Wednesday, October 31, 2012

From Handwringing to Heartbreaking

18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. 19 By this we know that we are of the truth and will convince our heart before him, 20 that if our heart condemns us, that God is greater than our heart and knows all things. 21 Dear friends, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God, 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what is pleasing in his sight. 23 And this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us. 24 And the one who keeps his commandments resides in him, and he in him. And by this we know that he resides in us: by the Spirit whom he has given to us.” (1John 3)

I have a new heart.  God’s Spirit resides in me.  How can that be?  I still sin.  I still lust and covet.  I’m still selfish and greedy.  How can I have Jesus’ heart.  How can I have the Spirit within me?

To which I ask, would you know you sin, lust, covet without Jesus’ heart beating within you?  Would you see your blood-red selfishness and greed without it being splashed all over the clean, white linen of the Spirit?

God is paradox to wee lil’ beasties like thee and me.  We can no more comprehend His bigness with our feeble littleness than a slobbery mutt can grasp his master’s calculus.  F’rinstance, God is completely outside of time.  It has no bearing on what He does anymore than the color wheel affects the painter’s breakfast or music theory affects the maestro’s laundering of soiled undergarments.  They are merely tools and parameters they use when they are working in a particular field.  The painter uses color but is not governed by it.  The maestro creates with the nine notes but they do his will, not he theirs.  God made time to govern His creation but the Creator is not beholden to the created. 

Remember this and pluck up courage!

    Call to mind, you transgressors!
    Remember the former things from a long time ago,

for I am God and there is none besides me,

    God and there is none like me,
10 who from the beginning declares the end,

    and from before, things that have not been done,

who says, ‘My plan shall stand,’

    and, ‘I will accomplish all my wishes,’” (Is 46)

The minute God conceives of a thing, it is as good as done.  When God dreamt up Adam, he saw Adam’s last descendant too.  He didn’t know all of humanity instantly, because “instantly” would imply there was a limitation of time on Him.  He simply knew us, each of us, right down to the teensiest quark.  Probably even teensier than that.  Quarks are only as small as we can imagine.  And as He knew you, He knew His plans for you.  He saw His Son give His life for you.  He put His Spirit in you, even before Adam was formed from dust.  It. Was. Finished.

This is why you can be cleansed from sins you haven’t committed yet.  This is why the heart in you aches from not being like Jesus …yet.  The kingdom is already and not yet for God is, was and is yet to come.  He is in all things, all places, all times.  This is how you can come to Him, repent and gain a new heart and yet you cannot come to Him and repent unless He has given You a new heart.  This is why Zeke can quote God saying, “I will give to them one heart, and a new spirit I will give in their inner parts. And I will remove their heart of stone from their body, and I will give to them a heart of flesh,” in chapter eleven and yet quote him saying, 31 Throw away from yourselves all of your transgressions that you committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and new spirit,” in chapter eighteen.  They are not mutually exclusive; they are complimentary in a paradoxical reality we cannot yet imagine.  This is our future.  A time outside of time!  When both can be true at once!  We participate with Him and we cannot do anything to save ourselves.  We are actively passive participant slaves.  We have everything to do with the nothing we can accomplish.  Clear it up any?

Is your heart moved towards Jesus?  Does your heart move you to love?  Then fear not and ask for whatever that heart desires!  For it is doing the work of Jesus in the world.  Does something in you ache when you don’t love?  Does your conscience prick you with your sin?  Then do not resist.  Repent.  Rejoice!  This means the Spirit is working.  Come to Him, fall on him and be broken and I promise, no, that would be worthless, He promises to do the heavy lifting…

Even to your old age I am he;

    even to your advanced age I myself will support you.

I myself have made you,

    and I myself will carry you,

and I myself will support you,

    and I will save you.” (Is 46)

Sorta takes the pressure off, don’t it?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

From Handwashing to Handwringing

15 “See, I am setting before you today life and prosperity and death and disaster; 16 what I am commanding you today is to love Yahweh your God by going in his ways and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his regulations, and then you will live, and you will become numerous, and Yahweh your God will bless you in the land where you are going.” (Deut 30)

Can you command someone to love you? 

