A Spellbound Captive of the Night

 

“We are all infected and impure with sin.
      When we display our righteous deeds,
      they are nothing but filthy rags.
   Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
      and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”

Isaiah 64:6, NLT

There are bad things that happen to us— the ugly, awful and rigorous things, that only God himself can explain.  We read theology and we read our Bibles, we listen dutifully to preachers but we still approach the throne of Jesus more mystified than anything else.

We are seem to be playing ‘ping-pong’ with the most challenging  issues.  We come to Him, because there is no one left who can answer things that have perplexed everyone else.  Why do we suffer?  Why does evil exist?  Why do people who live in blatant sin, succeed?  Why am I sick all the time?

If God is really God, why doesn’t he just give us an explanation about these questions?  Our title talks about being “spellbound.”  Are we really that inured, or attached with a sinister evil?  To be spellbound means we are being confused, drugged or hypnotised by something quite awful.  A cobra rises up, and opens its “hood.”  Its victim is entranced by what it sees in front-of-it.  He soon becomes supper.

Being held captive is a ordinary occurance for human beings.  Captivity brings us imprisonment.  Usually in a dark, dirty and unpleasant place.  But yet, it intrigues us so much, and the “light” is such a boring and dull thing.  We feel great as we trade the truth for lies.  But what a deal we reason; “step right up, and exchange it for the lie!”

 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV

From this new and fresh influence we come under the control and will of ‘the dark side’.  (And this is not merely “Star Wars‘ mythos.  It is very much real.)  We gradually give ourselves over, in a reasonably predictable pattern.  We think we are pretty much unique in this, but the truth is that we are pretty much ordinary. Sin never enhances us. Don’t believe the lie.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

John 3:19

There comes a point when there is enough momentum and weight, that it creates an avalanche. At this point things have gotten desperately grim.  From a human standpoint, there will be no way to avert the inevitable.  Sin will roll over you, blasting into your life, and worst of all into the hearts of your family.  In a stark way— things get very dark, very fast.

Sin will always enslave.  It will turn on you and rock your world. 

But we are so entranced by what it wants to give us.  It looks so good…one could call it “self-actualizing.”  (Maybe even “liberating!”)  But in one of the many purposes of the Old Testament, is to clarify what happens in people’s hearts when we step down and let the sin and confusion take over.  You could say, that there will be pleasure for a brief season, but  it will always have a very savagely grim and a black conclusion. ”For the wages of sin is death.”

“If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will then we may take that it is worth paying.”  

–C.S. Lewis

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The Urgency of This Moment

 
“Johnny Quick”

 “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.”

John 9:4, NLT

To be quick means that we move very fast; being slow often implies a reluctance or a mental delay.  To hesitate while doing God’s will for us suggests a degree of ignorance or stubbornness.  Our quickness is to be seen while doing “the tasks assigned to us.”

Urgency should be woven into our hearts.  We need to have wings on our feet, a fleetness and an alacrity.  A “double-eagerness” as we carry out His work.  It should be of no surprise that God sets before us an itinerary of work He wants us to do.

So many brothers and sisters sleepwalk through their salvation. They snooze when Jesus desires they “watch and pray” with Him.

Jesus was on a  timetable. He communicated a need of doing.  He is in tune with the work of God, and is involved in the urgency of his present moment.  Jesus knows this, and he clearly communicates the need to do.  We are not called to be manic for Jesus; we are expected to be alert and aware.

This is a cry for urgency to his disciples.

“The night is coming.”  It is getting late.  In response Jesus issues an order.  Work at what the Father has assigned you.  It is almost dark now.  There is a “principle of spiritual velocity” calling us to an alertness and an awareness of needful things to do before “the time is up.”

In Acts 9 the disciples show a holy zeal in their day’s work.  We can’t stop speaking what we have seen and heard.”  The Old Testament prophets carried this urgency–Jeremiah and Amos both declared to us this avidity placed on the believer.  Jesus desires that we factor in this concentrated awareness of the approaching night.

I recently read of an evangelist in the last century.  He had a watch made, and on the dial he had a picture of a setting sun.  And over it, the words, “the night comes.”  Everytime he would look at his watch he would be reminded of the shortness of life and the need of the performance of his duty.  That lesson should be transmitted to each zealous believer.

The key word I guess, in all of this, is zeal.  And often the older we get the more this word becomes diminished, and distant.  (I believe our Father understands this about us.) No matter what we do, He focuses His love on us.  There will never be a condemnation on us.  But we can still waste away our lives in a tragic way, which we will later regret. 

But we have to ask ourselves this, will I just be an admirer, or can I become a zealous disciple of Christ?

