When You Need to Cover Nakedness

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“And don’t build an altar that requires steps; you might expose yourself when you climb up”.

Exodus 20:26

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

1 Peter 4:8

While I lived in the SOS Ministry house in the Mission District of San Francisco a dear brother taught me this principle.  Living in Christian community is a really wonderful thing.  But it also could be a challenge at times.  What Michael shared, allowed my understanding to grow to meet the need of the moment.

The principle is this:  

We are called to cover up our brother’s nakedness.

 Throughout the scripture “being naked, or nakedness” is always a shame.  It comes welded to the concept of being vulnerable or exposed to the sight of everyone else.  It also carries the idea of sin; it is sin that everyone can see; it is very obvious.

For those of us who often sin, we evolve the idea of keeping a lid on it, and being secretive with it.  There will be people who will never know.  Often sex sin, drug and alcohol sin, both are kept hidden from view of family and friends, and the Church.

Noah and His Nakedness, Genesis 9

“Noah became a farmer and planted a vineyard. When he drank wine made from his grapes, he became drunk and lay naked in his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, looked at his naked father and told his brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth got a coat and, carrying it on both their shoulders, they walked backwards into the tent and covered their father. They turned their faces away so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.”  

Genesis 9:20-24

It’s hard to process this patriarch’s gross sin.  But in all fairness Noah had lost everything in the flood, so perhaps we should be gentle with him. On the other hand, people who cover up the nakedness of others seem to be gentle and humble.  They would never, ever dream of making a scandal.  They are trustworthy and understand to a great degree the things that make a man or woman of God.

Leviticus 18 is the “magnum opus” of nakedness. We are pretty much told over and over in this chapter, not to ever uncover another. Actually is pretty emphatic and somewhat redundant. But I think the Lord wanted it repeated this way.

Our vulnerabilities are there for all to see.  But there are also men and women who go out of their way to protect and shield.  They are safe people, in the classic sense of the word.  They cover-up, but never in negative or criminal way, but in love and blessing. (If it is a serious crime, the police should be involved.)

Mature believers will step forward and protect the open areas of others. 

Quite often we are exposed, open to attack on our weaknesses.  Mature believers will step forward and protect the open areas of others.  They will refuse to judge or point out sins.  But they will stand in the gap, shielding and protecting.

God’s final word on nakedness is in Revelation 3:18, and this is a good place to conclude this post,

“So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.”

*

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A Towel, Not a Title

There are no shortcuts in discipleship

“Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist.”  

John 13:3-4, NLT

Jesus was always constant.  Nothing could erode His place or position.  The authority had been His Fathers, and it had been given to Him.  He carried it as a special burden, treasured and separating Him.  Jesus had the freedom to act like the servant.  It didn’t bother or confuse Him, He understood perfectly who He was.

With the supreme authority given to him, he got down on His knees, and began to wash dirty feet.  I can offer no magic or flair to adjust this scene.  He washed off dirt, cleaned between toes, making filthy feet clean.  And all of this ‘as God in human flesh’.  This staggered the disciples, perhaps a baseball bat on the side of the head, would’ve been more compassionate.

This was revolutionary, it completely devastated the disciples.  They just couldn’t grasp what was happening.  Jesus, who was ‘God in flesh’, had decided, in a moment of time, to clean their feet.  Outrageous!  Not really happening!  No way! Never!

The reality.

This spun them around.  They tried as fast as possible to process what had just happened, and ‘who’ it had happened from.

Essentially, it buried them.  Jesus Christ, as Servant pounded them into the ground.  Servanthood was to take the supremacy from this point forward.  Becoming an indentured slave was now the way of Christlikeness.  This servanthood was to now guide us to a point of slavery.

Gone are the days of Zebedee, when one can ask for a position, on the right or the left.  We can ask, most certainly, but we haven’t been the first.  We can ask but the sheer weight is against us.  So very many have gone before us.  We must become a people who accept, and then presses into His grace, His specialness, His presence.

Today, more towels are what we need.

We have got to turn over our ‘need’ for recognition and pick up from the pile the rag of servanthood, we must ‘ask’ our brother/sister if we can scrub their feet.  We must get on our knees and do the unspeakable.  We must find a way to clean off their feet. This dear one, is what you’ve been told to do.

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”   D.L. Moody

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Different Ways to Fall Out of a Tree

boy-falling
Imagine climbing up to the top of a very tall tree. You work your way up to the highest point– you can go no further. The view is completely glorious, it’s more than you hoped for. You want to post it on Facebook, so you dig into your pocket to get your camera-phone. You suddenly slip, and because your arms are occupied getting your camera, you fall. And you fall fast.

As you plummet, you realize that you’re hitting every branch on the way down. The smaller ones break, and the bigger ones, well– you just bounce off. The trip down is very fast, and perhaps even a bit illuminating.