The answer is, of course, “Yes.”  You can command someone to do anything your little brain can put words to.  The real underlying question is, can you reasonably expect compliance? 

No, no, not so much.  Now any fool knows this and anyone who doesn’t is mad as a third world dictator with too many medals on his chest and should be given a wide berth.  I only ask because, well, it seems this is precisely what God is saying in our passage from Deuteronomy.  Now God isn’t a third world dictator, He isn’t mad so… what is He saying?  Let’s go back and look at it.

The commandment here in Deuteronomy, in the beginnings of the Israelite History, is this, “love Yahweh your God”.  That’s it.  It’s that simple.  It is the commandment that remains to today.  “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22)

So we come to God on the throne, shining brighter than the Sun and He and the Son on His right hand just as calmly as a third world dictator, look at us and say in a voice of a thousand thunders, “I command you to love Me and each other.”  Um, yeah.  That’s pretty clear.  Got it.  Good talk boss, we’ll uh, go do that now.  We’ll just get right on that, shall we?

Then we step back outside, take a deep breath, wipe the cold sweat from our brow and start writing out our wills.  Love God?  How are we supposed to do that?  We can’t even love the people in our own families.  We have a saying, “familiarity breeds contempt.”  You know why?  Because familiarity breeds contempt!  That’s why!  The more we get to know a person, the more they bug us!  If we can’t love the people closest to us, how can we love the God we can’t see and can’t hear?

Okay, take another calming breath.  MMmmmmffff, aaaaaaahh.  Let’s look at this logically.  Psychiatrists tell us feeling follows action.  Is that true?  Didn’t the Pharisees have action?  What is the commandment here?  What is the thing the Pharisees missed?  “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but your inside is full of greediness and wickedness. 40 Fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as charitable giving the things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.” (Luke 11)  Give in love the things within.  Within.  What’s within?  Well, um, we’re within.  Our souls, our hearts.  So Jesus is telling us to give up our heart and soul?  To offer …us? 

This would conform with the Hebrew concepts of wickedness and righteousness.  When you go through the Bible, wickedness is almost always coupled with greed and selfishness.  Eve wanted the fruit for her mouth, for her eyes, and she wanted the wisdom of God for herself! We want what we want for no one but ourselves. Even here in Luke eleven, the Pharisees didn’t give their hearts to God; they performed so God would give them what they really wanted: wealth and honor on their own merits.  God don’t play.  Performance doesn’t wash with a God who’s got CATscan vision.  God says, “Everything is mine.  Even the life, souls and hearts inside you.”  If they’re His, then to deny love, to withhold love, to hold back forgiveness, charity, honor, to hide ourselves away is greed!  This is mine!  You can’t have it.  This is mine!  I won’t give it to you unless you fill-in-the-blank for me first!  Our love is transactional.  We only love to receive love.  We give to get.  We are takers, even when we’re giving.   If the command is “Love” then we’re not firewood, we’re last year’s Christmas tree in a room full of sparklers.

Ready for the good news?

God already knows that.  He’s known it from the beginning.  And Yahweh saw that the evil of humankind was great upon the earth, and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was always only evil.” (Gen 6)  God knows!  He knows we cannot love with hearts of stone!  We need new hearts!  And it gets better than this!  Listen! 

24 “‘And I will take you from the nations, and I will gather you from all of the lands, and I will bring you to your land. 25 And I will sprinkle on you pure water, and you will be clean from all of your uncleanness, and I will cleanse you from all of your idols. 26 And I will give a new heart to you, and a new spirit I will give into your inner parts, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will give my spirit into your inner parts, and I will make it so that you will go in my rules, and my regulations you will remember, and you will do them.” (Ezek 36)  This isn’t prophecy for us anymore!  It is finished!  Jesus accomplished this on the cross for us!

15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and have believed the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him. 17 By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as that one is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear includes punishment, and the one who is afraid has not been perfected in love. 19 We love, because he first loved us.” (1John 4)  God understands our transactional hearts and so He moved first!  We can love, because He first loved us!  How can God command us to love Him?

Because He’s the one doing all the work.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Did you wash your hands?

