Isaiah 40:3 – 5. A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for The Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together…”
This passage looks very different today in the solemn thoughts of this road leading to the most significant event of the Bible, Easter morning. That’s what makes that one little preposition, “in” so important.
• In – expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by something else.
“In” December Isaiah’s words were a warning about not allowing the distractions of Christmas to become my something else. Today that little preposition “in” has become The Reassurance that God IS the something else even “in” those distractions. It could read…
• Look, things are changing. I’m leveling the playing field to give you a better line of sight and access to me. I am “in” those ups and downs and dangers that threaten to enclose you and become the something else. Look for the changes “in”your path that show the glory of who I am…and the reality of who you will be “in” the midst of that place. You’ll see!
Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Recognizing that people could be persecuted because they pursue righteousness is hard to bring to a daily level for me. I need some definition.
• pur·sue seems pretty positive – to follow (someone or something)…: follow, run after, chase…
• per·se·cute seems pretty negative – to subject (someone) to hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of…religious beliefs; oppress, abuse, victimize…torment, torture; martyr…
Those are dictionary definitions but here’s a third word I checked too. The surprise for me was that the Greek word the Bible translates as persecuted [#1377 diṓkō] included both those first two words. Strong’s Greek Concordance says:
• used positively (“earnestly pursue”)
• used negatively(“zealously persecute, hunt down”).
• In each case, 1377 (diṓkō) means “pursue with all haste (“chasing” after), earnestly desiring to overtake (apprehend).”
It was that word diṓkō and that last point, that brought the fullness of Jesus words into perspective for me. Life is both positive and negative.
…When the negative side is circumstances, events and people that “pursue with all haste (“chasing” after), earnestly desiring to overtake (apprehend)” and persecute you…or
…When the positive side is that you continue to “pursue with all haste (“chasing” after), earnestly desiring to overtake (apprehend)” righteousness.
There is the promised blessing In Each Case – the kingdom of heaven.
I John 5:6-10a & 11-12a NASB
6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself…11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life…
“The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself…”. The Spirit, the water and the blood have been, and are still, testifying in your life. It’s easy to recognize that testimony after you’ve been adopted into God’s family. But what about those years before? Those three were not just standing in the wings hoping you might come to your senses. They were there testifying to you about the reality of Christ.
I was baptized when I was about 12. There was some huddled whispering among relatives at that time that was mysterious to me. Some of the mystery became clear shortly after my baptism when I learned the only Dad I’d ever known wasn’t my birth father at all but the process for adoption had been put in motion. The name I had been baptized with wasn’t actually my new name…yet. That process took years but I came home one day to find my Dad with papers in hand weeping because I was finally his daughter.
It doesn’t make a bit of difference what the human details were. The participants might not have been perfect or even particularly religious. The Lord in his mercy, saw that young girl and was testifying to her about another adoption that would take another 15 or 16 years: this time by a heavenly Dad.
Like me, you were not adopted into God’s family because he’d waited long enough…or by the skin of your teeth…or your wise choices. Long before that adoption became a reality there was a process in motion: testimony was happening. Don’t overlook it. That recognition can be one of the strengths in your life. Think back and see for yourself how faithful God has been to you both Before and After.
I John 2:27 NIV As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
I love this passage. I hope you’ve experienced it’s truth in your own life too. Sometimes you hear people ask “how do you know this church stuff is real?” This verse is the answer. Anointing is not a word that is commonly used and only heard occasionally in church.
It’s really easy to begin to depend on what other people know for your faith. That’s their anointing. It’s not what “they” know that transforms you. God promises he will give you your own real, life-changing faith and absolute truth in the time you spend getting to know him through his Word and his Spirit. That’s your anointing.
I remember a Bible study where a man came who’d struggled with addiction for many years. He didn’t have the history of the basic childhood Bible stories or even regular church attendance. He must have really felt like a fish out of water…but for whatever reason…he came. Not only did he come that night but he did the reading for the next week and came again.
There was a moment when he shared something he’d learned from that reading and followed it up with “and nobody taught me that” with such excitement that my heart was filled with gratitude and praise. That was his anointing and God proved himself The Perfect Tutor again.
I Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known…13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
How in the world do you love as Jesus loved…when some people just seem to deserve our criticism or even contempt? It would be so good to have a manual for this. A book that would help us look at them with eyes that see past what they say and how they act and see them made in God’s image. Oh wait…we do.
Spoiler alert: You aren’t perfect either and one sin isn’t worse than another. We have all broken Jesus’ heart. Jesus came to you in a relationship of Potential rather than problems. Thank God for that kind of love. It seems the very least Jesus might expect is that we let our hearts be broken for the potential of others in his name.
It was just a few years ago that I first heard of Lectio Divina (Latin for “Divine Reading”). It’s not a theological analysis of biblical passages but choosing to read and ponder your personal relationship with God through his Living Word.
Genesis 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
God took a risk when He gave Adam the possibility of choosing not to obey rather than physically preventing him from eating. Think about the trust involved in giving that freedom to Adam…and to us! That’s prime Divine Reading [and pondering].
For God to be willing to risk letting his creation make a wrong choice seems like the ultimate submission on his part. The omnipotent God staking His reputation on “our” choices because “He first loved…” is pretty amazing when you think of it. He did have a plan but sometimes I just wish he’d done it the other way.
Lord, give me this day the courage to make you proud.
“No matter what changes God has performed in you, never rely on them. Build only on a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Spirit He gives. All our promises and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to accomplish them.” Oswald Chambers
The word “denial” made me think of Peter [the rock] and then King David [a man after God’s own heart]. Somehow there’s comfort for me in recognizing God saw past their humanity to those descriptions. They are my Biblical examples of the truth of what Chambers says. There are illuminating moments of real personal Godliness to enjoy. But there are also moments of the dismal reality of being way too human.
Those moments are not reward and punishment. They are Reminders. One is a reminder of His reality in you and the other that He cares enough to let you know you still need him. Either way it’s a blessing.