  1. First, you think of death.
  2. Then you think about the pain each branch causes, and wonder about your imminent arrival on terra firma.
  3. Perhaps you consider how stupid you are, and how you are going to explain it.
  4. Lastly, I suppose, you wonder if you have clean underwear on, like your mother always told you to wear.

This is how my life has gone, the last 20 years. This metaphor is a good way for me to process things, and to find some understanding. I now believe that some of us go through life sideways, or horizontal. We careen off of every branch on the way down, and it seems we are hitting branches that we didn’t even know were there. Tree limbs are snapping, as we are dropping.

Others who are wiser (or maybe more experienced,) try to fall more vertically. As they fall, they use their hands to try to slow their descent. (This does work!) They will take their fair share of jolts, no doubt. But their journey to the forest floor is way less traumatic. They may end up in the hospital– but not in emergency surgery like the first guy.

It sometimes seems like every trouble I have faced I have gone into it sideways. I have broken a lot of branches on my way down. I suppose I’ve entertained some who have watched me plummet, and seen me careen and spiral my way to the bottom. These have been some painful times, I have inflicted considerable amount of bruises on myself.

People who go through life sideways will invariably suffer. They seem to hit every obstacle and trial that could be in their flight path. The existence of pain in this life cannot be disputed.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33, NLT

Jesus understands. Especially if you are one of those people who are “trial magnets” going through life horizontal. (You just seem to collect them.) My hope for you that as you break your branches on the way down (for maybe the 100th time). You will try to plummet vertically. Not that it is any easier, life will hurt. But perhaps it won’t be as agonizing. And I suppose that would be a good thing.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,”

Jude 24

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A Walk in the Clouds

What Jesus intends for us is to learn to walk in the supernatural intelligently.  Each disciple must learn to walk out a life that is totally beyond what is ordinary.

We need to learn how to walk in the clouds!  The things He has done for us are definitely and profoundly out-of-this-world.  He provides an exceptional power to us who have tasted a gentle grace.

We have not been elevated to this place without understanding the humility which this new life is rooted in.  He provides the power; we provide the humility.  Or at least that is what it seems.  But a “Jesus walk” will always take humility and perhaps even a brokenness of heart before it can work.

It’s like if I was to give you a new 2017 BMW.  It’s a beautiful car, no question.  But if I don’t give you the keys, the  car really isn’t yours.  It can sit in your driveway, but without the key all it is an exterior ornament to your success.  But it goes nowhere, without the key in the ignition.

Humility is the key you need to power your Christian life.  If you don’t have humility you will never “walk in the clouds.”  And without it, you will undoubtedly end up traversing into something, but way less then what could be an amazing supernatural walk.

Your life was meant to be lived out on the margin of supernatural understanding.  We have never been walkers, but fliers.  We mount up with wings, just like the eagles.

“But the people who trust the Lord will become strong again.
They will rise up as an eagle in the sky;
they will run and not need rest;
they will walk and not become tired.”  Isa. 40:31

Will you keep struggling, or will you fly? God’s grace gives you wings. What does your theology allow?  Will it permit soaring, and gliding?  Yet He approaches us.  He asks us, “Do you believe that I can make beauty out of ashes?”

“I will give them a crown to replace their ashes, and the oil of gladness to replace their sorrow, and clothes of praise to replace their spirit of sadness. Then they will be called Trees of Goodness, trees planted by the Lord to show his greatness.”   Isaiah 61:3

This sounds like a supernatural walk to me. Walking with Jesus is a miracle every day.

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Living Like Jesus, Here and Now

“And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.”

I John 4:17, NLT

A good percentage of us learned the Golden Rule in our Sunday school class.  “Do unto others that which you want done to you.”  This ethical principle is instilled in us as the ultimate way we are to conduct our lives.

Our basic problem is that our marriages are melancholy, families that are dysfunctional, confused churches and our jobs that are ‘brain-numbing.” They each reveal that we have not learned our lesson completely quite yet.

But when the Holy Spirit writes on our hearts; suddenly we break into an inner freedom and ability unimagined by our previous thinking.  We become propelled into the joyful life, and we find ourselves suddenly supernatural.  This is nothing but a revolution.

Jesus starts to teach us that it really is about LOVE.  [Not money, success or status].

Love is the language we will speak in heaven.

It’s the dialect we are to speak in our homes and churches.  Love is now how we speak to each other, and how we are to think about each other.  [For many, this is silly and makes as much sense as a Monty Python skit.]

The Church is presently learning two clear languages. [We are going to be bilingual, lol].

  • First, love is unconditional and underserved. Jesus carries a divine and holy contagion. We only catch it from close fellowship with Him. We become symptomatic and pass it on to others. “As He is, we are in this world.” 
  • Second, we only advance if we get it into our hearts that God’s love must be shown if we are going to grow up. His love shared is the fulcrum that will move the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

“I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you.  All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.” 