“37 And as he was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to have a meal with him, and he went in and reclined at table. 38 And the Pharisee, when he saw it, was astonished that he did not first wash before the meal.” (Luke 11)

When I was a kid we had dinner.  An ancient custom, it was a meal, laid out at a table, a table in a room with no TV in it, which we would as a family sit down to at the same time.  Once seated, prior to grabbing our grubby little paws to pray, one or both of my parents would invariably ask, “Did you wash your hands?”  It’s a good thing for my folks that as a child I wasn’t familiar with this verse from Luke.  They could have expected a steady dose of, “first wash the inside of the cup, Mom, and then the outside will be clean also.”  If I had been a better Bible scholar I could have quoted Matthew fifteen, 11 It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, dad, but what comes out of the mouth—this defiles a person.”  I’m sure my folks would have corrected my theology promptly by pointing out what was issuing from my mouth was anything but a blessing but it would have been fun right up until then.

As a boy growing up with his head full of cartoons, I usually forgot the niceties of life.  For many reasons I’m pretty sure this was not Jesus’ problem.  I can say with reasonable confidence Jesus didn’t forget to wash his hands.  For starters, he didn’t have cartoons.  Secondly, ancient Middle Eastern cultures did not use silverware.  They ate with their hands from a common bowl.  They did not cut the bread; they broke it, with their hands.  This may not seem like a big deal to you but remember; this was before paper had made its way from China to the west.  No paper, no toilet paper.  According to Wikipedia… “In Ancient Rome, a sponge on a stick was commonly used, and, after usage, placed back in a bucket of saltwater. Several talmudic sources indicating ancient Jewish practice refer to the use of small pebbles, often carried in a special bag, and also to the use of dry grass and of the smooth edges of broken pottery jugs (e.g., Shabbat 81a, 82a, Yevamot 59b). These are all cited in the classic Biblical and Talmudic Medicine by the German physician Julius Preuss (Eng. trans. Sanhedrin Press, 1978).”  Boy, am I glad small pebbles and broken pottery didn’t catch on!

The sheer scintillating joys of learning about ancient toiletries aside, all that is to say, you can bet little Jewish boys were taught to wash their hands with even more militant enthusiasm than little americkish boys.  In a culture of “cleanness” I would even venture to guess Jesus would connect good manners and hygiene as a guest with honoring not only his host but his own Father and Mother as well. 

So, if it wasn’t an accident, why did Jesus intentionally dis his Mother, his Father and his host by not washing his hands?

Because he loved the Pharisees and scribes too.  This may not be readily apparent to us, especially those of us who cling to the Nice Jesus.  The lamb-hugging, blue-eyed, fair skinned, blow dried, soft-focus Jesus.  Cabbage Patch Jesus.  That image always jars me like pictures of Eor the donkey smiling.  It just ain’t right.  It doesn’t fit with cleansing-the-temple Jesus or Revelations 19 Jesus.  In Luke twelve Jesus says he has come to kindle a fire on the earth.  In Matthew ten he says, 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on the earth! I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  Does Jesus hug his lambs, heavens yes!  And it’s there, in his embrace, you will quickly learn something… Jesus isn’t always comfortable!  He doesn’t immediately feel safe!  Lambs don’t feel safe in the arms of lions.  But if you cleave to him long enough you will learn like the psalmist,
For Yahweh is good; his loyal love is forever,

and his faithfulness is from generation to generation.” (Ps 100)

And I humbly offer our verse from Luke as proof.  Jesus doesn’t wash his hands on purpose precisely because he knows it will provoke the Pharisees!  What justshane?  Are you saying Love provokes?  Love confronts?  Yes, yes I am…sometimes.  When necessary. 

Why?  How can love be confrontational?  How can confrontation be necessary?

Ever hear of an intervention?  Precisely.  A father who sees his son getting ready to do something astoundingly, bone-snappingly stupid, confronts him, opposes the child’s will, possibly even violates the child’s rights to restrain them.  Not in anger, not from hatred or meanness or selfishness but from love!  From a desire to see the child safe and healthy and whole.  The level of violence this intervention includes will depend greatly on whether the child acts in ignorance but is humble and teachable or whether the child is belligerent and willfully disobedient to the Father.

