When You Need to Cover Nakedness

“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. 

However 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,

“My advice to you is to buy pure gold from me, gold purified by fire—only then will you truly be rich. And to purchase from me white garments, clean and pure, so you won’t be naked and ashamed; and to get medicine from me to heal your eyes and give you back your sight.”

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The Coming Train Wreck, [Future Events]

”The Lord helps them,
    rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them,
    and they find shelter in him.

Psalm 37:40, NLT

We are witnessing something awful and terrible.  Our society is being destroyed.  We are just bystanders, there is really nothing we can do.  However, the survivors will need our assistance.  So we will wait for the inevitable crash, and our chance to bring our Savior’s love into the awful melee which will follow.

Things are accelerating. 

This heightens the tension, which pervades our lives.  We make assumptions of the upcoming derailment which may, or may not be accurate.  But we all sense something dreadful and foreboding is approaching.

Something evil this way comes.  It’s seems that it is inevitable.  They say that just before a big thunderstorm, the birds head for safety, they disappear.  The birds know, while we are still trying to connect the dots.  We look to the skies, and anticipate a coming danger.

The crisis that is coming will stagger the unbeliever. It will challenge the believer.

As Christian believers, we must ready ourselves.  Our viewpoint of eternity will become a much needed commodity for those who go through the devastation of the train wreck.  It is what will pull us through some black and bleak times.  But we can ask for grace, not just to help us, but to help them.

When the storm gets close, the best we can do is to head for the “storm cellar.”  As a boy, growing up in the Midwest, I have clear and distinct memories of heading for that basement shelter, with my family.  When a massive event is coming and seen on the horizon, the only thing we can do is find shelter.  To choose to hide, and to take cover can only be prudence, and wisdom.

While things are collapsing, we need to find solace in His shelter. 

His wings shelter us, and we find refuge in that intimate place.  So much news is grim, and we can so easily slip into depression and despair.  We look around, and turn directly to the wings that cover us.  We are protected and sheltered in that place. The metaphor perfectly fits perfectly.

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.”

Psalm 91:1-2

We should rest our souls in Him. 

Some may look at everything coming down and decide to step right into storm to shut it down.  But it can’t stop, it is of the Lord.  Quite a few of the prophets in the Old Testament saw and knew what was going to happen.  They couldn’t do anything against Babylon or Assyria.  But with their voices they strengthened and encouraged God’s own against an outrageous brutality. That is a good thing.

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More Like a Hospital!

“The church is not a select circle of the immaculate, but a home where the outcast may come in.”

“It is not a palace with gate attendants and challenging sentinels along the entrance-ways holding off at arm’s-length the stranger, but rather a hospital where the broken-hearted may be healed, and where all the weary and troubled may find rest and take counsel together.”

James H. Aughey

We live in challenging times. As people of faith, we’re slowly learning what Jesus really wants the Church to understand. Sometimes it seems we are taking two steps forward, and once step back. The Church must reacquaint itself with the total love of God for people once again.

The Father hasn’t given up on us. Repeatedly, over and over, (and then over again) we learn about His unreal faithfulness to the Church and His love for all people. But sometimes we have a hard time believing these things. Honestly, we’re not what we should be, but thank God we’re not like we were. We’re learning this as well.

On an individual levei we find it’s the “poor in spirit” and those who “mourn” (Matthew 5:3-5) who are the fortunate ones–these are those who are “blessed.” We are needy people, but the Father has and is seeking us. Always. He’s more faithful than the ‘faithfulist’ person who has ever lived!

And we also must understand this. He is always seeking those who are on the margins: the lame, blind, sick and crippled. (I for one have managed to combine all of these!) But thank God He’s still in the business of ‘collecting’ people who are desperate. And if you can’t see this, perhaps you should.

The Church, and the churches we attend, are meant for those who are sick–the outcasts. It’s primarily a hospital, and the “sentinels” (pastors and elders, and others) must understand this. We must know and believe this. And we must know for ourselves the love “the passes all understanding.”

Jesus loves all, but He’s looking for the outcasts.