Only compassion and love really matters.  Love is the key that fits every problem that you may have.  Living now equates to loving.  Living = loving, both must meet in our hearts.

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Discernment and Your Ministry

zebras

“He begs God on behalf of a human
as a person begs for his friend.”

Job 16:21, NCV

I’ve been thinking about a class I had in Bible School.  The instructor made a comment that has stuck in my thinking for over 30 years now.  I have relied on it countless times in ministry since. It has helped me piece together certain issues of the heart.

When we “preach” to a person, we are actively accelerating the judgement of God in their life. When we pray for that same person, we delay this judgement and allow more room for the Holy Spirit to work.

 

Preaching

Now I know this is a generalization, and yet the basic premise of preaching and praying has a specific action.  When you preach, you are calling that person to make a decision.  They meet up with the truth and must decide for themselves.  This is a very sensitive moment.  If they consider your message at all– you must understand, one way or the other, that it will require a decision.  Either they act on it, or they’ll decide to reject it.

Within the Bible we often see judgement coming to someone, and very often it comes right after a “declaration of the truth” by a witness or a sermon.  Those who hear the word must choose to believe it, or spurn it.  Even a neutral position is a position. A decision must be made on all light that comes their way.

Prayer

Perhaps this may be easier to see.  The Word is full of men and women who interceded for others.  If preaching accelerates God’s judgement on a person (or group,) than prayer decelerates it.  In a sense, authentic intercession can give them more time.  It delays things, without approving them.

A classic case is Abraham.  He intercedes, and by doing so desires to save and deliver God’s own.  He “stands in the gap” for the unaware.  We see him “negotiating” with the Lord, trying to make a deal of sorts. He is bold and somewhat presumptuous. And actually, this is a regular occurrence with different circumstances.  Many in scripture do seem to get intensely involved in the lives of the people they represent.

“I will surely not stop praying for you, because that would be sinning against the Lord. I will teach you what is good and right.” 

1 Samuel 12:23

 Conclusion

Should we preach or pray?  We must consider, I think, the certain obligations of both.  I believe at the end of a person’s life, they have had both dynamics working.  Its like the tide– it ebbs and then advances, and perhaps that will help us to do the right thing at the right time.  We understand the necessity of preaching, and just as important the work of prayer.  We must do both, but grasp the issues behind each work.  Both are necessary for one to come to faith in Jesus.

Seeing the effects of our actions brings us into a deeper understanding of the life in the Spirit.  It motivates and will guide us.  We start to understand the Lord’s ways and become aware of what is happening in the world that is around us. This new discernment can only sharpen our work.

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Mary Magdalene and Jesus

“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

16 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

John 20:15-16, NLT

 A word, a name– and when He speaks it, it crackles.  “Mary!”  His recognition and affection saturates His greeting.  And instantly Mary ignites.  Her love for Jesus breaches the chasm.  Her heart bounds to Him, and she can see no one else.  Simply, “Mary”, and her routine universe is changed forever.

The Lord does not see masses, or crowds.  He sees people, individuals that have names.  He simply doesn’t accept the idea of mass communications to make disciples.  His heart is for individuals.   He does not make styrofoam cups, He makes individual people. And that is exactly how He responds.

Her immediate response is just as forthcoming.  “Rabboni”.  The simple Hebrew word for “teacher”.  Obviously her relationship with Jesus has infused this word with much more then meets the eye.  As we trace her history with Jesus we develop a deep understanding into her psyche.And much more, her walk.

You might say that Mary was well acquainted with spiritual things– for her it was almost exclusively evil. Mark 16 tells us of seven demons that tormented her. Jesus had cast these dark powers out of her. She understood.

Just one word,’Teacher’.  The word has deep and strong connotations.  Primarily, it has the concept of someone superior and yet exercising that gift in a quality way.  Mary has been given a quite exceptional gift.  An opportunity to be a student who sits at Jesus’ feet.  She now knows God to be enfolded into flesh and blood.  She is perfectly aware of Jesus as human.  She makes her faith ‘jump” to deity level.  She believes He is much more then what is visible.

Her ‘turning’ to Jesus is remarkable, in that she is still not quite there yet.  However she turns to look at Him who now has risen out of death.  She already has evaluated all of this and she decides to ‘turn into the wind.’  She is now ‘ready to launch’.  Mary has arrived at the very place Jesus has intended.  She now launches, against the wind, and really because of the wind.

Jesus fully intends to make us disciples.  A significant step is simply to glorify Him who means so much.  Embracing Him as God is a serious and brave step.  Actually, it is a ‘reality shifting’ concept that will change us.  That does not mean we can stop struggling, or wrestling (or whatever we want).  But what it does mean is that certain things are now established.  We can now flow with Him who will take us to the true hope that waits for us in eternity. Will you trust Him that far?

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