Jesus is the Savior.  But what if people don’t think they need saving?  What if you lived in a culture where people called evil good and good evil?  What if you lived in a culture where everyone did what was right in his or her own eyes?  What if you had to convince people of sin in the first place?  A place where the only law was defined by the great theologian Cheryl Crow, “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.”  Or what if you lived in a society like the Pharisees, where if it makes you happy, it must be bad? 

Then you might have to poke people in the chest a little.  No one but no one kept the law better than the Pharisees.  In fact, the Law was for sissies, mere minimum requirements!  Phaugh!  They piled traditions on top of the Law of Moses to make sure you couldn’t even get close to breaking the Law.  If Moses said, “dunk yer head, twice a day,” the Pharisee dunked his head twice and hour!  No one was going to out righteous them!  When it came to keeping commandments and statutes and regulations, they were the bomb!  They were the first string.  They were the A-team. 

But Jesus… He shows them, they completely missed the commandment.

15 “See, I am setting before you today life and prosperity and death and disaster; 16 what I am commanding you today is to love Yahweh your God by going in his ways and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his regulations, and then you will live, and you will become numerous, and Yahweh your God will bless you in the land where you are going.” (Deut 30)

Do you see it?  If not, don’t worry, neither did the Pharisees.  Lord willing, I’ll show it to you tomorrow.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Welcome to the Party, Pal!

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence for the entrance into the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way which he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in the full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for the one who promised is faithful. 24 And let us think about how to stir one another up to love and good works, 25 not abandoning our meeting together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging each other, and by so much more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb 10) 

Are ye sick of lamps yet?  Well, bear with me one more post because there’s still one very important morsel to share.  What have we got so far?  A lamp is an earthen vessel, fed the oil of the Spirit, bearing a small portion of the Light of the World to shine in darkness.  So you, little lamp, are proclaiming Jesus to the World until he comes again in glory.  Your life, your words, your deeds are all fed by the Spirit and as you keep your own eyes, the window of your soul, on Jesus, you will be filled to overflowing and shine.  Good stuff! 

Good stuff, but not easy stuff.  Two things we’ve kind of glossed over on this drift down my stream of consciousness.  The first is this: life is dark.  Since we sinned, God has had to put a veil between Himself and us.  God is light.  So it stands to reason any removal of His presence, any obstruction between Him and us will cast a deep, dark shadow.  So the first thing we should notice since Christ opened our eyes is … there’s not much to notice…because it’s dark!

10 Those who sat in darkness and gloom,

prisoners of misery and iron—
11 because they rebelled against the words of God

and spurned the counsel of the Most High,
12 he therefore humbled their heart with trouble.

They stumbled and there was no helper.
13 Then they called to Yahweh for help in their trouble;

he saved them from their distresses.
14 He brought them out of darkness and gloom,

and tore off their bonds.” (Ps 107)

So we’re free!  But the world’s still dark.  Which can make it tough on a little lamp trying to keep its eyes on Jesus.  Jesus has known this since before we sinned, 18 Then Yahweh God said, “it is not good that the man is alone.” (Gen 2)  Didja catch that?  Even in God’s “perfect” creation, before sin had crept into the world on serpent’s feet (they had feet then apparently) God instinctively knew the only thing not good in His creation was for the man to be alone.  How did God know that?

Because God is not alone!  God is three.  God is in perfect, harmonious, loving, submitting relationship with Himself!  The Son loves the Father and the Father loves the Son and the Spirit is the Spirit of their Love.  God made us to draw us into this community!  And so the first relationship he makes, the greatest expression of the Trinity there is, is marriage.  A man and a woman: separate, different, equal, side by side, two becoming one in covenant.

29 But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God! 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” (Matt 22)  Marriage is a holy example, a copy, a sketch of the things to come.  Not perfect but good for teaching, it gives us an origin of family: a man and woman being fruitful and bearing children.  We commit a grievous error however if we think this is the ultimate expression of community or even the ultimate expression of family!

