His presence in your mind and heart even when you fail, even when you don’t know which choice to make, or even worse, when you’ve made the wrong one?
Dare to trust living with God’s real promise for your life and believe: “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” All it requires is simple acceptance…but it’s hard evidence of real trust in God.
Colossians 2:1 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is…9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness…13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled tqhe charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
The word “you” is used twenty-two times in the first fourteen verses of this Chapter. You is a personal pronoun. The Apostle begins with simple words “I want you to know how hard I am contending for you… and for all who have not met me personally.” It only takes a couple more verses before he’s swept away that separation of knowing him personally, and time. I’m certain grammar and pronouns were the furthest things from Paul’s mind when he wrote this Word but his goal is still alive and well because of them. We’ve become part of the inner circle of “the mystery of God, namely, Christ” in you. “God made you alive with Christ,”
The impersonal has been swept away because of these words written so long ago by a man we’ve never met. Here’s the grand finale. It’s very personal, we’re now part of the inner circle of Christ. The indisputable confirmation of Scripture being Living Word is it still speaks loud and clear to the heart today with two more pronouns – us and our.
“He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”
“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”
Today is the beginning of Advent, 2017. Advent may not be a familiar name to you. It’s really just a time set aside leading up to Christmas to acknowledge the fullness of what has become the “Big Event” of our life, the birth of Jesus. I’ve come to love the daily moments that catch my heart and focus my mind on the Who, What, Why, When and How the Bible records of that Big Event but the season is filled with many other things that catch my eyes and ears. It’s starting to sound like a whole body experience isn’t it…heart, mind, eyes and ears? That’s exactly what the purpose of the month-long celebration of the Big Event is about.
The words Isaiah spoke way back then have added one more facet to the fullness of this year’s celebration of the Big Event for me. This might be the best part. The weeks leading up to Christmas are one of those rare seasons when the hearts of complete strangers are softened by music, lights, food, parties, friends, family…and gifts. Softened enough that what Isaiah says to us may touch them as well. “You who bring good news…lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid… Here is your God!”
We are what is popularly referred to as snowbirds. Around Thanksgiving each year we pack our 35’ RV and head for warmer climate for a few months. That’s where my celebration of the Big Event happens each morning. Instead of a Christmas tree I have a hanging tree branch, a Jesse Tree [see above] that I decorate. It’s very simple. Today I hung an origami star with some off Isaiah’s words folded into it. I need those words to challenge myself, and maybe you too, to experience the fullness of a whole body celebration in one more way…voice!
There will never be a better time to “lift up your voice”…and bless someone. I’m not talking about a soapbox in a park or snagging someone on a street corner or even quoting scripture to them [although that might be appropriate in the right situation]. I’m only asking you to notice and respond to the people that cross your path between now and Christmas with a gift from God; a blessing given with your own voice and from the fullness of your own heart to make this year’s Big Event a whole body experience for yourself and maybe them too.
This doesn’t come naturally to me so I’ve been sitting here jotting down ideas of ways to fearlessly speak a blessing to a complete stranger. Ten minutes have gone by and after a lot of typing and a visit to look up the definition of blessing, Isaiah’s timeless truth [this is the “do not be afraid” part] has finally dawned on me. There is only one way to begin this blessing…God bless you…
…for your kindness
…for your help
…for your cheerful greeting
…for ringing that bell
…for opening that door
…for caring to ask
…for doing your job well
You get the idea, right? Make it part of your preparation during the days leading up to the Big Event to watch for opportunities to let your voice be a blessing for others. It’s really true you are blessed to be a blessing. May God bless you with his own heart, mind, eyes and ears…may he bless you with the courage to speak…may he bless you for pondering my thoughts and then coming up with your own.
Posted in Isaiah, Sunday, The Big Event
Tagged Blessing, Ears, Eyes, Fullness, Gift, Heart, Mind, Simple, Voice
Read Mark 6:47-52. My focus is v50b “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,”
Those simple red-letter sentences are the summation of real good news for friends of Jesus that are worn out from fighting the storm. The story ends in Mark 6 with those friends that knew Jesus best being amazed and terrified when he showed up in such an unusual way. They had invested their life completely in following Jesus and even with all their firsthand evidence they didn’t quite understand what to expect from him. Verse 52 says “their hearts were hardened.” How could that possibly be?
I don’t know about you but the thrust of much of what I watch or read about the world today is at best sad and at worst scary. It’s a harsh reality to face the fact that just like those other friends of his, I have to blink twice to recognize that Jesus is more than a ghost in today’s broken world. My heart has been hardened by struggling to understand the evening news instead of that good news. I can’t figure out what to expect from current events but I think there’s a solution. I’m just trying to blink twice so I can see a new reality that Jesus is in the boat with us and take him at his word in this storm. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,”
Sequel: John 17:9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
I wrote about John 17:9 on July 27, 2015. “We can appreciate all the things our heart leads us to do for Christ but this is the most important thing we’ll ever have to offer back to him…to simply Be The Gift!” The fact that we are a gift God has given to Jesus is especially important to remember when your heart has recognized the need for the protection of repentance.
Have you ever received a handmade gift from a child? They’re not usually made with the highest quality materials and the craftsmanship is pretty simple. Those little pieces of torn paper, glue and maybe a smudged handprint with their name written on it get preserved and cherished because they’re the gift of themselves from that moment in time. I suspect that’s how God sees our repentance too.
Repentance is often a reflection of our own childishness; a little less than perfect but it’s all we have to give right then. It probably looks just like what it is, the amateurish efforts of a child still growing and learning. If you want to give the Father who has raised you something special during this Lenten season…give him a handmade gift from your own repentant heart. It will be protected and cherished for all time…and you’ll grow a little bit too.