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Heart Disease

Hearts 168457_154905807894473_110794108972310_320156_2061498_n“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

Jeremiah 17:9, NLT

We are the wounded. What exactly has caused it isn’t always known.  A death, divorce, depression and disability are great triggers.  Some of us are chronically ill, others are mentally ill.  We struggle to hold a job, and to go to church. There are some who are reading this who are controlled by addictions.  And a few of us consider suicide on pretty much a regular basis.

We’ve been hospitalized and stigmatized, and sometimes even institutionalized. And at times we endure massive attacks of fear and anxiety.  We are not easily understood, and we hear the whispers.  Our paranoia can often saturate what what we are thinking, (I think its more like a “marinade.”  Our brains just soak it up.)  Most of us are ‘walking wounded.’ We limp physically, and figuratively with equal pain.

“For thus says the LORD: Your hurt is incurable,
    and your wound is grievous.”

Jeremiah 30:12, ESV

If we are honest (and God insists on a rigorous honesty) we realize that we are a mess!  The prophet Jeremiah had a tremendous understanding of the human condition, and was never beguiled by the lie of pride, arrogance and selfishness.  He declares that we are diseased down to the core, like a rotten apple.

At times we continue in our favorite style of darkness.  And havoc sporadically rips through us and we become “disaster areas.”  How very sad, and profoundly tragic.

But you must understand this powerful fact.  Jesus Christ has been sent by the Father to save and cleanse all who come to Him.

“At that time a fountain will be open for David’s descendants and for the people of Jerusalem to cleanse them of their sin and uncleanness.”

Zechariah 13:1, NCV

“Children, it’s time for a bath,” and what God has done provides us the only way to “get better.” Some of us have carried staggering burdens for decades.  But I must be truthful. Our afflictions may continue to disturb us.  If you are bipolar or depressed, it just could be you’ll remain so.  But I know first-hand that our Father will give us an extra ration of grace.

In the Old Testament, family patriarchs could give an additional portion to a son he especially loved.  All were blessed, but some more so. That peculiar proclivity of our Father is why some of us with deep wounds can follow closer than others who are healthy.

“For I am the LORD, your healer.” Ex. 15:26

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“The treatment a wound gets decides whether time will bring healing or bondage.”

&

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion. (Lord, have mercy on each reader)

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Hardly Indispensable: A Leader’s View

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13″ The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening.

14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?”

Exodus 18

Often your father-in-law will observe things clearly and honestly. I believe most can perceive situations that our own fathers will overlook. I think this is because our own fathers are often functioning out of their hearts.  They are emotionally attached. But a father-in-law has a different view.

Jethro has come, most likely to escort the grandkids, and his daughter. He is probably quite curious about Moses new direction. Jethro has only known that his son-in-law as a shepherd. But now, things are changing quickly. And Jethro is praising God for what He did over the Egyptians.

Jethro is enthusiastic. But he is also alert and aware. As Moses schedules his day, Jethro sees an inordinate amount of time given to judging, not leading. He watches and than asks some questions. This is the sign of good correction. Moses faces these questions really well. He is a great model for teachability.

Leadership is almost always a shared work.

Many aspects of it should be collaborative and plural. The singular view of leading people– out of my own resources alone, will not end well. Moses was teachable and Jethro needed to share this word of correction. If Moses had not took the wise advice of Jethro, they would’ve died in the desert.

When Moses released these things to others who were qualified, he commences on a new understanding of ministry. He actually becomes a better man because of the advice of Jethro. He must become “expendable.”

24 “Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions. 25 He chose capable men from all over Israel and appointed them as leaders over the people. He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.26 These men were always available to solve the people’s common disputes. They brought the major cases to Moses, but they took care of the smaller matters themselves.”

None are ever indispensable and no one can do everything. We may try, but that usually is ego. We will do better if we will relinquish control. I think that the Father designs it this way.

Dwight L. Moody once said that he would rather put a thousand men to work than do the work of a thousand men.  I believe that is a Kingdom concept that we should activate.

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A Date With the Awl

Push an awl through his ear lobe.

Body piercing has become pretty much acceptable just in the last ten years.  Studs are placed in a hole or piercing to make a permanent decoration.  I have seen a fair amount of it, and I think that a stud in the tongue has got to be the most intrusive.  I recently read of a young girl who died after her tongue was pierced from an infection.

There is “body piercing” in scripture.  In Deuteronomy 15:12-18, slaves who are being set free by their master after six years of service, could, if they loved and were loved by their master, choose to remain a slave to him.

But if your slave says to you, “I don’t want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and has a good life with you,17 stick an awl through his ear into the door; he will be your slave for life. Also do this to a female slave.