27 Now it happened that as he said these things, a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and follow it!” (Luke 11)  47 And someone told him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers are standing there outside desiring to speak to you.” 48 But he answered and said to the one who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Behold my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt 12) 

Jesus clearly shows us a new way to become family, a better way…By following Him!  When we are born again, we are new creations, children of the Father, brothers and sisters!  Not associated because of biological ties we had no choice in, not adopted by strangers but choosing the One who has chosen us first!  We are bound together by a covenant of common love!  35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” (John 13)  Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; be attached to what is good, 10 being devoted to one another in brotherly love, esteeming one another more highly in honor, 11 not lagging in diligence, being enthusiastic in spirit, serving the Lord, 12 rejoicing in hope, enduring in affliction, being devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, pursuing hospitality.” (Rom 12)  22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for sincere brotherly love, love one another fervently from the heart, 23 because you have been born again, not from perishable seed but imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1Pet 1) 

We know what the lamp is but where does it go?  On a lampstand of course.  And does it go on the lampstand alone?  Heavens no!  The Lampstand had seven lamps (Ex 25) on it in a row (Ex 39).  Seven, completeness, exactly the right amount.  A row, even, separate, different, equal, side by side.  The passage from Hebrews said it clearly but the language of the Word never changes, “kingdom of priests, holy nation, a people, brotherhood, family, feast, community, church.”  It is not good for us to be alone!  If one little light is good, seven, raised up, shining together, filling in the shadows of the others, encouraging each other, rebuking each other, bearing each other, loving each other is a party!  The church is the shadow, the sketch, the hint of the heavenly celebration to come, so let’s get this party started!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Freedom to Burn

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

    because of which he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

    He has sent me

to proclaim release to the captives,

    and recovery of sight to the blind,

to send out in freedom those who are oppressed,
19     to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4)

So here we are, freed by the blood of Jesus from our sin.  From our slavery.  From our blindness.  As Hebrews puts it, “but now he has appeared once at the end of the ages for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Heb 9)  “The end of the ages,” sounds kind of cool.  Like, it’s all done or something, right?  Nothing to do now but keep checking the sky for the contrail of his white stallion. 

Well, it’s been all done now for two thousand years.  So I guess we better figure out a way to amuse ourselves down here while we wait for the end of the end of the ages.  Paul says, whoa there, Baba Looey!  Before you get all “sin boldly,” on me, listen up,  13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal 5)

Well, that’s all very nice and lovey dovey, Paul.  Sounds a bit like the world’s “Who Needs God?  Just Be Nice!” motto; but why?  What’s the point?  We’re saved.  We’re in.  In the words of the great theologian, Larry the Cable Guy, why go fishing when you got shrimp?  Brother Pete, the fisherman-turned-fisher-of-men, tells us why, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s possession, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, 10 who once were not a people, but now are the people of God, the ones who were not shown mercy, but now are shown mercy.”… “16 Live as free persons, and not using your freedom as a covering for evil, but as slaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the community of believers, fear God, honor the king.” (1Pet 2)

Y’know, the more I read the Bible, the more it seems like it’s one guy telling one story through about six thousand years and one thousand, one hundred and forty-six pages.  Weird, hunh?  Take f’rinstance, that’s one word where I come from, the passage from Luke four.  It’s Jesus quoting Isaiah sixty-one.  Ike goes on to say in it, “And they will be called oaks of righteousness,

    the planting of Yahweh, to show his glory.
And they shall build the ancient ruins,

    they shall erect the former deserted places.

And they shall restore the devastated cities,

    the deserted places of many generations.
And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,

    and foreigners shall be your farmers and vinedressers.
But you shall be called the priests of Yahweh,

    you will be called servers of our God.”(Is 61)
Priests again.  The Tabernacle and the Temple were “a sketch and shadow of the heavenly things,” a lampstand in the middle of a “a nation of priests.”  A lamp pointing to the True Light.  A lamp pointing to the sacrifice of Jesus coming at the “end of the ages.”  Jesus has come and made us, little ol’ you and me, into “a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” 

As Moses in Exodus 34, 28 And he was there with Yahweh forty days and forty nights. He ate no food and drank no water…”  Guess he was literally living on every word of God.  “...and Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with him.”  God is doing something in us.  17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory into glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
Because of this, since we have this ministry, just as we have been shown mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced shameful hidden things, not behaving with craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but with the open proclamation of the truth commending ourselves to every person’s conscience before God. But if indeed our gospel is veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing, among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they would not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus. For God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” is the one who has shined in our hearts for the enlightenment of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2Cor 3-4)

We have a ministry we are being transformed to accomplish!  Like the blind man in Mark ten, Christ has opened our eyes and now we see His Light.  So what do we do now?