A really good study are those persons in scripture, who in their neediness, scream out “Son of God, have mercy on me.” There are 4-5 in the Gospels who said this (outloud) and although they modify this plea/prayer in slightly different ways, all of them are very desperate.

(I’m seriously thinking about changing my middle name to “desperate.”) 

I encourage you to study this out, and get a deep handle on it. 

Our churches mustn’t lose sight of this kind of love, and if your fellowship isn’t doing this, just maybe you’re the one called to implement it. (And if this isn’t possible, you might consider moving on.)

Please reject the country club version of the Church. It isn’t right and it’s not the heart of God. It’s religion that comes to us in its gradient forms of foolishness. It doesn’t really reflect the intense seeking love of God. Somehow, along the way, these churches got lost. 

I suppose that the challenge/temptation is not just to turn away from the pigs like the prodigal did. But on the other hand, we also must not go to the opposite end–we dare NOT become the older brother– (Luke 15:1-2 and vv. 30-32). We usually will be one or the other. Unfortunately.

The question facing the Church is this:

Do we want a face-lift or a heart transplant?

One is for looking better, the other describes an entire overhaul. One is cosmetic, the other is a matter of life and death. One is minor, the other is not. What kind does the Church have?

————

I don’t know who the artist is who created this artwork that opens this. It resonates within my heart, and I love the ‘feel’ it brings. Notice the figures, they all have soiled garments, even the one doing the ministry!

The Father is Chasing You!

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”

Luke 15:20, NLT

There’s a specific moment of time when the Prodigal stands up–looks around, and then decides it’s time to return home.  But he is no longer a ‘rich man’s son’, the pig-pen completely crushed that idea.  He comes home, thinking that he can at least be a slave.

The devastated prodigal now understands.

And it’s that which gives him the propulsion to leave the pigs behind, and return home. The trip is a long one, lots of walking, and it’s hard–he’s far from where he’s supposed to be. He is tired, ragged and worn.

But please dear one, you must understand this about Jesus’ parable–the story isn’t as much about the prodigal son– the focus should be on the father–Jesus is teaching us that the love of God is a searching/seeking kind of love, and it cannot be shut down, or go away over time.

It is a 24/7/365 day kind of love.

Think of it like high intensity radar that sweeps over extreme distances, it is always looking,  and it won’t be denied.  The Father is seeking for His sons and daughters.  He intends to find them. If we refuse we will continue to feed pigs, and starve.

The compassion of the Father is an aggressive and reaching kind of mercy

The Father never sits on His butt, watching us from His throne, He reaches out and penetrates through a whole lot of sin. He runs, not sits. He is far from passive, or ‘ho-hum’ toward His son. And God is fully into reclaiming His lost sons and daughters. He continues to find me, even in my darkness and sin.

Sin disfigures
Sin disfigures, a meth addict’s mug shots over time

The Father recognizes His prodigal son.  Gross sin has a way that disfigures a person’s countenance. Look at the wino or meth addict on the street.

The boy who abruptly left home is not the son who returns.  There has been damage done.  His face has changed.  The Father understands this, and yes, it has been terribly hard and brutal.

I believe that this parable is the greatest of them all. 

It shows the deep love the Father has for prodigals like us. This story is so revealing, in it we see that the Father is always running, and toward other rascals who are very much like us. We must know this. We must internalize it and understand that passionate love He has–we will stall in our discipleship if we don’t grip this!

This amounts to nothing less than a revolution. 

It’s very possible that the Church will falter and be confused over the presence of the prodigal at our door. The trick for us is being the younger son without becoming the elder.

There seems to be very few people who understand a running God.

When we see love like the Fathers, we are full of doubt. There isn’t anything like it. It’s far far removed by logical reasoning. It’s lavished on wasted men and women, and we can grow skeptical about this.

But if the Church can keep pace, understanding who He really is–if we can accept the massive love of the Father toward ‘prodigals–no matter what the sin, we will finally understand His M.O.

And the Church will finally be doing His will in the world. Finally.

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