Deuteronomy 15:12-18

This was a decision that required elders to act as witnesses.  It was significant as well as completely binding.  I like to think of the ceremony to be kind of a cross between a wedding and a circumcision. (Sounds fun, huh?!)

The slave would be led to a doorpost and the master would take an awl, and push it through his ear lobe.  This designated the slave to be forever “owned” by a specific master.  Herein lies a picture of the Christian.

Many times in the New Testament we are called to be servants (slaves) of Christ. Peter, Paul, James, and Jude referred to themselves as “bond servants of Jesus Christ” in their epistles. This is not a forced servitude. It’s a choice made in love!

There are many believers who have done the same, they have fallen in love with their Savior.  They do not plan on a life apart from Him.  So spiritually they have gone to the doorpost, the awl is pushed through their ear, and they are marked from that point on.

Although the ear was pierced physically in the Old Testament, a different kind of piercing takes place in the New.  In Romans 6:16 we read,

“Surely you know that when you give yourselves like slaves to obey someone, then you are really slaves of that person. The person you obey is your master. You can follow sin, which brings spiritual death, or you can obey God, which makes you right with him.”

Romans 6:16, (NCV)

When the prodigal son returned home from the far country he fell before his father and humbly ask,make me your servant.” (Luke 15:19,21) He, in essence, was saying to the father, “pierce my ear.” The father made him a son, but the attitude of the son’s heart had changed to the heart of a servant. So it must be with us. Only then will we live a “pierced ear” life, revealing to all that we are servants of Jesus Christ!

“Savior, I know Thou hast allowed me absolute liberty, to serve Thee, or to go my own way. I would serve Thee forever, for I love my Master. I will not go out free. Mark my ear, Lord, that it might respond only to Thy voice.”

— Jim Elliot, Missionary and Martyr

 

The Colorful Church

The Church of Many Colors

10 “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ephesians 3:10-11, NIV

3 “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.

Genesis 37:3, NKJV

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“The complaint that church is boring is never made by people in awe.” 

R.C. Sproul

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This word “manifold” is very curious and quite engaging. In the Old Testament this particular word is used to describe Joseph’s coat of many colors. I can only imagine that it was striped like a rainbow, or maybe even tied-dyed. Whatever it was, Joseph was quite distinctive as he wore his colorful coat.

Joseph’s coat

Paul in Ephesians 3, intentionally borrows this word to explain “the manifold wisdom of God.” Paul’s use of this dramatic imagery of Joseph’s coat to describe God’s wonderful wisdom that has saturated the Church. There is something variegated in this wisdom (balance, comprehension, understanding) that infuses His Church.

We are people of color. There is wisdom given to each believer. This defines us, and portrays us. God’s own wisdom, defined quite incredibly in our hearts and spirits, describes our coloration and hue.

Some are merciful, and others are bold. Some are very gentle, and others are “prophetic” and sharp. A few are wise, and others can endure much. But our personal coloring should never threaten another. Those who see only blue– should never be shaken when another sees yellow.

Our fleshly attitudes would militate against this understanding. We seem to insist that everyone be green, or yellow even. But this isn’t how God through the Holy Spirit comes to our spirits. We should receive each brother and sister, in the wisdom that God has chosen, to flow and grow. It seems we are each a “prism” that reflects a certain light.

We can see the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. They are distributed (but definitely never ‘dumped.’) They come out in many ways through many different personalities and backgrounds. But it seems we are slowly learning that each believer has a definite place and purpose.

I suppose that pride confines us into something that is restrictive. We definitely prefer ideas and proclivities we can control (or maybe label.)  Perhaps, it is we that need to be adjusted. We should see the broadness of God’s grace, and how each one is touched and shaped.

The Church is God’s unique reservoir of wisdom and grace for the world. We gleam with the certain light of His presence and goodness. Each believer, radiates an aspect of grace from the heart of God.

We are indeed the “Church of Many Colors.”

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Charred Cinders

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Aftermath of a forest fire in California

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.”

Isaiah 43:2, NASB

This will not be a typical commentary on this verse. (But it will be brief.)

The word I emphasize is “through.” I feel it is the salient point of the whole thought. Through implies a temporary state of being. We “pass through.” In a sense it is the state of being ‘between,’ and it is rarely, or ever comfortable.

Life is all about transitions– a job, children, marriage, health. We’re fine when things are steady and sure. However we feel the strain when things suddenly change. We are compelled to go through some things. Plain and simple. There are three simple things to think about.

  1. God is very present in those moments.
  2. Seldom do they vanish.
  3. They are never welcome.

The One who made the intricacies of our hearts stands by. Floods rage, trees float by. Fires get hot, and all becomes a blackened and charred cinder. Still God holds you. You will pass through this, and come out to the other side. Wiser and more compassionate.

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