We do what the blind man did...  And immediately he regained his sight and began to follow him on the road.” (Mark 10) We walk in the Light.  We keep our eyes on Him!  We follow. We do what we see Him doing. We listen.  We obey and He will make us lamps, temples, priests, a holy nation!  Reflecting His glory!  Little earthenware vessels, fed by the Spirit, bearing a small fraction of the True Light, the All Consuming Fire!

So we’re done, right?  Got this lamp thing licked.  Yep.  Once we say this…
…this thing we’ll say tomorrow, God willing.  Meanwhile, what’re you waiting for?  Shine already!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

C'mon baby, Light my Fire!

“5 And this is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  (1John 1)

Saturday it seemed so clear.  Lamps were the church.  Yesterday it seemed lamps were the Temple.  Jesus’ quote in Luke eleven says our eyes are lamps.  So which is it?  Are lamps churches, temples or eyes?

As with so much in the Word, the answer is, “Yes.”

A lamp is a vessel, fed by oil, bearing a flame to cast light in darkness.  If oil is the Spirit and light is Jesus then a lamp is a vessel, fed by the Spirit, bearing Jesus to cast light in darkness. 

Jesus is the Light.  The old covenant, the Tabernacle, the Temple and the Prophets all had the same job, This one came for a witness, in order that he could testify about the light, so that all would believe through him. That one was not the light, but came in order that he could testify about the light. The true light, who gives light to every person, was coming into the world.” (John 1)  The old Testament sacrifices did not take away sin, they merely pointed at the one who would.  The light coming into the world could be seen in microcosm in a lamp, on a stand in a holy place.  This is what Israel was, a Lamp to the world so that all may see God through them!  Their nation, their camp was a lamp lit path to Yahweh shining in a dark and fallen world.  All their laws, all their purity, were signs to the world and them that God was really real and could be found in the people of His covenant.

But they turned their eyes from the Light and hungered for the darkness around them instead.  They became blind slaves, lost and scattered, sheep without a shepherd torn by wolves and lions.  Dead.

But Jesus!  10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, and the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to his own things, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1)  The true light came, exposing all which had hid in shadow before.  He said to us, 17 Because you are saying, “I am rich, and have become rich, and I have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and pitiable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire, in order that you may become rich, and white clothing, in order that you may be clothed and the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed, and eye salve to smear on your eyes, in order that you may see.” (Rev 3)  Jesus was kinder to those who were humble because he could be.  You do not have to tell someone they are blind when they are painfully aware of it.  With the proud, he had to actually steer them into wall to make them “see” they could not see.  Jesus’ harshness with the Pharisees was actually love!  The Light attempted to show each one of us our blindness!  And we politely listened, respectfully disagreed and then barbarically slaughtered him.

Which is exactly what he knew we would do.  When he opened our eyes and we saw our nakedness, we were ashamed!  We tried to stamp out the flame of life exposing us and our sin and instead it consumed our sin and then the fire really spread!  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, in the form of fire and wind, to his little stand of lamps.  They in turn went out immediately and set fire to the world!  16 For we did not make known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ by following ingeniously concocted myths, but by being eyewitnesses of that one’s majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when a voice such as this was brought to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we ourselves heard this voice brought from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain…”

Pete refers to the Transfiguration, 28 Now it happened that about eight days after these words, he took along Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face became different, and his clothing became white, gleaming like lightning.” (Luke 9)

Even though he witnessed Jesus in all His shiny glory, Pete thought he had something even better than one old faulty memory of days gone by, “19 and we possess as more reliable the prophetic word, to which you do well if you pay attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 recognizing this above all, that every prophecy of scripture does not come about from one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2Pet 1)  Lamps!  Fed by the Holy Spirit!  Glowing weakly in comparison to the one whom they are but small copies until the Morning Star is revealed! 

We come to him poor, wretched, blind and naked and Jesus says, 55 “Ho! Everyone thirsty, come to the waters!

    And whoever has no money, come, buy and eat,

and come, buy without money,

    wine and milk without price!
Why do you weigh out money for what is not food,

    and your labor for what cannot satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,

    and let your soul take pleasure in rich food.” (Is 55)
And when we come, Jesus asks,“What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabboni, that I may regain my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has healed you.”  (Mark 10)  Our eyes are open now.  Our nakedness clothed in His righteousness.  Our debt paid with gold refined by fire.  We are free, rich, fed and healed!

So what do we do now?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Is it dark in here?" asked Corey Hart.

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel basket, but on a lampstand, so that those who come in can see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of the body. When your eye is sincere, your whole body is full of light also. But when it is evil, your body is dark also. 35 Therefore pay careful attention that the light in you is not darkness! 36 If therefore your whole body is full of light, not having any part dark, it will be completely full of light, as when the lamp with its light gives light to you.” (Luke 11)

So Saturday we skipped along the bunny trail to a place where it seemed like lamps were symbols for the Church, the Bride of Christ, shining in the darkness continually, fed by the Spirit, tended by a royal priesthood, a holy nation.  But when we tried to plug the definition back into Luke eleven we didn’t so much as skip, as trip.  There be a fatal flaw in my logicanator.  So let’s hit the self-destruct button, pick up the pieces and try again. 

What do we know about lamps without really even giving it much thought?  What do they do?  Give light, customarily when there’s no other source of light available.  Why is that desirable?  Cuz without light, our eyes become just soft plugs for a couple of holes in our heads to keep bugs out.  A valuable commodity to be sure, but it would have been far simpler to have just not had holes in the first place.  Light is necessary for seeing.  Which reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  Chuck’s quote reminds me of Saturday’s quote from Revelations…

12 And I turned to see the voice which was speaking with me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching to the feet and girded around his chest with a golden belt, 14 and his head and hair were white like wool, white as snow, and his eyes were like a fiery flame, 15 and his feet were like fine bronze when it has been fired in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters, 16 and he had in his right hand seven stars, and a sharp double-edged sword coming out of his mouth, and his face was like the sun shining in its strength.” (Rev 1)  Jesus, standing there, as bright as the Sun, shimmering with heat and flame.  Must have made those lamps hard to see.  Which reminds me of something an angel said once … And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and lofty mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 11 that has the glory of God.” … “22 And I did not see a temple in it, for the Lord God All-Powerful is its temple, and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon, that they shine on it, for the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 And the nations will walk by its light,” (Rev 21)  Which again, reminds me that Jesus said, “I am the light of the world! The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8)

Oh, we’re so close I can taste it.  No, I think I might be seeing it!  The key is the Temple.  Paradise, the Bride of the Lamb has no Temple in it for God dwells among His people. 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1Cor 3)
 19 The sun shall no longer be your light by day,

    and for bright light the moon shall not give you light,

but Yahweh will be your everlasting light,

    and your God your glory.
20 Your sun shall no longer go down,

    and your moon shall not wane,

for Yahweh himself will be your everlasting light,

    and your days of mourning shall come to an end.” (Is 60)

Oh for the day God appoints “peace as your overseer,

    and righteousness as your ruling body.” And you “shall call your walls Salvation,

    and your gates, Praise.”   Oh for the day when we aim the windows of our souls at Him and they cease to be squishy bug-plugs and they become lamps!  Lighting all within us!  Filling us from brim to bum like luminaries or fireflies!  Oh for the day when we light up all around us and “they can see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5)

But When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise, then she took from its fruit and she ate.” (Gen 3)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, 16 because everything that is in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance of material possessions—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and its desire, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.” (1John 2)

Then the light that is within us is not light at all.  When we want this world more than the next, when we want what we want and justify our desires, then 28 Yahweh shall afflict you with madness and with blindness and with confusion of heart. 29 And you shall be groping at noon just as the blind person gropes in the dark, and you shall not succeed in finding your way, and you shall only be abused and robbed all the time, and there will not be anyone who will rescue you.” (Deut 28)  And since Eve, this we have all done.  Since Eve took her eyes off of Yahweh and put them on her own lusts we have all been born blind.  And 32 From time immemorial it has not been heard that someone opened the eyes of one born blind.” (John 9)

But Jesus, he asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gotta Light?

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel basket, but on a lampstand, so that those who come in can see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of the body. When your eye is sincere, your whole body is full of light also. But when it is evil, your body is dark also. 35 Therefore pay careful attention that the light in you is not darkness! 36 If therefore your whole body is full of light, not having any part dark, it will be completely full of light, as when the lamp with its light gives light to you.” (Luke 11)

Lamp on the lampstand.  Ah yeah.  I know this analogy.  Heard it before.  Jesus is the light of the world.  You are salt and light.  Your word is a lamp unto my feet.  Yep, light, light, light.  Heard it, got it, moving … wait.

Is Jesus the Lamp or am i?  What does he mean, if your eye is sincere?  How can my light be darkness?  Maybe i don’t understand this as well as I think I do.  Maybe there’s more here than immediately meets the lamp of my body.  Lord, if we may paraphrase Robin Williams in a prayer, illuminate whilst we ruminate. 

Light is everywhere in the Bible so let’s start with “lamp.”  Rule of first mention, what’s the first time anyone in the Word speaks of lamps?

31 “And you will make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand will be made of hammered work—its base and its branch, its cups, its buds, and its blossoms will be from it.” (Ex 25)

Ah yeah, the Tabernacle.  The seven lamp lampstand in the Holy place.  So right off the bat we remember the Tabernacle is the sketch or rough copy of God’s heavenly throne room (Heb 8).  Position is important. 20 “And you will command the Israelites, and they will bring to you pure, beaten olive oil for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually. 21 In the tent of assembly outside the curtain that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons will arrange it, from evening until morning, before Yahweh as a lasting statute throughout their generations from the Israelites.” (Ex 27) A light shining continually, not in the Holy of Holies where only God can see, but in the Holy place where the priests go in and out, before the shewbread, fed continually, by sanctified priests, a special blend of olive oil.

Oil, while never explicitly explained in the Bible, is often taken to be a symbol for the office of the Holy Spirit.  It is used to anoint priests (Ex 29, Lev 8) and kings (1Sam 10, 16), often accompanied by the “rushing upon” or filling of the Spirit.  It is used to heal the sick (Mark 6, Jam 5).  The shewbread was made with it (Ex 29) and the lamps are lit with it.

So the lamp, a holy light, fed by the Spirit, tended by priests, burning in the darkness continually.  Hello, that sounds familiar!  Where have I heard of lamps that need to be trimmed in the darkness?

Proverbs 31 provides Lemuel’s description of a good wife.  18 She perceives that her merchandise is good;

    her lamp does not go out in the night.”
Okay, yes, but there was somewhere else, somewhere more familiar.  Jesus.  When in doubt, the answer is always Jesus.  Jesus tells the parable of the wise and foolish virgins… 25 “Then the kingdom of heaven may be compared to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were foolish and five were wise. For when the foolish ones took their lamps, they did not take olive oil with them. But the wise ones took olive oil in flasks with their lamps.” (Matt 25)  There’s that oil again.  Wives, virgins, the Bridegroom.  Jesus and King Lemuel are speaking of the church.  Whoa Nelly!  Church…church…I’ve heard of churches and lamps before too.

12 And I turned to see the voice which was speaking with me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man,” … “16 and he had in his right hand seven stars, and a sharp double-edged sword coming out of his mouth, and his face was like the sun shining in its strength.” … “20 As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands—the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (Rev 1)

Lamps are Churches, a holy light, fed by the Spirit, burning in the darkness continually.  Awesome!  If we throw in Peter’s description of the church as a “royal priesthood, a holy nation,” (1Pet 2) we got this licked!  So now we know what lamps are.  Back to Luke…

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel basket, but on a lampstand, so that those who come in can see the light.”  Yep, Christ has lit the Church up and he’s putting it on a stand for all the world to see.  See?  It works.  34 Your eye is the lamp of the body. When your eye is sincere, your whole body is full of light also. But when it is evil, your body is dark also.”  So your eye is a church and …it… is…shoot!  Thought we had it there for a second. 

Whelp, 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet

and a light to my path.” (Ps 119)  Obviously we haven’t hiked far enough down this rabbit trail so back to the Word…on Monday.